Food distributors and retailers demand the highest standards from suppliers, not just on ingredients and processes but also business systems. Cloud-based MRP/ERP software company manager Karl Lauri explains how SME granola producer Rollagranola used its system to achieve a similar level of system credibility with buyers.

Inspired by the granolas he tasted in the US, Robin Longden founded Rollagranola in 2014, to produce premium granolas entirely from natural ingredients, with no refined sugars, and looking and feeling home made. The company now makes around 18 variants including paleo and gluten-free options.

Like many food start-ups, Rollagranola began being manufacturing at home and sold at markets. With turnover growing from an initial $60,000 per year towards the current $1 million over 18 months, Longden decided to become a proper commercial firm.

As a 30-year food industry veteran, Longden knew that investment in systems was as important as the manufacturing investment for the company to demonstrate its credentials as a serious operator to commercial buyers.

Longden says this meant he needed a system that represented the business properly would not be “ridiculously expensive” to get up and running.

He said: “Making granola isn’t the most complicated or sophisticated job – after all, you can make it at home. We needed a system that maintained simplicity and clarity, but gave us the ability to bring in new vendors, to store materials specifications, to work to consistent recipes and to provide full traceability – fundamental if you are dealing with any but the smallest retailers,” he said.

“A food company should demonstrate good manufacturing practices and processes, analogous to those of major companies but not so onerous that they pull a small company out of shape.

“Firms must show that they have end-to-end traceability – both backwards from a customer complaint and forward to trace where a suspect batch of ingredients has been used.

“The mixture of intent, capability, and systems and processes is fundamental.”

Rollagranola tested half a dozen MRP systems on free trial and chose to install MRPeasy. Longden says he found that the system was relatively easy to learn and was attracted by the licensing model and pricing structure.

“It really helps a growing business. You don’t have to take big bundles of software and you can add users one by one, so your costs are under control. But most fundamentally for us, the traceability works without any hassle”.

MRPeasy is integrated with a Xero accountancy package and Shopify ecommerce system. Among the 400 or so live commercial customers on the system are buyers from Australia to Europe. There are also sales through Ocado and the company’s own website. Field salespeople use the system to input orders and add customers. Longden says it works well as a remote, flexible system in the field.

On the supply side there are around 20 suppliers at any one time, but since many of the ingredients – nuts, seeds, oils, spices – are quite specialised and obtained through intermediaries, there is quite a high churn rate.

The company’s goal is to work with wholesalers that have a greater degree of control back up the supply chain. As it is, Rollagranola can find itself buying half of someone else’s half pallet, which makes flawless traceability even more critical.

Since installation, Longden has upgraded from a basic to a mid-range package, partly to be able to reflect different pricing strategies with different customers, even though there are capabilities not yet needed.

“We are not a sophisticated operation with long supply chains, multiple bills of material or complex shipping processes, but the things that help us ensure robust and solid operation, control costs and stocks are there, and MRPeasy gives us those in spades.

“As we grow, the system will become more important, and I can’t see why it wouldn’t be scalable for the foreseeable future,” Longden said.

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