The Covid crisis has been in action for long enough that we now have some perspective on how it has changed us and our business. It is important to take a minute and reflect on a most extraordinary six months and ask the question; what the hell just happened? So here is a short summary of how we dealt with it and what we see going forward.
Like everyone else, we became aware of the virus around January and started wondering what might be coming our way. Our main issue was that by February we were at the very beginning of our sugaring season and when rumors went flying about shutting everything down, we didn’t know if that would include us. We have roughly six weeks to make our entire year’s crop and closing up then would have likely crushed us. The woods were all tapped and the sap had started flowing. Eric and I discussed our options and decided that if it came to it, we would send everyone home and he and I would boil what came in and if there were problems in the woods so be it. Luckily, since we are a food operation, we were allowed to continue and we went to work figuring out how to do it in a safe manner for everyone.
Running the business was a daily pivot to respond to events; web sales set records but food service accounts dried up overnight. All tasting events and food shows were cancelled which was a blow to our future sales potential. And we watched with heavy hearts as some of our retail partners closed their doors for good. All of our planned social media was scrapped and rewritten to be more appropriate to the national mood. Our supply chain was upended and we worried about single items, like lack of caps halting production. We all learned more about virology and the best lighting for a Zoom meeting. Many of us did this with kids underfoot. Today, we are mostly settled into a new way of life but, most importantly, our team is all ok.
One detour we took in the middle of everything was to switch our bottling line over to packaging hand sanitizer. In a collaboration with Caledonia Spirits, Aqua Vitae, Citizen Cider and Farrell Distribution, we bottled the much needed sanitizer which went out to all corners of the northeast. We are back to bottling maple syrup (with different tubing than the sanitizer, not to worry) but will continue to switch back and forth as the need arises.
And the research and development department has been chugging along this whole time, just mostly at home. We released Strawberry Rose Infused Maple in the summer and the sensational Sparkle Syrup in September. There are more exciting products coming out in the weeks ahead but we will save the surprise for then.
In sum, we are shaken but still standing. We are so grateful for our incredible employees who continued to come into the plant to bottle and ship syrup and those who were in the woods, allowing us to harvest an epic crop. And big thanks to all of the rest of the employees who have been working from home and had to figure out how to get their job done from a distance. The weather is still warm now and everyone is taking meetings outside and enjoying the stunning Vermont autumn. But we are still hard at work, preparing for all of the exciting new products in development and the holiday season.
We hope you and your loved ones are all healthy and enjoying some time outside. Here’s to resilience.
Best wishes from Eric, Laura and the Runamok team