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Problems Occur as Artisan Food Producers Enter the Supply Chain

Written by Robert Brice
November 30, 2015

Artisanal food producers prepare their products with care.

Artisanal food producers prepare their products with care.

Most companies start small and expand based on demand. For artisan food producers, the goal is usually to follow success without giving up the small-business qualities their consumers prefer. It is almost impossible to grow without making some changes, however. Artisan products need to make smart choices when planning expanded supply chain logistics management to overcome obstacles without hurting their brand.

Hard to Count on Fresh Ingredients

When an artisan food producer begins, the business may rely on a single source of ingredients to create goods. The Wall Street Journal offered the example of Lisa Murphy, an artisan sauce maker who depended on a certain supplier for tomatoes. If her vendor had a bad season or other growing problems, she would be unable to fill her contract with local restaurants and grocery stores.

There are a few inventory management solutions artisan food companies can employ as they start to grow. First of all, producers can stockpile products or ingredients while seasons are good, provided they have a method for storing inventory that prevents spoilage. Second, they can reach out to new suppliers so production is not contingent on a single business partner.

Local Isn’t Always Better

As artisan companies look for new suppliers, they may be tempted to keep the search limited to local options. While buying from small farms or similar growers provides the quality they need, limiting partners to the artisan’s neighbors may be more of a hindrance than expected.

A study conducted by the Penn State Smeal College of Business found keeping the supply chain local could have problematic side effects, according to Phys.org. The research focused on milk distribution in the northeast U.S. While some companies reduced travel time by buying supplies locally, other companies had to change paths to accommodate the organizations wishing to keep things close to home. Shortening one supply chain caused another to increase distance traveled and emissions released by vehicles.

Artisan businesses usually want to try local tactics because they believe it will benefit the environment and their community. Supply chains aren’t simple, however, and there’s no one answer for the most efficient distribution plan. Companies have to carefully explore every option and choose the one right for the business and what it tries to do.

Market the Hard Work Put Into Products

If a company finds a supplier from outside its home state that offers higher-quality products or more energy efficient distribution plans, the artisan food business should advertise its partner’s participation in the product. As small businesses grow, consumers may fear the organization will lose its value. A company has to constantly communicate the activities and data that demonstrate its consistent quality.

The organization should keep a close eye on product creation, warehouse management and distribution. If the small business utilizes flexible automated data collection solutions it can keep a record to communicate with partners and consumers. Forbes said a complete account of brand quality helps attract investors who can assist with small-business growth.

Handmade vs. Automation

Artisan-business owners often advertise how their products are made by hand in a methodic process carried out by experienced cooks or specially trained employees. If an organization needs new solutions for meeting the needs of a growing market, it could fear any form of automation could lead to a slippery slope of dispassionate performance.

An expanding company needs to look at all of its activities and decide which tasks need special care and when new solutions can prioritize expedience. For example, An RFgen customer case study detailed how an artisan winery maintained its production activities by implementing an automated data collection system to improve the efficiency of its pick and ship procedures.

The Business Must Know What’s Right for It

Munchies, a food news blog, shared the story of an artisan food shop that reinforced its brand by turning its customers down on occasion. The business refused to sell products that weren’t right and wouldn’t meet the demands of consumers during certain seasons. Many organizations can avoid product distribution problems by limiting availability and keeping customers informed on when is the best time to buy the highest quality product.

A growing business has to say no to opportunities it can’t happily capitalize on. To maintain quality, an artisan food producer needs to ignore impossible demands and focus on growth options it can achieve.