Gooder Podcast featuring Beth Corbett
Packaging and Supply Chain Trends and Plans: Start planning now!
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Beth Corbett is a brand packaging leader who has merged her background in marketing and sales with her passion for cannabis and CBD products to become a leading packaging consultant to this exploding market.
Beth shares her insights on how COVID-19 and international policies are impacting long and short-term issues related to domestic and global sourcing and environmental packaging innovations. She also shares how new technologies not only make a greener supply chain but can enhance consumer, customer and retailer relations.
In this episode you will learn:
- How transparent communication and sharing of data can strengthen your relationships with retailers.
- How just-in-time inventory is being redefined.
- What new technologies in environmental packaging need to be explored further and championed by major brands.
- How Augmented Reality can build a bridge with consumers when other marketing tactics cannot be used.
- Why relationships and planning are worth more than money.
Watch Now Below
Host: Hi everyone, welcome to the Gooder podcast. As partner and CMO of retail, Voodoo and award winning branding agency I have met and worked with some of the most amazing women in the naturals industry. As such, I decided to create the Gooder podcast to interview these great people and subject matter experts and have them share their insights and expertise to help businesses all around the world become gooder. I’m really excited about today’s guests. I get to interview a long-time friend, business partner and really badass party host. Beth Corbett is a packaging expert with over 20 years’ experience in developing custom packaging and Supply Chain Solutions with a specific focus on sustainability. Currently, she’s working with RR Donnelley. She specializes in the Cannabis, CBD, retail and health and beauty market segments and is super passionate about understanding customer needs and developing the right solutions from product branding regulatory budget all the way through global supply chain perspectives. She is also a Pacific Northwest native, but a global traveler who has not been on the plane since March 3rd. Is that right Beth?
Beth: That is correct. Longest time since 1997 for me to not be on a plane.
Host: Oh, my goodness. So that’s a long time for you.
Beth: It is.
Host: Yeah. So Beth and I met each other working in a marketing department of an insurance company. My watch is can I say this out loud since in the mid-90s. So we’ve known each other for a few minutes and she’s somebody I trust and we definitely recommend working with anytime we come up with some of these challenges. Anyways, thanks for joining me on this podcast Beth. Welcome.
Host: Hey, why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background? How did you get to be the cannabis packaging expert?
Beth: So, as you mentioned, we started working at an insurance company here in Seattle. And a significant part of my experience in my job at that time was actually managing print production and as a result of that experience, I ended up going to work on the paper mill side. I worked for a paper mill named Neenah Paper for about 18 years and ended up becoming involved in their packaging, ended up in their packaging segment. I ended up leading that team for about 10 years and then decided I wanted to be more than the paper; I wanted to be able to produce the entire package for the customer and help them develop a full supply chain. So that’s how I ended up on the packaging side and then I ended up kind of falling into Cannabis and CBD about seven years ago, because one of my largest health and beauty customers ended up going to work for a cannabis company around the time that it was becoming legal in Washington and I joke that he and I learned how to package weed together. So, and for those who don’t know, I certainly do packaging for more than cannabis. But my nickname is Cannabis, which I earned from one of my customers.
Host: Awesome. It’s super awesome. It sounds like you really enjoy this market or you enjoy your clients especially. Why do you continue to do this? Like, what is it about this industry? What is it about Cannabis and CBD specifically that kind of keeps you going?
Host: I think it’s so much fun to work in an industry that is growing quickly. I mean, there are so many other industries that I’ve worked with that are more on the downhill slide, if you will. It’s so much fun to be working in a growth industry. It’s a really fun industry from the diverse range of products that you get to package whether that be flowers or pre rolls or edibles or topical, dog treats, you name it, it’s probably the most diverse. It would be like cosmetics probably from that perspective, but even more diverse just in terms of the wide range of products that you get to develop a solution for.
It’s a challenging industry because it’s not legal, every state has their own regulations. So it definitely stretches your brain. It’s fun to find a solution for customer that meets as many of those as possible. It’s a challenging supply chain because of the fact that you end up sourcing and developing packaging that’s global. So from that perspective, I think that that’s fun. I think anytime you’re working with something that’s challenging and stretches your brain and comes up with new solutions is great. And then honestly, probably the most important thing for me is it’s really fabulous to work in an industry that I think has the potential to do so many good things for so many people. And like I said, I don’t think I could sell nuclear warheads, but I love being in a business that’s helping people.
