Saturday, November 20, 2010


Well, I finally did it...1095 lifetime Marriott nights...3 years of staying in Marriott Hotels...

Name: Gary Cohen
Account number: xxxxxxxxx
Member Level: Platinum
Total Membership Nights: 1,095

I am definitely headed for more...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wal Mart

I consider myself a student of retail...actually a student of business. I like to say that I have a degree from the University of the Street.

The biggest company in the world is Wal Mart.
How did Wal Mart get to be the biggest company in the world? By supplying consumers with what they want to buy at affordable prices.

Now, Wal Mart today is a very different company than the one Sam Walton started years ago. And lately, their "same store sales" - which is how retailers measure how their stores are doing - have declined in the US.

Why is that?

Well, before I answer, I need to say...I have my hands full running my own business without trying to help Wal Mart's business :). However, I will try.

Lately, it seems, Wal Mart has strayed from the things that made them famous...namely, offering brand name, quality products at prices consumers can afford. Now, instead of giving consumers what they want - the stuff they have been buying - they are stocking what they think consumers should buy...

In my opinion, that is a mistake.

If "my" local store - and I'm not just referring to Wal Mart here - stops carrying the products I am buying, I am going to shop elsewhere. Apparently, that is what is happening.

Just because they are the world's largest corporation doesn't mean they are immune to making mistakes. Years ago, A&P, a grocery chain on the east coast, was so dominant, they had to sign a consent decree with the Federal government now to use their monopoly power. And K Mart used ti be far larger than Wal Mart....but neither of those companies is anything close to what they were decades ago.

It's very humbling to realize that tastes are's hero can be tomorrow's loser.

For us, it boils down to something I tell the manufacturers we work with: We are a buying agent for our customers and their customers. We are constantly looking to sell quality organic food and non-food products...based on what our customers tell us they want. Anyone who forgets that basic philosophy is headed for trouble. And as the saying goes, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Distribution, Trucking

I don't remember where I first heard it, but I adopted the slogan as my own...

"You can eliminate the distributor, but you can't eliminate the cost of distribution."

Meaning, there is a cost to getting a product from manufacturer to consumer...

Most products are sold by distributors. They purchase from a few or a few thousand different manufacturers, and they sell those products to hundreds or thousands of different accounts.

We sell our products to about 25 different distributors in the natural, specialty, pet food and retailer buying group "channels." Our goal in working with these distributors, is for them, and their customers, to purchase and sell our products to consumers.

We also work with one - count 'em, one - buying club...though we hope to do more business with buying clubs in the future.

Distributors as a necessary evil. We couldn't possibly sell all of our products to every retail account directly...and there is a cost involved in creating those sales. We do our best to try and minimize those costs to keep our products priced competitively.

We are rolling out some new products....more on that next time

Friday, November 12, 2010

News story - Tower Falls the Wrong Way

News story: Tower Falls The Wrong Way

I never did well in science in school.

As a senior in high school, I had to take Physics, because I needed 2 years of science. I couldn't bring myself to disect a frog so I didn't take biology, so I took chemistry and physics.

Well, I didn't do well in physics.

I remember some of the problems we worked on: if a train is approaching going 100 miles an hour, how soon after it passes will you hear the whistle?

But the one I liked the best:

If a bulldozer is pulling on a tree with 150 pounds of pressure and a 65 degree angle, and another bulldozer is on the other side of the tree, pulling with 125 pounds of pressure and a 75 degree angle, which way will the tree fall?

My answer - I don't know - I'd look in the Yellow Pages for an engineer (when I was in high school there was no Google). But I knew for sure I wasn't going to say, well, I am an expert at Physics, and I know - for sure - that the tree is going to fall THAT WAY!!!! And to prove it, i will stand under the tree on the other side!!!

Well, it looks like even engineers can get it wrong...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


It's been awhile since I have posted about BPA - Bisphenol A - so I thought I would do an update.

It is certainly the topic that I get the most consumer emails on.

I do have a little good news to report.

It seems like the can industry is moving towards using alternatives.

For the longest time, our canners - relying on information from the can industry - said "there is nothing wrong with BPA." When I would get these emails from my suppliers, I would write back and say "you are on the wrong side of the need to be looking at alternatives."

