Tamsen Fricke: Finding the Sweet Spot

Tamsen Fricke: Finding the Sweet Spot

Tamsen Fricke has served as operations manager at Divine Chocolate USA in Washington, D.C., since 2013.

Responsibilities: Imports, inventory management, national distribution, 3PL management, quality control, customer service, operations strategy, and regulatory compliance.

Experience: Account executive, Latinflor/Flortec; account executive, Panatlantic Logistics S.A.; senior inside sales coordinator, U.S. government client liaison, government service program manager, Panalpina.

Education: BA, international studies, Middlebury College, 2002; MBA, logistics, materials and supply chain management, University of Maryland, 2012.

While earning my Bachelor’s degree in international studies, I worked for a fair trade micro-enterprise chocolate company in Ecuador. That experience taught me the supply chain in developing nations has everything to do with economic development. Given the right supply chain operation, producers can take control over their own economic well-being.

I later worked for a freight forwarder in Ecuador, then spent five years with Panalpina in the United States. I returned to the chocolate industry in 2013, when I joined Divine Chocolate USA.

As a fair trade manufacturer, Divine Chocolate sources all its cocoa beans from Kuapa Kokoo, a cooperative of farmers in Ghana that is also the company’s largest shareholder. Our other ingredients are also fair trade and non-GMO whenever possible.

We investigate the social impact of purchasing from each of our suppliers. When we buy vanilla, sugar, or almonds, for example, we want to ensure the supplier has a good track record and pays fair prices to its producers.

Divine manufactures its products mainly in Germany, then ships them to the United Kingdom and the United States for distribution. I’m in charge of the U.S. and Canada operations. I work with new product development, and help plan production levels, but my main duties involve our finished products.

I work with a freight forwarder to bring our chocolate to the United States using a variety of ocean carriers. We distribute from a large warehouse in Pennsylvania. Larger shipments go directly to the customer. If a customer orders just one or two pallets, we linehaul that with other orders to a pool location, then distribute the product locally.

One logistics challenge we face arises from the rapidly changing regulations for importing food into the United States. As food safety has become a dominant topic for the American public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has increased its inspections.

Those inspections are important, of course. But they also complicate inventory planning because they can delay import releases for up to several weeks.

As Divine Chocolate gears up for the 2014 holiday season, we’re finalizing orders from some large retailers that are carrying our product for the first time. To serve those customers, we’re implementing electronic data interchange, and automating some processes we previously handled manually. We’ll gain efficiencies as a result, but the transition is causing some growing pains.

People sometimes ask me why I work in logistics. I enjoy this field because of the impact it allows me to make, and the feeling of accomplishment from being able to clearly see the results of my work. My job at Divine Chocolate gives me the opportunity to combine my interest in fair trade with the business skills I learned as a freight forwarder and during my MBA program.

Most of my family works in the “do-gooder” industry: one sister works in politics, one is a human rights lawyer, and my parents are doctors. Working in logistics for a fair trade company is my way of doing good in the world.

The Big Questions

What have you achieved in your career that makes you especially proud?

I feel good about the work I do and my contribution to the big picture of economic development for farmers in West Africa.

What’s your favorite Divine chocolate?

My favorite bars are our dark chocolate with mango and coconut, and dark chocolate with almonds.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I ride my bicycle almost 20 miles every day, to and from work. I throw pottery, sail, and go salsa dancing. I’m also learning how to Texas Two Step.


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