Going the Extra Mile: Mobile Runs Powered by SōRSE

A point of pride for the SōRSE team is our relationship with our clients and our willingness to help in whatever way we can to get their product to market – from recommending flavor profiles to connecting them with co-manufacturers. 

Nearly a year ago, one of our clients, Cann, a low dose social tonic, was looking to expand to other legal markets beyond California where they are based, but they did not have a way to produce SōRSE emulsion, the backbone of their beverage. Zach Hershberger, our Operations Managerand the Operations team put their heads together and came up with a plan – create a mobile unit and take production on the road.  

Recently we sat down with Zach, who has executed many of the mobile production runs, to talk about how this service came to be, what they entail, the benefits this provides to a client like Cann, and the service might expand in the future.  

What is the genesis story of the first mobile run? 

The whole process was born out of a request from Cann, who wanted to expand to Nevada. They basically said that “There was no Cann without SōRSE, that SōRSE was an integral part of their product. That led to them asking if we could produce SōRSE with their license holder in Nevada. At first we thought it was going to be pretty tough to install a lab in a new location, but then we realized it was feasible to take our equipment on the road and set up shop at the license’s facility. That first trip to Nevada was May of 2020.  

How did SōRSE’s and your relationship with Luke Anderson and Jake Bullock from Cann develop over time? 

I had just started at SōRSE when the company was ramping up emulsion production when Luke and Jake, Cann’s Co-Founders, visited the office in Seattle as they were evaluating emulsion suppliers. At that point, they were planning on operating out of San Diego. I shared some of my experience working at GreenMed Labs where we produced Happy Apple, just to give them an idea of what beverage production entailed. At that point, they knew what their product was going to be; they just weren’t sure where and how they were going to make it. I think one reason they went with us is that they realized we understood what they needed to accomplish.   

After they signed on with us as a client, I made sure they were taken care of, oversaw the production of their emulsion in California, and coached them through the processes that they needed to get production off the ground. Eventually they hired Ishan Kapoor, their Director of Operations, and I have been working with him since.  

What did you think of the idea behind Cann’s product, a low dose social tonic?  

I like the idea of a low dose beverage – I think it’s a great entry point for someone who is curious about infused beverages. It seemed like they had good idea behind it – a beverage to replace an alcoholic drink – and I really appreciated their commitment to using high quality ingredients. They refuse to compromise on the quality, and it shows in their product. It really seemed like a craft beverage.  

What does the timeline look like for planning and executing a mobile run? 

The calendar and the planning really depend on where we are going. If we are going across the country, it takes time to ship the equipment to the location. If we are driving, you have to factor in the travel time.  We recently introduced a second crate of equipment to the mix, so that should make things a little easier.  

The timeline works like this: A customer contacts us and asks us when we can make it; then our team looks at the calendar to establish a date. Once confirmed, we get the run on the calendar and start getting the ball in motion for what we need to do to execute it. That includes sending a packet of information to the client, basically their to-do list, and in turn they need to send us a Certificate of Analysis (COA) of the cannabis raw material they are using. The goal is that two weeks beforehand, we have all the details buttoned up. Facility requirements need to be met so that it is ready to go when we get there.  

Once we get to the facility, we take stock of the material and equipment we shipped and make sure we have everything we need. Then we set up the equipment for production. On Day 2, we start the conversion of the oil to the emulsion, starting the conversion. Converting a kilo typically takes two days using our mobile lab’s equipment. Day 3 is our wrap up, clean up, and package the equipment to be shipped back. I feel good about how efficient we are on these runs; the key to a successful run is maximizing our time so that we are not wasting our resources.  

In what states have you done mobile runs since this service started? 

We’ve gone to California, Nevada, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Illinois. 

What do you enjoy about mobile runs? What’s challenging about them?

What’s cool is seeing the interest and curiosity of the people working at the license facility in what we are doing and whyBasically when this big crate arrives, they are wondering what’s in it, and then once we arrive and set it up, they are wondering what we’re doing with it. This process is very different from the other processes going on at the facility, and they are inherently curious about what companies do with the emulsion. We find ourselves explaining what we are doing, who we are doing it for, and why. This exposes them to a world beyond flower – something so different from what they are used to.   

