Ambassador Foods Uses ERP to Help International Food Manufacturers Break Into the U.S. Market

Tony Kontzer, Contributing Editor

January 20, 2021

Opher Yunger remembers Hurricane Irma all too well. When the storm hit Florida in September 2017, it left his young company, Hallandale Beach-based Ambassador Foods, without power or phone service for two weeks. The business was rendered helpless.

“We had no ability to do anything,” said Yunger, managing partner of marketing and operations. In response, “we said, ‘This is never going to happen to us again.’”

Shortly after the disaster, Ambassador replaced its antiquated phones with a state-of-the-art VoIP system. It transitioned to smart devices and equipment wherever possible. It also ditched its on-premises accounting software for a cloud ERP system(opens in new tab).

Three years later, when COVID-19 arrived and Ambassador’s staff was sent to work from home, the wisdom of that decision reverberated. The company had gone live on its NetSuite ERP system(opens in new tab) in January 2019, so it was much better prepared to weather the challenges of 2020 than it was for that initial disaster a few years before.

A Case Study in Cheese

Ambassador’s is an unusual business. Yunger describes it as “a food manufacturer’s representative.” Essentially, the company helps brands, mostly from outside the country, enter the U.S. foodservice market.

For example, while it’s easy to get a distributor to stock an item in its warehouse, ensuring that the item sells is much trickier, Yunger said. After 30 days, many food brands get the call to come pick up their unsold stock. Ambassador helps these brands avoid that and minimize the amount of inventory(opens in new tab) they’re holding onto.

“If you do it right, you can lower your risk by not having to carry inventory, while also having the reach of a national organization,” Yunger said. “We have access to all the products, but we don’t have the weight of large inventories.”

ERP has helped make this offering stronger: One of Ambassador’s core services, for example, involves negotiating with food distributors to ensure manufacturers are pricing their products optimally. Via a customization in NetSuite, Ambassador offers rebates to distributors to encourage them to sell products at the optimal price while preserving Ambassador’s margins. In this way, Ambassador ensures it’s getting the best deal possible.

For example, say an independent supermarket chain told Ambassador it could move 20 cases of Swiss cheese a week. Ambassador then has to determine the price it needs to get for the cheese from both the distributor and the manufacturer in order to meet its margins and ensure the price point per customer is correct. The sales rep enters data on the supermarket, the current manufacturer’s price, and the estimated rebate needed into NetSuite to make the numbers work on both ends.

That data is then routed to the sales coordinator, who verifies the numbers, researches the relationship with the customer, and inputs any additional data. NetSuite computes the margins and helps Ambassador quickly determine the best course of action, based on the price, customer relationship or other factors. It also keeps all of the proper parties notified along the way.

Whatever happens, Yunger requires every move to be tracked in NetSuite.

“I always tell people, if it’s not in NetSuite, it didn’t happen,” said Yunger. “Any communication about payments, about receivables, about statements to our customers, comes through NetSuite.”

Solid Numbers for Solid Margins

Before implementing NetSuite, Ambassador managed this process with a combination of spreadsheets and QuickBooks(opens in new tab) — a cumbersome, manual process. Ambassador decided it needed a more sophisticated system, and chose NetSuite over K9ERP, electing to go with the market leader.

NetSuite’s impact has been obvious, Yunger said. With it, Ambassador is able to determine whether a deal satisfies margin requirements much quicker, and with fewer errors.

“Because our entire business is in NetSuite in real-time, I have more trust in my reports because I know the information is correct,” Yunger added.

Plus, the system makes everyone’s jobs easier — staff no longer have to waste time verifying numbers.

“What it has stopped from happening is the 30 million phone calls,” said Yunger. “[QuickBooks] was a lot more confusing. NetSuite is very clear. The computer does the math, and we can make decisions based on real numbers. Before, I wasn’t sure the decisions I was making were correct.”

With the ability to make timelier and more informed decisions, Ambassador has seen improvements in its margins. It can also clearly pinpoint how those margins are impacted by changes to pricing or rebates. The company has been able to keep margins closer to targets, as well as catch any anomalies before they become bigger problems.

Coming: Further Exploration of NetSuite

Ambassador’s goals with NetSuite include:

  • Digging deeper into NetSuite’s Learning Cloud Support(opens in new tab) video series. Yunger said he got a much better understanding of the NetSuite admin role by watching videos on wholesale distribution(opens in new tab), so he plans to make better use of this resource going forward.
  • Figuring out how to put NetSuite’s marketing automation(opens in new tab) functionality, including email marketing tools, to use.
  • Exploring the potential to give customers access to Ambassador’s NetSuite environment so they can track open orders, invoices and the like.
  • The possible launch of a direct-to-customer fulfillment model. A longer-term goal, this could require numerous changes, like the addition of NetSuite SuiteCommerce(opens in new tab), which would offer better integration with Ambassador’s NetSuite system than a third-party ecommerce partner. Yunger is in talks with NetSuite about how to make it a reality.

Having all these irons in the fire speaks to the bottom line: Ambassador has made ERP the nerve center of its business. And Yunger isn’t shy about reinforcing that.

“Any time we talk about a new idea, I’ll always come back to NetSuite,” said Yunger. “If it can feed into our ERP, I feel like it’s a no-brainer.”

? Learn more about how ERP helps small businesses(opens in new tab) overcome their most pressing challenges.

NetSuite has packaged the experience gained from tens of thousands of worldwide deployments over two decades into a set of leading practices that pave a clear path to success and are proven to deliver rapid business value. With NetSuite, you go live in a predictable timeframe — smart, stepped implementations begin with sales and span the entire customer lifecycle, so there's continuity from sales to services to support.