This article first appeared on Food Magazine.
Starting a new company is risky – and the food and beverage industry is no exception. It pays to have done your research and development into the product you are hoping to sell.
If that isn’t hard enough, then adding in specific conditions to how the food is made produces a new set of challenges.
When Julie Hirsch and Nicole Lamond started tea company Eloments, they didn’t just want to make it different in terms of what it delivered in taste and health benefits; they also wanted to make sure that the ingredients for its range of patented vitamin- and mineral-infused teas were sourced ethically and via fair trade agreements.
“Tea is a beautiful, healthy beverage and we know that a lot of people like tea, enjoy tea, and love it for its health benefits as well as the taste,” said CEO Lamond. “It seemed like a perfect medium to add vitamins and minerals to. So, we developed Eloments, which contains nine essential vitamins in every cup.”
“We would often talk about how hard it was to focus on our health as busy professional women,” said COO Hirsch. “Sure, vitamin supplements were there, but we often forget to take them and didn’t like swallowing tablets. When we were looking at the fact that five per cent of Aussies aren’t eating enough fruit and veg for their general health, we thought we could combine our love of fair trading with our love of healthy products and put natural vitamins in a fair trade cup of tea.”
Lamond and Hirsch found it a challenge to blend the tea leaves with the natural nutrients so they could be put into teabags. They spent two years on research and development and came up with a patent-pending process on how to do it.
“We had a lot of fun blending. We partnered with members of fair trade collectives around the world to source some truly beautiful fair trade-certified ingredients,” said Hirsch. “We sourced vanilla from Madagascar, Egyptian mint and fantastic cardamom, cloves and cinnamon from Sri Lanka.”
With these range of self-imposed conditions for making sure the ingredients were sourced ethically, as well as making sure they were giving the consumer a refreshing and healthy experience, both Lamond and Hirsch knew the logistics of keeping track of all the different aspects of their business was going to be tricky. Enter Unleashed inventory software.
“When we launched the product we did a trial manufacturing run and then realised we needed a very good inventory management system,” said Hirsch. “One that could manage organic and fair trade inventory for us, such as batch numbers, multiple locations and multiple warehouses etc.”
Hirsch said the company didn’t have the time to trial any products but did do their homework on what sort of inventory system they wanted.
“We did quite a bit of research and Unleashed was the best option for us,” she said. “We started using Unleashed from the beginning. It’s a very powerful program. Once you have it set up and working well, it is easy to use.”
And what are the features that Hirsch and Lamond like best? There are a few that have piqued their interest and made life easier.
“From the sales perspective I find it absolutely fantastic for reporting sales figures,” said Lamond. “From that end of it, it is so adaptable and has a lot of great filters, so you can pull any information you want. I really like the interface too. In fact, the ease of use and the reporting are probably the two biggest things I like about it.”
Hirsch agreed and added that, because of the way the company does business, this function is a necessity.
“Our sales are very complex,” she said. “There are seven territories around the world. We sell into Australia and the UK – both larger retailers and smaller retailers – so we need a lot of flexibility in being able to do different sales reports and sales templates for our various customers.”
Another reason Hirsch and Lamond decided to use Unleashed when they launched the business was that they knew that the business was going to take off quickly and they needed to be able to scale to demand immediately.
“We’ve been selling for about 14 months now, and we’ve got shelf spacing on more than 2,500 stores around the world,” said Hirsch. “If we had started out with an inventory management system with limited capabilities, we would have had to change it six months in. It was great how we started out straight away without having to swap it out.
“Because we are organic and fair trade certified, we have to be able to trace our product’s journey every step of the way“. We need a package that has the ability to do that and Unleashed certainly does.”
Eloments’ rapid expansion means it has moved into overseas markets quickly. Again, Unleashed has helped them navigate the sometimes ever-changing landscape of exchange rates and foreign currencies.
“One thing we utilised with Unleashed was the foreign currency feature,” said Lamond. “We are buying in multiple different currencies and we’re selling in multiple different currencies, so having a programme that can support that is important.”
Hirsch explained further.
“Especially as a small Australian business, we don’t have lots of support, so it is really important and helps make the business possible,” she said. “And we can put in those different currencies and track sales and purchases directly to the Unleashed system.
“We partner with the Fair Trade Collective in Sri Lanka for most of our teas and spices. We purchase them in US dollars, Australian dollars and the UK pound. Having the flexibility to manage that in one system it makes it possible for us to run our business.”
Overall, Hirsch and Lamond are very happy with the software. Lamond has a final piece of advice.
“When you are assessing software, I would say make sure it does what you need and make sure the system you choose can meet your needs,” she said. “Unleashed ticks our boxes and is easy to use. Because when you are running a business, you don’t want to be sitting there working out how to use a piece of software. These days, software should be intuitive enough so you can mostly work out how it functions just by using it.”