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Emergency food storage in Utah has come a long way since families stored hundreds of pounds of wheat under their beds. Now, several companies specialize in producing food storage products that last for a quarter-century, or more, and can be stored in a way that doesn’t compromise quality.
Daily Bread is a big player in the state’s food storage industry, providing freeze-dried products to thousands of customers across the state and the country. Its tagline is “Preparedness in Everything” and this concept was put to the test when Daily Bread experienced a serious glitch in its supply line.
The “Ah-hah!” Moment
Started by Justen Ericksen in 2005, Daily Bread was first thought up when he and his friends were contemplating the disastrous events of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. Ericksen was practicing law in Las Vegas at the time, living in a small apartment with his wife and two children. All the talk about potential disasters made him wonder what his family would do in such a situation. Would they have enough food to survive a long-term tragedy? Where could they find sustainable food products?
Ericksen began researching different types of food storage processes and ended up focusing his attention on freeze-dried products. Talking with officials from the U.S. military and NASA, he discovered many freeze-dried products have a shelf life of at least 25 years. Additionally, he learned freeze-dried food storage products tend to retain flavor and nutritional value and are completely shelf stable.
Because there were no suppliers of freeze-dried products in Utah, Ericksen researched suppliers across the country, eventually acquiring a contact that could create the homemade recipes for Ericksen’s products (many of which he created himself) and seal them in #10 cans.
Now, Daily Bread provides gourmet food storage in 1-, 3-, 6- or 12-month meal plans, along with an a la carte menu.
“I was still in debt from law school, but I thought, ‘I’m going to start a food storage business,’” Ericksen says. “We went door-to-door in Arizona [selling food storage products] and, at the end of the summer, we were blown away by the response.”
A Global Disaster
As the orders rolled in, Daily Bread’s supplier would ship to a distribution center in Utah where orders were filled and sent to customers. Ericksen was dealing with large quantities of product on a weekly basis but, in 2008, the company’s manufacturer had a jump in demand across the country and supplies became scarce. Because Daily Bread dealt exclusively with this manufacturer, there was no back-up plan. And no way to get product to their customers.
“They couldn’t fill our orders,” Ericksen says. “It was the night before we sent our summer sales team out with marketing materials. The news left us in a tailspin. I got on the phone to find someone who could produce a similar quality product in a short amount of time. Through a lot of late nights and painful hours we worked with [a supplier] and they were able to get a product to us.”
Even though this supplier hadn’t previously been on Ericksen’s radar, it was able to make it work, keeping Daily Bread production up to speed. This small scare made Erickson realize he couldn’t continue to place all his business in one company, so he kept a relationship with the other manufacturer in case any other glitch came along.
In 2011, there was a big glitch.
A magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck Japan on March 11, triggering a deadly tsunami and causing widespread destruction with thousands of fatalities. The dire situation piqued a sudden, worldwide interest in emergency preparation and disaster preparedness. The frenzy that followed wiped out most of the product in the food storage industry, leaving Daily Bread, once again, calling on its reserve company to help fill orders.
“Since we’d already gone through a similar situation in the spring of 2008, we were able to get through,” Ericksen says. “When the rest of the industry was out of luck and floundering, we had everything in place and were able to continue.”
Because it had already worked with a dual source, Daily Bread was able to fill thousands of orders, maintaining a good reputation with its customers and keeping product flowing through the system.
The Weakest Link
Ericksen learned some valuable lessons during the supply scare and his company now implements safety nets throughout the distribution and shipping process to ensure a constant stream of product moving in and out of the Daily Bread center.
“Your company is only as strong as your weakest link,” he says. “We’re building a system big enough to handle the capacity of orders we receive. But it has to be able to be expanded. Now, we go back on an annual basis and take a look and try to catch things before they happen.”
Employees at Daily Bread regularly audit the systems and procedures, test websites and databases, and consider worst-case scenarios. The staff is trained to handle emergencies in warehouse processes and shipping capabilities, as well as a sharp increase in sales orders. With this proactive approach, Ericksen hopes to be able to weather any storm—or looming disaster.
“A little scare can turn into a big problem if you haven’t set up a back-up plan,” Ericksen says. “If you don’t know where you can turn, you’ll probably find yourself out of business.”