So, you’re a new beverage company and everything is coming together. You have the world’s tastiest drink locked up. You have the best team in place to sell it and distribute it to the perfect markets. You’ve done the research, you’ve got a plan, you are in control. But now you need to actually produce this game-changing beverage. How do you pick a contract manufacturer or bottling company to turn all your hard work into a real, tangible, drinkable beverage? And once you’ve done that, how do you know that everything is going according to plan?
Pick a Co-Packer
There are plenty of names for the companies that blend, fill, seal, and label your beverage. Whether you call it a bottling company, a canner, a copacker, or a contract manufacturer, the terms are loosely interchangeable. These are all companies that combine the necessary raw ingredients for your drink and then get them into your packaging for sale. But each copacker is going to have its own processes, specialties. How do you know who to trust with your business?
Picking a copacker is an important decision and there are a few things to keep in mind. Specifically: don’t rush. Take your time and make your decision based off of as much information as you can acquire. Make some phone calls, ask for advice, peruse their websites. Do the work. Selecting this partner is one of the major keys to producing a winning beverage. Make sure that they have the capacity and capability to make a drink to your specifications. It’s your business, so take the extra time to get this choice right the first time.
Acquire Raw Materials
It is vital that the lines of communication between you and your copacker stay open. One great example of this is the acquisition of raw materials. Some co-packers will want to handle all the ordering themselves – your beverage ingredients (sweeteners, functional ingredients, flavors, colors, etc), and your packaging (i.e. bottles, labels, cartons) themselves. Others will expect you to place and arrange all those moving pieces yourself. Work with your copacker to have clear expectations of who is responsible for what aspect of material acquisition.
You’ve picked your copacker and you’ve managed to get all of the necessary materials to their facility. It’s time to make your drink! But how? This is where your copacker will expect a clear set of instructions about how to combine all those raw materials into a delicious, ready-for-market drink. At Flavorman, we provide an extensive Production Manual that hits all the required notes. It’s easy to read, thorough, and contains all the necessary specifications and instructions that will make life easier for your copacker. Before your production is started or even scheduled, it’s good to review this information with your copacker to make sure that there will be no ugly and costly surprises on the way to getting your first unit filled.
Schedule a Date
Now that you and your copacker are confident about how to make your beverage, it’s time to decide when. This is another point at which open communication is important. Some copackers will give you a specific date and require the materials all be on hand as much as two weeks ahead of time. Others will give you a range of dates. And still others will require everything has arrived at their facility before they can provide your official date for a production run. Have clear expectations and communicate them regularly. If you did your research, you’ll know your copackers regulations and requirements before you reach this stage. Work with your suppliers to get lead times that fit your copacker’s schedule and are realistic for your supply chain.
Have a Presence
The greatest copacker of all time with the best of intentions and the best possible instructions can still make mistakes. One way to help prevent this is to be present. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to physically be at the production facility on the day of your production (though that’s a good idea, too!). Being present means staying involved and staying informed about your production. If you aren’t able for whatever reason to personally attend, many copackers will accommodate you with phone call updates or even video conferencing. But there is nothing that can replace having someone there to advocate for your business. Maybe it is someone from your organization, but maybe that representative will be a trusted third party. The production process consists of batching (making your beverage), and filling (getting it into your bottle or can). Having someone other than the copacker there to taste and test your beverage after batching and to physically hold your drink after filling is irreplaceable.
Flavorman recommends having a technical representative attend your production. This is especially true for first productions. Whether it’s the first time you are making a drink or the first time working with a new copacker, first productions are more likely to experience difficulties and therefore more aided by the presence of technical professionals. Having a highly trained technician familiar with your beverage present offers the following benefits:
1 – Answer Questions: A Flavorman Representative can answer any questions that your copacker may have about the beverage or Production Manual. Furthermore, they can also answer questions for you! It can be a long and confusing day for your first production. Having someone to walk you through the processes while your copackers are busily at work can be a great comfort.
2 – Catch Errors: Their familiarity with your beverage and the manufacturing process can help stop problems before they arise. Specifically, in the “batching” process it can be extremely handy to have professionals present to keep an eye on the process and confirm that it’s being done according to your requirements.
3 – Ensure Quality: Understanding the organoleptic (taste, smell, color) properties of your beverage is one of Flavorman’s calling cards. Having a technician on site to test your finished product to make sure that it is properly representative of your intended drink is a great insurance policy. You want all units of your beverage to taste exactly the way it did when you perfected it! Beyond just the sensory evaluations, having a member of the Flavorman quality team at your production allows you to have someone who understands all the numbers that are being thrown around. Are your densities, BRIX, pH, and proofs all coming out according to plan? They can tell you!
Transforming your beverage from an idea into a real, tangible product can seem interminable. And just when you think you’ve reached the finish line, you are faced with the important decision of picking a copacker. There are great options all over the world, but there may only be one that meets your needs perfectly. Hopefully you now feel a little more comfortable about what that process looks like and the pieces it consists of.
Remember to do your research, ask around, and take your time when picking your copacker. Once you’ve found the perfect match, keep the lines of communication open and the expectations of both sides clear and manageable. And when the day comes to finally fill your drink into your bottles, make sure you’ve got experts on your side who can monitor the process and advocate for your business. Working with industry experts can help you get across the finish line on your way to having your beverage hit the market.
When you’re ready to talk about your idea to change what the world is drinking, give us a call at (502) 273-5214 or get started with this web form.