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A-Musing about the Seahawks

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Everytime I think about the Seattle Seahawks, I can’t decide if I’m naively optimistic about them, or cautiously pessimistic… And here’s why… Sometimes they are amazing, and sometimes, well, you know….  And it’s a franchise and a “profit center,” so I’m even more puzzled.  If our Customer Service team approached every interaction we have with our customers the same way the Seahawks play a game, what would that look like?  Would somedays be Outstanding customer support, other days, mediocre?  And who decides how the interaction will go?  The customer, the tone of the email, what you did last night?  I’m no sports buff, but I see parallels in providing great customer service and providing great entertainment.  The seattlite in me cheers and waves for our Hawks, but the business person inside me says…. Let’s be consistent, make every encounter count and be the one that elevates the game!

Strength Through Diversity

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Diversity is important in the workplace.  At Eagle, we pride ourselves on our diverse team who come from an array of countries – Nepal, Somalia, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Samoa, and so many more.  We always joke that we have the United Nations represented at Eagle, and our diversity allows us to succeed in a competitive environment.  We always hope that our customers appreciate the diverse points of view we bring to the table.  When we have tastings for new flavors, we ask our team members to evaluate the flavors.  They all bring feedback that we use to improve the quality of our products.  In manufacturing, our diversity is the backbone of our manufacturing.  We are especially proud to be featured in Starbucks’ diversity newroom recently.  Thank you Starbucks for recognizing all that we do!  The full article from their newsroom can be found here.

Changes to Labeling Laws

Friday, August 14th, 2015

Over the next year or so, the FDA is requiring changes to nutrition panels.  For larger companies with a bevy of techs able to assist in converting labels this may not be such a burden.  But for smaller companies, this is feat to accomplish (at least it feels like it).  What are the some of the highlights of the changes?  Here they are:

  1. Requiring the declaration of “Added Sugars” on the label
  2. Removing the requirement for declaring “Calories from fat.”
  3. Revising the nutrients of public health significance that must be declared on the label.
  4. Revised Daily Values for certain nutrients that are either mandatory or voluntary on the label.

There’s also a new design, updates to the serving requirements and a host of other changes.   At Eagle Beverage, we have been busy starting the conversion process and evaluating all the major ingredients to ensure that they are in compliance with the new labeling laws.  Our private label customers will start feeling the effects as we start rolling out new Specification Documents and asking for changes to current label designs.

If you are considering a new private label program, make sure to ask your supplier (hopefully Eagle) what will need to be done to print the Nutrition Fact Panel within the guidelines, so as to save yourself the extra cost down the road.

For further information regarding the Nutritional Labeling changes, please click here.

Feeding my Apple Addiction

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

I am an Apple(R) addict.  I am an early adopter of all Apple products and I see nothing wrong with owning all iPhone generations and the iPad and iPad2, at the same time.  A forage into my closet doesn’t yield designer shoes, but rather, vintage Apple products, like the Powerbook 145B, and multiple colors of interchangeable track balls that were sold that year.

Is it any wonder then, that Eagle Beverage now was an App for the iPad? You can download the app at the App Store.  An App?  For Private Label?  But of course.  How else can our sales team remember each detail of a custom private label program?  The app is designed for food service professionals who are interested in selling a custom private label program for speciality beverages.  It’s nifty because you can see more detail of flavors and actually create your own program.  Do you want to match a brand?  Enter the info in the field.  Do you want choose your capsule color?  Click your color.  Need to print the sales sheets or email directly to the person across the table from you?  Select print, email or download to PDF reader.

I’m not recommending that everyone downloads the app.  It is a very specific app for a specific market segment.  In addition to helping our sales team promote private label programs, this app asks the question… how useful are apps for business to business generation?  Or is the market share for one billion plus apps predominantly B to C?  Or did I miss the platform of where B2B apps belong?

I should point out that the app is not free and Eagle Beverage does NOT offer refunds for those who download the app because they download everything there is out there whether they need it or not (yes, I know I have 650 apps of which I only actually use about 20).  But we will refund the price of the app if someone actually uses it to create and buy a private label program from us!

I am enjoying the process of learning how to integrate technology into the selling of custom foodservice items.  And I have enjoyed learning how Apple has developed a whole platform for the creation, maintenance and distribution of apps.  The reviews from the sales team who have seen the app working have been great.  I really hope I don’t have to buy them all iPads now…!

Inside and outside of the Box

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Louis Pasteur said “Chance favors the prepared mind.” In competition, this is key because most of the time, people only see what they want to see. This is commonly known as “inside the box” and when we all want to highlight our strengths, we identify ourselves as “out of the box thinkers.” I have sat through many interviews discussing with candidates their work ethic and the value they could bring only to hear “I always find solutions, and I think out of the box.” I would like to know what it means to think “out of the box” and to be prepared in the changing landscape of commerce and capitalism. If we are continuously thinking outside the box and preparing our minds for eventualities, will our business be favored?

