Viewing blog posts written by Gino DiCaro


SF-based Sufferfest manufacturing a healthier beer

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Sept. 27, 2018

This week CompanyWeek and the CMTA Champions Series bring you a profile on one of California's small but very exciting new breweries looking at 200 percent growth in 2018. San Francisco based Sufferfest and its 18 employees make an incredible good-for-you beer for athletes and runners, even though you don't have to be in training to enjoy it.

A lifelong athlete and passionate trail runner, founder and CEO Caitlin Landesberg enrolled in a beer-making course because health issues had forced her to make a number of dietary changes a few years earlier -- including giving up beer because of its gluten content.

"I really missed the ritual of having a beer with friends at the end of a big athletic undertaking," she continues. "I'd bring different gluten-free beers and ciders I'd found at bottle shops to the finish line in my own cooler and try to share them around, but everyone had to choke them down. It was a really bummer moment, and nothing out there tasted at all like what I wanted for a finish line beer."

Landsberg says she decided to take on the venture because she realized she wasn't alone in her beer cravings after working out and that there was a great market if she could get this beer right.  With all of the company's growth and success it looks like she has found more than a pulse for this market, and a great opportunity for her employees. READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before Sufferfest:

Challenges: Simply put, Sufferfest's biggest current challenge is growing pains. The company brewed about 3,000 barrels in 2017, and Landesberg expects production to triple to about 9,000 barrels in 2018.

"In 2016, it was just me," she says. "Every year, we've added about four more people, and at that scale, that's pretty big growth for us." A Series A funding round in 2017 has sustained the company's expansion to this day, but Landesberg will be launching a Series B funding round this fall to help with the hiring of a larger sales and marketing team as well as capital to help with expansion in distribution.

"It's really fun to address the demand in new territories, but how we grow is the thing that keeps me up at night," Landesberg continues. "We need to continue to play to our strengths with being really high-touch and focusing on who it is that we think will really enjoy our promise and our product. I want to make sure we maintain the ability to represent our brand consistently."

Opportunities: "Functional beer is a massive space as a subcategory within healthy beer, and we're creating it," Landesberg says. "Based on the consumption, sales, and appetite of our own constituents, we believe it's a huge opportunity that no one has addressed." .... READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA

 

 




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After 120 years CA's Jelly Belly still setting supply chain and efficiency example

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Aug. 17, 2018

This week CompanyWeek and CMTA bring you a profile on California's iconic 120-year old Jelly Belly Candy Company.  Under the leadership of fifth generation CEO Lisa Brasher the company is expanding into new markets and categories, requiring new supply chain efficiencies, and remains an international powerhouse among the confectionery industry.

Jelly Belly produces a whopping 15 billion jelly beans a year.  With more than 100 flavors, including a line of organic beans, the company needed to improve efficiencies to keep up with delivery times. "We don't limit our commitment to innovation to candy making," says Brasher. "We extend this to the supply chain too. Over the years, we have developed new relationships with vendors from ingredient suppliers, to shipping and logistics, to keep our company running as efficiently as possible. In the last few years, we have worked with a third-party logistics provider to improve delivery times to the Midwest and East Coast. Gone are the days of three to five days to deliver to these accounts, and that improves our retailers' businesses and ours."

Just like so many California manufacturers Jelly Belly and Brasher are constantly improving its supply chain, but Brasher also uses technology to find efficiencies elsewhere in the system. "We look for opportunities across the board to improve efficiency by investing in technology," says Brasher. "For example, we have further automated our packaging process by developing a number of different package types, all with different needs to pack efficiently. Automation has allowed us to improve accuracy and output. Ultimately, it doesn't matter if we can produce 1,700 Jelly Belly beans per second if we can't pack them up and ship them out in a timely and cost-productive way."

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before Jelly Belly:

Challenges: "The candy industry faces the well-known challenge of obesity," says Brasher. "We are upfront about the fact that we make candy, but we think that by being transparent about our products and giving consumers options in terms of smaller package sizes, we can empower them to make the best choices for themselves and their families."

The price of sugar in the U.S. is another challenge, she adds. "We pay significantly more for sugar than we would on the open market. We are working with industry leaders to talk to our political representatives about this issue. Spending less on sugar could allow us to expand, hire more employees, and reinvest in our American manufacturing."

