Masienda: a Forager Case Study

Masienda is a Los Angeles based company that believes the best-tasting food is achieved through a relentless support of agricultural biodiversity, sustainability, and independent farmers. With this philosophy in mind, their mission is to build a new kind of masa value chain, from scratch.

From farm to tortilla, Masienda’s impact-based supply chain supports more than 2,000 smallholder farmers throughout Mexico whose corn is grown using regenerative practices across more than 30,000 acres.

 

Wholesale bags of Masienda corn

Bags of Masienda’s heirloom, Oaxaca-sourced corn. Source: Masienda

 

Founded in 2014, Masienda supplies heirloom corn, heirloom beans, a variety of companion crops, and hardware to both restaurants and direct to consumer. The heirloom corn varieties Masienda purchases are harvested once per year and sourced from multiple rural locations within Mexico. A solid cross-border logistics partner is a critical link in Masienda’s supply chain.

 

Investing bandwidth vs. treading-water: trying to improve a unique supply chain

 

Danielle Dahlin, Masienda’s Chief Operating Officer of three years, manages the company’s supply chain. Dahlin is responsible for sourcing, purchasing, inventory control, and multiple other operational components. She also sets the vision for long-term improvements to build operational efficiencies.

Balancing short-term needs with long-term supply chain improvements is particularly challenging for small companies with lean operations teams like Masienda.

“One of my overall goals is to increase operational efficiency and make process improvements,” explains Dahlin. “Building efficiencies into a supply chain takes time, so you have to have the bandwidth to improve systems; otherwise, you’re treading water.”

 

Truck driving on a road with dangerous curve signage, wonderful sunny day to enjoy the scenery in the state of Jalisco Mexico

Masienda sources corn from multiple rural Mexico locations which adds complexity to its supply chain. As Dahlin explained, “… a carrier might say, ‘We’ll be there in five hours’ but what they don’t realize is that it’s over a mountain pass. What might look like five hours on a map is much further.” Source: Adobe Stock

 

Masienda’s supply chain is also uniquely complex. Along with a short purchasing and sourcing window, the company sources corn from multiple rural locations. “We work in many rural areas in Mexico and a carrier might say, ‘We’ll be there in five hours’ but what they don’t realize is that it’s over a mountain pass. What might look like five hours on a map is much further. We understand there will always be logistics hiccups along the way, but service and reliability from a logistics partner are crucial for our supply chain.”

“Worth the change”: Saving money and improving service with Forager

 

Dahlin had been working with a traditional brokerage when she first heard about Forager. “Right when Forager launched, I saw a mention in a supply chain newsletter and then one of our advisors mentioned Forager’s name to me. We are always looking for ways to improve processes since our supply chain is complex, so I reached out.”

Forager initially stood out to Masienda because it specialized in cross-border shipping and offered competitive rates. But, like most operations experts, Dahlin wasn’t swayed solely by price. “I’m much more willing to pay a little more for excellent service. I don’t take the decision to change our provider lightly, especially across borders in these rural areas. Already there can be problems with pickup reliability, transloading, and customs, so changing a link in our supply chain takes serious consideration.”

Forager managed its first lane for Masienda in February 2019. After that, Dahlin was sold. “The rates, the initial service, and the conversations I had made it feel like it was worth the change. I think the team is fantastic overall and our operations manager just thoroughly impressed me. There was this spirit of hospitality, we felt taken care of, there was a lot of communication. Forager and its team went above and beyond communicating with me and solving any problems.

“Straightforward, intuitive, helpful”: using SCOUT by Forager to improve processes

 

In October 2019, Forager launched its shipping portal, SCOUT by Forager. For the first time, businesses like Masienda had a free and easy-to-use portal for cross-border supply chain management. They could get rates, book loads, track freight, and manage all their lanes from one location. Masienda was one of Forager’s first customers to gain SCOUT access.

“We do a lot of LTL in the U.S. and our 3PL has a pretty robust platform, but that’s standard for domestic. Outside of that, we’re fairly tech-less. A lot of the inventory work we do has to be manual because the solutions that would work for us are quite expensive.”

 

comparison graphic of SCOUT and other platforms

SCOUT by Forager was, and is, a unicorn for small companies like Masienda: free to use and focused exclusively on cross-border. Source: Forager

 

SCOUT by Forager was, and is, a unicorn for small companies like Masienda: free to use and focused exclusively on cross-border. “SCOUT has been very easy, straightforward, intuitive, and helpful. It has been especially helpful for managing information. I still appreciate the human piece behind it because the operations team is there to confirm ‘Yes, all of this is correct.’ It’s a good balance of team support and online accessibility.”

In August 2020, Forager added new features to SCOUT including contracted rates and lanes, a rates calendar with a 14-day spot market forecast, and a 24/7 freight tracking map.  Dahlin was one of the first customers to build and book a load in the updated portal. “The rates calendar is helpful and building a spot rate couldn’t be easier – the functionality is very straightforward and intuitive. The Forager team has also been really responsive when I have suggestions.”

“The rates, the initial service, and the conversations I had made it feel like it was worth the change. I think the team is fantastic overall and our operations manager just thoroughly impressed me.”

– Danielle Dahlin, Masienda Chief Operating Officer

“Set it and forget it”: combining rates, service, and tech for a better cross-border experience

 

Masienda’s partnership with Forager has grown considerably over the past year and Dahlin has seen a difference in her operational efficiency. The company has also saved 15% on average across all its lanes.

“In some ways it feels like I can set it and forget it with Forager. It’s nice to be able to enter a load into SCOUT and know I’m going to get updates on load progress. I have confirmation that it’s on the books to be picked up, then confirmation that it’s been picked up, and then I can follow the chatter between customs and the Forager team. I know if there’s any issue I’ll be informed, but outside of that, it will cross the border and be delivered.”

Dahlin is also hoping that Forager keeps expanding its service, given its performance on cross-border supply chains. “I’d love it if Forager got into the Mexico LTL game because of the customer service. I think there are a few other boutique services and tech pieces that would make a big difference for businesses like ours.”

Dahlin laughed a little at her suggestions. “I know that’s easy to say or ask for. It’s just that Forager has really quality people on their team. Being able to work with similarly minded, driven, and reliable folks has been great. I just really enjoy working with the team.”