The challenges are adapting to the different facilities, assessing the spaces where we are working, and being able to respond to situations and snags quickly. At this point we are used to it – and we have learned how to adapt to new environments and problem-solve quickly.  

Why do you think it is important that SōRSE offer this service, and how does it benefit a partner like Cann? How does it benefit SōRSE? 

I think that offering this level of service to our clients shows that we see ourselves as partners in their expansion and overall success. It also gives our clients consistency in their product because we are using the same equipment and ingredients we do at our own facility. I think they know that not every supplier will have the capability to do a run in a new state like we do. Mobile runs have been beneficial for us, because we have been able introduced to partners and potential partners in new states. We have also learned a lot about how licenses work, and how differently they operate. 

 A year from now, what will mobile runs look like for SōRSE? 

If things continue to progress the way they have been, I think we will have more employees on the road doing these conversions. I see us doing higher volumes through trusted locations instead of small volumes in many locations – maybe two to three conversions a month. We will look to find trusted partners in each state where we can work consistently. Those partners can then act as a reseller to other companies who are interested in SōRSE.  I would love to see us get to a point where the license was wholesaling SōRSE to other companies for make their own products.  

 

Puget Sound Business Journal’s Cannabis Leader Spotlight: Diana Eberlein

“This isn’t your mom-and-pop industry anymore. It certainly started that way, but it has matured. This is a professional space. This is real food science. And once you look at it that way you will never look at it the same.” – Diana Eberlein, SōRSE VP of Marketing

Check out Diana’s interview with Puget Sound Business Journal where she explains how SōRSE is helping to drive the growth and maturation of the cannabis industry and changing people’s perspectives on cannabis. Read the full article here.

 

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Loni Mowbray

Meet Loni Mowbray, our Quality Control Manager, one of SōRSE’s newest team members, but a seasoned veteran of the food and beverage industry. Loni joined the company in 2020 and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her role in managing product standards. Loni has been working in the food industry since she was a teenager, and today develops food safety and quality programs for SōRSE. She’s excited to be part of an industry that is constantly evolving and changing, helping implement processes that ensure that products powered by SōRSE are of the highest quality possible.     

What compelled you to pursue a career in food safety? How did you get to where you are now?  

I had seen the movie “Outbreak” when I was 12 or 13, and it was really the first thing that ignited my desire to “do science.” I kept driving towards that through the Running Start program where I was able to take classes at my local community college and use the credits towards my high school diploma. Part of the Running Start program was a “learning into action” requirement, where I needed to find work in my potential field, and there weren’t a lot of science-related jobs in Mount Vernon, Washington at the time.  As a result, I ended up getting a job at Advanced H2O as a Quality Control Technician for bottled water and sparkling beverages. After gaining that experience, I had the opportunity to work for several different food manufacturers  Nature’s Path Foods, Da Vinci Gourmet (which became Kerry Food and Beverage), then to Stockpot Soups which was a subsidiary of Campbell’s, then back to Da Vinci when a quality assurance (QA) lead position had opened up.

At that point, I’d been working in QA for about five years and felt confident in my ability to be a QA manager, but I was lacking the necessary education. I enrolled at Washington State University with the intention of changing career paths to go into medicine and earned dual Bachelors’ degrees in Microbiology with a Medical Technology emphasis and Genetics/Cell Biology. I was hoping this would lead me to a career as a med tech, but in the end my degrees took me back to the food industry. I eventually worked my way through Trident Seafoods and Coca-Cola as QA Supervisor, to being offered the position of Ivar’s Quality Control Manager, where I focused on training, food safety, and food quality issues.

In the food and beverage industry, we learn new things every day; new issues pop up, and some old issues don’t get resolved. My feeling is, I want to make myself valuable by finding solutions to these problems and communicating the results to all levels within the company, with the end goal of developing a robust food safety culture.     

What drew you to SōRSE? What intrigued you about the position?   

