Shelf stable. There are many differentiators that distinguish Califia Farms in the plant-based dairy category. But as the development of COVID-19 continues to establish new demands for the food and grocery industry, it is the availability of Califia Farms shelf-stable products that is setting the company apart on the supply-side.
I sat down to talk with Greg Steltenpohl, Founder and CEO of Califia Farms, to find out more about how the company’s team is navigating the current market and stepping up as a supplier leader willing, able, and, most importantly, capable of allying with retailers during this time.
“So far, the industry has responded extremely well to the novel coronavirus. Manufacturers are focusing on supplying the supply chain with inventory and making sure their teams are functioning as well as possible—Califia Farms included. Right now, we’re focused on helping retailers solve the problem of getting critical demand items on their shelves,” Greg shared with me.
At the moment, critical demand items include the company's line of plant-based milks, creamers, and coffees—all of which are staples of Califia Farms’ product lineup. One advantage for Califia Farms is that it offers shelf-stable options for these products.
“There’s been a major shift in the food economy and supply chain, as demand funnels almost exclusively through grocery retailers since consumers are having to eat 100 percent of their meals at home. That’s a massive shift in the distribution network, including which warehouses are being used and even the mechanics of moving product onto shelves,” Greg said. “This is why it’s so important that retailers, and in turn consumers, are well-stocked with shelf-stable products.”
Greg noted that Nielsen recently recorded oat milk as one of the highest velocity items in food at the moment because it is more shelf stable than dairy milk products. Already a top seller on leading e-commerce platforms, Califia Farms’ Oat Barista Blend is experiencing a surge in sales thanks to this increased consumer stockpiling.
“One of the biggest things we have worked on is maintaining our inventory of shelf-stable products that consumers are able to stock in their pantries long-term. I think most consumers are filling their refrigerators to maximum capacity. Being able to make space by storing shelf-stable milks in the pantry instead is super important at the moment,” Greg explained. “We’ve been trying to make it clear that Califia Farms has full pallets of shelf-stable critical demand items that will help retailers get end-consumers the products they really need.”
In addition, Greg revealed that Califia Farms uses a main freight line in California’s Central Valley, which gives the company efficient and flexible transportation capabilities, as well as access to warehouses, logistics, and an abundance of supply.
“We are also not overly dependent on the global supply chain like larger companies, and yet we’re robust enough to have good planning cycles, rapid responsiveness, and strategic flexibility,” Greg continued.
Though the uncertainty of the situation is a definite challenge, Greg highlighted a couple of positives that are already beginning to emerge—for our industry and for the global community as a whole.
“We have to start thinking like a true community. And I think that we will, especially since the consumer will most likely emerge from all of this different than before. Lifestyle, shopping, and business practices will change, and it will be those community-minded brands and companies that will survive this change—brands who are thinking long-term about health and wellness, climate change, and public health,” Greg told me. “We as a community are going to have to come together to find solutions to lessen the odds of a crisis like this being as disruptive in the future. This is where industry experts and veterans will need to step up and use their impact to create a better world for future generations.”
A call to action that I only foresee more companies on the supply- and buy-side of our industry heeding as we continue through today's unprecedented market. As more leaders step up to join Califia Farms in being a part of the solution, Deli Market News will continue to report on the latest in the deli, dairy, bakery, and specialty foods industry.