Of course, in reality, it isn't that simple.

The can manufacturers turn out - I don't know - hundreds of thousands of cans per day...maybe millions...all coated with BPA.

The canners themselves have huge warehouses - millions of square feet that I have walked through. Right now, with the harvest over, they have filled, unlabeled cans of tomatoes, corn and other vegetables. Then during the year, as they ship out product to the customers, they start buying empty cans to put in the warehouses, in anticipation of next year's crop.

In other words, none of these can manufacturers have the capability to produce a year's worth of cans in a week or two before next year's harvest. They are making cans year round.

So where are we at today?

A consumer wrote to me this morning "...Is there someplace I can go to find information on putting pressure on the can manufacturers? Do I just need to be hassling my grocers, or are they at the mercy of their distributors..."

The can manufacturers are the ones in the middle. They have heard, loud and clear, that they need to start using alternatives to BPA. We have been told that a certain percentage of our Organic Tomato cans are BPA free...maybe 20%. We were also told that we can't order product to come in with BPA free cans...that it is going to take a year for the old cans to work their way through the system.

As to putting pressure on the can isn't just us - the organic folk - that want BPA free cans. They are hearing it from Wal Mart and the other big guys. The main difference, though, is we are telling our suppliers that they can increase our cost to cover the BPA free cans. Wal Mart and the other big guys? I can't speak for them...but Wal Mart didn't get to the size they are at by saying to their suppliers, "sure, go ahead and raise your prices to us..." if you know what I mean.

The canners themselves have produced - and put into their production sample rooms - cans without BPA. They want to be able to look at year old cans of beans, two year old cans of beans, and see if they maintain the same shelf life as they had with cans with BPA.

And that is an update as of today

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mentally preparing for getting an iPhone...

I am getting ready to get an I have been surfing and came across the following...not quite about the iPhone but interesting nonetheless...

From WiseGeek:

"Stewardesses" is perhaps the longest common word that can be typoed with only your left hand. If you consider more obscure words, however, you'll find that "aftercataracts" and "tesseradecades," are the longest words at 14 characters. Using only your right hand, the longest word you can type is "lollipop" but if you permit the use of dashes, then "Johnny-Jump-Up" — a type of flower — becomes the longest word you can type with only the right hand. Other words that you can type only with your left hand are "retweet," "gazette," "eraser," and "seatbelt." Other right hand words include "homonym," "unholy," "polyp," and "monopoly."

Other word oddities:
The longest word that you can type with alternating hands is "leptothricosis," which is an obsolete term for those diseases caused by the bacteria Leptothrix.

The only two English words with three consecutive sets of double letters are "bookkeeping" and "bookkeeper."

"Queueing" is the only word with five consecutive vowels; the word with the most consonants in a row is "latchstring."

I always liked homonyms :)....

Monday, September 20, 2010

News Headline and Comment

I saw a headline this morning: "Michigan Announces $25 Million Settlement for Alleged Price Fixing Conspiracy."

Nobody is ever going to accuse our company of price fixing!

We have worked for 10 years to lower the price of natural and organic foods.

I remember when I started my natural food distributing business back in the late 70s. There were 4 large natural food distributors in Los Angeles. They all worked on the exact same 25% profit margin. They all had the exact same discount structure. The only difference in their pricing, was one of them rounded their prices to the nearest half or whole cent, and the others charged the exact price (.333 cents for something versus rounding to .335).

My goal then - as it is now - is to sell our products at a small profit. We don't look at other companies' pricing and say, "wow, we could charge double the price like they do." We have been the discounters, the renegades, the people that "ruin the industry's profit margins" - and we're proud of it.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


The next 5 weeks find me out on the toad...

This week, I head to Seattle for the Natural Foods Association Northwest show.

Next week, is a 3 part Minnesota to visit a pickle producer, then to Appleton for a visit at our Organic Corn cannery....ending up in Chicago with a distributor visit.

The following week is a trip to Idaho to see a bean plant.

Then the next week is a trip to New Mexico to visit a customer in Albuquerque, see a chiles plant in Deming, fly out of El Paso into Los Angeles for a couple more vendor meetings, then home...