A year or so ago, I hit a point in my career where I had found my place in the food industry, yet I was rethinking what I was doing and the direction I was headed. At the same time, I had started using cannabis and was interested in the science behind it and the different ways that it helps people. Compared to other industries, cannabis is brand new, and a lot of people who work in it know a lot about cannabinoids and extraction but not a lot about quality assurance or food safety, especially in the edibles space. I kept my eyes open for a QA manager position, and eventually saw one open at SōRSE. I was a little daunted because it seemed very chemistry-heavy and highly technical, but I went for it and applied. After a full day of back-to-back interviews, I knew that the SōRSE people were MY people. From the interviews I could see how super-smart, driven, and motivated the team is. I was thrilled when I was offered the job.    

What do you love about your role, and what do you find challenging?  

I love that, since day one, I have been in a state of constant learning, though the curve has been steep at times. There was a lot to figure out up front; I asked a lot of what I thought were inane questions, but I needed to get grounded in the science and the data. I’m learning more about cannabis than I ever expected, and I’m ecstatic to have the time to research. Topics like the Entourage Effect are really fascinating, and it feels good to take the skills and experience I have and make a positive impact on the business. It’s also great to be working for a company where people are legitimately happy I’m here; often in the food industry, the QC manager is the person people avoid because they feel as though the person in that position is more of a hindrance than a help. At SōRSE the level of appreciation my colleagues have expressed is a testament to how my work is being perceived, and how I am truly contributing to the quality of what we are doing here. I also love being able to see the positive impact our work is having in the industry, and helping people understand why quality control is so important in terms of legitimizing our products through gathering data, planning, creating processes and documentation. Once you get the processes in place, it’s just a matter of doing daily monitoring to make sure you are getting the results you want.  

One of the challenges I have in my role is switching between creating, planning, and executing programs for QC and being able to react in a moment’s notice if an issue arises. I to keep an ear out for what is happening in the lab and be ready to stop what I am doing to help out. Switching gears like that has helped me develop my ability to prioritize and find new tools to get things done.   

What do you think a consumer should know or be aware of when they are purchasing infused products?   

Consumers should definitely do some homework on the products they are interested in buying, who is making them and with what ingredients, and buy products from retailers that they trust. They should request documentation like the Certificate of Analysis (COA) on the product they are purchasing so they can be sure the potency on the label is accurate and that it has been tested for residual pesticides amongst other things. They can also look into the labs where the products are tested to make sure they are legit and are on the up and up. If the lab is reputable, then the results should be accurate, and consumers can trust the numbers. If consumers are going to dispensaries to purchase products, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about how the products are tested for potency and safety. Consumers should also avoid brands that make medical claims – that is a huge issue with the FDA, since cannabinoids have not yet been approved as a food ingredient and as such any claims made have no federal scientific backing.  

 Can you share something about yourself that not a lot of people know?   

For me personally, one of the worst things about the social distancing required by the pandemic has been no karaoke. Karaoke has always been a huge outlet for me, and I really miss going with my sister. My three favorite songs to sing are “Cornflake Girl” by Tori Amos, “Misery” by Pink and Steven Tyler, and “Zombie” by the Cranberries. My favorite karaoke bar was a place in Kent, Washington called the Golden Steer; the KJ was an absolute rock star! I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get down there again, once it’s safe to do so.   

  

 

 

 

BevNET Exclusive: SōRSE “Canna-Bus” Takes Processor on the Road

“We’re just trying to offer the opportunity to make products with a top of the line water-soluble format and to be able to wholesale our emulsion to other clients in your state.” – Zach Hershberger, SōRSE’s Operations Manager.

Learn more about SōRSE’s mobile unit – how it’s a new way for SōRSE to work with our partners at a time when CBD and cannabis co-packers are unevenly distributed and regulated across the country.

Read the full article.

 

SōRSE Employee Spotlight: Zach Hershberger

Meet our Operations Manager, Zach Hershberger, who has been with the company since 2019Drawing on his experience working in the food and beverage industry, specifically in the production of craft beer and cannabis beveragesZach guides the Operations Team to produce and fulfill orders, launch new products, and implement new processes and strategies. Zach also offers technical support to our customers as well as identifies strategic production partners. No one loves creating processes at SōRSE more than Zach!  

You started your career working in two of Seattle’s craft breweries. How did you become interested in beer? What skills did you gain in those jobs that apply to what you do now? 