In a product driven company, there are three dimensions of competition – product leadership (otherwise known as innovation), customer knowledge and operational efficiency. If we just look at product innovation, the sad truth is that no-matter what innovative or ground breaking product you are able to bring to market, eventually, someone else will copy it, and most likely do it better. I mention this because recently Sony announced that after 30 years, it was stopping production of the Walkman as it is no longer relevant in the world in iPods and MP3 players. Truthfully, I was surprised it took them this long to make the announcement. In our industry, we watch our competitors and see what new and innovative products they believe will be the “next big flavor” and prepare ourselves for creating innovative and relevant flavors. And then we will watch someone else do it!

A-A-T-M-F

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

I recently attended a beer tasting at Cowboy Stadium in Dallas, TX. As an aside, Cowboy Stadium is amazing. It is high tech, has great food and very clearly, is a new standard in American Stadiums. We had the opportunity to take a tour and it was incredible to see the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders practicing their routines directly from the field sidelines. I found the entire experience infectious and would enjoy watching a game live.

But back to the Beer Tasting… I am not much of a beer drinker, but our tasting guides had an acromym to describe the evaluation of each beer and I found the simplicity of their sensory evaluation to be something that I could pass on: AATMF. These five letters stand for Appearance, Aroma, Taste, Mouthfeel and Finish.

Appearance – Appearance can reflect the color, the consistency, smoothness of texture and generally all the visual elements that are common in determining the appeal of the product.

Aroma – Over 70% of taste perception is attributed to aroma, or smell. If it smells good, chances are, it tastes good!
Taste – Taste and aroma account for most of the perception of a product. Our taste buds allow us to taste bitter, salty, sweet, and sour flavors. There is a huge body of research done on taste and smell and we will go into that later.

Mouthfeel – With beverages, some people can feel the product in their mouth and they can describe food and beverage a variety of ways: creamy, thick, thin, coating, and a number of other ways. This attribute is how you perceive the texture of the product in the mouth. One simple example is sugar and HFCS. While we don’t manufacture anything using High Fructose Corn Syrup anymore, we had a hard time getting out of it because it has a thicker viscosity than sugar, and therefore, our customers felt it was a creamier, richer taste. In order to achieve that same feeling with sugar, we had to add more sugar to increase the viscosity and create a similar mouthfeel.

Finsh – The finish is essential. Once the product has left your mouth, the sensation it evokes afterwards can either linger of end quickly. If it ends quickly, the perception tends to be that it is not very strong. If it lingers at the back of the mouth and in the air passages (due to the aroma), the sensation is one of satisfaction and fullness.

So, now you know the 5 different evaluative areas, try something. Enjoy a glass a wine, your favorite flavored cocktail or a cup of coffee and evaluate how the beverage looks, smells, tastes, feels, and lingers in your mouth. Feel free to share your results here!

Fruit Based Products

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

We are all about Fruit based products at Eagle. In manufacturing fruit products, we get to taste so many delicious fruits and combine them with great flavors. I thought this would be a good time to discuss fruit based smoothies. This is a fast growing segment of the specialty coffee industry. Smoothies are a very high profit margin product, typically requiring ice and water/milk (again, the dilemma…milk or water).

Currently, in the market place, there are two types of smoothie mixes: 100% pure fruit smoothie mixes and smoothie mixes made with real fruit. Both are targeted towards specialty beverages, but they have different price points and different usage ratios. The most price sensitive product is the mix made with real fruit, but boosted by a flavor enhancer. There is no argument that real fruit smoothies made with 100% fruit are delicious. Try them both out and see which one works best for your customers.

Machine-age

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Have you ever seen the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy and Ethel go to work in a chocolate factory? The chocolates are coming off the line so fast they cant keep up and Lucy ends up stuffing her mouth with them just to collect them off the line? Any manufacturer who tells you they haven’t been through that is pulling your leg. We have ALL been through it and it can be nerve racking to literally see money going down the drain or in the recycle bins. But it sure is funny to laugh about it later.

We recently launched a new product in the market. And while the product itself was not new, we suddenly, overnight, turned on brand new machines and expected them to all work. They did, but the process of training and bringing everyone up to speed at the same time didn’t. We had product coming off the lines and no-one to collect it and package them. Needless to say, the wastage factor that day was higher than expected. People don’t work as fast as machines and I think a lot of times, we forget that. In the age of being automated, connected, and digitial, we forget the simple act of slowing a machine down increases productivity. Once we slowed the lines down, ramped up slowly and then turned the machines on faster, we became more productive. Same goes in life, too, I think. Running at 90 miles an hour does not make us more productive.

At Eagle, we make straws.

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Making samples can be a real pain. At Eagle, we make straws. And you would think a straw is a straw, a paper wrap is a paper wrap and printing is printing. You show it to the customer and hope they buy it. We have many customers for whom we custom brand straws. Before they buy, however, they want to see the straw first, in the right diameter, with the right color, with the right paper size, paper length and width and with the right color and print registrations. Several years ago, you could show a customer what your capabilities are (look, 2-color printing), and they would buy it, knowing you could make it. During the great recession, if you want the business, you have to present the finished sample.

I am perfectly comfortable with making the finished sample. What I am amused by is the fact that our finished samples are better than a current supplier’s, and yet, the nitpicking is done on the newer product. I have been told that is why we are being considered for the business, but most people don’t realize that to create a custom sample that is 100% perfect with colors and registration can take up to 20 hours in machine time and labor. And at the end of that, only about 400-500 straws are presentable. All we can do then is hope for the best.