On Friday, August 2nd, Ola’s founder left Sonoma County for the San Francisco airport; he’d be arriving in the southwest United States that evening to meet our bottling team for DragoNoni’s first production run. On the plane Brett checked and re-checked blend ratios and inventory lists; he finished reading Jonah Lehrer’s Imagine and tried to settle his anticipation and excitement surrounding the run. Brett says the feeling was like “being a kid waiting for morning the night before Christmas”.
Our bottlers facilities are huge, Brett says. Over 40 million dollars of high-tech specialty robotics and automated bottling equipment made us feel like we were in the hands of professionals. After a quick tour of the facilities, the first phase of bottling was ready to begin—batching. First however, the folks at the plant swapped Brett’s Hawaiian tie-dye for some full coverage bottling gear, which would be stained in superfruit juice before the process was complete.
Batching began at 8pm—odd hours are typical for large production facilities like this; upon a thorough pre-inspection of the ingredients, Brett was disappointed to find some of the packages had been damaged in transit and would not be usable for this batch. So they made the best of it and moved forward, changing the total number of shots being run to match the ingredients that were available and began blending. The mixture was tested many times until Brett was satisfied with it. In the end Brett and the batcher stayed at the plant until 3am that night getting it perfect—this was the bottlers longest batching session to date.
The batcher said, “usually the CEO comes to take pictures, and stands behind the glass while we do the blending…they don’t really get their hands dirty”. But Brett preferred to be hands on, working through the night to stay in touch with the process and ensure quality above all. Looking back at the many hours he’d spent over the last year honing his palate and blending different versions of the juice, Brett was thankful for all the time he’d spent designing the flavor and taking feedback from every taster he could find.
Back at the hotel that night Brett slept for two hours before starting again at a sunrise meeting with one of the plants managers to begin the real fun—bottling! After a brief meeting to nail down some final production details, Brett and the team were ready to go. The factory environment is a busy place with lots of moving parts; filled bottles are sleeved (at 180 per minute) and carefully placed into their 12-pack boxes by hand, which are then placed in larger shipper cases to be neatly stacked onto pallets.
As the day came to a close and production was nearing its end Brett couldn’t help himself—wanting to be a part of the process he found himself in line packing boxes with the friendly staff before rushing to the airport for a midnight arrival back in California. Needless to say our first bottling run was a success!
From an idea that started at a small working Noni farm in Hawaii to the first ever organic Noni energy shot, the past 18 months have been full of hard work and good times finding creative solutions to new challenges, all leading to the day we could finally share Ola with the world. Cheers and many thanks to our friends at the plant and everyone else who helped us reach this exciting milestone.