How Plant-Based Yoggu! Foods Went National and Grew 28% in Under a Year
A commitment to sustainable manufacturing involves scaling up the smart way, and that’s why Yoggu! Foods found Icicle ERP to be “the perfect fit” for their award-winning business. A local processor of clean-label, vegan yogurt based here in BC, in just over five years, the Yoggu! team has steadily built momentum as they expanded their distribution nationally and opened a new 12,500 sq. ft. facility last year. They knew they needed the right food production management software to power the next stage of their growth.
Since they adopted Icicle ERP to innovate their manufacturing practices in late 2022, Yoggu! has grown their plant-based business by a staggering 28%. We interviewed Yoggu!’s Operations Director Nina Nicholls to share the inside story on how Icicle set her team up for sustainable success as they establish their brand.
Meet Yoggu! Foods and their Award-Winning, Clean-Label Alt Yogurt
Yoggu!’s coconut yogurt introduced the Canadian market to a clean-label, vegan product that doesn’t have any gum, starches, fillers, or artificial flavours. The brand was born here in BC, where Yoggu! founder Jade Herrmann won BC Food and Beverage’s 2022 Emerging Business of the Year and Woman Entrepreneur of the Year awards. In June, they received glowing praise from investor Vancity, which reported in a recent profile of Yoggu! that “what began as a small-scale kitchen project has grown into a fully self-manufactured product line with a national footprint.”
Yoggu! founder Jade Herrmann celebrates BC Food & Beverage award wins
That impressive national footprint comes from a sizable new facility in Coquitlam, BC but also a relatively tight operation. As Operations Director, Nina runs everything in the supply chain from scheduling production to ordering raw ingredients.
The Challenge: Finding a Scalable Solution for the Next Level of Food Manufacturing
When Nina joined Yoggu!, the company’s food safety program was still in its early stages. Documentation was being managed manually through a series of files and spreadsheets. That needed to change if they were going to expand into markets nationally and sign big customers like Sobeys that increasingly require food safety and quality certifications like HACCP. For Nina, the first step was to move away from Google Sheets and paper notes to a unified system that could manage their data, store their documentation, plan production, and track inventory in a meaningful way.
Icicle really fit with us. I feel like we can grow with it.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
“I was looking at some other companies and the larger big ticket prices kind of steered me away,” Nina elaborated. Yoggu! was at a crucial moment of their business – poised to start making big sales that would expand their market reach – but they needed a solution that could scale up with them and be an asset, rather than a liability, in their growth strategy.
“Icicle ended up being perfect for us in the end,” Nina explained. “Icicle really fit with us. I feel like we can grow with it. … We don’t have a back-end IT that can set up things and code things. So I can just email Ethan on the Icicle team and he can help me solve those problems so I can do everything myself and manage Icicle without the need for a robust team.”
Icicle was also the perfect fit because they could implement and improve their operations quickly. “We didn’t need a full year to do it, like a lot of software,” she elaborated. “So it was really kind of a ready-to-use system for us. All we needed to do was send in all of our information and it was set up really quickly. It was just a matter of us learning everything.”
The Process: Implementing a Smart Food Production Management System for Yoggu!
As Nina indicated, implementing Icicle ERP required that Yoggu! do two things: compile their information and learn to use the software. In the fall of 2022, however, things were also very busy and it was challenging to find the time to learn new workflows. “We were really busy with the day-to-day, but we got through it with the help of your team,” Nina shared.
Yoggu! Trained with Real-World Scenarios and Data
When they were ready to begin training, the Yoggu! team didn’t need to bother with generic training materials that may or may not correspond to their own internal processes. They could hit the ground running and start practicing their tasks in Icicle in its real-life environment and using their own data. “They were really good at going through every scenario whether it was shipping or implementing customer complaints, or tracking inventory, and were’ able to use our data so we could actually understand it. And then it was a matter of going live when we were ready for it.”
“Helpful training for us was the use of our data and really just going through the day-to-day and testing everything.”
Icicle’s help video library also supported Nina as she and her team implemented Icicle. “There’s a whole page of videos with every kind of scenario that you can have,” she explained. When she forgot how to do something she’d learned a few weeks before, she could just go to the video section of Icicle and walk through some examples. “That’s been really helpful to relearn as you need to with all the things that Icicle has to offer.”
Customer Support (and a Forum!) for Every Step
When it came to implementing these new workflows, Nina was surprised at the quality of support she received from the Icicle team compared to her usual experience with software companies at work. “I’m so used to signing up for whatever software at whatever company I’ve worked at, and then not hearing a peep from anyone, and Icicle has just been the opposite of that,” she said. “You’re always there to help.”