Host: That’s really great. Not a lot of people get to say that about their job. One of the reasons why I wanted to interview you was, we’ve gone to Expo, and we’ve gone to a lot of trade shows together and one of the things that we inevitably talk about at some point is supply chain and especially now in the past several months with a lot of the disruption in the marketplace. There are things that you’ve said to me, if people really understood X or people were planning Y if people knew what was happening, they might make some better choices. So I thought, why don’t we start with that? Like let’s just talk supply chain here really quick. What do you see them not doing and what could they be doing better and what should they be planning for right now?
Beth: That’s a big question and you were kind enough to give me some advance notice and that was probably the one that I was like, “Wow, that’s so big!” So for example, I’ll give one example and I think a lot of people probably talked about this and people have spoken about it in the past, but really making sure that you have more than one source or if you work with one company like mine, that you have more than one location that can manufacture your product. So I have a large company that I’m working with right now and all of their manufacturing is in two countries in Southeast Asia and they literally said to me, when we were making those decisions, we certainly never envisioned this kind of event and they are actually now not looking at closing facilities just looking at okay, what are other options whether that be manufacturing in Europe, manufacturing in North America. In contrast, we have a large customer that does manufacturing in Europe, they do manufacturing in Asia and they do manufacturing in Mexico.
Well, when Europe was shutting down, they were able to rely on the products that they have in North America to basically fill the chain in Europe and then when North America particularly in Mexico in this case started to shut down, they were able to start pulling from the their stocks and their manufacturing, which were starting to come back up from Europe. So I think from that perspective, I think really looking at your diversity, diversity of region is probably something new. There are certain– trying to think of some of the other areas along that line is, I think I’ve done quite a bit of work with Tiffany and when I worked for Neenah Paper, I started manufacturing their blue paper, and their whole thing was, they would never work with somebody who did not have at least more than one location to manufacturer because if something burns down, I mean, likely not to happen that that could happen. That actually happened to one of my customers when I was at Neenah; they had three different plants that they manufactured their packaging in Mexico and one of the plants actually burned down. And so to be able to have that duplicity of supply and have, yes, there’s some disruption, but they were able to move production and able to work that way. So, I think that’s one of the big things is look where your products are being manufactured geographically, making sure that you have more than one location. One of the big things it’s the whole concept of just in time, is I think, getting thrown out the window.
Host: I was going to ask about that.
Beth: The concept of well, we’re fine because if we have four weeks of inventory on the floor, we’ve always got this chain coming from Asia, we’re fine, right? Well, not so much and what’s interesting is that doesn’t show up right away like when China was first shutting down for let’s say two months, that hole in your supply chain doesn’t show up right away, right? You had enough in the system. But right now there are companies that literally can’t get, let’s say their glass jar, their plastic jar, whatever their tin, whatever that is, right now is when we’re seeing the big hole that is a result of just in time. So I think people are now starting to look at, okay, maybe I really need to have three to four months’ worth of inventory of something versus the whole three to four week concept. And I know Amazon has looked at that I know that there are many companies trying to figure that out. You will always have a blip. I think one of my very favorite stories I’ve heard recently is that the product that is basically cleaned out on every grocery shelf in every warehouse and will not be here for a couple of months is ramen.
Because they’ve sold more ramen than they ever thought that they would sell probably in a year in one month. So, sometimes you can’t, sometimes it’s probably impossible to predict. So that’s one thing. I would say another big thing that and I don’t know how you plan for this. But what’s happened in shipping. So the concept of being able to air freight products, particularly from other areas, whether it be Europe, especially Asia, what people didn’t realize is all those passenger planes that were going back and forth between the US and other countries to China, actually, they had a huge amount of freight on them. They had a huge amount of cargo. Well, all of those flights are gone and so it’s very difficult to get on to air freight right now. If you can it cost three times as much as it did. So if it was $4 a kilogram, now it’s $12 a kilogram which is insane. The other issue is that as essential is I think cannabis may be the governments don’t necessarily think of that packaging as essential and if it’s between my jars getting onto a plane, and PPE getting on the plane, PPE is going to win every time as it should. So I think that’s another thing.
