600 lb gorillas vs. Mister Cookie Face: A Cautionary Tale
Even the most promising startups can be derailed by supply chain drama. Case in point: ice cream sandwich entrepreneurs Paula and Chris White of 600 lb gorillas.
The couple quit their desk jobs and started 600 lb gorillas in 2000, selling all-natural frozen cookie dough. The product was a hit and, at the urging of their buyer at BJ’s Wholesale Clubs, the Whites expanded into the ice cream sandwich business. They hired a production outfit called Mister Cookie Face to manufacture ice cream sandwiches from their cookie dough and premium ice cream sourced from a Vermont supplier. Customers loved it. Sales soared.
Then Mister Cookie Face was acquired by Fieldbrook Foods, a major ice cream producer. Fieldbrook Foods made the Whites a tempting offer: “Why not cut costs by letting us make your ice cream for you?” No formal contract - just a few product specifications and a handshake.
Things didn’t go well. Customers complained of inferior ice cream taste and texture, and lab tests on a few product samples backed them up.
600 lb gorillas claims that Fieldbrook Foods ice cream didn’t meet agreed-upon specifications. Fieldbrook Foods denies any wrongdoing and cites their lack of contract. The ongoing legal dispute has put the Whites out of business.
“We gave up decent careers and took a chance on something,” Chris White told the Boston Globe. “This is our livelihood, and we need to get it right. We can’t sell a bad product at a premium price.”
Working successfully with suppliers can be tricky, whether you’re the 600-pound gorilla or the corner coffee shop. But there are plenty of strategies to help ensure long and productive partnerships with suppliers, even when things go wrong. (We just had a great conversation about this - click here to weigh in on the Case of the Month-Old Coffee.)
For smart tips on supply chain management, check out our three-part series “Working with Suppliers”:
Working with suppliers is very tricky. Whether you add value to what is supplied or just repack it, It’s still their products and your reputation.
In engineering it’s quite simple. Branding does not matter. Specifications are all that matter. It’s high time other Industries follow this method. At least at the time of signing supply agreements.
I agree, @Sangeethmathew. It's all about signing an agreement - not only to set expectations for deliverables but also to identify a path forward should deliverables fall short of expectations. @Rustler did a great job demonstrating this approach in his answer to a recent question in which a cafe owner was receiving not-so-fresh coffee beans from a supplier. Whether you're talking about an engineer's specs or a coffee roaster's sell-by date, you gotta get that in writing!