And finally, the week of October 11th is Boston and Expo East.

So yes, I am back to traveling a lot and racking up those United Frequent Flyer miles and Marriott points :)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Jody's Mom's 89th Birthday

September 9th was Jody's Mom's 89th Birthday. Jody and Pearl traveled back to Pa to help her mom celebrate...they picked up a few of Mom's friends and all went out to Olive Garden to celebrate. On the right are Jody, Jody's Mom and Pearl. On the left are the friends whose names I don't know :). A good time was had by all...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More cats

Dear Gary and Jody

I use the Natural Value Pate Style Tuna and Chicken Dinner
cat food (UPC code 706173500117) as the only way of getting a
critical medicine into my cat. I mix the medicine in the cat food,
and he eats it. I have tried other flavors and other brands of cat
food, and other ways to try to get the medicine in him, but this is
the only successful way, and the only one he will eat with
the medicine.
in Russia means love and he is a LOVE

I have four Siberian cats, the one needing the medicine is Kochko,
which means LOVE in Russian. The others are named Maksim, Sasha
and Mischa, also all Russian names. ALL of them LOVE your cat food
and will not eat any other canned cat food.

Sasha, a love sponge! Extremely affectionate.
Maksim (the Russian name for Maximillian).
Mischa…By far, one of the cutest and sweetest kitties I have ever known.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New BPA free can lining announced

ADM adds BPA alternative to product line

August 16th, 2010

Archer Daniels Midland Company (NYSE: ADM) today announced that it has begun offering isosorbide under its line of Evolution Chemicals. Isosorbide is an industrial ingredient made from corn that is a potential alternative to the petroleum-based chemical Bisphenol A in plastics and other applications. ADM is the first company in North America to offer renewable isosorbide on a commercial scale.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, is used in the manufacture of plastics and is present in many products including eyeglass lenses, sports equipment and CDs and DVDs. Both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health have expressed concern about the potential health effects associated with BPA.

“Today more than ever, people are seeking both consumer and industrial products that are safe and renewable,” said Robert Broomham, business director, ADM Industrial Chemicals. “Isosorbide offers manufacturers a renewable alternative to the traditional chemicals found in many products.”

Isosorbide is a versatile ingredient with wide range of applications. It can be used in polyesters for inks, toners, powder coatings, packaging and durable goods; polyurethanes for foams and coatings; polycarbonates for durable goods and optical media; epoxy resins for paints; and detergents, surfactants and additives for personal care and consumer products.

“With increased interest in environmental improvement, we see growing opportunity to expand our portfolio of renewable industrial products,” said Broomham. “ADM’s research and development expertise and our access to agricultural feedstocks enable us to develop innovative ingredients that can serve as replacements for traditional chemicals.”

So after reading this press release, I asked one of my manufacturers about this and received this response from their can manufacturer:

"...This chemical is in its infancy. It is on the front end of the testing/commercialization time-line. We are studying it. However, it has never been put in a can lining. It hasn’t been tested on shelf-life or flavor issues. This is one of many chemicals of its kind that have hit the market. They all need to go through the testing process."

Progress often comes in slow steps...


On the road again...
Last week, I visited the Lakeside plant in Owatonna, MN (you can look it up on the map and they even have a Starbucks!!!).

That plant is where they run our Natural Value Organic Beans.

I managed to get a picture outside in front of the truck...

More cats

From Jeff:

Two weeks after I last emailed you a year and a half ago our 8 year old female cat started to cough up a storm at 3AM, and by 10AM she had passed away. So what did I do in my grieving period? I ADOPTED THREE Siamese kittens. A brother and sister and a month later (the little cat from HELL).

I feed them EVO and Natural Value.


NV Pumpkin

A consumer wrote in..."Have you discontinued your canned pumpkin? I can't find it anywhere, online or in stores that used to sell it."

So I wrote back...">> We have been selling the Dickinson pumpkin for years and years, and last year, the crop was basically a total failure and we didn't get any product to sell...we hope to have some this year...thanks"

So she wrote back and sent pictures..."I hope so! On my veterinarian's advice, I feed it to my cat, and she only likes your product or homemade. So last night I cooked up a butternut squash for her..."