I think one of the things that I walk away from in all of this is that people need to be honest, they need to communicate, and they need to collaborate. Because one of the things that have really happened a lot is, and I get this all of a sudden, in certain industries, you’re canceling orders, you’re canceling orders, you were supposed to have something that was supposed to be on a freighter, and that information isn’t getting there in a timely basis. So all of a sudden you have freighters that don’t leave on time, right because they’re only 60% full, or all of a sudden the cost for your freight is going to be significantly more expensive because it was built on that freighter being full and it’s happening in the US you have grocery warehouses that have slots. And we know those slots are hard to get and you get your slot and then all of a sudden your product isn’t there because you weren’t able to make it; we understand everybody has shortages. Well, that spot could have gone to somebody else, right? Because all of those warehouses are going crazy, it’s so busy, all of those, especially grocery distribution warehouses. And what I’ve heard is people get it, people understand. But I think some of the biggest words I’ve heard recently are collaboration and communication, I think is so important. And then the other thing, I think, is that there was already an awareness to be environmentally responsible, but there’s also the awareness now to be socially responsible about who are you sourcing from? And I think that that’s the other thing from a supply chain perspective that everybody is reconfiguring how they think and I think that’s amazing. It’s going to take a little bit of work. It’s not going to be an easy switch. Nothing switches on a dime. Somebody that I read said, it’s really important to understand how quickly your team can pivot and what that pivot is going to be. Because you have no idea what the next thing is going to be to face you. This has taught, I think, a lot of companies some hard lessons, but probably good lessons. That was a lot of information.
Host: Well, no, I think we appreciate that. I wonder, is there a way to identify– are there certain types of products that are going to take much longer to recover like component tree versus glass or metal or paperboard packaging? Is there a way to know?
Beth: I’ve heard you won’t be able to get a television. I’ve heard that there are some of those things; one of the other things that I think is a pretty funny one is, as many people have had to transition to work from home, all of a sudden, you’re like, you know what, I need a new monitor, or I need two new monitors. Or I need a new camera all of a sudden, I’m fortunate, as you know I have a technology savvy husband, who has completely reconfigured my entire setup over the last three months, and all of a sudden, now I have a much better camera than I had on my laptop. But that camera took like two months to get here. And I think when you think of the adjustment in the kinds of products that people are buying, whether that be desks, whether that be laptops, cameras; another area that’s really funny that’s having a huge growth in sales is kitchenware because everybody’s in their home.
All of a sudden, I heard that and it’s in various countries. My favorite one that I’ve heard so far was that it is physically impossible to get a dishwasher right now in Singapore because historically in their culture, they always eat out. So now they’re eating at home, which and most people didn’t have a dishwasher and so all of a sudden, it’s like, “Well, if I’m eating at home all the time, I need a dishwasher.” In the United States, Dyson floor care sales have been through the roof, because people are at home and they’re cleaning their own home and you see the dust bunny on the floor. So you’re vacuuming more often and all of a sudden you decide that the 15 year old vacuum you have doesn’t cut it anymore. So there are some funny things that you see that have had a huge growth in sales and as a result people supply chain wasn’t necessarily ready for that. And then I’ll use Dyson as an example; they’ve got a double whammy because you’re going to have a huge growth in sales so that is a forecast model that you didn’t see and all your product happens to be made in Southeast Asia, where you’ve had maybe a two month shutdown. So those are things that people are starting to work through.
You and I have a mutual friend, Sunshine, who needed to buy a new surface because her camera wasn’t working and her tech guy said, “Yeah, you’re not going to be able to get one for at least two months.” Well, he said pretty much you can’t get one right now. So I think its two things going on. One you have a spike in certain cut that was completely different from forecast and showed a lot of products that is then in combo with where it was in supply chain in the first place. It’s hard to pick it up.
Host: Yeah, I can imagine. I guess then along that same line, like we’re talking about responding to this COVID situation and then simultaneously we’ve got trends that we’ve been following from the background from let’s say from an environmental standpoint both packaging over packaging, recycling compostable, like let’s talk a little bit about that. So not only are we dealing with the demands, maybe you could talk a little bit about what is happening behind the scenes with the environmental practices, both in supply chain management, but then also like in the packaging and the shipping and as much as you can share.
Beth: So there are some pretty interesting things going on right now. Let’s talk shipping first, because it’s kind of fascinating is that from that perspective, in a lot of different industries, from a packaging perspective, whether packing out or the actual shipping of everything, there’s a real move from a sustainability perspective for reusability, so like reusable totes, reusable packaging on a large scale, which is pretty interesting. On the actual product perspective, there are a lot of things going on and there were things that were already happening that are only I think getting accelerated. So from a sustainability perspective, I always like to say there is no one right way to be green, there’s no one right way to be sustainable. But there are many things that had already started happening that are just accelerating.
