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What’s Old is New Again

Previously, I’ve talked about some of the ways we were investing in Ninja Goat, to try and improve our working environment, make fatCoffee even better, and keep up with soaring demand.

While we have some good things in the works – a better kitchen in the city, where most of our team lives, new packing machinery steaming its way towards a nearby port – we also made some fantastic mistakes.

I was personally really proud of how these packets came out. The look of them was far more in keeping with what I thought made for a better first impression.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with first impressions, these new packets failed to live up to the hype. They were difficult to open when we tried to open them, which slowed down our production. They’re actually slightly smaller on the inside, and only hold about 90% of what our previous packets did. The material is thicker, so they tended to squeeze shut during sealing, resulting in poor seals and spills.

Oh, and they’re a pain to open when you need to actually get the fatCoffee out.

So, yeah: a big disappointment.

But as I often say: there is no failure, only data!

And luckily, we’ve been able to quickly switch back to our old packets. But I was never happy with the look of those – we have been hand-stamping each packet with a rubber stamp and quick drying ink. When we were making 500 or 1000 servings at a time this wasn’t too big a deal. But sit down to stamp 10,000 packets, and you quickly start looking for a better way.

And, luckily, we found it:

Stickering each pouch is still time consuming, and only a stop-gap until we get our packing machine and outfit it with pre-printed packing material, but I’m pretty happy with how these look:

And I have it on good authority that using sticker-dispensing machine to peel off stickers one at a time can be incredibly satisfying, even meditative.

And Another Thing

You may have noticed: IT’S FALLLLLL!!!!!

(At least, here in the northern hemisphere, it’s Fall. And it Pennsylvania, it’s “Fall”. I’m told that others refer to this season as “Autumn”.)

But regardless of what you call it, I think we can all agree: it’s my favorite season of the year. (See what I did there? You literally can’t disagree, because it’s my opinion.)

If you are of a mind to enjoy the “official” flavors of the season, let me humbly suggest our Pumpkin Spice and Mocha Orange fatCoffee flavors. Unlike other folks’ seasonal flavors, our’s get their aroma and taste from actual spices and oils (never extracts, “natural flavorings” or other weird stuff.) In the case of Pumpkin Spice, we use ground organic cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and all spice. Our Mocha Orange uses cold-pressed organic orange oil.



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What is Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin and Why the Heck Would You Put it In Your Coffee?

A yellow plastic tub of butter substitute labeled You'd Think it Was Butter.

When I was first formulating the original mixture of fatCoffee, I ran headlong into a pretty thorny problem: how could I make sure you get the experience out fatCoffee that I really want to provide? It’s no small challange; what works on a small scale in your kitchen at home changes completely when you start to make hundreds or thousands of servings, and it wasn’t long before I started to get an appreciation for the complexity involved.

In a nutshell, here’s the biggest challenge with making fatCoffee a portable, easy-to-use way to make butter coffee: things separate.

And it’s all coconut oil’s fault.

Right around room temperature (70-80 degrees Faranheit), coconut oil is solid. Just above, it turns into a clear liquid (particularly the very high-quality, cold-pressed coconut oil I use). In the colder months, this isn’t really a problem – from the kitchen where I make fatCoffee all the way to the UPS truck that brings it to your house, temperatures are cold enough that the coconut oil remains fairly solid.

But summer is a different story.

Mind you, sealed in their airtight, impact-proof, nearly-indestructible packets, fatCoffee’s ingredients are shelf-stable and will stay delicious and fresh for up to a year.

But the powdered goats’ milk, vanilla bean and cocoa powder (the dry ingredients), don’t dissolve until they’re mixed into your coffee or tea. Inside the packets, there’s no water – that’s why everything stays fresh and stable – but it also means that the dry ingredients can settle out to the bottom of the packet whenever that coconut oil gets soft.

And there’s a simple solution to this problem: mash it up, folks! Just squeeze and mash that packet around before you open it. Don’t worry: it won’t break open (you’d need to stomp on it hard before that seal will break. Trust me, I’ve tried.)

And, as you might expect in these modern times, there’s another “solution”: Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin.

Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is, among other things, a powder. It’s particularly good at encapsulating oils, and so it’s used to make such magnificent things such as powdered butter.

Powdered. Butter.

If that isn’t a tragedy in the making, I don’t know what is.

