AZ Foods looks to implement new model to help small businesses distribute goods
AZ Foods, a distribution company responsible for bringing healthy products from different parts of the world to Puerto Rico, is looking to expand its business model to help local small businesses improve their reach.
“We’re a Puerto Rican company that always wants to distribute the healthiest foods and we believe that with each product we bring, we cater to all audiences,” said Andrés Zayas, president of AZ Foods.
“They can see a whole shelf of jams, but you go to ours and they are suitable for diabetics. We target what other companies would call niches, but these are broader than what is visible,” he said.
AZ Foods sells more than 1.7 million units of products monthly to Puerto Rico grocery stores, including larger corporations such as Walmart. It has a portfolio of more than 200 products, he said.
AZ Foods is introducing a new business model in which it seeks to assist smaller businesses in selling and distributing their products, by helping them get their products in the island’s supermarkets. The offer calls for safely storing the small business’ products in their warehouse, do their logistics and merchandizing, among other services, he explained.
“Currently we’re doing these different services for three smaller businesses, two of which are a coffee business called Bardachi and a spice company in Caguas called Don Bori,” Zayas said.
“We want to prove that you don’t have to have a huge corporation to fairly distribute products and grow a brand. We want to be able to provide warmth and security for smaller local businesses to better the island’s economy and many more sectors,” he added.
AZ Foods’ warehouse in Río Piedras measures around 20,000 square feet. The company is currently working on opening a warehouse in the Western region to further expand services and reach of small businesses.
This arrangement, however, might take a year to be finalized as AZ Foods must come to an agreement with its main client, which is in the works, and also ensure it has enough employees to manage the new operations, he added
“We currently have about 25 suppliers from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Canada, Santo Domingo, and Spain, among others. We’re always trying to predict and anticipate local trends. It’s that sense of urgency that has helped us grow significantly over the years,” said Zayas.
AZ Foods currently has 15 employees in Puerto Rico and 40 employees in the US Virgin Islands. The expanded employee base could include more salespeople, merchandisers, and people for the warehouse.
“We always worked from the ground up. We’d buy a small number of products and then we’d sell them, any money we gained was put back into the business,” said Zayas.
“AZ Foods went through a lot of experimentation, not your typical business structure. That’s the main reason why want to help other small businesses grow,” he added.
When asked to share advice for small business or future entrepreneurs, Zayas said “there should never be a fear of rejection.”
“Be prepared to hear no and be proactive. The right opportunities will always show up. You need to be constantly thinking of reinventing yourselves, thinking outside the box and waiting for the opportunities that cater to that vision,” Zayas said.