This year went a lot better than last year. Thank goodness because last year was our most difficult year to date.
Bluebird Provisions covered a lot of ground in 2021, from launching in the US to tackling the behemoth that is Amazon.
There were massive challenges with both of the above. Such is life as a business owner.
In 2020, I focused on fixing some fundamental issues that will allow us to thrive in the next 3 years. I feel like we’ve accomplished that and are ready to take over the world.
Because I’m an eternal optimist, let’s start by celebrating some accomplishments.
What Went Well: The Positives
Online Sales tripled vs. 2020
A big goal for 2021 was to achieve 35% of total revenue from online sales. I’m proud to report that we got this up to 46%.
Where did all of this growth come from? A lot of things, and without giving away my secrets, I will touch on a few broad categories
- Retention and nurturing via email marketing
- Long-form written articles that bring in search traffic
- Community and customer experience
New Product Launch
In many ways, 2020 and 2021 was a relaunch of our entire business. Why do I say this? Well, in late 2020 we re-launched our flagship frozen bone broth in a completely new packaging size and format.
If you’ve ever changed packaging sizes (which involve new barcodes) at retail, you can attest to how risky this is.
We started from scratch with all of our grocery store partners. The new size meant new listings, paperwork, compliance for every single store. We lost a lot of stores during this transition. But it was worth it in the long run.
In 2021 we launched an innovative Instant Bone Broth. This product got delayed 12 months because of COVID. We almost couldn’t launch it at all because of how bad things were with COVID for us.
But we persevered and got it done thanks to a successful pre-sale. If you bought during the pre-sale, I am especially grateful to you.
As if I didn’t have enough on my plate with new products and trying to grow out existing business… why not throw Amazon in the mix?
We had an incredible launch on Amazon.ca in April. Our instant bone broth powder got to #3 ranked bone broth in Canada with 40 reviews.
If you took the time to support this launch by purchasing and/or reviewing, you are the best!
Anyways, Amazon brought in steady sales and growing month over month.
We also launched on Amazon.com in the US in September. This one took longer to get traction, but now it’s going well.
Then, something happened in October.
Amazon is certainly a huge opportunity for e-commerce companies, but it carries a massive risk.
Read ‘what did not go so well’ for the details.
We launched in the USA! This is no easy feat for any food business, let alone a meat product that is heavily regulated in Canada and the US.
Shipping across borders was not an option for us, so I made the decision to set up operations in the US.
This meant supplying and making our products within the US. I tell friends that I’m basically a glorified logistics coordinator masquerading as a business owner. And it’s true.
A lot of my day is spent making sure our product is made properly, ensuring our warehouse is running and shipping orders quickly.
We got it done. Bluebird Provisions instant bone broth powder is now available across the US.
Expanding to a new market is the ultimate risk for most e-commerce businesses. But in our case, I strongly believe it’s riskier to not expand. Why do I say this?
The US is such a massive market opportunity, I can’t ignore it.
We already get 90% of our website traffic from the US. Historically, I have nothing to sell these visitors. Now we finally do.
What Didn’t Go So Well
We were sitting pretty on Amazon Canada until we weren't.
You see, Amazon controls everything and is incredibly difficult on their vendors (companies like Bluebird).
Amazon prides itself on being the most ‘customer-centric’ business in the world, that is great. But this is at the cost of all of the small business vendors trying to sell on Amazon.
Something strange happened in October. We got 3 1-star negative reviews within a few days (I assume these were spam accounts leaving bad reviews because they didn’t have names).
All of a sudden, our Amazon page was inactive and taken down by Amazon.
Amazon support is not helping, so we still don’t have our main Instant Bone Broth on Amazon Canada.
I’m working to get it back on Amazon, but it won't be until January. I feel like Sisyphus. But I’ll never quit.
Setbacks just make for a better story to tell when you do succeed.
Note: you can still purchase a 3-pack from Amazon Canada.
Retail Execution Issues
This is similar to last year. Retail is no longer the main focus of Bluebird Provisions. However, we want to serve you in the most convenient way possible. For some, this is getting bone broth shipped to your home.
For others it means grabbing bone broth from the grocery store. So I’ll continue to focus some efforts on retail expansion.
The problem is that the frozen bone broth market is saturated in Canada. There are too many on the shelf to make it profitable.
My hunch is that none of my fellow bone broth brands are doing all that well in grocery stores.
On the other hand, the instant bone broth powder is gaining some distribution. But even that is a bit slower than I would have thought.
Our sales team had a few hiccups getting it into Whole Foods. It is now on shelf at all Whole Foods Ontario locations (soup aisle).
It will be on shelf at Whole Foods BC locations in February. Please email me a picture if you see it on any store shelf in the soup or wellness / supplement section: info(at)bluebirdprovisions(dot)com.
Revisiting My Goals for 2021
✓ We got to 46%.
X We did not get this accomplished.
✓ We did it!
Two out of three is not bad. Not good either.
Let’s touch on goals for 2022.
Goals for 2022
1.Online sales to 65% of total revenue.
Our natural progression toward online sales should get us to 65% in 2022. But it will take a ton of experimenting to get the right customer acquisition channel in place to allow us to grow.
2. Launch a new product in summer 2022
Can you guess what it is? This product will launch in both Canada and the US.
3. Hire, lead and build out a world class team
As we grow we continually need to hire and retain world class team members. My goal is to grow our team with two key hires and to hone my leadership and delegation skills to get myself out of the day to day business operations.
4. Grow total revenue 80% vs. 2021
Let’s finish with a bang shall we? A big goal but certainly within our grasp.
Stay tuned and follow along for 2022.
I hope you have a restful and restorative holiday season with your friends and family.