Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Birth of a Product - From Idea to Market

"Do you have This?", "Why don't you have That?", "You know, you really should carry These". We hear this all the time at Brown Barn. Bringing new products to Brown Barn market is a long and complex task, requiring a series of steps to ensure that products meet Brown Barn standards.

1. An idea is born. Typically, Brown Barn product ideas come from a hole in the line or one of those conversations that go like "You would be really cool if we.....".  Ideas come from customers, our own imaginations and things we see on the market that we know we can improve on or need.

2. The idea is reviewed. Alyssa (my daughter and business partner) and I meet regularly to plan production and the introduction of new items. We seem to have a never ending list of needs in the research and development area of our company. Currently we are preparing to launch our new facial line this week. Yesterday we introduced a great new foot polish. By October 1st we hope to launch the Brown Burl's wild-crafted bath and body line along with the new Honest Balance on-line magazine (a much better blog and fun articles with recipes and other great info). After that its Christmas planning and then we will be working on a Mommy & Me line as well as a Men's line. No wonder we are often tired!

3. Development. If we decide the idea is a good one the next step is to decide if we are ready and have the ability to develop the idea into a product. This is mostly a conversation between ourselves with a realistic look at where we are and where we are headed.  New items need to pass the following questions: Is it something we have a need for? Is it something we are interested in? Is the item something our customers would like/buy? Can we make it for a price that is reasonable? Is the product able to be made using all (or nearly) natural ingredients? Does it fit Brown Barn's line? Is this an "emergency" item that is needed right now or can it wait until some other things are finished first? 

4. Formulation. Alyssa generally takes the lead in the product formulation. She draws on her wide background and education to develop a formula for us to try. Often formulation requires research on-line or a call to a teacher or expert. I then look over the formula Alyssa develops in order to add input in terms of ingredients. For example if her formula calls for soy oil, I might suggest we use one of our new infused oils instead so as to add depth to the product and that Brown Barn personal touch. We also discuss fragrance and whether this item will be in our signature line or all natural line. 

Alyssa working at the computer at the packaging station. The most important part of the product development happens while formulating at the computer.

5. Production. Once the formula is finalized it is sent off to the Brown Barn lab where Chas makes a "test" of it. Chas has become a fabulous soaper in her own right and we are so happy to have her as part of the Brown Barn family. 
Chas is blending up something yummy!

6. We then "live" with our new product for awhile. This will include everything from watching for separation to testing for mold. Trying it out on ourselves, family, friends, innocent by-standers to get input and check for skin reactions. We may have to go back to the drawing board several times during this phase (driving Chas crazy!) while we tweak the formula or change ingredients. Our new foot polish was reformulated several times as it started out too hard and then went through a switch out of ingredients followed by a suggestion to add blue jojoba beads for fun and color. We find the more time we take in this phase the better the product.

7. Ingredients are Sourced. During the development phase we use small amounts of ingredients that we either have on-hand or order in. Before we can enter production we must source our ingredients to ensure they meet Brown Barn's high standards. Ingredients must pass a list of questions including - Is the supplier reputable? Can we find the ingredient grown/sourced in the USA? If not, where does it come from? Can the ingredient come from a renewable resource? Is the price of the ingredient reasonable or will it drive our final price too high? Is this an ingredient that will be in steady supply? Sometimes we find that we have to go back to re-formulation because we cannot source our desired ingredients reasonably or consistently. Once ingredients begin to arrive we check them carefully to ensure they meet our standards for quality, color and scent.

8. Containers are selected. What color and size of jar or bottle will the product be sold in?

9. Production. FINALLY...we enter production. Brown Barn typically moves to production with a small "starter order" for its Outlet Store.  Chas is called in again to produce the final products. Depending on the product she might get to use new tools or larger equipment, such as our bottle filler.

Chas fills a bottle using our bottle filler.

10. Labeling. Once the items are made they are carefully labeled with batch numbers and logs are filled out indicating everything we've done and every detail of the batch. The products are then loaded up and moved from the lab to the Outlet Store where the labels are applied. Store clerks spend their time labeling when they are not busy with customers or filling Internet or Wholesale orders. Brenda has become an old hand at label application!

Brenda carefully applies a label to a lotion bottle. The labeling center was set up so staffers could enjoy a view of the woods while they work.

