In an interview with InsideHook, SōRSE’s Director of Research and Analytics and in-house Flavorist, Donna Wamsley, explains how and why things taste the way they taste, trends in the flavor industry, and what’s next in the world of cannabis food and beverage.
Over the past year, there has been a significant rise in sales of packaged beverages over dispensed since consumers are spending far more time at home. Our COO, Tyler Peterson, shares his insights on how store operators can best take advantage of these dynamics for more sales and profit.
“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.
Meet our Operations Manager, Zach Hershberger, who has been with the company since 2019. Drawing on his experience working in the food and beverage industry, specifically in the production of craft beer and cannabis beverages, Zach 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 problem–solve, 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. I 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 SōRSE. By the time I left GML, the business was very self-sufficient and established; all 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 a 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 needed. I 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 SōRSE?
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 Mini, one 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.
In a recent interview with The Fly, our CEO, Howard Lee, shares why SōRSE has “more resiliency in our system than any other (emulsion) provider today” along with challenges and opportunities we face.
2020 – what a year it has been! At the beginning of the year, the SōRSE team was busy working with our clients who were in the process of developing and launching products and preparing for live events. Then came March, and with it, Covid. Our work world changed, with many employees working remotely. Because SōRSE was deemed an essential business, emulsion production continued, as did the support of our clients. Instead of attending conventions and trade shows, we pivoted to hosting and attending virtual events and offering educational webinars to connect and engage with our partners and community.
2020 has been challenging for many reasons, but at SōRSE, there is much to celebrate – including over 1 billion unique views of the articles in which we’ve been featured. Here are some of the highlights from 2020.
In January, Mary Wagner and Allen Hsieh were appointed to the SōRSE Board of Directors. Mary Wagner is a recognized executive leader with a reputable career in the food industry, having created innovative products and developed measures to ensure food quality and safety. Allen Hsieh has over 25 years of experience in business and finance and has managed companies that have generated between $100 million and $500 million in revenue annually.
In February, Forbes published an interview with Ryan Tedder in which he explains why he decided to start a CBD beverage company, how he discovered SōRSE, and how SōRSE provided the best possible solution for creating his successful beverage line, Mad Tasty.
At SōRSE, one of our goals is to educate consumers on the benefits of products that utilize water-soluble emulsion technology. In March, we were able to share our knowledge on “How to Find a CBD Product That Works” with Bon Appétit magazine. In the article, we discuss important topics such as dosing, bioavailability, the differences between different types of CBD products, COAs, and how to figure out if a product is utilizing water-soluble technology.
In April, Benzinga broke the news that the first beverages to reach the Canada’s Cannabis 2.0 market had hit the shelves, and even better, they were powered by SōRSE! Our partner, The Valens Company, collaborated with A1 Cannabis Company to create Summit, a THC Citrus Water, and Basecamp, a CBD Iced Tea. We were proud to see our technology play a part in bringing these drinks to Canadian shelves.
In the beginning of August, SōRSE Technology was included in Fast Co’s Best Workplaces for Innovators list for 2020. Nearly 900 companies applied to be recognized by Fast Company, and SōRSE earned position #61 while also being the only cannabis adjacent company included on the list. Fast Company is an influential, cutting-edge magazine focused on “the future of business” with over 16 million monthly unique visitors.
In September, SōRSE announced that it was entering into a collaborative research agreement with Pascal Biosciences, advancing Pascal’s PAS-393 into clinical testing. Pascal and SōRSE would share their respective technologies to test the cannabinoid PAS-393 in human volunteers; this will enable testing of cancer patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors.
Donna Wamsley is not only our Director of Research and Analytics who works on emulsion innovation; she is also a trained flavorist, bringing a depth of knowledge on flavor and creating flavor profiles to her work. In October, Forbes published an interview with Donna in which she discusses her work at SōRSE, the process of becoming a flavorist, and flavor trends she sees emerging in 2021.
To connect with our partners and share our knowledge with them, SōRSE hosted its first annual, virtual summit in October, featuring presentations for our 50+ clients on a variety of topics on the infused food and beverage market. Topics included: Trends in Flavor, Emulsion Customization, Maturation of the Cannabis and CBD Marketplace, amongst many others.
Near the end of November, we announced the creation of SōRSE Clear, a stable, clear emulsion with a minimal sensory profile. The product made its official debut at our inaugural SōRSE Summit, which was a big win for our Science team and will be a game changer for our customers in the infused beverage space.