She also benefited from Icicle’s Feature Request Forum, where she found answers to her questions from other Icicle users and submitted feature requests to optimize Yoggu!’s use of the software. “It’s really cool that they have this public forum for questions or upgrades or features,” Nina summarized.
I’m so used to signing up for whatever software at whatever company I’ve worked at, and then not hearing a peep from anyone, and Icicle has just been the opposite of that.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
When it came time to launch their Icicle account and go live, the Yoggu! team decided to kick off January 2023 with a bang. “It was a lot of learning along the way,” she explained, “but it’s really helpful that the Icicle team is able to be there for any sort of question we have.”
The Result: “Icicle Helps Us Stay On Top of Everything”
When we asked Nina about Icicle’s impact on Yoggu!, she responded, “Icicle helps us stay on top of everything. Like I mentioned, it helps track our inventory, understand our ingredients that are on hand and keep us up to par with all of our specifications.”
Achieve Seamless Workflows with Icicle’s End-to-End Supply Chain Automation Tools
With their new system helping them visualize their data and workflows, Nina and her team were able to implement improvements to help them meet their goals. As a favorite example, she described their optimized logistics processes, which Nina designed in Icicle. “All of our sales orders get inputted into the system,” she started. Once the sales orders are logged, the orders are picked from the warehouse in FIFO (first-in-first-out) order or based on an individual customer’s requirements before they are packed, tagged to a Bill of Lading, and sent on their way.
On the other end, purchase orders are also logged in Icicle. “We use Icicle for any procurement, so when I’m getting new ingredients and they’re in our system, I can order directly through Icicle.” She loves logging into Icicle and being able to see what’s needed at a glance. “I’m set up with a report that’s emailed to me every day, every morning – might be a little bit too much, but I like to see everything every day,” she told us. When she signs onto Icicle, she can see inventory levels and alerts for items that are going to fall below minimum inventory thresholds.
Instead of me going into a Google Sheet and calculating something in the past, I can just look at this email that’s sent to me every day and see where I’m on track or where I need to reorder something.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
What Nina appreciates most is the complexity and level of control that Icicle provides. On any particular day, she explained, she might log in and see that their stock of coconut cream – the main ingredient in their craft-fermented products – is below the reorder threshold, indicating that she should put in a new order right away.
And because Icicle also shows her how much coconut cream she has on order, she also won’t over-order by accident, which can lead to wasted ingredients and profit. “I can log in every morning and see, okay, mango, oh no, we only have this much left. Okay, but I have ordered that; it’s on PO, so we’re going to be fine. Or alternatively, our agar: we don’t have any left. I can check the lead time to see if I have to make a really quick decision to order, so Icicle keeps me on track. Instead of me going into a Google Sheet and calculating something in the past, I can just look at this email that’s sent to me every day and see where I’m on track or where I need to reorder something.”
Gain High Visibility and Robust Traceability in One Unified Solution
With Icicle ERP, Yoggu! can continue to grow their business with a high level of visibility, giving them the confidence to make data-informed decisions for the future. Nina and her team are able to leverage a growing store of historical data in Icicle to make adjustments to their product formulations (recipes) and processes, whether to test out improvements or in response to supply chain disruptions. “Even if we were to increase an ingredient or decrease an ingredient by a couple of litres for our big production run, we can track that, make notes, and then see how it does in the market.”
Similarly, if they notice a texture change or a flavor issue, they benefit from a robust knowledge of exactly what happened during production. Icicle delivers this level of control by tracking and tracing production and raw materials on the lot code and batch level – data that Icicle feeds into its powerful, end-to-end traceability system. Like many starting food businesses Yoggu! initially recorded production runs manually on paper.
There’s a lot of peace of mind knowing that when I implement something or I put something in the system, it’s locked in and there’s traceability to it, which is one of the most important things about operations and supply chain.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
Now, Nina described, “every time we get a new ingredient in, it’s always tracked, thoroughly inspected, and put into inventory through Icicle.” For every product that’s shipped out, Yoggu!’s staff is confident in the knowledge that they can instantly trace the supply chain journey of that product to the production run (and batch) and each raw material on the lot-code level. That level of insight and control is especially important to the vegan-certified company that is committed to building consumer trust in their brand.
“There’s a lot of peace of mind knowing that when I implement something or I put something in the system, it’s locked in and there’s traceability to it, which is one of the most important things about operations and supply chain.”
