E-marketplaces haven't had an easy run of it over the last twelve months. While the picture looks pretty bleak for many players, Foodtrader.com has unveiled a new look with four new elements and a bullish strategy to open up world trading for medium to large food businesses. Drew Smith heard it from the horse's mouth.

"We have an open market place. If someone wants to sell something to the world, then this is the place to do it," said trading manager Joe Jameson speaking exclusively to just-food.com from his Miami base in Coral Gables, Florida.

There had been rumours in May that the site may have been hit by the collapse in dotcom investment, but Jameson dismissed them out of hand. He is claiming one and half million hits a month, 17,000 registered users on the site and a total of 37,000 products for sale.

The site operates as an open trading forum for buyers and sellers principally between prime producers and manufacturers. It claims to be one of the most advanced in the world. It was originally set up in 1997 and took in second round funding of US$15m last autumn.

To date it has been charging a small transaction commission on sales but it is expected that it will follow the model of Gofish.com and move to a subscription model later in the year. Sellers post up their inventory and the site then passes on the bids via email.

New features coming on line now include a membership programme that will reward corporate users, full reverse auction feature, storefront advertising and other tools to improve services to customers.

The reverse auction facility, just unveiled this week, is said to potentially be able to save sellers up to 25% against conventional costs.

"The Internet sector has suffered in recent months but that has got nothing to do with the technology itself."

"The Internet sector has suffered in recent months but that has got nothing to do with the technology itself. Some of the technology we are starting to implement is unbelievable. And that is going to continue to happen. Within the next 30 days we will have a demonstration up of the next generation of services which will surprise a lot people," said Jameson.

He revealed that only 35% of the companies using the trading platform are in fact American. "In the last 90 days, for example, we have suddenly started to get large groups of interest from China which we have not seen before and this is really exciting.

"The thing about this system is that we can get a guy in who did not have a snowball's chance of finding this level of buyer across the world. Now his chances are a million times better."

Investment has been poured in to the technology and in equal amounts into marketing the services through trade shows around the world. This along with the seasonal fluctuations in supply of various commodities has built up the Foodtrader community in both the northern and southern hemishperes. Buyers get email notification as and when new items in their sector are placed on site for sale.

"I don't think we have changed our direction that much since we started but we have expanded our services in order to improve our levels of service. Our objective is still to generate revenue through transactions. We have evolved from a traditional US-based food trading company in 1997 through to a corporation that does business via the Internet across 170 countries," he explained. He also dismisses charges that Foodtrader.com is like any other food portal. "We have a much wider base of clients, products and services and we are open to everyone. We have always been an independent exchange.

"The only area we have cut back on recently has been in streaming news because we have been able to source better quality news from other means. We have currently 7,498 items on commodity news and 10,000 articles under our country profiles section, so I don't think we need too much more!"

Subsidiary areas have also been opened up for foodservice companies and other related suppliers to make use of the trading platform.

By Drew Smith, just-food.com correspondent

To read a press release issued by Foodtrader on 22 June this year, click here.