Inside Logistics

A clever concoction

Happy Planet Foods blends together a smooth supply chain

August 31, 2009
by Deborah Aarts

Say you’re a successful small producer of liquid foods. You need to move temperature-sensitive product to and from your warehouse in an efficient way, but you don’t have the buying power of a major player. How do you do it? Deborah Aarts explains Happy Planet’s collaborative approach.

A lot more goes into shipping a bottle of juice from Happy Planet Foods than good vibes.

The British Columbia-based company deals in organic liquids. It has grown steadily since its founders started the business with two juicers and a blender in 1994; today, it ships its juices, smoothies, soups, sauces and concentrated nutrient-rich ‘shots’ across Canada and into some parts of the US.

But at its core, Happy Planet is a niche producer. It has found success processing and shipping out relatively small orders.

It’s a business model that can be tough to support logistically. Finding a cost-effective way to store and transport heavy liquid product—without veering from strict temperature controls and expiration dates—is intimidating for even large companies with dozens of people devoted to the task.

It took time for Happy Planet to develop the right supply chain processes. But today, by mixing together creative thinking and a co-operative spirit, it’s implemented a set of solutions that has everyone smiling.

A sticky situation

The hub of Happy Planet’s logistics operations is a 40,000sqf temperature-controlled warehouse in Richmond, BC. Inside its walls, the company stores the juices and purees that go into its concoctions, as well as racks of finished product.

With the exception of soup (which is processed within the same complex as the warehouse), all product is blended, packaged and palletized at a facility located a 20-minute drive away. With inbound deliveries, outbound shipments and the constant shunting of raw materials and finished goods to and from production, there’s a steady stream of perishable product passing through the warehouse.

This activity falls under the supervision of Nancy Korva, Happy Planet’s director of operations. Korva joined the company not long after it started and worked there for eight years before leaving for two. Upon her return three years ago, she found that the supply chain processes in place left much to be desired.

At that time, the company had outsourced its distribution and warehousing operations, and substantial issues were arising, mostly around the company’s shipping patterns.