(Oct. 22) BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — With two former Agribuys executives as founders and a name like FreshLink LLC, you’d expect the new company would have something to do with technology.

But managing partners Bob Rinker and Buck Frates said the only role technology will play in their new venture is as one of many means to an end.

That end, Frates said, will be to help produce companies gain a better understanding of what retailers need and expect from their suppliers.

“Retailers don’t necessarily get some of the things they need from shippers,” he said.

MARKET DEVELOPMENT, CATEGORY MANAGEMENT

The basic premise of FreshLink is simple, Frates said. He and Rinker, who had been with Agribuys for four years, have a combined 40 years of experience in the produce industry. They plan to use that experience to work with both produce suppliers and retailers to provide market development and category management services that the shippers otherwise may not have.

Rinker said the retail market is changing, and with the growing consolidation, it is becoming more difficult for suppliers to know exactly what retailers want.

“In the acquisition process, markets are going away,” he said. “That’s forcing a lot of concern on the supply side. While we were working with Agribuys, we had some companies ask us for help with that.”

RAISING VISIBILITY

The two said they saw a need in the industry from produce suppliers who are larger companies but not necessarily well-known.

“They are flying in under the radar,” Frates said. “They want to know how they become suppliers for companies like Wegmans. We want to raise their visibility.”

Rinker said the produce business is changing from a commodity-driven approach to sales to one that is more consumer-focused and market-driven. He said the aim of FreshLink is to help suppliers maneuver through those changes and ultimately give retailers what they want.

“We will provide services for procurement offices,” he said. “We’ll show them ways to make their buyers’ lives easier.”