We’re asked sometimes who manufactures our products for us, but nothing is farmed out to a third party. Except for a few products we purchase (such as the Turmeric Life bars and Dog Bites), everything we sell is manufactured here. Our jars and pouches of spices, the jars of oil in the golden paste kits, and the kits themselves, are put together right here in our own manufacturing facility. But if anyone has visions of a huge space filled with machinery, it’s not like that! Not that we wouldn’t like to have a bit more automation one of these days, lol. But right now, every single process is accomplished by hand. Every pouch of spices that goes out of here is filled, one at a time, by one of us. Every jar of oil, every batch of the mixed products like the new Masala Chai mix, every tube of the turmeric salve (available soon, watch for announcements!), is assembled, mixed or otherwise processed by the (gloved) hands of someone right here.
One reason we haven’t pursued automated filling lines more seriously is that, while machinery may be more economical, it also has its problems. Sanitizing is one of them. When we finish a processing run, the room is carefully cleaned. Except for one piece of equipment, every surface in the processing rooms is easily available to be washed with the prescribed sanitizers. That one piece of equipment, our band sealer, needs only minor disassembly to reach all the areas where food or other particles might accumulate. All the small items such as scoops, spoons, bowls and other containers are washed according to requirements, the workbenches are sanitized and the floor is swept and mopped.
In larger operations where automated filling lines are in use, it can take nearly as long for the cleaning procedures as it did to fill and seal the containers. There are many more places where dirt and food may collect and possibly go unnoticed, and often there are floor drains, notorious for breeding germs. Our floors do not have (or need) drains, because we don’t have to spray things down with water. So while we do hope to grow to where more machine-assisted operations are needed, we’re not in a hurry to do that.
We thought you might like to see something of our manufacturing process, so I spent some time last week making a couple of videos and snapping some pictures. Here is Gary, one of the owners, filling one pound pouches of turmeric powder. He isn’t wearing a hair bonnet, because he has no hair! But he does have a bushy mustache, so he is wearing a beard/mustache cover over his mouth and nose. He’s spooning turmeric from a large bowl (which holds about one quarter of a bulk bag of turmeric) into a smaller food-grade silicone bowl on a very accurate scale. He’ll weigh slightly over a pound into the silicone bowl.
And then, just like magic, the bowl folds up to form a funnel, that lets him pour the turmeric into the pouch. This is far less messy and subject to spills than trying to spoon directly into a pouch sitting on the scale. For small quantities, such as the 1-ounce jars and the 2-ounce packets, we use laboratory weigh boats to weigh the product. They’re made to fold up, and for years, we looked for something larger that would fold the same way. Last year we found these silicone bowls, and transferring spices has been much easier since then!
Gary closes each bag by folding it down to remove as much air as possible, and then seals the ziplock closure across the top. Then it’s on to the next one. It takes about two minutes for each one-pound bag, and we typically do 50-100 bags of any given spice at a time. Turmeric in particular goes out the door very fast, so we spend a lot of time filling one pound and 8-ounce pouches of turmeric!
When all the bags for this run are filled, they go through the band sealer, which carries them on a moving belt between heated rollers. This seals the top of the pouch above the ziplock. The band sealer usually sits at the edge of the table, with a cart next to it holding a large bin. The pouches fall off the moving belt into the bin, and then we roll the cart out to the warehouse. Because of the limited space for photography at that end of the room, we moved the cart out of the way this time, and let the pouches come off the sealer onto the tabletop.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this little peek at our operations! We’ll post more from time to time. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.