Here are pictures of (aptly named) Black Cat

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Products

Many times, we added new items that were requested by our retailer customers..."you are selling me this, can you get me that." So we would look for that, so we could sell it with this.

In addition, there were many products in the marketplace that I saw and wanted to produce under our own label. One of those categories was brown paper....specifically, brown paper towels and brown napkins.

It was hard to find them. It isn't the number one product that paper marketers are looking to produce.

Several years ago, one of the largest private label paper manufacturers said he could produce brown towels for me, so I invited him to our home office for a chat, and to see if we could do some business. He told me our volume wasn't big enough to do business with them on brown products, but if we could give him all of our business, he would see what he could do.

I told him that we didn't operate that way. I told him that our existing supplier took us on when we were very small, worked with us, built up our business, and I wouldn't and couldn't just take all of the business away from him after all these years. We just didn't do business that way, and if it meant they wouldn't do business with me, that was fine.

Then several months ago, another paper supplier said they could do brown paper towels, so i hopped on a plane to go see them. Yep, they were doing brown paper towels all right and would be happy to pack them for me, but wanted to know if I could sell 2500 cases a month! Nope, I said. I would love to sell 2500 cases a month but i just don't see that happening at the beginning of our relationship. So once again, I was too small.

It's interesting - I always tell these potential suppliers - anybody can buy a truckload of anything...the question is, can you SELL a truckload of it...

Finally, a few months ago, our existing paper supplier managed to source brown paper towels...made from recycled cardboard. Eureka, he cried!

We will have them shortly...nearby is a prototype in unlabeled poly wrap.

At about the same time, a different supplier said they could sell us brown kraft dinner napkins. But they don't have retail packaging, and the packaging is in a plastic film bag that is knotted and taped - not heat sealed. That isn't going to work, I told them...the package needs to be we are still looking for that.

We started off 15 years ago with 25 products and we have grown over the years to several hundred products.

Anyway, sometimes it takes us years to source and produce the products we want to do...which is especially true in this case.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Closing in on 2 Million Lifetime United Miles

Slowly but surely racking up those miles...

Lifetime flight miles since joining on Jun. 09, 1989:

1,803,898 Lifetime flight miles.


Sorry I haven't kept up on the blogging for awhile...

I have started traveling again - Tabletop shows, Business Travel, Meeting new brokers.

and I sometimes wonder what happens when I am least I know what happens to my outside chair.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bisphenol A

We are asked pretty regularly if our steel cans contain Bisphenol A (or BPA). The answer is yes.

BPA had been considered a safe lining for cans for the last 50 – 60 years. New research is saying that is not the case.

The can manufacturers have taken the position that BPA is safe. When our canners send me their latest press releases stating that, I respond telling them they are on the wrong side of the issue.

Right now, a commercially viable alternative to existing BPA free cans does not exist. There isn’t a large supply available.

The biggest issue for the commercial canners, as I understand it, is taking BPA out of the cans is going to reduce the shelf life. I tell the canners, “fine.”

We, like everyone else in the Natural/Organic industry, are looking at alternatives. On our canned beans, for example, we are looking at aseptic packaging.

We also were told by our Pate cat food manufacturer that there is no BPA in aluminum cans, so our Pate cat foods are BPA free.

In the next few months, we will have another part of our product line switched from cans with BPA to BPA free cans. We will, of course, announce that on our web site.

I know it isn’t the answer consumers are looking for, but the can industry in the United States is not in a position to stop producing cans with BPA or to switch to an alternative. Their customers – the food manufacturers and big chain store retailers, are, generally speaking, not willing to accept the price increases that will come with using BPA free cans. When one of the “big boys” announces that they are ditching cans with BPA, it is my opinion that the entire can industry will move in that direction. But we are not there yet.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Marriott lifetime stays

I blogged before about my lifetime Marriott Reward status.

Once you stay for 1000 nights, you obtain lifetime Marriott Status.

I am coming up on another level - a level they don't give you a special award for...

Membership Information: Account number: XXXXXX
Total Membership Nights: 1,067

That means I have spent almost 3 years of my life in Marriott Hotels...and I am counting down the stays until I reach 1095 (365 x 3)

Only 28 nights to go

Big Stinker and the Little Stripes

We have a pet door so our cats can come and go as they please.

