Supplier Management Software is Key to Business Success for Seal the Seasons
Frozen produce company Seal the Seasons is filling a unique niche in the food industry. Freezing up to 17,000 pounds of local produce every hour, the fast-growing food manufacturer went from supplying their product in 10 stores to almost 2,000 in just under two years. During a webinar with FoodLogiQ this month, Seal the Seasons Vice President of Supply Chain and Market Research Bryan Cohn shared the story of their growth and how supplier management software provided much-needed support.
The company takes the fruit and produce that consumers would normally find at their farmer’s market, and they freeze it, making it available to the consumer all year round via local grocers. Using the IQF process (individually quick frozen) The company has grown quickly; in fact, when Cohn joined the company in 2016, Seal the Seasons sold their products in only 10 stores. Today they have approximately 2,000 stores committed to stocking their shelves with the Seal the Seasons brand, and they plan to finish the year with more than 5,000. The company also sells within the UNFI system, the largest distributor of specialty foods in North America.
As a B Corp, Seal the Seasons is committed to meeting the rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. According to Cohn, their supply chain is unusual in that they work directly with farms in a local geographical area to bring produce to that specific market. That means they source local, produce local, package local and distribute local. “In the Carolinas, we have Carolina-based Seal the Seasons product, and we recently launched New York and New Jersey products in their respective markets, as well as Florida and Georgia. We’ll welcome the Pacific Northwest and California later in 2018.”
As Seal the Seasons began their upward growth trajectory, they selected FoodLogiQ Connect as their preferred software solution because they believe real-time recordkeeping is a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have.
“When we’re talking about working with 50 or more farmers in a given region, plus all the transportation and distribution logistics involved in getting our product to market, there is a huge amount of paperwork that has to be done within each of those steps in the supply chain,” says Cohn. “As a small company with only 10 employees, there is no way we could manage all of that documentation manually using our legacy system of spreadsheets. We knew there was a better way. FoodLogiQ offered the most dynamic solution to our problem.”
Seal the Seasons also struggled with an inefficient lab-sampling process that was used for microbial and attribute testing on their product before it was packaged and distributed. The laborious workflow often took between five to 10 business days, considerably slowing down the supply chain.
“But by using the Incidents feature within FoodLogiQ’s Manage + Monitor product, we can now pull the samples and prepare our lab in advance for their arrival. After the samples are delivered, we can get a real-time status update on the testing process, and we’re notified immediately once the results are complete,” explains Cohn. “If for some reason a product tested positive for a particular pathogen and needed to be pulled, all the affected parties could be notified in real-time, and decisions regarding next steps could be made within minutes, rather than days. That is a huge time and money-saver.”
Food recalls are a fact of life in the food industry, and they can happen for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s a quality or packaging problem, or a food-safety issue, consumers expect a recall to be executed within 24 to 48 hours. But in reality, it sometimes takes weeks to pull a product. This is frequently due to communication issues, since everyone along the supply chain - the grower, supplier, packing and distribution centers, corporate office, and the retailer or restaurant - all must be notified, and a recall plan must be set in motion. Unfortunately, that communication process takes time. When that communication takes place via email or by phone call, those people responsible for pulling product may not have the information they need or may have received mis-information. This can result in lag time, and potentially unsafe product can still get into the hands of consumers.
“FoodLogiQ came up with a very elegant way to manage that process through their Recall + Response tool,” Cohn says. “Because I can notify my supply chain in real-time, I can activate a product recall at any point along the supply chain, up to the point of having it pulled off the store shelf - if the product made it that far - within 24 to 48 hours. Then we can report back in real-time to whatever regulatory authority is overseeing the recall or withdrawal. In my eyes, that is a truly effective recall, because we’ve kept the consumer safe, and we’ve done it in a timely and efficient manner.”
To learn more about how Seal the Seasons plans to use FoodLogiQ Connect for future business initiatives, watch the FoodLogiQ industry webinar, “Building Supply Chain Efficiencies within a Fast-Growing Business.”