Formula for Success: How Infant Formula Company Bobbie Met Growing Demand
Even before the baby formula crisis of 2022, Bobbie, the first infant formula certified organic according to both USDA and European Union standards, had bested its forecasts multiple times. To accommodate and manage its continued growth, the company partnered with Saddle Creek, a third-party logistics (3PL) provider based in Lakeland, Florida.
Bobbie, the first infant formula certified organic according to both USDA and European Union standards, creates products made with wholesome ingredients and without fillers, corn syrup, and palm oil. Within one year after its launch, Bobbie became the fastest-growing infant formula company to enter the U.S. market since the 1980s.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services is an asset-based third-party logistics provider based in Lakeland, Florida. The company specializes in designing and delivering omnichannel logistics solutions for manufacturers, retailers, and ecommerce companies.
“Saddle Creek has the appropriate people, systems, and locations to help us scale and grow,” says Dominic Mills, vice president of supply chain for Bobbie.
Helping companies manage rapid growth is one of Saddle Creek’s strengths. “We have a high-growth mentality and the resources required to accommodate increasing order volume, new products, and new markets,” says Luke Hendrix, the 3PL’s regional senior director of operations.
Formula is Food
At Bobbie, formula is food. Its products are made with wholesome ingredients and without fillers, corn syrup, and palm oil.
Laura Modi, co-founder and mom of three, started Bobbie in 2018 while pregnant with her second baby. She left her previous job, set up shop in the basement of her San Francisco home, and registered Bobbie Baby LLC, after the name her daughter had given her bottle. The company closed its first round of investment weeks before Modi gave birth.
By 2020, the FDA approved Bobbie’s launch. Within one year, it had become the fastest-growing infant formula company to enter the U.S. market since the 1980s. Its growth continues to remain at triple-digit levels. Saddle Creek has helped Bobbie manage that growth and continue to meet customer expectations.
Bobbie started with a subscription model and continues to be subscription focused. “This way, we can connect directly to our customers and provide information, resources, and a more personalized consumer experience,” Mills says. In addition, Bobbie has moved into the retail channel, enabling more parents to access its products.
At the onset of the baby formula shortage in 2022, Bobbie’s customer count doubled overnight. Management made the unprecedented move to prioritize the company’s existing customer base and stopped taking new subscription orders. This step helped ensure existing customers would have formula through the end of their feeding journey.
“We committed to our current customers; we made the decision for the benefit of our parents,” Mills says.
“As a team of mostly parents ourselves, we knew it was 100% the right decision,” Mills adds. “When you subscribe to Bobbie, we subscribe to you.”
When Bobbie launched with a national retailer during the baby formula shortage, providing increased accessibility to its formula during a time when formula-feeding parents across the United States needed it most, Saddle Creek was able to assist.
“We showed up on store shelves across the country—the only American-founded infant formula to do so during the shortage,” Mills says. “As a mostly subscription-based business, we also wanted to have product on the shelf for someone who needed it.”
Saddle Creek’s assistance in helping execute orders with the retailer was essential, and one reason Bobbie earned a vendor of the year award, Mills says. The company plans to expand its retail channel to augment its direct-to-consumer subscription business.
Focusing on Relationships
As an omnichannel solutions provider, Saddle Creek works with retailers, ecommerce companies, subscription companies, and other organizations, with a focus on designing the right solution for each client. “We don’t try to get clients to fit into a mold,” Hendrix says.
‘We focus on relationships,” he adds. “We collaborate to help build businesses. And when there’s an issue, we pick up the phone and work through it.”
A mutual connection brought Saddle Creek and Bobbie together in 2022. Bobbie had been looking for a partner that could scale with its own growth.
“We were looking for a partner that could adapt, scale, and open new fulfillment locations as we needed them,” Mills says. In addition, strong communication, close collaboration, and tight systems integrations have been key to the partnership between the two companies.
“We expect Saddle Creek to kit a high volume of orders, ship them on time in full without errors, and that’s exactly what’s happened,” Mills says. “If I’m not worried, things are good.”
Saddle Creek also is “quick to communicate, to own problems, and to put in place corrective action,” Mills says.
A thorough onboarding process, in which both sides talk through an extensive list of requirements and questions, allows Saddle Creek to put in place the right resources to ensure the company can deliver the solutions the client needs.
