We left our old commercial kitchen, which was perpetually dirty, stank and at least to our standards, felt unsanitary. We started working in a newly built, amazing and pristine kitchen. It’s absolutely dreamy. It’s small, and that suits us just fine, because the kitchen managers don’t feel the need to squeeze two kitchen users in at once. It is part of a dance hall which people can rent for events. That means the main kitchen tenants are super temporary, and they aren’t there long enough to leave a big mess. We’ve been incredibly impressed with it the times we’ve used it so far. It’s literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air!
We hired Fabulous Phoebe! She’s a new employee who works with us part time. She has an eighth grade education, so she certainly fits our model of hiring people with barriers to employment. But there are no words for how fantastic she is. She has an amazing attitude, she’s fast, accurate (what a RARE and special combination!) and she has a dog walking business that she does part time. What’s not to love about someone who loves animals? Anyway, we’re super excited about Phoebe. She can grow with the company, train new employees and basically run our manufacturing operation so we can go sell product, which is our next phase. Phoebe has already improved just about every manufacturing process she’s worked on with us. We’re seriously excited.
We got a Hobart! This is incredibly exciting. Besides good people, a Hobart is the lifeblood of a food company. It’s the single most important piece of equipment we could own. It’s a 30 quart, which is the largest one that uses a regular 110 outlet. No special wiring required. And it’s red! And we got a screaming deal. And it’s just been rebuilt—the Hobart guys, who checked it out before we started using it, said it is likely to run forever. And because it was freshly painted and rechromed, it is almost as if it was brand new, clean and sanitary. That’s just fantastic for our food company because we’re free from so many things. Oh, and, we named her Arwen, because the Hobart guys who checked her out before we brought her to the commercial kitchen said in all likelihood she’ll last forever. Yes!
The red color has some unexpected and delightful side effects! Besides being pretty, it doesn’t collect grime in the divots which are part of the standard battleship gray “matte” paint job. Second, it inspires you to keep it sparkling clean, because it’s so pretty. Third, as flour gets fluffed onto it (as it does while we’re blending cookie mix) it shows, so we are able to keep it extra clean and in top shape, because it’s immediately obvious where the flour is that needs to be wiped. So cool. Pretty and oh so functional.
And let me tell you, getting the Hobart was better than getting my first sports car! I literally jumped up and down and squealed like a little kid. Haha! Seriously, it’s that exciting! I couldn’t help it.
I mentioned before that we changed our cookie mix to a cookie kit. What makes it a kit is the inclusion of the sheet of parchment in the bag. To start this process, we purchased the cheapest parchment we could find on an online clearinghouse. The good part: it cost 4 cents per sheet. The bad part: that parchment was simply awful and stuck to the cookies! In fact, it was no value add over making them directly on a cookie sheet. So we created a relationship with the very BEST parchment company around. Their parchment is second to none. They’re an eco company. You can use it forever, like a Silpat, except it’s better, because the cookies crisp on the bottom. And they are giving it to us at COST, so it still costs us 4 cents per bag!
Shopping for food packaging is interesting business. You might think since our last post here several months ago that a lot would have happened in between! Well, ideally, it would have. But the way things work sometimes can be slower. Designing and ordering packaging is SUCH a fiddly business! Once you decide on a design, then the option of pre-printed vs labels has an effect on the design. And the size of the labels has a big impact on price. And whether they’re metallic and embossed…and on and on. And the more you order, the less it costs. So you have to be really sure, test it and test it again.
So you decide based on cost. And then make mockups in several sizes and take it to the store and see how it looks. That was Blessing’s idea. What a blessing Blessing is! (you read about her before, or you will when you scroll down.)
So then you iterate the design again.
So after MONTHS in this same process, we’re finally ready! Our designer is making final changes that will be ready next week.
And now we’ve reached out to over 50 (yes you read that right!) bag manufacturing companies in China.
What I figure is, the companies here that we buy from are going to order from China anyway. So let’s eliminate the middlepeople and see if we can cut the cost to 1/3. That’s my goal. We don’t have the answer yet. Just one quote so far, which was the same minimum and same price per bag as the lowest cost American option. But they spoke perfect English and they’re right next to Hong Kong. Based on some logic, that might be the high rent district. So we’re continuing our conversations with companies deeper in Shenzhen, with possibly lower rent and definitely less in the way of English skills. But they have Google translate. And we have a willing translator.
I’m excited to see where this will go!
And now… here’s a drawing of our final type and size of bag which we’re sharing with possible Chinese custom printed bag suppliers. By the way, the 3/4 inch at the top is to give us plenty of space for heat sealing. Our heat sealer is premium and easy to use because it seals a whole 1/4 inch. And it’s easier work sealing them (and lower labor cost) if there’s a little room for error.
et Voila! We’ll share more news when we have it.
As mentioned in the post about Blessing, we're in Good Earth! This is important, because Good Earth is the most organic, most pure, best and most amazing grocery store I've ever had the pleasure to shop in. Their purity standards are very similar to ours.
