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Deciding on a co-manufacturer: Insights from one thriving partnership

Craig Lieberman of 34 Degrees and Liz Myslik of Fresca Foods talk about their relationship as a brand and a co-manufacturing partner and share tips for brands that might be looking for their own partners.

“The most successful relationships are those where we actually have connection points throughout the organization. we like to call it the synapses between teams, where we have our quality team connected to your quality team, our marketing team connected to your marketing team.”

—Liz Myslik, Fresca Foods

Part 1: Nuts and bolts of co-manufacturing relationships

Highlights:

  • At 34 Degrees, we think about acting from the future—where do you want to be as a brand, and how do you work backward to get there. For us, finding the right manufacturer was key to doing that.
  • In looking for a co-manufacturer, there are non-negotiables to consider. There are also should-haves, like transparency and values, that will ensure a relationship and not just a transaction. Look for adjacent capabilities.
  • People who’ve had experience manufacturing their product, or being involved in the manufacturing, can use that to better manage and partner with the manufacturer.
  • A co-manufacturer can be seen as the back of the house of a restaurant; the entrepreneur and the brand are the front of the house. How you marry the two is crucial. Many small businesses that use a co-manufacturer might not have a director of operations, but 34 Degrees has one to be dedicated to working closely with Fresca.

 

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Part 2: Communication, communication, communication

Highlights:

  • Every entrepreneur has to choose where and how to allocate limited resources. It's important to recognize what you’re good at, and if manufacturing isn’t it, it’s probably worth finding a co-manufacturing partner.
  • The most successful relationships involve connection points throughout the organizations—“synapses” between teams, where the brand’s and co-manufacturer’s quality teams are connected, the marketing teams connected and so on. Speaking the same language and creating that collaboration from the very beginning is really important—it reduces friction, saves time, solves problem and builds trust.

 

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Part 3: The nitty-gritty of co-manufacturing

Highlights:

  • A brand needs to decide which services it wants to take on and manage itself, and which it wants to procure. Letting the co-manufacturing partner take on the roles that it has expertise in will free up time for the brand to focus on its own strengths.
  • Innovation doesn’t happen without failure. Having strong, collaborative relationships makes it easier to navigate failures and challenges when they arise.
  • At Fresca, a best practice is sharing. Myslik says, when there are big successes, we share, and big failures, we share.

 

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Part 4: Balancing resources and expectations

Highlights:

  • Establishing manufacturing relationships with multiple brand partners.
  • For any manufacturing business with many customers, time management and resource management is in constant focus. 
  • How to manage expectations and what specific details to communicate with a co-packer. 
  • Resources for scouting and finding local manufacturers. 

This session—How to Develop Strong Manufacturing Relationships & Why It’s Important—was recorded at Natural Products Expo West 2018.

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