There are few things that infuriate me more than seeing one of my manufacturing lines sitting idle because a vendor sent us raw ingredients that didn’t meet our quality specifications. Rejecting raw-ingredients is a regular occurrence for NutraBio because of our strict quality control specification and testing programs. But this particular case is beyond the norm and shows just how morally bankrupt some of the players in this industry can be. Here’s what happened…..
We started a project that required a new protein. After qualifying a dairy manufacturer and approving their samples and specifications, we ordered 3 truckloads of their protein. We received a truckload; what we expected was 40,000 pounds of freshly manufactured whey protein coming from a single batch. What we received was 9 different batches of protein, produced on 9 different dates spanning over a full year.
Now I don’t want to bore you with the many quality problems this causes, so I’ll focus on the most important one. The protein they delivered was between 4 and 12 months old. We expect the protein to be fresh; that means manufactured, tested and immediately shipped to our door. This protein had a 2-year shelf life on it, of which 1 year had already passed. We can’t use this crap in NutraBio products, so we immediately rejected it.
So far this was no big deal, as we often reject ingredients from new vendors — but what happened next was outright shocking.
The vendor refused to take back the protein claiming there was no quality issue and it was within the 2-year shelf-life. My rebuttal was simple; your protein might have started with a 2 year of shelf-life, but you delivered it to us with only 1 year left, and I won’t give my customers year old protein. Their lame excuse was: “this is standard in our industry, it’s always been acceptable to our clients and has never been rejected before. We even ship protein older than 2 years and have no complaints.” Here is where it gets really bad; this was their pathetic logic for justifying that lame excuse:
“The protein has a 2-year shelf life, so it’s still good for another year. Once you blend it with your other ingredients, you can just extend the shelf for 2 more years.”
Talk about a snake oil salesman — I couldn’t believe what I was shearing — they actually claimed that after I blend it, the expiration date would magically be extended. WTF!!!! I have the best manufacturing team in the industry here at NutraBio, but they are not fu*@king magicians; they can’t turn a pile of shit into gold!! This vendor expected me to buy into their nonsense; as if they gave me a big wink as they said it, and expected me to respond “yeh, yeh, right, now I get it.” and wink right back.
Up to this point, we hadn’t tested the protein because it was rejected at the door. At my attorney’s recommendation, I sent samples of all 9 batches out to a 3rd-party laboratory specializing in protein testing. The independent lab results came back showing that 8 of the 9 batches FAILED protein specification, and only the newest lot had passed.
Frankly, I didn’t expect any failures; the protein was not expired yet so it should have tested at 100% potency. This revealed even more quality concerns, but it didn’t matter at that point. We fought for weeks while $150K of protein sat aging in my quarantine warehouse. I refused to keep it, and they refused to take it back. Now, with the product failing assay, and independent lab results in hand, they had no choice but to finally pick up their truckload of trash and try pawning it off on someone else.
As a brand owner you make a choice; you either live by your quality promises or you don’t – there is no gray area – no in-between – no compromising.
The picture shown below of my protein packaging line sitting idle was taken by me, real-time, during this mess. Each day that line sat idle cost me thousands of dollars. Close to $40,000 was lost in production time because I would not compromise my standards. I’m often criticized for spending 70% of my efforts on the quality side of the business while only 30% on the marketing side. I would surely be laughed of off Shark Tank if I told them that. But my customers understand me, they get it, and that’s all I give a damn about.