Novopoint(TM), an Internet business-to-business (B2B) marketplace for food and beverage manufacturers and their suppliers, today named Robert Schult as its new chief executive officer.

Schult comes to Novopoint with nearly three decades of experience in the $460 billion food industry. Most recently, Schult served as President and COO of Nestle USA, Inc., where he managed an $8 billion business among five Nestle divisions and subsidiaries, and managed 18,000 people.

"What Novopoint offers its customers is exactly what Bob has been doing for the last several years," said Bob Lumpkins, vice chairman of Cargill, a Novopoint minority investor. "He has helped companies identify and eliminate costly inefficiencies so they can spend more time meeting the needs of their customers. He's the perfect fit for this company."

Additional Novopoint partners are Ariba -- providers of the B2B industry's most comprehensive, open, global platform for e-commerce -- and Crosspoint Ventures Partners, a venture capital firm specializing in launching and operating B2B e-commerce companies.

"Bob's track record in helping food industry companies realize efficiencies and cost savings throughout the supply chain is unparalleled among the leaders of more than 100 e-commerce companies we've helped to launch," says Ariba President and COO Larry Mueller.

"Nearly three decades of proven operational excellence make Bob the natural choice to lead Novopoint," says Crosspoint Ventures Partners General Partner Bob Lisbonne. "His previous experiences, industry-wide knowledge and significant accomplishments in product rationalization, supply chain efficiencies and new business start-ups will be directly applied to the benefit of all Novopoint participants."

The Novopoint marketplace, launching this summer, will give buyers and sellers of food ingredients, packaging and related services a single, convenient place to connect with each other, conduct transactions and better manage their supply chains. The marketplace will serve participants of all sizes from every facet of the food industry, including buyers and suppliers of oil, sugar, colorings, packaging, chemicals, freight and everything in between.

"The food and beverage industry is prime for Novopoint," said Schult. "Many companies in our industry have struggled to meet their growth objectives for several years. Novopoint can help them grow by improving their efficiency. Cost savings could be redirected to enhance brand loyalty or to invest in value-added innovations and rewards to consumers. I'm excited to be part of a strategy that will make a real difference. I'm particularly looking forward to working with similar initiatives to build the best possible online marketplace in the industry."

For Novopoint participants, the efficiencies will allow for increased profitability. Consumers also stand to benefit, since participants could apply the savings toward forestalling retail price increases.

One of Schult's first priorities as CEO is to build a leadership team that is representative of all segments of the food industry, including retail, manufacturing, suppliers and producers.

"The food and beverage industry has been waiting for leadership and innovation in supply chain management," said George Dahlman, an analyst with US Bancorp Piper Jaffray. "Novopoint is a logical next step in driving production improvements at all levels in the supply chain. Similar growth strategies in other industries have proved very successful."

Well suited
Schult's background is well suited to growing the food and beverage industry's first online marketplace for suppliers and manufacturers. Under his leadership at Nestle, the company was transformed from 15 separate operating divisions into one company with unified goals and objectives. His tenure at Nestle began in 1990 as president of Nestle Food Company. He was named president and COO of Nestle USA, Inc., in 1996.

Prior to Nestle, Schult served as senior vice president of Carnation Company in the United States. Previous positions with the company included vice president, general manager and sales.

Throughout his career, Schult has turned around and consolidated a number of food businesses, and has been involved in acquisitions in excess of $1 billion.

Bob and his wife, Jane, have been married for 28 years. They have two adult children and reside in Los Angeles.

Improving efficiencies
The way transactions between suppliers and manufacturers work now is comparable to a shopper going through the checkout line at the grocery store separately for each item purchased, which involves standing in line, signing the receipt, etc. Similarly, manufacturers often purchase supplies one item at a time, which involves separate communication, documentation, tracking, etc. These costly redundancies will be greatly reduced for users of Novopoint.

"Nearly 40 to 60 percent of the cost of goods sold right now goes toward the supply chain," said Schult. "Novopoint can help manufacturers reduce those costs significantly. This is a golden opportunity for companies to improve performance without compromising quality."

About Novopoint
Novopoint will be operated as a neutral, independent company, with the majority of equity ownership to be held by companies recognized as leaders in the food and beverage industry. The site is being built and will operate on the Ariba B2B Commerce platform.

Cargill is an initial minority investor in Novopoint. Cargill is an international marketer, processor and distributor of agricultural, food, financial and industrial products and services. Discussions are underway with other prospective investors who are recognized world leaders in the food and beverage industry. Additional investor Crosspoint Venture Partners, ranked by Forbes as the best venture capital firm in 1997 - 1999, specializes in B2B e-commerce.