ALPHABET SOUP: BRINGING MANUFACTURING IN-HOUSE
August 25, 2018 was the day I decided to bring everything in house – specifically, to my kitchen.
Let me back up. After 6 months of meeting and speaking with 10+ contract manufacturers, I found 2 that seemed perfect. I would’ve loved to have 3 or 4 so I could run a competitive process, but only 2 met my requirements and were willing to put up with my idealistic demands. Then, 1 told me they were selling the company. Eggs, meet your single basket. Hope you like it there.
I invested time and money going through R&D and testing with the remaining manufacturer only to come out with an incredibly overpriced product based on my ingredient requirements (organic, fair trade certified, cold pressed, unrefined, etc.). If I was willing to compromise on my requirements, I could cut the price dramatically, but doing so would eliminate my entire reason for producing a product in the first place.
I called my other would-be partner for an unbiased opinion, and lo and behold, they sold their branded business, but retained the manufacturing business and were willing to take on my oil blends for a much more reasonable price. The only problem was that they only carried a few organic oils, and they didn’t happen to meet my quality requirements (cold pressed, unrefined). I’d need to source the oils myself for them to blend.
Google doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the ingredient supplier research I had to do. Thankfully, as a banker I attended the Natural Products Expo to meet with prospective clients and clients so knew what a big deal it was. In March of 2018, I attended with my “CEO” badge intentionally flipped backwards since I felt more than a little embarrassed calling myself that without any products to show. But, I did find great resources in those overcrowded aisles and started tapping into them to make my potential contract manufacturing partnerships viable.
By August 25th, I knew the quality standards I wanted for manufacturing. I knew the testing protocols I’d require and which third party labs I’d use. I even knew who the best ingredient suppliers would be and had started sourcing samples. 18 months earlier I started down this path in search of the perfect manufacturing partner, and along the way I accidentally learned how to become one.
I suspended conversations with my would-be contract manufacturers and started working on my Organic System Plan (OSP) to convert my kitchen to a certified organic processing facility.
I decided to certify my kitchen for the same reason I wanted my contract manufacturer to be certified: without following organic processing standards, organic ingredients can be compromised. The USDA seal certifies the ingredients AND the manufacturing practices.
To start, I needed to define GMPs (good manufacturing principals), SOPs (standard operating procedures), and SSOPs (standard sanitization operating procedures)…I’d need to purchase UPCs from GS1…I’d need an inventory audit system that tied SDSs (safety data sheets) and CoAs (certificates of analysis) to each lot, which needed to tie to each batch, which needed to tie to each unit….There were times I felt overwhelmed by this alphabet soup, but I was beyond excited to be the chef.