Opportunities: "We are always looking for new opportunities for growth. We have expanded lines into sports nutrition with our Sport Beans product, and entered the organic category with Organic Jelly Beans and Fruit Flavored Snacks," says Brasher. "We also look for ways to be innovative in how we connect with consumers. We recently updated both of our North American tours with new 4K videos and interactive exhibits. Reinvesting in a tour seen by three-quarters of a million people each year lets us stay fresh and relevant."

Needs: "As we continue to invest in automation, we need skilled mechanics and journeymen to maintain the equipment," says Brasher. "We have found that many of our friends in the industry face the same need for qualified mechanics. It is an in-demand skill." .... READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA

 

 





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CA's HDA firm is a gem in specialized and precise MFG

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on July 1, 2018

This week CompanyWeek and CMTA bring you HDA, a Lake Forest based development firm that serves a broad range of medical, aerospace, and industrial clients, providing both engineering and contract manufacturing services.

The privately owned company has operated since 1983, recently becoming well known for their products that help clients pass regulatory compliance or solve highly technical and difficult challenges. HDA also sources most of its supply chain - mostly circuit boards - from other California companies.  

With just 16 highly technically skilled employees and almost no automation, HDA is a good example of today's small manufacturing firms that are highly specialized to provide extremely customized products, all the while providing high wage jobs up and down the supply chain.

Most of HDA's supply sources are domestic and CEO Hunt Dabney says he likes to keep it that way as much as possible. "We work with local California communities to populate circuit boards, and we use local laboratories quite often for testing," says Dabney. "Some things, such as electronic distributors, however, get sourced overseas because they are not readily available here in the United States. We try to find the parts that we need, and at times, we have to source them overseas."

Here are a few opportunities and challenges before HDA:

Challenges: Market penetration. "We aren't a large firm, so there is a limit to the number of programs we can run," says GM Jon Schmidt. "Firms like us go in and out of being in a marketing phase. I've spoken with friends who own similar firms who agree that at times, you get too busy to take anything else on. You start finishing programs, then you are back to marketing again. We are working to improve in this area."

Opportunities: "In terms of startup companies, the medical industry peaked last year," says Dabney. "It's interesting to support people as their products are going into clinical trials. We have companies that we work with where we manufactured a product for them 10 years ago, then they'll get acquired and the new owner will not retain the information needed to manufacture the same product. Then, those companies will ask us to build the product back up. We have good record retention and can always help in this area."

Needs: Qualified software, electrical, and mechanical engineers with medical and/or aerospace industry experience. "We always want to network with other companies," adds Schmidt. .... READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA





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Ventura's Hammerhead Industries: Another small manufacturer doing great CA things

Posted by Gino DiCaro, VP, Communications on Feb. 26, 2018

We're introducing a new feature to the Champions blog.  We have partnered with CompanyWeek (CW) California to share information on the state's premier small to mid size manufacturers.  CW's featured companies are part of CMTA's Champions recognition program, intended to boost the image of California manufacturing and convince policymakers that manufacturing is the single best way to grow California’s economy and create high quality jobs. 

These companies are committed to California and exemplify the high principles of economic growth, innovation, entrepreneurship, and commitment to their employees. Together the CMTA Champions program and CW's many profiles will demonstrate how California manufacturers make a positive impact on their industry sector, their employees and their communities. 

This week CW California brings you Hammerhead Industries, a Ventura-based company created by two engineers turned entrepreneurs from General Motors. They founded the company in 1995, which focuses on retractable gear products, and have grown to 23 employees.  Their determination and grit show how a small manufacturer can meet the custom demands of 21st Century markets and compete in a global economy.  

They have tremendous opportunities before them, including in the industrial safety industry, but their business environment challlenges remind us that California policies must always consider the impacts on our state's prized manufacturers' abillity to invest and grow.

 

Hammerhead Industries

Producing a high quality product in the US, two entrepreneurs are meeting the challenges of competing in a global economy and competition from overseas manufacturing. Hammerhead Industries and Gear Keeper products were born from two General Motors engineers looking for a better way to attach and protect their equipment while SCUBA diving. Co-founders John Salentine and Ken Collin tried a basic key retractor to hold their flashlights and gear, but it needed substantially more engineering to make it work properly and to last in salt water and sand.

"We got the product going before 1995," says Salentine. "We linked up with a distributor and put their brand on it. At that time, we operated out of our garage, and around the second year into it, we decided we’ve had to turn this into a real business or someone’s going to copy us." At that point, Salentine and Collin quit their engineering jobs and incorporated Hammerhead Industries for the purpose of designing and building Gear Keeper. ... READ MORE ON COMPANYWEEK CA

 





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