Boost Sustainability and Efficiency with Process Automation Technology
By replacing their previous manual tracking methods with Icicle’s cloud-based solution, Yoggu! has also been able to further their commitment to sustainable development goals – a core value of their enterprise – and reduce their paper consumption. The same goes for things like sales orders and purchase orders, which can be emailed directly to the customer or supplier from the Icicle interface. Icicle’s food manufacturing tools enhance Yoggu!’s waste management overall, particularly when it comes to reducing food waste with better inventory management.
The Yoggu! team can even check up on inventory, production, maintenance, incidents, tasks, and more with Icicle’s mobile capabilities. While Nina usually works on her desktop, it’s especially convenient for her when she can log in on her phone to answer a quick question or resolve an issue before it becomes a problem.
It has everything all in one. I don’t spend nearly as much time on tasks as I used to because I have this smart system that just helps me along the way.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
That efficiency extends to labour, too, which gives the Yoggu! team more time to focus on their big goals. “I’m very pro-effiencies and onboarding technology because I think it just makes everybody’s day a lot easier,” Nina told us. “Since we implemented Icicle, there’s a lot less of that day-to-day manual labour.”Nina can simply enter data into Icicle directly instead of manually inputting data into Google Sheets or Excel. “It’s smart enough to know what I need rather than me doing calculations or trying to figure something out,” she clarified. “It has everything all in one. I don’t spend nearly as much time on tasks as I used to because I have this smart system that just helps me along the way.”
“We could have onboarded another system that was more expensive and that we’re not ready for,” Nina reflected. “Icicle allows us to do this in an affordable way, save time, and spend more time doing the rest of our 20 jobs we all have.”
Automate Audit Prep to Scale Compliance
One of the major benefits of an automated system that alleviates the pressure on manual data management comes out clearly around audits. Yoggu!’s last HACCP audit was in December of 2022, right before they launched their Icicle account, so Nina is anticipating a streamlined and organized preparation process for their next audit in December 2023. “I’m really excited for that part where I don’t have to go through my Excel and my paperwork and show the HACCP auditor. I can just go directly into Icicle, click one button, essentially, and show the auditor what they need to see.”
I can just go directly into Icicle, click one button essentially, and show the auditor what they need to see.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
The same goes for audits and inspections in the future: with all of their documentation managed in an automated compliance management system, Icicle can help Yoggu! expand their compliance programs without draining resources while they scale up. Certifications like SQF or natural product labels can enhance profitability for food products, and Nina explained that when they are ready to implement new certifications or launch new products, with Icicle ERP as their backbone, “we already have everything ready to go. We just need to enter a few new things, whether it’s ingredients or documentation.”
Yoggu! Foods Leverages Icicle ERP to Grow 28% with Scalability in Mind
Almost a year later, Icicle ERP has helped Yoggu! achieve their goals and match their sustainable outlook for the future. Over that period, they were able to scale up to national distribution with major retailers like Safeway and grow their business by 28%.
“I think it’s really important that Icicle is something five years, ten years down the line, when we have more people, we have a system in place and working that people can just catch up with,” Nina elaborated. As their plant-based business picks up steam and Nina’s job expands with it, she can see how Icicle will make it easy to hire and train new people to help out when the time is right. The same goes for the rest of the business, from launching new products or opening more facilities, to switching suppliers and obtaining new certifications.
I think it’s really important that Icicle is something five years, ten years down the line, when we have more people, we have a system in place and working that people can just catch up with.Nina Nicholls, Yoggu! Operations Director
“We’ll never be where we were last fall when we were implementing everything and pulling our hair out,” Nina summed up, remembering the intense period of their initial growth last year. “Where is this document? How do I get this? What does this mean? We’ve passed that hard part now and it’ll be smooth sailing when we add an ingredient or a new supplier or a document to get us a new certification that we want to implement.”
Leveraging a system like Icicle ERP set Yoggu! up for success, starting them off already aligned with global standards and leaving nothing standing in their way when the next opportunity comes along. At the end of our conversation, we asked Nina if she would recommend Icicle ERP to other food and beverage manufacturers.
“I would say it’s a great system to use. I would say a hundred percent do a demo, see if it’s right for you, and really kind of understand what it has to offer. I think it’s a really helpful solution for businesses like ours that self-manufacture, maybe don’t have big IT teams, and you need to be able to have everything traceable and streamlined in one platform.”
A big thank you to Nina and the rest of the Yoggu! team for their participation in this case study!
Quotations from the interview transcript were lightly edited for readability.