I've written before about the presents they bring us. This week, Sunshine has brought us filet of lizard (missing its stomach) and today, a whole lizard (filet mignon?).

Well, the pet door means we also get raccoons, and lately, skunks...not one, not two, but three. Pearl was up one night and caught the action on her iPhone...

late night visitors

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Restaurant Show, Trade Show

We just got back from exhibiting at the National Restaurant Show.

It was a fantastic show for us...we met quite a few people and hopefully, they will become customers.

Here are some photos....1) Gary with Nicky, whom we hired to work the booth with us. She did an incredible job!
Gary with Nicky
and 2) and 3) photos of the exhibit hall during teardown.
After the tradeshow
Trade show teardown
Photos were taken by Pearl

Tuesday, May 4, 2010


After posting Pamela's cat picture yesterday, I saw a "photo op" of my own this are Sunshine and Ellwood.
Ahhhhh... some me time


almost there...

how to make a cat pillow

Monday, May 3, 2010

from the email bag, cats

We have 2 rescues that were "fancy feast junkies" when we got them.

We didn't adopt them at the same time and the older one - Emma- changed over to good food, meaning a food without any by products or fillers, very easily in just a couple of days. Mabel was our problem. No matter what we gave her she got sick and I had just about given up on trying.

Emma & Mabel Then I bought a few cans of Pro Plan Select turkey and rice with oatmeal in it and she was finally able to handle it. From there it was like it made right all the wrong in her system and now she can handle all the good foods we give them, one of which is by your company. Yours is in the mix with 4 others that we consider superb and they both love it!

I have to admit though, when I first opened a can of the chicken and sardines and saw what was on the other side of the lid, I swore I would never open a can again. Turns out they both loved it so much, I ordered another case. Presently, I have a case of the chunky seafood and the turkey pate coming tomorrow. I'm sure they will be hits as well.

On that note, let me thank you again for your time. I do appreciate it.

Pamela, Emma & Mabel Torma

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Trade Shows

I am updating The Trade Show section on our web page to reflect:

Thaifex postponed - I had already blogged that the dates were revised and I will not be able to attend.

Now adding...

Fancy Food Show in June in New York - attending but not exhibiting

Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco in January, 2011 - attending but not exhibiting

Also, I am sad to see the demise of the Organic Trade Association show (OTA). We exhibited there a few years ago and picked up some good is now going to be co-located with Expo East in Boston in October.

New Water Bottler

While I was in Los Angeles, I met with a potential new water bottler.

I chose this supplier because they had a booth at a trade show where they showed off the new PLA bottle.

Now, what is that expression - perception isn't always reality?

The sales rep told me that they had packed some water in the PLA bottle, but that the bottle didn't work too either leaked or some of the water in the bottle evaporated that 16.9 ounces of water was actually 16.6 ounces. In walking through their warehouse, I saw that indeed this was the case.

So instead of trying to use the PLA bottle, I asked him about recycled plastic bottles. Those are indeed a possibility; they have now been approved for use in water bottles...but since they blow their own bottles, they would need to convert all of their bottles to recycled plastic....and for now, the recycled plastic costs more than virgin plastic.

I haven't made a decision about what to do yet...since distributors work 4 months in advance, we've missed the summer season on water. I will have to remember at Christmas to plan for water season.

Our new (hopefully) water bottler blows their own bottles. Here is a picture of what the mold looks like before it is blown...and after it is blown, it looks like a water bottle :)

Facebook Update

So I now have 50 unopened emails in my Facebook Folder...I've been added as a friend...confirmed as a friend...others want to be friends...and i guess i should do something about Facebook is the next project to do

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trade Shows Are Hard Work :)

There is travel to the show, set up, 6-7 hours on my feet, then heading to the hotel for heading home.

It was really great to see a bunch of customers at the Associated Buyers show…old and hopefully some new ones.

Of course, there’s always time to socialize with the folks at the neighboring booths. Here I am with Lisa of Eco Fish.

Photo source: Trudy from Gourmet Gift Baskets.

Photo source: Trudy from Gourmet Gift Baskets.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Thaifex postponed

The Thaifex show, scheduled for May in Bangkok, has been postponed. It was rescheduled for June 30 - July 3.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to attend.