If you have something oily, and you want to make it powdery, you’d add this ingredient. If I were to add it to fatCoffee, instead of a liquid or a paste, fatCoffee would be a sort of crumbly, squishy, clumpy powder. Kind of like what you want butter and flour to be like when you’re making a pie crust. (Not a Paleo pie crust, of course.)

But what IS IT, exactly? Well, let’s hit the Wikipedia and see:

Highly branched cyclic dextrin is a dextrin produced from enzymatic breaking of the amylopectin in clusters and using branching enzyme to form large cyclic chains. (Emphasis added.)

That’s pretty clear, right?

Dig a little deeper, and the keyword there is amylopectin. Along with amylose, this is one of the two components of  starch.

Food starch. Which is made of up of glucose, a type of sugar. Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin is a form of modified food starch.

Now generally speaking, I don’t have anything against chemistry. And I don’t particularly have an issue with people trying to find the best, healthiest, most flexible uses for all kinds of food. But if you’re going to use modified food starch in your butter coffee, why wouldn’t you just call it “modified food starch?”

Because “Highly Branched Cyclic Dextrin” sounds cooler? More modern? More…. sciencey?

Or maybe because “modified food starch” shares the same genesis as Maltodextrin, a:

…white hygroscopic spray-dried powder… that is easily digestible, being absorbed as rapidly as glucose… commonly used for the production of soft drinks and candy. It can also be found as an ingredient in a variety of other processed foods. (Emphasis added).

High Branched Cylic Dextrin is commonly sold as a weight gain supplement for body builders, with names like “Super Carb” and “Sports Fuel”, and is touted as a “next generation simple carbohydrate.”

So, sugar. In your butter coffee. In the form of an ingredient which is “absorbed as rapidly as glucose.”

If you’re Keto, Paleo, HFLC or otherwise trying to just eliminate processed sugars from your diet, this is taking you in absolutely the wrong direction. And because fatCoffee is supposed to be functional and supportive (and not just delicious and convenient), it’s an ingredient that we will never, ever use.

So… What’s in your butter coffee?

Ready to try fatCoffee?

Just a Taste $10
4 packs
Pumpkin Spice
Just $2.50 S&H
Full Release $20
8 packs
Pumpkin Spice
Just $2.50 S&H
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A Human(e) Culture

Yesterday, I saw this article in my Twitter feed:

Don’t hire Hotmail users & other tips to save your company culture

And my first response was to say that this guy’s company culture is very clear and easy to understand: join up, and get treated like sh*t by a bunch of a**holes.

But perhaps there’s a more nuanced response, and one which speaks more deeply of the mission which Ninja Goat has, and the way in which I intend to live up to that mission.

When I think about the people whom I’d like to hire, I am certainly – as a business owner and as someone who would like to see my company prosper over the long haul – thinking about what each person can contribute, how they can help the company grow, and how they might “fit” into the company “culture.”

I would be lying if I said that I had a very clear picture of what any one person who met those criteria looked like, or what they were capable of, or how any particular day of theirs would go from start to end. And I think that anyone who pretends to know those things unequivocally is lying to themselves at least, and probably to a lot of other people.

When I hear people say they are looking for a good cultural “fit”, what I think they’re really saying is that they want to hire people who look and think like them. Or perhaps, they’re looking for people who will challenge the team and its leader, but not too unconventionally.

I think this is a terrible strategy, for it’s short sighted and suboptimal, particularly for any company that hopes to innovate.

Innovation is invariably the result of jamming two or more disparate ideas together in a way that turns out to be novel and useful. If you want more innovation, you need more disparity, jammed together with increasing frequency. Hiring a bunch of people who share the same basic attributes (like being driven solely by monetary rewards and willing to work endless hours to achieve them) isn’t going to get you that.

Moreover, you’ll quickly burn through the people you’ve worked so hard to recruit, because 80-hour weeks and sleepless nights result in a crappy product, whatever you’re making.

And I’ve worked for and with enough folks who run their companies by the lean/agile/startup handbook to know that they’re really after one thing: a jackpot. They think that with enough hard work, backed by enough brilliant, driven and dedicated people, they’re destined to land a big round of funding, capture a huge audience, and maybe even get snapped up in an acquisition. They have an “exit strategy.”

