As COVID-19 restrictions started easing earlier this year, the reopening of restaurants and bars placed massive strains on supply chains all across the United States.
Immediately after COVID shutdowns, food manufacturers saw space and storage shortages as restaurant dining switched to takeout and retailers paused a number of orders, backing up existing spaces with unwanted products.
Rebalancing supplies with demand eventually limited distribution for food service companies, and producers and manufacturers were not prepared for the sudden demand once restrictions were lifted.
With a seamless supply chain being absolutely essential to business success and customer satisfaction, companies like Vive Organic who had well-thought-out supply chain management strategies have ultimately emerged as winners.
“We ensured that we didn’t have all our eggs in one basket,” Kyle Withycombe, COO and Co-founder of Vive Organic, told The Org. “We developed redundancies, so we have had more than one manufacturer we work with and multiple suppliers for one specific ingredient that we can pull from if needed.”
For Withycombe and his team at Vive Organic, what ultimately helped the company survive the chaos of 2020 was the strong relationships they had built with suppliers over years of working in the food industry.
“We were able to achieve a 99.3% fill rate in 2020 and that was all because of the amazing ops team that we have here at Vive, but also the partnerships we've developed and built over the course of the last six years,” Withycombe said.
Vive Organic was founded by Withycombe, Wyatt Taubman and JR Simich in 2015, when Taubman was looking for solutions to his own health issues. He rediscovered plant-based treatments for his illness that could be traced back to his childhood in Hawaii that included natural ingredients including turmeric and ginger. Wanting to share these solutions with a wider audience, Taubman teamed up with his co-founders to create the immunity-boosting beverage company.
Studies show healthy diets and food safety have been at the forefront of consumers’ minds since the pandemic began. Luckily, the health-conscious friends knew that sourcing the right ingredients was extremely important for the longevity of their business.
“Having control over the supply chain from the beginning was extremely important, not only to deliver on those important brand guardrails like quality and sustainability, but also putting something in place that can be built for scale,” Withycombe said. “We wanted to have complete control over how we shaped our future.”
The founders gathered internal contacts and resources they had developed through their previous experiences, vetting vendors individually for their products.
Of course, for many foods and beverage companies, the supply chain is not just limited to raw, organic ingredients -- packaging including cardboard boxes, plastics and containers are all items that must be considered for the distribution of products.
Demand for packaging rose sharply during lockdowns, with the food delivery space growing as restaurants shut down -- and suppliers were quick to pivot their operations to meet the changing needs of their consumers. As a result, a wave of non-biodegradable food packaging emerged, posing risks to wider ecosystems.
For the founders at Vive Organic, sustainable packaging was at the front of their minds from the very beginning.
“As a private food company, we can actually set the standards for how businesses can impact the environment,” Withycombe said. “In 2020 we moved away from virgin plastic into 100% recycled plastic.”
The company is also in the midst of developing regenerative and organic agriculture, taking steps to push boundaries in the farming space.