For example, L’Oreal has a directive that your package cannot be so many percentage points larger than your actual product. And so let’s say it’s 25% larger than the product and that’s needed to protect it or whatever. If you need to go 30% it has to get approved at like a president or above level to be able to go above that and for them it’s kind of about cost, but it’s really more about sustainability. You see it in substrates, right? You see that whether it’s a product that’s recyclable, a board that’s recyclable or it’s recycled, or it’s sustainably sourced. One of the thing that’s going on right now is that a lot of companies polybag their boxes before they put them in a box, especially coming from China, so as to protect the package. If it’s, let’s say you’re buying a $250 device; they want to make sure that it looks nice. Well, there’s some really interesting– that polybag there are a lot of different problems with that polybag. One is the actual cost of the polybag. Two, you can’t recycle it. Three, there’s the cost of actually having to put it on because that’s manual. So that’s put on at the factory, then when it gets to the retailer, they’re likely taking it off. There are just a lot of different touch points there. There’s very interesting things going on from the perspective of coating that isn’t environmentally safe and actual coating that’s done on the printing press. So it protects the board.
So you still have a nice package when you’re in a Sephora for example, but it protects it, you don’t have to do the polybag concept. The other thing that’s important about that because there are some people who do what’s called a laminate over and you see that at a lot of different things. I see some sometimes it’s very common and coming from packaging that comes from overseas, whether that’s India or Bangladesh, and there are a lot of different things including China because a lot of supplements come from China. And those laminates are not a great thing for the environment, because they really impact the biodegrade; the composability, recyclability, biodegradable everything that you can think of in terms of that board. So things like these coatings that are water based coating, and yet have a toughness if you will, I think are pretty exciting.
On the plastics front, there’s a lot of really interesting things going on right now. There is a company that I know of who does cannabis packaging, they have a basically an enzyme that’s being added to the plastic that makes it so it’s biodegradable in a landfill within eight weeks. And that is super exciting because that means it can be done without access to water or rocks, oxygen, because that’s the problem with the concept of composability. If you put paper which is theoretically compostable, but if you put paper in a landfill, and it doesn’t have access to water or oxygen, it won’t break down. That’s why people will dig through an old landfill and you’ll see parts of newspapers and stuff. It just never broke down. So there are some exciting things. There’s packaging being done with recycled plastics, but I’m personally most excited about this enzyme concept because even recycled plastic, plastic isn’t biodegradable. Though things like that, there are people making food packaging that is food safe, that utilizes think about, like paper plates and that kind of stuff. That’s usually like recycled coffee grounds, recycled– I don’t drink beer. What do you make beer from? Anyway sorry.
Host: Hops. Thank you.
Beth: I know you should know about hops. Sorry. I don’t drink beer. So recycled hops and all of those things which certainly can be used in composting anyway, but I think that that’s really exciting. The other thing that kind of ties into this, which I think is really cool is that one of the biggest trends in packaging right now is augmented reality and there are folks looking at augmented reality to help the customer after they’ve bought it and they take it home to explain the package, how its manufactured and how they should dispose of it, whether they can reuse it. And that’s another thing is that overall, there’s a big trend in trying to make packaging that’s reusable or repurposed and that’s certainly the best. When you think about it, that’s the actually best way to recycle it and I think it’s kind of cool to use AR to show the customer hey if your box is recycled, this is what you should do. Or this is how you could reuse your box, I guess other than giving it to your child to play with. So I think that that’s pretty fun.
Host: Three or four questions like you covered a lot of ground. So let’s first talk about these recyclable products with the enzymes. I think that’s going to be really exciting for a lot of folks that are going to be listening here and what are we seeing from a cost perspective that’s usually the brands that we work with that are looking at composability in their packaging tend to be kind of in the mid to smaller size. We haven’t traditionally seen the major CPG is going that route because of the cost per unit. What are you seeing on cost per unit as that technology is evolving, and who are you seeing interested in it kind of higher up in the food chain that can help drive the acceptance of this and subsequently drive down the cost obviously, because the more people that are purchasing it, the less cost per unit you can get.
Beth: So there are kind of two paths there. I’ll use a paper item as one way to show it and then I’ll talk about the plastic one in a separate because they’re kind of two paths. Yeah. There are some pretty exciting things coming along right now in terms of the paperboard world using alternative substrates.