Paper Prices Going Up

We have received notice that paper prices are going up. Pulp prices are at an all time high.

The "big guys" like to handle these types of cost increases by reducing the size of their package - something I have talked about in the past.

Apparently, a roll of 4 pack bathroom tissue is going to drop from 168 sheets per roll to 150 sheets per roll.

We are simply going to keep our specs the same - 250 and 400 sheet rolls in our 4 pack and 500 sheets in our single roll - and increase our selling opposed to shrinking our packages...

Expect the increase within the next 60-75 days.

Friday, April 9, 2010

New Computer

Today is new computer day.

I bought a new laptop back in September and I am having some "professional help" coe over today to help me install it.

It's a Dell Lattitude E5500, replacing the Dell Inspiron 8600 that I started using in January, 2005.

I used to go through a new Dell every 2-3 years. The computer itself didn't fail, but I am so hard on the keys that the keyboard would stop working. When I bought the Inspiron, I decided to use a keyboard all the time...and that made the difference.

I bought the new Lattitude with Windows XP. So hopefully transferring over data, settings, etc., will be easy.

At least it's not Friday the 13th :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Travel Planning

I like to travel. I enjoy getting out and meeting customers and suppliers.

The most basic function in a small business is sales. Without sales, there would be no need for accounting, administration and all of the other things that keep a business running. I know, spoken like a true entrepreneur :)

I am now planning for my trip to the Boston area for the Associated Buyers show.

Since I have been there before, I know what hotel i want to stay at, and book that reservation first....this time in Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Then I look at whether I want to fly into Boston, Manchester, or Portland, Me. I weigh the cost of the plane ticket to each city, the schedule and the ability to upgrade.

Then I add "side visits" - this time, going to see a customer and perhaps a supplier or two...that hasn't been confirmed yet.Unlike those who buy travel based on whatever airline or hotel is cheaper, I always fly United, stay with the Marriott, and up until last year, always rented with Hertz. (I am dabbling with Budget now).

Oh, and don't forget to pack the EZ Pass
I remember discussing this way of travel one day with Dale Holden of Follow Your Heart. He agreed that it doesn't work to rent a car with Budget one week, Hertz the next and Avis the week after that...that when you arrive in a city you're kind of on "automatic pilot" and you look for the shuttle bus of YOUR car rental company. I have a trip to LA before I go to Boston...wait, am I with Hertz this week and Budget next week or vice versa..." Nah, not for me.

Of course, the car rental companies know this...and Hertz has done a very good job of raising their the point that I am looking around to see what else is available.

Anyway, the last step in my journey is to run Google Maps to take me from place to from Boston airport to the Courtyard in Hadley, then to UNFI's office for a meeting, then to the Residence Inn in Portsmouth, then to the show, then to the Courtyard at Logan airport so I am close to where my early morning flight is... Oh, and don't forget to pack the EZ Pass - I have one of those for my trips to the East Coast...saves time waiting in toll lanes.

Then the next week is Bangkok again - a whole different type of planning for that...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

from the email bag - Coconut Milk

I received the following email:

"I have a question about your lite and regular coconut milk. Do they contain or have contact during production with soy, corn, egg or dairy? My family has allergies to these as well as sulfates and guar gum, so we are looking for a product that is free of all. Also, will the "new" cans (without guar gum) be available to purchase at an online retailer (none of the stores in my area sell your product) and if so, when? Thank you very much for your help!


I responded:

"Hi, Kim – thanks for writing.

The coconut milk plant only runs coconut milk in the plant – nothing else. There is no soy, corn, eggs or dairy.

The machinery is cleaned before producing and they have always run our product separately from products they run with guar gum and sulfates.

As to availability…we are hoping for 45 days….and we hope that people like you will “clamor” for to bring it back in. The buyer warned me when I told him to pull our product off the shelves that it would be difficult for us to get it back in there, but I didn’t want to sell mislabeled product…so we are hoping for help from consumers like you."

It really is true...retailers - both online and brick and mortar - are more interested in hearing from consumers than from manufacturers...i just thought i would pass this along...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Failure at Facebook already!

Oh, no, my first day on Facebook and I already screwed up.

