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FoodLink, the network for fresh food retailers, wholesalers, growers and shippers, reported a third straight year of record growth in 2012. Growth was driven by new retail customers, expanded business with existing customers, and a surge of new suppliers and service partners joining its online commerce network.

"This was a good year for FoodLink and an even better one for our customers," Eric Peters, president and chief executive officer of Los Gatos, CA-based FoodLink, said in a press release. "Many of the early industry projects and efforts to increase efficiency and traceability in fresh food are being embraced by the mainstream, and there is no longer much doubt about the tangible benefits that come from improvements in growing, shipping and merchandising safe, fresh food while eliminating waste from the supply chain. FoodLink has long been a leader in this area, and we look forward to continuing that trend."

In 2012, FoodLink moved into the Produce Traceability Initiative sphere by acquiring pioneering SaaS solution provider TrueTrac LLC. TrueTrac's suite of products enables growers and shippers to electronically track the origins and movement of fresh food through the supply chain, and to comply with new food-safety regulations while supporting consumer demand for more information about the source and freshness of their food.

"We looked at other solutions, but FoodLink stood out as the most flexible, cost-effective way for us to connect with our growers in Central [America] and South America, and to achieve our goals in terms of labeling and traceability," Mike Bowe, vice president of Dave's Specialty Imports, one of FoodLink's new PTI customers, added in the press release.

FoodLink added United Supermarkets to the network in 2012 and enabled customers to directly transact with high-volume buyers such as Costco as well as regional brands such as Stater Bros. Inc.

FoodLink also brought new inventory management capabilities to longtime customer C&S Wholesalers and expanded business with fresh food buyers such as Ahold USA, Topco Associates, Associated Wholesale Grocers, Roundy's Supermarkets and Unified Grocers.

"FoodLink will provide us with the real-time data that we need to improve our buying," Tommy Wilkins, director of produce procurement for United Supermarkets, added in the press release. "Their network connects us with our suppliers and carriers to help us make the best buying decisions and improve our supply chain efficiency. Given the increased importance of produce in our stores, FoodLink will help us continue to make this category a differentiator."

Suppliers had many new options on FoodLink in 2012. High-volume suppliers signed up for FoodLink DirectConnect, a service that directly integrates back-end financial and operational systems with the FoodLink network. New DirectConnect customers include Calavo Growers Inc., Grower's Express LLC, Mastronardi Produce Ltd. and Sunsprout of Lancaster.

In addition, new products such as FoodLink Deal Manager enabled suppliers to build an online product catalog and to run promotions that aligned with retailer merchandising strategies.

New products and customers in 2012 contributed to a third straight year of increased purchase order volume and growth in the number of trading partner connections between buyers and sellers over the FoodLink network. Some of those gains include the following:

  • More than 50 new suppliers signed up for annual subscriptions.
  • Overall network traffic increased with more than 320 new supplier-buyer relationships.
  • Orders for fresh produce increased by 26 percent over the previous year.
  • More than 100,000 items were promoted across the new Deal Manager platform

Last year also marked the beginning of a new kind of network for FoodLink, as software and services partners began to leverage the company's "open" network architecture to build solutions that can enhance the value of existing trading partner connections.

Offline, FoodLink increased participation in events such as FreshBuys LIVE (, a first-of-its kind series of one-day regional events connecting retail buyers and perishable goods suppliers doing business over FoodLink.

"Our relationship with FoodLink and our ability to use the open network to provide a direct channel to important fresh food buyers is truly a best practice," Rob O'Rourke, co-owner of RJO Produce, added in the press release. "This is just the beginning of how we will use platforms like FoodLink to continue to evolve and enhance the fresh produce supply chain."