Not substrates, but ingredients that are really recycling them, if you will. For example, Mohawk has come out with paper that has hemp in it and paper that has straw. Well, the recycled straw is pretty exciting because it’s literally something that it’s the leftover. And so to be using something that’s truly recycling and resolving that from going into a landfill or just unused is pretty exciting. There are a number of Mills including Mohawk who have looked at incorporating hemp. The problem with hemp is there’s not a supply chain for it yet. So right now when somebody is using hemp, they’re bringing it in from Spain, because that tends to be right now the only place in the world that has a good source of it. And so then you have two issues in my view.
One is, it’s expensive. It’s very expensive. Like if somebody was doing anything of significant volume, I would say that’s probably not an option right now. Not until we improve the supply chain and you have a lot of options here. Like right now there’s really no way here for large cannabis folks producers to even get anybody that product, the chain hasn’t been built yet. It will, it’ll probably be here in three to four years. Well, all of a sudden you have paper mills that are making hemp paper that they’re able to, for the cannabis companies, it might even be a way to save a little income stream, and also resolving, keeping that from a landfill. So that’s one way to look at it.
The other thing is that I’m not a big fan of shipping in raw materials overseas because ocean freight. It’s the largest polluter in the world. So anytime that you’re buying raw ingredients overseas, if there’s any way to source it more locally is always a better path anyway. The other thing that will happen in all of this and I’ll use the plastics, for example, that enzyme, that additive and that company that’s doing it, they have multiple people, including very large players, like a Clorox level player who are very interested in figuring out how to participate in that. Once you have large players like a Clorox or different companies like a Coca Cola, like a Pepsi, or Procter and Gamble, once those guys jump on board, then your costs go down. Because then people are able to build a supply chain, they’ve got large volumes, large production runs, but that’s what it takes. Whether it’s seaweed packaging, or this other kinds of plastic packaging, we need more big players to get on board and then the cost goes down for everybody. Does that make sense?
Host: Yeah, it totally makes, I mean, this is the same story. I mean, that’s kind of how you and I developed our relationship was back when paper went from being all virgin to the recycled content. That’s the story all along.
Beth: And recycled paper used to be very, very expensive. And then it got down to the point where it was much closer in cost to Virgin and you didn’t have to make that sacrifice in performance or in terms of cost.
Host: Yeah, I remember that. Talk a little bit about this AR component. Who’s doing this? Tell us who’s doing this. Who can we go spy on and who’s doing something fun there? Is it all just purely experimental right now?
Beth: Well, I’ll tell you my favorite one is that, have you ever seen the crimes wine? It’s a wine from Australia.
Beth: It’s called 19 Crimes. And 19 Crimes is a winery out of Australia. And when you hold up your phone over the QR code, there’s an image in each wine, each variety has like a different story and then image pops up of somebody who did time in Australia, like in the 1900s or 1800s. And the interesting thing about this is, that is how 19 Crimes wine got on the map absolutely. So it’s probably one of the more fun items. And it’s a really good way to show somebody connecting with the wine and finding out about it, wanting to try it. I’ve been to multiple people’s homes and they’ll be like, “Hey, have you seen this wine?” And I’m like, “Yeah, all aware.” But I thought that that was pretty fun.
And then there are a number of companies I can’t tell you who because it’s still in development, who are actually using it in their e commerce packaging. As many companies are pivoting because direct to consumer is so much more of their business, not only are they trying to improve that experience for the customer, the package itself and the opening experience, but they’re trying to find a way to engage with the customer because the customer isn’t engaging with an expert, let’s say in the store, or whatever that could apply to any industry that could be in cannabis or retail or jewelry, you name it.
And so AR is a really good way to try to have a conversation with the customer and build that more personal relationship as personal as it can be right now. Also, it can be a teaser, like, “Oh, so what’s next? Oh, by the way, I know you bought this. We’ve got this supplement that’s going to be available next month.” I think that there are some really interesting things and COVID has been a very difficult experience but it’s also accelerated some things that we were starting to see in packaging as a whole and certainly direct to consumer and we didn’t really bring that up on the supply chain and I should have.
I have some customers who literally were doing 5000 units a month direct to consumer and now we’re doing 30,000 And that is its own challenge, that’s its own challenge in terms of, do I have the right packaging? Oh my God, I need to develop my own internal chain for how am I packaging these out, how am I getting that processed? I don’t know how much experience you have, but the whole parcel portion of the industry has become very, very difficult. And that’s got a lot of evolution, UPS and FedEx or both, honestly overstrained still. UPS comes to my house every day and now knows both Sunny and Scout’s names, the dogs. Scout always barks and today I actually heard her say, “Hi Scout!” through the door. That’s when you have a personal relationship.
