This week, we're checking off a major box on our to do list: we're submitting our first product for review by a "process authority."
To spare you the details, this is someone who reviews our methods of production, tests our product, and provides us a letter we can submit to the FDA. That letter will give us permission to call our product "shelf stable," meaning we no longer have to store it in the fridge.
That's big for two reasons.
First, we can speak with more retail stores about carrying our product. Although many stores do have fridge space, it isn't usually where the cocktail syrups are kept. Fridge space in retail stores can also mean they take a bigger percentage of sales. Shelf space is our best case for revenue and visibility.
Second, we can safely ship our product without adding freezer packaging. This will save us time and money. It will also open the door to working with distributors, since they won't have to move our syrups in a cold truck, as well as bars and restaurants, who won't have to give up any fridge space to store our unopened product. Wins all around.
In an email last month, I mentioned not quite making the progress I'd hoped to make. My goal was to roll out two additional flavors by the end of the year. Although we've made some nice test batches, it simply didn't make sense to load up on inventory, spend a lot of time on new labels, design marketing and messaging -- you get the idea.
So, I'd been feeling a little down about all that, until we got an unprompted pep talk at Leaven Kitchen from a fellow member named Donnell.
Donnell makes all kinds of shelf stable products: sauces, salsas, spice mixes, syrups... you name it. Not only does he produce for his business, he also makes products for other businesses. He'll walk you through the entire process, including recipe design, nutritional facts, shelf stability, FDA approval -- the whole nine yards.
When Donnell found out what stage we'd reached after just a few months in production, he was floored.
"What you guys have achieved in just a couple of months is monumental," he said. "Especially without the help of someone like me who's done this a bunch of times."
Not only was Donnell impressed, he connected us directly with the process authority he works with and put in a good word. That's who we're sending our product to tomorrow, and that's who we'll work with on all our future products.
Safe to say, I felt a lot better about myself.
Last week, while Jessie and I were in Blue Ridge, I took some time to reflect. It was just a few months ago that I even found out about Leaven Kitchen as a place to make our jam. Now the friendships we've made there are helping us solidify our new line of business. It may not be the progress I wanted, but it's definitely the progress we needed.
I know I say this a lot, but your support means a lot to us. Writing these emails out each week keeps me going, because it forces to me to take note of what we've accomplished. I can go back week by week to see what we were doing and how far we've come.
Every time you open an email, and every time you write me back with words of encouragement, is more fuel to keep on truckin.
We are on the verge of some big things at Farmers Jam. There's still a lot of work to do between now and the end of the year, but we look forward to the road ahead.