11. Photography. Kathy takes all of these wonderful product pictures in our Photo Lab which has light boxes and other props. Kathy didn't get a picture for the blog of herself taking pictures of products! Kathy's pictures are used on Facebook and web-sites as well as some of them going into our brochures, emails and sent out to wholesalers for their own marketing.

This is called a "glamour shot" of Lavender Sugar Scrub.

12. Quality Control. Once labeled, the products are moved from the labeling area to the Quality Control rack. The clerk fills out a form indicating their name and which products they labeled in case we encounter problems such as crooked labels or mislabeling. Alyssa then reviews each product carefully to ensure the labeling meets Brown Barn high standards.

13. To Market! Once the product has passed thru QC it is entered into our inventory system and assigned a product number. Some of the products are placed for sale in the Brown Barn Outlet Store while others are put in the warehouse, where they will await sale thru Internet order, shipped out to wholesale or eventually sold in the Outlet Store as inventory is restocked, At this time the products are added to our web-sites and announced on Facebook and in customer emails. 

Bar Soap lined out for sale at the Brown Barn Outlet Store in Holcombe, WI.

14. We Re-evaluate. Brown Barn is constantly evaluating and re-evaluating its product line to determine if a product should stay, be dropped or changed. It is thru this constant reflection that our line has developed. 

And there you have it! The birth of a product! The next time you pick up a Brown Barn product think of all the thought, time and care that has gone into bringing that product to market just for you. 

Have a great Sunday!

Chris Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Artisanal Infused Oils 101

This week Brown Barn launched an all new product line!  Artisanal Infused Herbal Oils. Brown Barn began producing these oils in Spring of 2013. We've been incorporating this rich oil into our bath product formulas for several months now and love it so much we decided to sell it as a direct oil for you to use at home.

We began small with two Soybean oil based products infused in Chamomile for skin relief and Lemon Balm for relaxation. We also included a Calendula infused Olive Oil for those with very sensitive skin. More oils will be introduced regularly over the coming year.

Different from regular body oil, our infused oils are lightly scented to unscented natural oils that have been infused with plant stems leaves and/or flowers selected for the specific benefits each plant brings to your skin. To learn more about the individual oils we've introduced visit our web-site at:

These oils have a number of uses but the one we like the most is as a lotion or product "booster" to your existing favorite bath items. Do you suffer from dry, itchy skin? Try adding a bit of our Chamomile Soy oil to your lotion to boost its effectiveness, making a custom formula from your existing products! The oils are also wonderful as bath and body oil or massage oil.

What makes Brown Barn oils special?

Brown Barn produces its own herbal oils using an age old process of steeping the herb directly into the oil for a period of time and then dispensing the infused oil. We only use plant materials cultivated or wildcrafted (harvested from our own woods) fresh from our Wisconsin farm or sourced from other reliable organic growers. We feel that the more plant material Brown Barn can produce itself the more control we will have over the quality, cultivation, choice of cultivar and growing conditions of these plants. In other words - our good Karma will hopefully pass on thru the plants and into your products!

Why Soybean Oil?

Most of our oils are based in Soybean Oil (we chose Olive Oil to give a very mild alternative for Sensitive Skin). We gave careful consideration to the many types of oils available on the market and chose Soybean oil for its skin-loving qualities as well as the fact that many of our surrounding farm fields grow soybeans. What better way to celebrate our local farm heritage than to utilize a product grown locally?

Benefits of Soybean Oil: 

- Improves overall skin tone
- Reduces the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines
- Effective moisturizing due to its small molecular structure, enabling Soybean oil to easily penetrate skin
- Less irritating to sensitive skin (with Olive Oil providing an even finer alternative for sensitive skin)
- Reduces blotchniess and discoloration by evening out the appearance of skin pigment
- Rich in Vitamin E, antioxidants, essential fatty acids and lecithin
- Soybean oil stimulates the synthesis of collagen, elastin and other proteins
- Soybean oil is a locally grown renewable resource

We are sure the Brown Barn Artisanal oils will find an important place in any skin care routine. You may purchase the oils at our Outlet Store or on-line at Please feel free to contact us for suggestions on how use of these valuable oils can assist your specific skin needs.

Have a great weekend!

Christine Untiedt
The Brown Barn Company llc