They don’t guarantee shipments anymore. So like whenever I’m sending something to a customer, I’m like, “It will be there I hope tomorrow but maybe in two or three days, it kind of depends.” Same thing, because I’ll make a lot of custom things in China and prototypes used to always get here in three days and sometimes it can be three days and sometimes it could be 10. Those are all things that you need to build into your process when you’re building something new, is to make sure that you know, when you’re building out your schedule, for example, okay, I always have to plan on, like, if you’re doing prototypes back and forth, it’s not going to be one day, it may not be three days.
One of the other things and I forgot to bring this up, that is a huge part of the supply chain as well. And again, from Asia, is tariffs continue to be a very big deal, and I forgot to mention them. And as a result of that, I talked about not single sourcing in certain country. I think that the COVID did that. But then the tariffs also got folks to start looking at really expanding where they’re manufacturing. So countries like Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Turkey, India, Pakistan, Mexico, it’s really expanded people’s mindset about, okay, so if my tariff’s 25 or 50%, maybe it makes sense to make that in Mexico. It really changes people’s mindsets.
Host: Yeah. I guess this is a hypothetical, but there is this interest to re-grow manufacturing capabilities in the United States. Is that realistic based off of just cost? Can some of that come back to the US?
Beth: I think so, absolutely. I think there are certain products — I think there are some things that are easier than others and it won’t be overnight, but I do know that we have heard a number of our customers really looking at Mexico in the US again. The other thing to think about from a cost perspective, lost sales are a huge cost. And so it’s not just the cost of the product, it’s not just the freight, it’s not just the tariff, it’s the cost of lost sales. And that’s a big deal. And if you’re a laptop manufacturer, and you’re literally not going to have inventory for two months, what could you have sold in those two months?
And that’s a good one, because we talked about work from home that also applies to, I think we’re always going to have a much bigger online learning aspects now than we’ve ever had before, especially maybe in post secondary, but those are, if I were manufacturing things like that, I would be looking at where else can I look at and what could I be looking at North America. And I do think it’s realistic. I think that you are already starting to see some folks trying to figure out what that is going to look like. It could take a couple of years, but I think the time is here absolutely.
Beth: Okay, so that’ll be interesting to add to the mix.
Beth: Yeah. I don’t think we’re ever going to get back to just in time. In a weird way, it was almost like a fad. I think is Americans and maybe this is a global thing. I think we tend to go too far in one direction. We went too far toward outsourcing. We went too far toward just in time. I don’t think having six or 12 months of inventory is necessarily the right path either, but I do think we’re going to come back a little bit more toward the middle.
Host: Yeah, that makes sense. Well, lots to think about. Tell me right now what are you seeing as common missteps as people are kind of recalculating not just immediate needs, but then also needs for six to 12 months down the line. Are you seeing things that people that you are continually reminding the folks that you’re talking to, and let’s not forget to plan for is anything that comes up consistently.
Beth: I think the big thing I would say is to make sure that if you want to do something custom, make sure that you’re allowing enough time. And that could be a nominal stunt. I mean, you have more flexibility and like a folding carton, for example, but custom plastic, custom glass, custom anything, I think making sure that you’ve allowed enough time, and that whereas something might have been able to get accomplished in three months in the past, now that’s going to take five. I mean, I’m just throwing out a number. I think that that’s a pretty common misstep, and misstep is probably the wrong word. It’s more of a recalibrating your mindset. I think the other thing is that if you can’t get something from one supplier, it doesn’t mean that you’re just going to be able to go down the street and get it from somebody else because everybody’s facing the same problem.
Host: Yes, you can buy your way out of this situation, can we? Or can you?
Beth: You cannot, no money doesn’t. And I’ve hired people do that, I’ll pay you anything. I was like, if I could sell it to you, I would charge you anything. It doesn’t work that way. I think that the really big thing, like I said, is open communication. I think that one of the difficulties with dealing, and it’s been particularly China, but I mentioned communication, open communication is just so important. And I hear about it in the US as well. And I think that you will develop a better relationship with your retailer, with your supplier, with your customer, whoever it is, is to just be really open and honest and just say, “Yep, they told me it was going to be ready yesterday. And I’m sorry; I just found out last night, it’s not going to be. This is why, this is what’s going on, this is when it’s going to ship out.”
