Saturday, July 11, 2015

Watching Jeni's meltdown

It’s very cool to watch a business rise out of nothing but a small storefront on High Street when no one gave a shit about what went in there. The success achieved when the business expanded locally and got plenty of acclaim was amazing to watch. A business that had an A+++ rating of quality and authenticity,

This is why it is so painful to watch the horrible times that Jeni’s Ice Creams has had the past few months. I do not know if it is a fall, failure, hubris or just plain bad luck. It was a batch of listeria that was found in the manufacturing plant that was the first blow. All shops were immediately closed, hundreds of thousands of dollars in inventory was thrown out. This came right at the beginning of the warm weather season, when the business makes most of its income.

Soon after, the problem was said to have been taken care of and business resumed, albeit slowly. Pints and special flavors were not available. It was a slow buildup in inventory, we were told. But then disaster struck again, another batch of listeria was found and all the stores were shut again.

Now the company has outsourced production to Smith’s Ice Cream in Ohio, but many flavors are still not available. Scoop shops still have no pints and the company is resorting to unlimited toppings to drum up some business. And the company still cannot say when the Columbus plant will resume operations.

Another report has revealed that the FDA has found a number of sanitation issues in the plant on several occasions.

So what has happened to a brand that had everything going for it?

Did it expand too fast? Jeni’s has moved fast in Chicago, Nashville and several other markets. Have they taken on more than they can handle, and ignored the base which brought them their success? Have they gone for the brand establish and celebrity cult status in hiring a CEO instead of taking care of the basics - like properly cleaning its manufacturing plant on a regular basis? These are hard questions to ask. Having been a part of a business that was in complete turmoil I know there are a lot of sleepless nights happening. Have they lost track of their roots?

What happens next for the company? Will they rise out of the ashes of listeria and get the plant cleaned so it can stay that way? Obviously their arrangement with Smith’s will not be sustainable in the long run, there’s no innovation in that relationship. What happens when Smith’s says we have to stop this and the Columbus plant is still not functional?

Does the business shut down? There are probable layoffs happening now in the plant as employees are either being shifted to the scoop shops or terminated. Does the business get sold? A tough sell with it’s current reputation. Does the business leave Columbus, where it all started, and start fresh in another city with a clean plant?

We’re in the peak of summer season and they’re not selling chocolate. I’d say it’s a dire situation that I hope can be resolved positively, but it’s in a rough place now. I wish them all the best, but there’s a rocky road ahead.

No comments: