Adventures of a start-up part 4: Our first shipment, an order from Farro and the joys of Lily the Label Applicator

Raglan Coconut Yoghurt sends product to Nelson – via Christchurch, is taste-tested by Farro Fresh, and hand-stick their final label

It was our first week of doing proper chilled deliveries with our shipping partner. Mr Coconut & I were up till nearly midnight on Monday getting organised for the truck’s arrival the next morning – applying new labels, printing off shipping labels (on paper then cutting them out to stick on with double-sided tape … thankfully this will not go on much longer as my Uncle Paul has introduced us to the wonders of a shipping label printer – it’s small, it’s fast and it’s going to be making our lives easier very soon!), and packing our cardboard boxes with happy little yoghurts.

Overall it went pretty smooth. One box got mislabeled –whoops! – and took the long route to Auckland, and another somehow went to Christchurch instead of Nelson so arrived a day later than planned, but it’s all good … we expected a few teething issues with our first run.

Food safety, microbiologists and laboratories

I’m not a food scientist. Neither of us have ever worked in the food industry before, we just both like good food and cooking. So when I developed the original yoghurt recipe, I experimented and figured out what worked – it was based on gut feel (neither of us usually follow a recipe when we make something) rather than on any scientific formula.

But now that we’re doing things properly and wanting to produce consistent batches at larger scale, we’re starting to research food from a scientific angle. We’ve purchased a specific thermometer to measure yoghurt temperatures and ph-values throughout the process, we’ve had one of the jars we purchase new from Wellington tested at a microbiology lab to make sure it’s 100% safe, and we’ve been chatting with the lovely health officer, Cindy, at the Waikato District Council to make sure we’re doing everything right.

Seb is looking into signing up for a full Food Safety course soon. There’s a lot of responsibility that comes from making something that people eat and we are taking it seriously.

Swimming with the big fish

Farro Fresh had its ranging meeting … and called us the next day to say they love the yoghurt! Apparently we were taste-tested side by side with another brand and they chose Raglan Coconut Yoghurt. Yay! We’re planning to get our first delivery to their stores on March 11. There are a lot of criteria to meet to be in Farro’s; we’re working our way through the application forms.

Part of the deal is that we need to do sampling sessions, one at each store. First one is booked for the same day as our first delivery – really pleased we got our t-shirts done because we’ll need them!

Already starting to come up with recipe ideas for people to sample … Mr Coconut made a Mango & Coconut Yoghurt Raw Cake the other day which was super delicious.

Label applicator

We spoke with many different companies about label applicators over the past couple of weeks, determined to find one ASAP. Some of the quotes nearly bowled us over … one guy was convinced that we’d need to spend at least $70k on the right system!

But then finally Peacock Bros in Auckland were able to offer us an ex-showroom model that will get the job done just fine. We picked it up yesterday and were wowed at how one little pedal push smoothly applies the label. Even though Mr Coconut had got his speed up to about 300 jars per hour (with me peeling off the labels and passing them to him!), this robot is going to do him out of a job – apparently it can apply one every three seconds – over 1,000 labels per hour!

So this will be our last week of hand-application while our labels get printed on the right sort of rolls. Yuuussss!

Highs:

  • Farro Fresh!
  • Purchasing Lily the Label Applicator
  • Dish and Homestyle magazines wanting to feature us
  • New hairnets that match our t-shirts (because colour co-ordination is important!)
  • Putting together material for stockists to help them promote the yoghurt
  • Really smooth production runs – we’re getting into a good flow and everyone feels confident with what they’re doing

Challenges

  • Finding enough time in the day to do all the things that need doing (I’m sure all business owners can relate!)
  • Figuring out an ordering/invoicing system that works for everyone – some people like being billed weekly, others monthly, some need invoices sent with deliveries, some don’t … we want to make it streamlined, still working on how
  • Cost-effective shipping options to the South Island – it is quite pricey sending yoghurts across the channel!