In college, I taught myself how to brew beer, which is really where my brewing career began. I gathered as much information as I could find from brewing books, Reddit, whatever source I could find, then learned by trial and error with limited equipment. Brewing is a process of tightening down variables. When you home brew, you have to be able to roll with the punches as well as problem-solve.  

After graduating from the University of Washington, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do career-wise, so I spent some time traveling around the US and Southeast Asia. When I got back, I was set on landing a job in the brewing industry because I was really interested in it and I thought I had a good understanding of the process from teaching myself home brewing. I printed out a stack of resumes and handed them to whomever I could at different breweries. Persistence landed me a job as a keg washer at Cloudburst Brewing which had been opened by the former innovation brewer and the lead brewer at Elysian Brewing. I worked with them for about six months and learned everything I could from them, then moved on to Hales Brewing because I would have more exposure to all aspects of the brewing process – including blending, kegging, bottling, and canning. Being a really good brewer requires resourcefulness. You run into issues all the time, and you have to be able to problemsolve, accept the fact there will be issues, and not let that slow you down. If you expect to meet roadblocks, you won’t be surprised by them. I’ve definitely brought that mentality with me to SōRSE  

How did you come to work at SōRSE? What was your first year like? 

I left Hales after a few years to work at GreenMed Labs (GML) to help them with beverage production where a friend of mine worked. At that point, I had learned every aspect of the brewing process. I needed to decide if I wanted to go to another brewery, or pivot into another industry where I could build on my processing knowledge and where I could help a company scale up its production and make the process more efficient. I was also intrigued by the idea of cannabis beverages. definitely had not seen anything like that before, and I felt like I had the skillset to help them improve their production of Happy Apple. You don’t really know a process until you can train someone else on how to do it. A big test for me was training the person who would eventually take my place and get him to the point where he knew the process from start to finish as well as I did.  

After working at GML for two years, I decided to work for RSE. By the time I left GML, the business was very self-sufficient and establishedall of the systems and processes we had established were working really well. We had just launched Major, not knowing that that product was going to skyrocket. I was interested in what SōRSE was doing and could see that momentum was building. I approached our CEO, Howard Lee to see if there was a place for me in the company, and there, I started working in Operations. Together, we started creating systems for organizing orders, manufacturing and producing emulsion 

What do you enjoy about the role of Operations Manager at SōRSE, and what’s been challenging?  

What I really enjoy about my position is building processes that work and being in the center of this web of people with different jobs all trying to achieve goal. I like figuring out what the logical paths are to attain that goal and what each person has to do to achieve it. We are able to create processes with everyone’s input and implement them before they are neededI like to stay ahead of things; I’d rather set something up, anticipating the problem before it arises, so we don’t have to scramble to fix it.   

The kind of work we do comes in waves. One week might be slow, and then the next week we’re slammed. There’s no predictable pace to it. My focus right now is working with everyone on the team to keep our systems running smoothly as we continue to grow. 

Can you share some highlights from your time at RSE 

Building the process and making equipment recommendations used to create the first cannabis beverages made in Canada was a big highlight in 2020. We were able to connect them with the suppliers and co-manufacturers they needed to get the product on the shelves within six months.  

Other highlights were getting one of our co-man’s employees fully trained on our processes as well as making the mobile unit a reality. Launching powder was a big deal as well. Our suppliers are really happy with our ability to convert their raw material into powder format. I’m also proud that I wrote the original SOP packet for all of our processing that we are still using, which I edit and update regularly. It was like writing that 25-30 page research paper in college under a time crunch. 

Lastly, our relationship with our partner, Cann, a micro-dosed cannabis-infused beverage, has been a huge highlight and continues to be. When I first came on board, my title was “Technical Account Manager,” and Cann was my first account. When they first started, I was able to help the Cann team troubleshoot a few key issues they were having as they were getting off the ground. It’s really cool to see how successful they’ve become.  

If you could, what product would you create for consumer use?  

I think it’d be cool to have a small, discreet single dose packet of cannabinoids that could be offered in a variety of concentrations and combinations that you could pop in your pocket for everyday use – basically, different iterations of Pearl Minione of THC Essentials’ brands.  

 Can you share a fun fact that not a lot of people know about you? 

I’m not allergic to anything, but sometimes I tell people I’m allergic to tomatoes because I don’t like them. It’s a texture thing.