I just think that that’s something to consider. The other thing that I didn’t mention that’s the weirdest challenge in the business right now is that historically, when you’re building something, building new packaging, building a program, whatever, you can go to your customer, and let’s say there are 10 decision makers, and you can sit in a room together and have the conversation and hash it out. And now let’s say I’m doing a custom package, and I’m doing custom prototypes. It could be glass, it could be paper or whatever. Instead of doing two prototypes and sending them, bringing them, presenting them, I now have to do 10, they have to go to each of those decision makers hope that they all get there on the day that they were supposed to get there, get everybody on a zoom call together and have that conversation. And I think that’s the other.
Misstep is not the word I would use. I just think it’s a challenge that everybody needs to acknowledge. And I’ve had conversations where I’m trying to show somebody what I’m talking about, and you’re holding it up, and they’re holding it up, and they don’t understand. And it’s hard. And it’s the new reality. And I think that’s the other thing where a decision might have been able to be made in two days previously, maybe it takes seven or 10 because it’s a matter of getting everybody on the same page. And when somebody misses the call, if they live in an apartment building and they missed the call from the UPS person downstairs, that’s a weird challenge in our business now. I think the other thing and I’ve heard this from multiple people and I’m seeing it from my cannabis and CBD customers, I know that it’s happening in supplements, I know what’s happening in food is to understand what your skew count does to your retailer.
And that it’s really important to do whatever you can to consolidate that and think about, what can I make sure that they have all the time. I have a large cannabis customer that’s really decided to focus on one, they have nine brand families, and they’ve chosen one to just be like, this is the one that we are never going to be out of. And we had to pivot a little bit, just in terms of being able to make sure that we were able to keep up with their demands in that brand. And I see it on and I know it’s something that grocers are asking too. It’s like, I can’t be out. I can’t have empty shelf space, empty shelf space means I don’t sell. And so it’s the same concept. So I think that that’s another thing. It’s not a misstep, it’s more of understand what they need, and it doesn’t mean that two years from now, all nine of those brands are going to be kicking butt for my one cannabis customer, but right now it’s helping them understand what can we do to help them make sure that that one is always available? Did I go off track again?
Host: No, I don’t think so. You totally didn’t. As I’ve been talking with people about the podcast and interviewing other people, one of the things that has consistently come up is the excitement around what you’re going to bring to this podcast because that you have a lot of answers. And you still have a lot of questions, frankly, because we just don’t know yet how some things can be resolved. So I think everything that you’re telling is just a lot to soak in a lot for brands and folks and brand owners to kind of digest.
Beth: If you actually believe it or not, I love the creative part. You know that about me, but the supply chain part is almost weirdly more exciting right now only because it’s like, “Okay, so how are we going to fix that?” That’s, I mean, in a weird way fun. And I know it’s a really rough time, but I think sometimes if you take a step back and go, “Okay, how many times have I had a chance to rebuild something or create something totally new that’s all about helping this happen?” That’s a pretty cool thing.
Host: Yeah. Well, it’s creative in its own way. I think creativity is all about creation. That’s how it’s related. So you are creating solutions for people and in its own way, it’s creative. So whether it’s something beautiful or something that works amazing there, they kind of go through the same process. I want to say, you’ve just shared so much with us today. There’s a couple of questions that I think would be kind of interesting to ask you about your past, like as you look back at your path in here, into this industry or into your area of expertise here is CBD cannabis experts supply chain and packaging world, what is the one thing or is there a single thing that you could say? If I would have known that five years ago, if I would have known that 10 years ago, what’s that one bit of advice that you wished you would have had?
Beth: I had a big learning about 10 years ago when I was at Neenah. I was involved in launching a pretty technical product that we went to market with and failed. And it was a big deal that it failed. Largest claim I’ve ever been involved in. It was a big deal and I learned a lot about the fact that it’s okay to hire outside people and to know that you’re not the smartest person in the room. And that was an awesome learning and it’s helped me now. I’m the first person that says, “Oh, my God, somebody’s got to know how to do that.” And I love finding outside experts. I love supply chain, but I have a friend who has a very big supply chain job at another retailer. And before this call, I called her and I was like, “Okay, so I’m pretty sure I’m on the page on everything.” And she gave me some more background and even more things, and her thing, by the way, that I brought up before is the whole collaborative communication. Don’t be afraid to share your data, which I thought was awesome. You didn’t ask me a fun question. I even had a fun answer.