Apparently, I sent friend requests to all of my daughter's friends.

I guess Facebook is harder to learn than Excel. and I am posting this on my blog instead of on my Facebook page!

Sorry all


OK, so i finally signed up for Facebook.

I sent a million friend requests - or so it seemed - and then i need to do it all over again?

Life is a series of journeys...learning steps...first there was AOL, then the Internet, then Outlook and Excel...then Facebook!

I still don't know how to do formulas in Excel. I just use all of those neat little squares to put numbers in, then add them up in my head or with a calculator!

But I KNEW I had to do Facebook when my sister (who wants to remain "faceless") told me that SHE was on Facebook :).

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Cat Food compliment - from the email bag

Hi Jody,

It was wonderful to meet you in person this past week in Anaheim. I was the woman you spoke with at the ORGANIC INDIA Tulsi Tea booth regarding my cats who absolutely love the Natural Value Flaked Tuna product (you probably spoke to hundreds of people who told you that their cats love the product!). We had laughed together when I asked you about the ingredients because my cats are so ecstatic for the product that they actually sing/yodel/meow for it!

You had asked me to follow up with you and send along a picture of my kitties who are happy feline customers of Natural Value. Attached I present to you Piccolo and Basil – my two Bengal cats! Aren’t they cute?! This picture shows them after they’ve enjoyed a nice meal of Flaked Tuna and their bellies are content…..

Piccolo and Basil – my two Bengal cats!
Healthy Regards,

Gina Coccari
Regional Sales Manager

Birthday Picture

I recently celebrated my 60th Birthday.
Here's are 2 pictures of Jody and me at our birthday dinners
Jody and me at dinner
Happy 60th Gary!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Coconut Milk Issue Resolved

So My first meeting in Thailand was with our Organic coconut milk packer, who my importer told me was packing our Natural Coconut Milk as well.

The owner of the company recognized me from our booth at the Organic Trade Association show in Chicago from a few years back.

After the 5 minute video presentation showing how they produce coconut milk, I told them I had a question: why did they change our natural formula to include guar gum, stabilizers and emulsifiers?

They were very surprised at the question...and after speaking among themselves in Thai for a few minutes, they told me that they didn't change our formula...that this was the product that was ordered for us by our importer!

"No way" I said.

But when they showed me the email exchange from the importer, I realized what had happened: our importer changed packers without telling us, and wound up ordering coconut milk with additives.

There you have it.

Actually, the owner explained, he produces 4 different types of coconut milk products:


The Organic is the top of the line and most expensive...the standard is the "bottom of the barrel"

In other words, "if you don't want to pay the price for Natural, which is more expensive, I can sell you something cheaper."

So basically, 5 minutes into the meeting, I realized that our importer had changed packers (on purpose) and changed formulas (not on purpose) we wound up with non natural coconut milk...which was cheaper!!!

A few days later, I was able to track down our original supplier.

My importer gave me the name of the person to contact there; unfortunately, the name her gave me was the name of someone who had left the company 2 years ago.

My Thai speaking ability is non existent. So there was definitely a language barrier...and asking to leave a message for someone who hasn't been at the company for 2 years led to an initial communication problem.

Nonetheless, I did meet with the sales manager of our existing supplier, who showed me copies of emails from our importer telling them that their price was "too high" and that they had found a cheaper supplier. Now I understood the whole story.

Of course, my importer was all apologetic about the change...but I was flabbergasted that after all these years of telling him how we operate...that we don't switch packers just to save a few cents...that we are loyal to the people who provide us with our products...that in an instant, with no notification, no consultation, no discussion, none, zero, zilch, nada...they changed everything.

So we are back to producing our original formula natural coconut milk, with no guar gum and no emulsifiers and no stabilizers...but it will be about 60 days before the "same old" product is back on store shelves.

Of course, it isn't as simple as that. Stores will not simply have an empty shelf for 3 months with a sign "This space reserved for Natural Value Coconut Milk." It's going to take lots of work, and requests from consumers, to get us back into the market.

So that's the story...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hello from Bangkok

Hello from Bangkok!

where the time is 14 hours ahead of California. I t was 15 hours ahead of California until the start of Daylight Savings Time last weekend.

