Just after the Mid-Autumn Festival, tons of fresh nuts were put on sale. To attract exceedingly demanding consumers, snack-food companies have tried everything they could. Besides the slogan of being healthier and tastier, product freshness has also become an “a place of strategic importance”.
This year, the nut sub-packaging base of BESTORE, located in Longgang Town, Lin'an District, Hangzhou, will be expanded, adding a new production base covering 30 acres. Among the domestic casual snack chain companies, this is the first case to invest and build a self-owned production plant. After the plant is put into operation next year, fresh nuts will be delivered and digested by consumers within a week. Among the nut products from standardized production, this can be called "the best freshness".
Fresh nuts are packed in one week
Lin'an, the famous hometown of pecans in China, has a planting history of 500 years. Depending on the unique geographical advantages, it has gradually developed into the largest distribution center for nut raw materials and products in China, with over 400 processing plants with various scales.
In late September, in Longgang Town of Lin'an, where processing plants are most concentrated, the baked nuts with overflowing fragrance came out in batches, becoming a unique seasonal scenery there.
At the same time, the nut sub-packaging plant of BESTORE, located in Longgang Town, also started its race against time: the fresh nuts were delivered to the factory in about three days. Immediately afterwards, the inspector would strictly test the product based on the appearance, taste and physical and chemical indicators, and this link would be controlled within three days. In a day or two, the tested products were packed and sealed, locking the freshness, and await delivery to the warehouse. The entire packaging cycle can be controlled within one week, saving more than half of the time compared with the previous purchasing process of packaged raw materials.
In people's common sense, nuts are the food that can be stored for a long period of time, often for weeks or even months. However, if the baked nuts are exposed to the air for too long, not only will the taste be no longer crispy, but there will be a stale smell when eaten. From the human health perspective, the stale oils are also harmful to the body.
”To save time, now our packaging process is calculated in days. It can be said that we are pursuing the taste and freshness of nut products regardless of cost,” said He Zhongyuan, the person in charge of nuts procurement of BESTORE.
Establishing an "archive" for each bag of nuts
In the fully enclosed workshop, the automatic equipment is running in an unhurried manner, with the nuts packed in different specifications continuously coming out of the production line. At the end of each line, three workers carefully inspect each small package, picking out substandard ones for rework and boxing the qualified ones.
Behind the busy and orderly scene is the target output value of RMB 700 million for this year of Linan branch of BESTORE.
Wu Enhuan, the person in charge of Lin'an Branch, introduced that, this sub-packaging base was launched around Double 11 Shopping Festival of 2015. At that time, the e-commerce channel of BESTORE showed great momentum, with the order quantity of nut products growing geometrically, while the packaging ability of local Linan was seriously insufficient, which adversely affected the supply time-limit of the products.
"If we order goods from one factory on a large scale at a time, they may take some time to pack. As a result, not only is the delivery time delayed, but the product is not the freshest. Now with the sub-packaging plant, we can purchase from different suppliers and carry out centralized packaging." said He Zhongyuan.
There are a total of 23 automated sub-packaging equipment in the new plant, and the sub-packaging types include four categories, namely American Pecans, Australian Macadamias, American Badams and native wild pecans of Linan. To meet different consumption scenarios and needs, we have set up 81 kinds of sub-packaging specifications, including hand-grasping package, sharing package, special package for e-commerce and the like.
Unlike the traditional assembly line, each of the 23 highly automated equipment only needs 3 workers. Running at capacity, the entire sub-packaging plant can achieve a daily output of RMB 12 million and an annual output of RMB 3 billion, providing enough support for sales growth in the next few years.
It is worth mentioning that the traceability system is deeply embedded in the packaging process. By scanning the identification code on any package of nuts, you can not only identify the origin of the raw material, but also track the specific production area and farmhouse, know the temperature and rain condition during the growth cycle, and even clearly find out from which machine it is produced. Thus, each package of nuts has its own "archive" related to the quality and taste, gradually forming a database that can control the production from the source.
Wu Enhuan introduced that, to enhance the user experience, BESTORE is still trying to break through a technical difficulty: the new sorting equipment under development, once put into operation, can remove rotten materials by one hundred percent. This means that consumers will be free from the unpleasant memory of eating a rotten nut.
The self-owned processing plant will be completed within this year, which will bake quality nuts from the globe in the future
BESTORE, which started its business from nuts, sold 1.2 billion RMB of nuts in omni-channel last year, and the accumulated sales volume achieved 12,000 tons. The number of new nut products developed each year has remained above 35.
The raw materials of nuts come from 9 countries around the world, and the quality control is very strict. For example, Pecans use high-quality varieties that account for the top 2% of the world's nut output. The diameter of Macadamia is 2mm to 4mm longer than similar products on the market.
It is widely believed in the casual snack industry that, nut, as the representative of healthy snack foods, is one of the sub-categories with the most market potential. With reference to US experience, the per capita GDP is directly proportional to nut consumption, and domestic nut consumption can still maintain an annual growth of 20%.
BESTORE will build its first self-owned production plant in this sector. In the first half of this year, 30 mu of land has been listed for bidding, and the company will bid and prepare to build the processing plant within this year. In the future, this plant will continue to meet the needs of consumption upgrading with healthier and higher-end products.
By then, the period from production to sub-packaging and ex-warehouse will be further shortened to 4 days, and the nuts that consumers eat will be more fresh and crisp.
At the same time, BESTORE will continue its R&D investment in the self-owned plant to promote the upgrading of production equipment and technology. Nut products in the future will have more stable flavor and taste, and the natural scent of nuts with minimized additives and preservatives..