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...