We did our first demo there on June 22nd. It was fun to meet Good Earth customers, see the smiles on people's faces as we demo'd our cookie mix and meet staff member after staff member of Good Earth at our booth that was referred by others who said the cookies were AMAZING and they had to come and buy them!
We have a new number for you. According to one expert, (our advisor, Anni Minuzzo, who started the first biscotti company in the US) most companies give away 4 times the amount of product that they sell at a demo.
In our case, it was the opposite! We sold 4 times what we demo'd. It is highly encouraging that the numbers were this strong despite the over $10 price tag.
We could not be more thrilled with this work in progress you see above. If you read the previous posts, you know it's the result of months of work, focus groups, brainstorming, strategy sessions, marketing workshops, and coordination.
In our opinion, this Shepard Fairey inspired package design speaks "social impact" without saying a word. Bonus points for guessing which poster this was inspired by!
What you see above is a draft and we are still editing. You may notice things that need changing. But it's beautiful isn't it? It's a whole new brand and a whole new presence.
We are THRILLED to announce that Penny "Blessing" Horowytz, inventor of the first kale chips, has joined our management team as Chief Strategist! She built her company, Alive and Radiant foods, to 10 million in revenue, before selling it to her business partner.
Her value speaks for itself.
But to spell it out, she knows everyone in the industry. She helped us get into Good Earth, California's purest, best, most organic grocery store, she helped us get our brand and packaging to its newest iteration, she helped come up with our plan for AB testing and she's just the most amazing person that we could ever hope to have join us.
Once we decided to change the name, we realized it will have an important ripple effect on the whole business. It will change our marketing, our copy, our packaging, and maybe even our product offerings.
We began the process with a Copywriter, who helped us understand our "brand soul" and write our Brand Pillars. Then we worked with a Marketing Expert who helped us visualize the new brand, including the pillars, into a new and amazingly beautiful kind of packaging.
The rebrand, though complicated, has made things simple. Prana to the People makes Game Changing Gluten Free Foods with a Social Impact. Our brand pillars are in progress, and we'll update our whole website when they are complete. And we'll give you a special "behind the scenes" update here too. :)
Part of our rebrand also involves changing our product offerings. That does NOT mean we will reformulate. Our cookie mix is pretty well perfect, and we intend to leave it that way. BUT, some people prefer fewer chocolate chips. Some prefer no chips, or are allergic to chocolate, or want to add nuts. While our sales numbers have been incredibly strong when we demo, a few still walk away due to the price. Our rebrand involves AB testing (well, ABC testing really) of different options.
Here are the new options and price points we are currently testing:
- 42% Chips (original) - The bag costs $10 and makes a baker's dozen 2 inch cookies.
- 21% Chips (light) - The bag costs $8 and makes 18 2 inch cookies.
- 0% Chips (naked) - The bag costs $5 and makes 18-24 2 inch cookies.
In the spirit of bringing Prana to the People, we'd like to make sure we have at least one reasonably-priced offering that all communities feel they can afford, and our Naked cookie mix is a great way to do that. People seem to love the $5 price point. Once all our research is done, we'll include that in the behind the scenes update.
Over the last few years, our name, Prana Foods, has begin to come into question. When we trademarked it back in 2009, we were the only food company with the word Prana in it. Of course there's the clothing company, but that's in a different industry.
When we trademarked it, we did it ourselves instead of getting an attorney, and we only trademarked one category--breakfast foods, for our only product at the time which was pancake mix. We didn't even trademark it for baking mixes, which would have been smart. We also didn't trademark (or even think about, honestly) other categories of food that we might expand into later.
Fast forward a few years, and Prana, though generic, has become a very popular word for food companies! This is a good thing--because it shows that we were on or ahead of trend, even then. (And we still are.) Now there is a snack company in Canada called Prana, a Prana Chai based in Oregon and many other Prana thises and thatses. And, if we're honest with ourselves, the reason we chose Prana Foods in the first place was because we couldn't think of anything better at the time.
The purpose of a trademark, of course, is to avoid confusion and protect your brand. Obviously, although we had trademarked "Prana Foods" FIRST (and believe me I've been pretty self righteous about that!), it was not effective in avoiding confusion and making sure people knew who we were. So we accepted the inevitable and started the brainstorming process.
One new thing we've added to our "menu," as you know, is social impact. In fact it's the most important thing we do. Besides offering game changing gluten free foods, we're making a difference to the world while we do. This is important to Millennial buyers and anyone who cares about people, and society, around them.
And so, Prana to the People is born. We trademarked the name on June 8th, with the help of a specialist trademark attorney this time around. We're thrilled with the new name! There's enough similarity to allow a smooth brand transition. When that word came up, our Brand Pillars came clearly into view. Most of all, Prana to the People implies social impact, right in the name. And of course, with our attorney's help, we trademarked it for our current categories and all possible categories of expansion. And because it's not generic, we will protect it mightily in case anyone else tries to encroach on our term.