When Takako Shinjo started Genki-Su Japanese Drinking Vinegars, she wanted to bring a taste of her Japanese culture to her Portland kitchen. About two months ago Takako joined FoodHub to find local flavors for her internationally-inspired product.
“I test a lot of different fruits, herbs and vegetables and I’ve always wanted to have seasonal flavors,” she said, “but now I want to work with local farms. I really like to look at FoodHub because I can tell what’s going on in the food community.”
Soon after joining, Takako created a Marketplace post looking for berry producers. Even though her Marketplace post said she was looking for strawberries, blueberries and raspberries, Scott McKenzie of Seaview Cranberries saw her post come through on his weekly Fresh Sheet and he thought his berries might be a good fit.
“I offered to give her a 25 pound case to experiment with,” said Scott. “I sell cranberries to a company called Stone Barn Brandyworks that makes a cranberry liqueur. I connected with them and did the same thing and that’s turned into a really good relationship.”
And while she still in the testing phase with Seaview’s cranberries, Takako is already thinking of ways to market a cranberry seasonal flavor to her customers.
“I’m thinking about making a holiday flavor,” she said. “Right now it’s summer and people want strawberry and blueberry flavors. Cranberry is going to be perfect for the holidays.”
To scale up their business and build demand for her product, Genki-Su launched another Kickstarter to begin production on a ready-to-drink tonic using their vinegar flavors as a base.
“We are running a limited a project to do a pre-mix bottle and that will make another market,” said Takako, “but we have to make the concentrate first. The production is the same, but we’ll start using a bottling facility. Right now I hand-bottle everything.”
While Scott’s donation of 25 pounds of berries to Genki Su will allow Takako to make 50-60 bottles of vinegar, as a business Seaview operates at a much larger scale. Scott’s total harvest for the year will likely be 700,000 pounds and he sometimes sells berries by the container load, which weigh out at 40 to 45,000 pounds. One of his clients, Hotlips Soda, (FoodHub’s 3,000th Member) buys fruit by the pallet to keep up with their demand. Despite the fact that Genki-Su and Seaview operate at different ends of the scales, Scott said he finds special satisfaction in working with other businesses in his back yard.
“I really like working with folks with entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. “I want to promote them if I can and encourage them.”
Test, Test, 1-2-3
Building a quality relationship with a client or vendor can often be an exercise in trial and error. Here are three of our favorite quotes about how FoodHub can help businesses take the next step in building the relationships they need to grow:
“Having good vendors is so important. I’ve seen people almost go out of business because they don’t have good vendors in a critical supply. FoodHub is helping me find people that I need to start relationships with.” – Tom Burkleaux, New Deal Distillery
“It doesn’t do us any good to have one-time sales. What we’re looking for is someone who week in and week out is going to be a steady customer. One of things about FoodHub that I really like is that the people you meet there are very in the game. They want it to be more than a sale. They’re looking for a relationship.” – David Hoyle, Creative Growers
“FoodHub has opened doors by word of mouth to chefs who have tried our products and then referred some of their friends to our farm. We didn’t have to do the footwork or cold call them when they don’t have the time – they were just referred to us. That makes it worth those 10 minutes a day that I spend on the site.” – Cassandra Timms, Deck Family Farms