Originally printed North Bay Business Journal on December 4, 2018.

Mill Valley-based Fortera makes business-to-business software as a service to facilitate group purchasing of wines and spirits.

In conjunction with winning one of North Bay Business Journal’s Wine, Beer + Spirits Industry Awards, the Journal talked with John Rittenhouse, founder and CEO, about the company.

Describe your company

Fortera is the first and only group purchasing organization (GPO) in the wine and spirits industry. As such, Fortera members benefit from leveraged pricing from world-leading manufacturers of bottling and packaging materials. Shortly our members will be able to distribute their alcohol products directly to restaurants using our web technology.

How have the requirements of your customers changed in the last five years and what has your company done to meet those requirements?

We have learned that the beverage industry’s adoption to technology is slower than other industries — creating an easy to use solution was the key.

Price is important however legacy staff are over protective of their existing supplier relationships despite being overcharged – going slow and educating is important.

What is something about your company and what it does that most people would be surprised to learn?

  • We have members in 31 states in the U.S. and Canada.
  • On behalf of our members, we have already prenegotiated master contracts with the largest dry-goods manufactures (e.g., bottles, caps, corks, etc.).
  • We have incorporated best of breed procurement processes from outside the beverage industry into a tailored solution.
  • Streamlined ordering: Using the Fortera platform, members easily shop for dry goods, customize orders, request samples, track shipments, schedule updates, and more.
  • Direct member support: Our in-house staff can assist you in your purchases – signing up, finding your dry goods on Fortera, order modifications and getting updates on your orders.

How does the group purchasing organization business model for the adult-beverage industry to the B2B portals attempted in the early days of Web 2.0?

Technology adoption in the beverage industry is slow, partly because the industry has been underserved with solutions primarily because it is comprised of mostly small- to medium-sized businesses.

These are hard to sell and scale for most technology providers. We have deployed a SaaS B2B platform that is simple to use and easy to deploy.

Technology solutions surrounding in-application chat have also been leveraged to ensure any member has direct access to Fortera support. Also, our technology has simplified payment processing options between members and vendors.