Hello and good day!
I'm just finishing up a great book called Becoming Trader Joe, written by the founder of Trader Joe's, Joe Coulombe.
There is a section in the book with a headline that says "Continuous vs. Discrete".The thrust of this section is that some products are continuous, meaning that every unit is exactly the same.
Other products are discrete, meaning that each new batch is unique. Coca Cola is given as an example of a continuous product.No matter when or where you buy a Coca-Cola, the product is going to be pretty much the same.
It isn't very sensitive to the natural environment. It doesn't matter who made it. It doesn't matter who sells it to you. It doesn't matter what year it is. A Coca-Cola is a Coca-Cola, end of story.
By the way, that isn't necessarily a bad thing. When you want a Coca Cola, you know exactly what to expect. It isn't the most special experience in the world, but it definitely has its place.
An example of a discrete product is a good bottle of wine. Each year's vintage is a little bit different, and some years are better than others. The same variety of grape, grown in different places, and interpreted by different wine makers can produce significantly different results. Once one vintage has been completely sold out, it is gone forever.
Trader Joe's made a strategic decision after two decades in business to focus on discrete products when possible and that decision helped them define their brand.
Recently we had a news anchor in one of our shops. The local Fox affiliate, Fox 13, is launching a new show focusing on local businesses and they asked us if we'd like to participate. Of course we said yes, and as a result, an anchorman came by with a camera crew.
I got to be on camera, which was fun. But even more fun was seeing my brother Brian being interviewed.Brian is an operations guy. He is in charge of our entire cacao buying and processing operation in Peru.
The quality of our chocolate is the result of many, many years of hard work done by he and our cacao farm partners. He almost always leaves the sales, marketing, and promotion in my hands.
His preference is to focus completely on his piece of the business, which makes good sense, because his part of the business requires a lot of hard work. So when I am able to pull him into a marketing situation and hear him talk about our products, I find it special.
In his interview, Brian mentioned something that goes right along with this continuous vs. discrete idea.He was asked by the anchorman why our chocolate is special compared to other chocolates that one might find in the grocery store.
Brian talked about the fact that making good chocolate is an extremely complex process. It is easily as complex as making wine, maybe even more complex.
If done well, chocolate has all the flavor complexities and nuances that wine lovers so appreciate. Brian nailed it.
We haven't talked about it much, mainly because I just learned about this whole discrete product concept yesterday, but Indeed, our chocolate is a discrete product.
We use the same cacao variety year in and year out. We follow the same processes.The recipes remain the same.But we are a relatively small company who uses cacao from 500 small cacao farms in a remote region of the northern Amazon jungle.
There are many variables in the process that are constantly in flux and totally out of our control.These variables can change from year to year, month to month, day to day, and even from hour to hour.
Our intention is to process cacao and have chocolate made in such a way that the flavors of the cacao are highlighted.
Big industrial concerns burn the flavor out of cacao with high roasting temperatures so that they can recreate a consistent product according to a predetermined profile.This a continuous way of operating.
One of our excellent friends, Kim Peterson, did a comparison not too long ago of our 47% dark milk chocolate made with cacao from two different harvests. She could absolutely taste the difference. Both were delicious.
Both are the same product with the same recipe.But cacao varies from year to year, there is no escaping it. Nor should it be escaped. It is part of the charm of good chocolate.
As an aside, it is interesting that even milk chocolate can vary from year to year. We currently have about two and half months worth of chocolate left that was made with 2021 harvest cacao.
Starting in November, we'll be using chocolate made with 2022 harvest cacao. But even cacao from different times in the harvest season can be a little different.
The chocolate shipment that showed up in November will have been made with cacao that was harvested early in the 2022 harvest season.
We send one container of cacao at a time from Peru to Switzerland. That container is used up entirely in making chocolate and then the next container shows up.Cacao from different containers does not get mixed together.
In early 2023, our chocolate will be made with cacao from mid-harvest 2022. Anyhow, I hadn't thought too much about the discrete nature of certain products vs. the continuous nature of other products, so I thought I'd put it on the table for your consideration.
My vote is for wonderful discrete products, when they are available and affordable!
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!