When Things Fall Apart

When Things Fall Apart


That is me in the photo, hunched over, both wrists aching with tendinitis, almost in tears from the sheer pain of repetitive cutting for 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, for what seemed like endless weeks. 

Did we hand-baking, hand-slabbing, hand-cutting 3000 pounds of mochi gummies to make our first deliveries to Whole Foods for our September 2022 launch?

Are we insane? Why would any sane person do this, knowing this method is not scalable?

It was really not by choice. 

One by one, things fell apart. 

Our initial plan to manufacture the mochi gummies in a different facility in Connecticut fell apart. We found out 12 months in that they did not have what it took to produce our product properly. 

Then we found a larger facility in Vermont, famed for its impeccable standards, only to find out they were only interested in our money, and not in our vision, brand, mission nor the product. So that deal fell apart. 

Then we went back to Connecticut, only to find out that they didn’t have the right certification after all. Nor the right team spirit. 

No one could figure out how to make our product, let alone pronounce it. 

We were in research and development mode for 2 years straight and just when we thought we had a breakthrough, something else would go wrong with the recipe. No one in the U.S. had worked with rice flour. How do you cut something that stuck together like glue? 

No one had tried to make mochis into a shelf-stable product without any artificial stabilizers or preservatives. How do you make mochis last without molding, staling or sticking together? 

With our incredibly talented food scientist, we worked on hundreds of iterations. We analyzed other similar mochi products and they were either frozen, which prevented the entire staling/molding issue, or were sold in the bakery section, full of chemicals and additives, some not even ingestible, like diaper fillers. Literally. 

Then finally, at the eleventh hour, with only 3 months to delivery date, we miraculously found an amazing partner near Seattle, that had exactly amazing mind-set, believed in our vision and wanted to go all in. Their location could not be any further. It was literally on the other side of the the country from us and the previous factory, but no matter. 

We shipped all of our ingredients and equipment on trains and freight trucks via express delivery to the new factory, biting our nails, tracking trucks and containers, and we moved our family for the summer to prepare for our first production. 

That is when everything began to break down.  

The main equipment didn’t arrive. 

Our other support equipment began to fail and break down, almost immediately. 

Most Western machines are not used to much else than gluten-based products, so our mixers, our cutters, basically everything, broke down with the heavy rice dough. Then we ran out of ingredients. The supply-chain gridlock had us in total anxiety, eagerly for the next delivery of ingredients that only a handful of natural, premium suppliers were making. 

No, it was not ideal. 

But you have to pull through and make it work. 

So we kicked into high gear, hand-baking, mixing, slabbing, cooling, and the most difficult part, cutting, all by hand. I had thought initially - how hard could it be to cut mochis for a few thousand bags? How naive and utterly ignorant I was. 

Through weeks and weeks of what seemed like endless days of mochi production, with everyone on the team getting muscle pains, tendinitis and back aches, we managed to cook, cut, package and prepare 3000 pounds of mochis for our first delivery. When we saw the trucks pick up our first packages, we were moved to tears. 

I never thought it would be so hard to make candy. I found such respect for people in the industry, dealing with creating and making food, the factory workers who make the products day in and day out, putting in hours and hours of physical labor, the people who run the facilities, the truckers, the delivery folks, the vendors and all those who make things happen for you to have something real in your hand and into your stomachs, hopefully with joy and pleasure. 

It is such a joy to learn and grow everyday in this new domain, and I can’t wait to know more, and to make more. Stay tuned - we are just getting started. 

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