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...

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much, Gary -- for both your original email to me 26 Feb with the link here and for all your hard work to find out what happened and to resolve it.

    There are no words for how happy I am that I'll once again have a coconut milk I don't react to!

    All the best,