Host: Okay, what question do you want to cover?
Beth: I love trivia, and I love knowing stupid stuff like, what kinds of businesses work well, that really do well in time of recession? And I know that’s kind of weird, but I just think that that kind of stuff is fascinating and I know that the item in beauty, that’s like the only item that doesn’t suffer at all from any decrease in sales and actually increases in times of recession is lipstick.
Host: Oh my gosh, why is that?
Beth: It’s fascinating once you think about it, because, okay, so you’re a woman or not transgender, whatever, and you’ve got a big meeting and you’re on an interview or whatever and you really don’t feel like you can afford to get a new dress but you can get a new shade of lipstick. And it could be at a drugstore, it could be a high end brand, whatever that is. And once I had it explained to me I was like, “That totally makes sense.” because a great new lipstick. I haven’t been putting on lipstick at all and I put it on today and I felt fabulous. Sorry that’s probably too much information.
Host: I don’t think so, I think that everybody has their thing, their little thing that makes them whether it’s like, well, I’m going to spend a little extra on chocolate or I’m going to spend a little like all those things, comfort food and comfort products are at least what we’ve seen outside of the necessities where people are willing to spend a little bit of extra is in those comfort things. And so lipstick is some sort of comfort for a huge audience of people. For me, it’d be chocolate, I’m willing to spend a little bit more on chocolate, makes me feel a little bit better, but it’s interesting to hear about lipstick.
Beth: The other thing that’s picking up which is not a big surprise, even bought a couple for myself. I’ve been doing masks at home because it’s not like I’m going to go, little self care. Self Care is going a long way and actually it’s a fun thing to send to a girlfriend. I’ve done that. Like just send it because the masks are fun, doesn’t cost a fortune. It’s a fun thing to get from a friend in the mail.
Host: Yes, I like that idea. Give us a worst business trip.
Beth: Oh, God. That’s easy. I had a trip once where I was supposed to fly from Appleton, Wisconsin back to Seattle. My flight was supposed to leave at two o’clock in the afternoon. I got boarded and un-boarded five times onto my plane to fly through Detroit. They finally get us on the plane. We’re in the air, there are thunderstorms everywhere. They get us into Detroit at three o’clock in the morning. I managed to get a hotel that was like half an hour away. Finally get to this hotel. I’m in my hotel room for three hours, you don’t get your bag. So you’re literally hand washing all your clothes, all of them, putting them on the heater to dry. You get dressed the next morning, pressed, made myself as good as I could with the toiletries I had. I get to the Detroit airport, I check in. I walked directly to Brooks Brothers to buy a new shirt because it was like, this shirt had lived through 24 hours already. And I still remember going in and the woman’s like, “You look fine.” I was like, “I don’t feel fine. I need a new shirt.” Put my new shirt on, got on my plane went home. But yeah, that was pretty rough.
Host: That’s a rough draft.
Beth: And by the way, I had another kind of a similar thing happen last December, going to Florida for a business meeting. And because of my experience, I knew where to go in the Atlanta airport to go to the Brooks Brothers to get a new dress so I look decent for my meeting because I didn’t have my bag.
Host: Atlanta and Detroit are not the airports that you necessarily want to be scouring around looking for clothes. Atlanta maybe a little better than Detroit I think.
Beth: Yes, and I always carry enough toiletries with me out to get at least the skin stuff and everything that I can wing it. As long as you have mascara. You can make anything happen. Mascara and lipstick, that’s all you need.
Host: Oh my goodness. Well, Beth, thank you so much for participating today.
Beth: I made you laugh.
Beth: You bet you did make me, you always make me laugh. You’re good for that. Thank you for participating today. Really, really great information that you’re sharing.
Beth: I look forward to your other podcasts. You were awesome. Thank you very much.
Host: Thank you. If people wanted to reach out to you, is there a certain type of information you want to share with people?
Beth: Sure, absolutely firstname.lastname@example.org. And if they need to, I’m on LinkedIn. So that’s a really easy way to find me as well. And more than happy to answer any questions and if it needs a live conversation, we can do that too.
Host: So there you go. I hope that everybody enjoyed this episode. Thank you so much Beth for being with us today. And if you haven’t already done so, subscribe to this podcast, make sure you catch what we’re going to be bringing to you on a regular basis. Thanks so much and until next time, be well and do gooder. Bye.