But here’s the thing about winning a jackpot: statistically-speaking, almost no one wins, and just about everyone loses. Do everything “right”, and you will still go bust. That is not a strategy any more than buying lottery tickets to ensure a comfortable retirement.

What if there’s another way? What if it’s possible to build a company that can grow and thrive over the long term, and which does so by bringing together the widest range of contributions it can find?

I have this theory, on which I’m willing to bet the success of my business: if you hire people based on whether or not they fit a set of criteria you’ve created, you will only ever know if you were right or wrong about that judgment.

But if you hire people based on a desire to see how completely they can live up to their own potential, I suspect two things will happen: They will live up to that challenge and, with that as a bulwark to their confidence, raise their own expectations They will help you to discover things you never imagined.  My goal is to jam together as many people with wildly divergent ways of thinking as possible, guided primarily by a mutual respect and desire to understand those perspectives.

I want to hire people with “issues”, which is to say, “humans”, because all humans have issues – big, complex, seemingly-intractable issues that we each struggle with daily.

I want ethnically, culturally, neurologically, psychologically and physiologically diverse people because these differences are integral to my company’s strategy, not something we’ll succeed in spite of.

Will you reply to email at midnight? Stop it, you should probably be sleeping, or at least not looking at an electronic screen. Will you be available to come in and work on weekends?Great, but only if it’s because you prefer to work when no one else is there. Do you want to talk about the economics of the pottery trade during the Byzantine Empire while we pack boxes? As long as you don’t overfill them and you don’t quiz me the end, that’s awesome!

Somewhere along the way, we’ll discover something new.

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Facts and Fallacies on Weight Loss

There’s a lot of good, detailed information here, though even in a single article a lot of advice that could be conflicting if you don’t take the time to unwind what it means to you, specifically.

But THIS: “Ultimately, those who are most successful with managing their weight follow an eating pattern (not a diet) that is true to them, their lifestyle, and includes foods they actually enjoy.”

An EATING PATTERN is a much, MUCH healthier perspective to take on the changes you might make to your sense of wellness and well being, because it implies something permanent, lasting and sustainable (for you, individually.)

#update #dietnotdiet #wellness

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Ludicrously Premium Coffee is Coming Soon

Can you spot the coffee plant?

Take a close look at the picture above. Which of those is the coffee plant? And what’s growing all around it?

Now take a look at this picture:

Bet you didn’t have trouble spotting the coffee plants in that second picture. Those nice, neat, evenly-spaced rows. The gently, rolling hillsides. The full sun exposure.

Coffee plants hate that.

Coffee is a shade-loving plant. It wants occasional sun, and prefers a cooler, moister atmosphere. What happens when you put a coffee plant out in the blazing sun, arrayed on a hillside in neat little rows? Well, two things:

  • You can fit more coffee plants into a smaller space, and get more beans
  • It stresses the hell out of the coffee plants. They get very irritable

Ever wonder what stressed-out coffee plants make? Bitter coffee beans. And I don’t mean that figuratively: the high sun exposure literally increases the acidic profile of the coffee berries, and the beans inside of them.

What’s the equivalent of “100% grass-fed” for coffee?

That’s easy. Shade-grown.

Coffee plants that are grown in the shade create richer, smoother, less-acidic berries, and coffee beans with a profile that is completely unlike anything you’ve ever had.

For as long as I’ve been making fatCoffee, I’ve wanted to offer a coffee that was just as premium as the butter I used. 100% grass-fed organic butter deserves a 100% shade-grown organic coffee!

Look for it soon, here!
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The Time For Change Is Now – The EPIC Blog

I have mixed feelings about this.

First, I LOVE Epic’s products: I regularly include samples of their jerky, protein bars and snack packs in Premium Subscriber’s monthly boxes, for free. (They’re great, and I don’t mind buying their products to share with people I think will like them.)

BUT, I have intense doubts about the likelihood that General Mills will not subject them to the same quarterly pressures placed on all of their divisions. There just isn’t a very good track record anywhere of large food conglomerates purchasing smaller brands and letting those brands just continue to practice as they always have been. I hope I’m wrong here.

But I know the economics. 100% pasture-raised cows produce 50-75% LESS milk than their conventionally-raised, feed-lot-bred brethren. And I have difficulty seeing how General Mills is going to continue to accept that kind of “inferior” performance. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

#updates #pastureraised #bigfood