In November, SōRSE ventured into the Latin American marketplace by announcing a joint venture with FCM Global, based in Medellin, Colombia, which produces organic hemp and cannabis oils. By entering this partnership with FCM, SōRSE is now licensed to apply its technology to THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids in Colombia. The emulsion will be branded as “SōRSE by FCM GLOBAL.”
Three months after announcing the collaborative research agreement, SōRSE and Pascal Biosciences shared the news that they will be moving forward with clinical trials of the cannabinoid PS-393 in 2021 for cancer patients treated with checkpoint inhibitors. This will mark the first pharmaceutical use of SōRSE’s formulation technology in concert with Pascal’s intellectual property.
Emily Skrobecki Shares Her Experience Working at SōRSE During the Age of Covid with The Business Journals’ Bizwomen
At the beginning of December, Bizwomen published an essay written by our Process Engineering Manager, Emily Skrobecki, in which she explained how she prioritizes aspects of her job and communicates with her team while working remotely. Emily’s piece illustrates how SōRSE employees are committed to contributing to the company’s success and can adjust the way they work to fit any difficult situation.
If you’re interested in learning more about SōRSE and its accomplishments this year, download our Annual Report that summarizes the myriad ways we’ve innovated and expanded our product offerings, services, and production in 2020. We’ve learned a lot from the challenges we faced in 2020 and look forward to the promise and hope that 2021 brings.
Our Process Engineering Manager, Emily Skrobecki, shared her thoughts with BizWomen on how Covid has impacted the way she works with the team and how she prioritizes aspects of her job. Read the full article.
A couple of members of SōRSE’s leaders were highlighted in Professional WOMAN’S Magazine!
Congrats to these ladies:
Donna Wamsley, Director of Research & Analytics
Michelle Sundquist, Director of Product Development
Maribeth O’Connor, VP of Medical Applications
Meet our Chief Operations Officer, Tyler Peterson, who has been with the company since 2016. Over the past four years, Tyler has touched every aspect of our business, from setting up production to developing new products and bringing them to market, as well as working at trade shows. You name it; he’s done it! Tyler draws on many of the professional experiences he has had in the past in his current role at SoRSE; he’s a hands-on manager who builds strong relationships with his employees and clients.
How did you end up working at SōRSE? What was the first year like?
Prior to 2016, I had worked with Howard at two other startups. When Howard was presented with the opportunity to take the reins of SōRSE (then Tarukino/ Tribe Processor), he invited me to come along with him to manage Operations. The first year was about figuring out our direction, the technology we were using, and the beverages we were going to produce. From these ideas, we started fundraising to help prop us up. We acquired the emulsion technology and started running with it. The first year was crazy because we went from a virtually empty building with three people and ended the year with 20 employees, products on the market, and with the evolution of the technology well on its way.
How much did you know about this space prior to coming on board?
I knew quite a bit about Operations, but not so much about the cannabis industry. Prior to working at the startups with Howard, I was Head of Operations at a materials handling company. I came into SōRSE well versed in inventory, client services, sales, and everything else required to manage a company. The cannabis industry is considerably different in terms of rules and regulations, not to mention how heavily taxed it is. Because of that, there have been more failures than successes across the industry – it’s not necessarily easy to stay in business and make a profit.
What do you enjoy about the role of COO at SōRSE and what’s been challenging?
I am a very hands-on person, and I love figuring out problems. What I need to remember to do in this role is take a step back and trust my employees to figure out the answers to problems while I oversee them and make sure they are making the right decisions. I have to let go of my desire to do what one of my employees can do, which means that I can focus my attention elsewhere. Operations is driving the company to the future – expanding into other states, creating new emulsions, working with large customers. All of this is exciting, but they are high pressure/high risk situations. Operations drives income and profitability, not just in one avenue but in multiple avenues. Our flexibility and determination is what keeps us moving forward.
Can you share some highlights from the past four years?
When I look back at where we came from, I’m pretty proud of what we’ve accomplished – like our first approval of products from the Liquor/Cannabis Control Board in Washington. Little things like that are big wins. The success of MAJOR is huge – its growth from month to month has been a highlight. I love hearing that customers love our products; it means we have created an emulsion that has changed people’s lives – not just consumers, but the retailers who are becoming more profitable and successful because of what we offer. Making a company profitable is also a big win. All that said, what I am most proud of is the team around me. People at SōRSE know what needs to get done and never question how to get stuff knocked out.
Can you share something that a lot of people don’t know about you?
I love show tunes, and I have inspired more than one person to overcome a fear or physical hesitation by breaking into song. I was in every play and every summer musical during high school. I am not necessarily the best singer, but I love it.
SōRSE Technology earned position #61 in in Fast Company’s 2020 Best Workplaces for Innovators list.