Since the two companies began working together, Bobbie has experienced exponential growth, achieving four times its volume projections in 2022. Saddle Creek quickly expanded its distribution operations from 22,000 to 53,000 square feet.
“We’re also exploring new locations and looking at building out new channels with Saddle Creek,” Mills says.
Saddle Creek’s order management system (OMS) and its multiple distribution locations also allow it to help clients more effectively manage supply chain risk. For example, early in 2023, major ice storms forced some Texas operations to shut down. Saddle Creek’s OMS could quickly fill orders from the other sites, minimizing the impact to Bobbie’s customers.
“We were able to shift orders to our California and Pennsylvania distribution centers within just a few hours,” Hendrix says.
Having multiple sites also allows Saddle Creek to be more flexible in allocating labor and space. If demand spikes, Saddle Creek can shift work to the site with available capacity and workers.
Recently, Saddle Creek also helped Bobbie introduce a new, gentle version of its formula. “Through our warehouse management system (WMS), we were able to receive and hold the inventory until they were ready to launch,” Hendrix says.
Among other solutions Bobbie is using, the Saddle Creek WMS supports kitting operations to create multi-packs in various sizes. As important, the system can manage the components and complexity, and track lots. Should issues arise, it’s possible to efficiently trace the products—a key capability for a product such as infant formula.
Indeed, when a business model like Bobbie’s involves a sensitive consumer product, traceability is paramount. When Saddle Creek’s WMS orchestrates kitting operations, it ensures each kit contains the correct lot code and inventory, which are critical to accurately tracking inventory.
As the individual items required for a kit move into the work-in-process area, the WMS assigns a new stockkeeping unit (SKU) for the complete kit, all managed through the assembly and kitting management module. The Saddle Creek system can manage the components and complexity and accurately track each lot.
In addition, Saddle Creek’s parcel capabilities help clients, including Bobbie, efficiently rate shop different carriers. They can identify those offering the best combination of price and service level for each order.
Saddle Creek also provides some ecommerce apparel fulfillment and returns services for Bobbie. It’s also expanding its client services resources and adding new channel partners and integration technologies.
The connectivity that Saddle Creek can provide between the various distribution locations is critical.
“While the locations operate somewhat independently, over-arching communication and connections at multiple levels of our organization help us maintain a central vision and streamline operations,” Mills says.
A more segregated model would have required several times the amount of integration work and calls.
In addition, the warehouses are well-organized, clean, controlled, and secure. “All three have excellent housekeeping, which speaks to the overall way they operate,” Mills say. “There’s a place for everything and everything in its place.”
That’s one reason why a recent mock inventory audit at the Texas facility, which fulfills a range of wholesale and direct-to-consumer orders, found 100% accuracy.
The two companies continue to work together to streamline and improve operations. “Our next step is to examine everything we do,” Mills says, noting that a process that met the company’s needs when it was originally implemented may no longer be the best option.
“It’s a constant review of our network and operations, looking for ways to not just save money, but also to reduce steps,” Mills says.
For instance, Saddle Creek and Bobbie are evaluating how best to communicate orders, lower shipping costs, and more efficiently build kits.
Among other recommendations, Saddle Creek proposed a robotic shrink-wrapping machine as well as alternative options for tape and packaging that could help to reduce the amount of labor needed and control costs while providing the same quality customer experience.
Both companies are also reviewing the systems and facilities that will be needed for Bobbie to continue to grow its business.
Saddle Creek is “making sure we’re ready to take on that scale,” Mills says.
Casebook Study: Baby Boom
Find a logistics partner with the people, systems, and locations that could support Bobbie’s triple-digit growth, including both its subscription business and its move into retail.
Partner with Saddle Creek, an omnichannel logistics solutions provider that utilizes a nationwide distribution network, advanced technologies, and a wide range of capabilities to custom-engineer the best solution to meet each client’s unique needs.
Saddle Creek helped Bobbie more than double the footprint of its distribution operations, quadruple its order volume, launch a new version of its formula, and add a retail channel to its subscription business—all while meeting (or exceeding) the company’s high standards for a best-in-class customer experience.
The two companies are continuing to work together to streamline and improve operations, including how best to communicate orders, lower shipping costs, and more efficiently build kits. They’re also evaluating the systems and facilities that will help Bobbie continue to grow its business.