I am about 75% of the way through understanding what happened to our coconut milk, but before I blog about it, I want to get the remaining 25% of the puzzle...which i plan on doing Monday and Tuesday.

I am actually not a fan of puzzles.

Jody does the New York Times Crossword Puzzle everyday - in ink! She also likes Sudoku. Me - I don't like puzzles. But I do like "whodunits" - and that is really what I feel likeI am involved in...who did a foreign country.

Anyway, i will have more to say later.

Also, Natural Products Expo has come and gone. I wasn't even home for a full day before I left for Bangkok. Three people came up to me and told me they follow my blog, and I am going to try and do a better job of staying in touch.

OK, more soon

Friday, February 26, 2010

Problem with our Natural Coconut Milk

We’ve been producing our Natural Coconut Milk for the past several years.

During that time, we have specifically requested that our Natural Coconut Milk have only coconut and water.

It took us awhile to convince our canner that yes, we really, really wanted our coconut milk without Sodium Metabisulfate – a whitener, and without guar gum – a stabilizer that keeps the coconut milk “stable” – or in more of a liquid form.

On our last order from the canner, we received a totally different product. Our natural coconut milk now has guar gum in it, plus unspecified emulsifiers and stabilizers. We did not order it like that, and unfortunately, the canner not only changed the formula and the ingredients, they took the word “Natural” out of the “Natural Coconut Milk” description. They made some other changes to the ingredients and nutritional information as well – all without telling us in advance they were doing that. The Light Coconut Milk has been changed as well. If they had told us in advance, we would have said “No Thanks” and found a different canner.

We have stopped shipping this product to our distributors and are making arrangements to have it sent back.

We are going to be out of stock for awhile.

Natural Value has always strived for 100% consumer satisfaction. If you have purchased our coconut milk and want a refund, please let us know.

As a result of this situation, I am going to Thailand in a few weeks to meet with the canner, and find out what went wrong. Maybe they shipped us someone else’s product – those types of mistakes, unfortunately, do happen. But there has to be some sort of acceptable explanation.
I will post an update on our web page and my blog as soon as I know more.

I am sorry that this whole episode occurred.

We work closely with our exclusive producers, just to avoid situations like this. Unfortunately, this time, that didn’t work.

New and old coconut milk. Note label change. Product on right has no guar gum and very often solidifies, meaning you are getting coconut! To get back into liquid state, simply warm the can.

New and old labels
- Coconut Milk cans

New and old labels - Lite Coconut Milk cans

New and old nutritional facts – notice how the fonts have changed

A can of our original coconut milk without guar gum. Notice the coconut clumps at the top of the can. The new coconut milk would splatter all over the counter or floor if you attempt this.

Monday, February 8, 2010

National Bagel Day

Did you know that Tuesday February 9th is National Bagel Day?

In honor of the occasion (no, not really), I have purchased a new Guillotine style Bagel Slicer.

Seriously...Jody and I have been enjoying bagels I thought I would share the news about National Bagel Day.

Guillotine style Bagel Slicer

Friday, February 5, 2010

Martinell Apple Juice, Dole Apple Juice

My experience with Martinelli apple juice goes back to the 70's when I first moved to California. It came in this cute round glass bottle, in 8 oz and 12oz bottles.

When I first became a natural food distributor in 1978, I became a distributor of Martinelli. They shipped all of their product from Watsonville, CA, and they didn't use when their truck showed up, every case had to be unloaded by hand. But it was really good juice and a good seller.

When Jody went into the hospital in December 2008, the cafeteria at Sutter General sold Martinelli apple juice from a small cooler. I bought quite a bit of it.

However, when Jody went in for her back surgery in May 2009, the cafeteria had switched to stocking Dole Apple Juice.

To me, Dole was always known for their Pineapple juice, and maybe Dole Bananas, but not for apple juice.

Look at the ingredients of the Dole Apple juice. Does anyone believe that they NEED concentrates from all of those countries around the world in order to make a good tasting product?

By comparison, the Martinelli apple juice is "apple juice." No concentrates. Made in America. And, it tastes good. The Dole? well...who wants to get sued by Pepsi?

Martinelli apple juice is "apple juice"