Throughout 2019, we’ve frequently been out of stock on a number of our herbs and formulas, including some of our most popular ones. And I’d like to apologize for this. We don’t enjoy being out of stock and we find it very frustrating as well.
That being said, I wanted to take a little time and explain the many reasons why this happens occasionally, as well as paint a more hopeful, rosy picture of the future in which we can improve and limit these situations.
Big vs. Small Suppliers
To understand why running out of stock is sometimes a good thing, you have to understand the differences between the massive-size suppliers and those who are on a smaller scale, aka specialty boutiques.
Understand that first and foremost, our “Unending Quest for Quality” is one of Lost Empire’s Core Values. Our quest for quality pertains to everything we do, especially the herbs. (After all, as a company where everybody involved takes the herbs, we also only want the finest quality available for our personal use.)
What this means is that we seek out the suppliers who have the finest ingredients we can find. This also means we may use one supplier for only one specific herb. For example, a supplier may have the best quality of Pine Pollen we’ve found, but their other herbs do not meet our standards.
In fact, the forty or so herbs we offer come from around twenty different suppliers. This makes everything more complex and labor intensive, but we do it to ensure we offer only the finest quality herbs available.
Compare this to how most supplement companies work….they typically contract with only one large manufacturer who has numerous different herbs or nutrients. And in many cases, these large companies’ source their herbs from several other sources. While extracts may be standardized, what comes from one place is not necessarily the same as another. (If it’s in a capsule, you might not ever know the difference, but you’ll notice in the powders or tinctures, which is most of what we offer.)
The problem is, and we know this because we’ve investigated using some of these companies, the bigger they are…the worse the quality tends to be.
If you’re a huge company, sure, you’re likely doing everything right by the QC standards, testing the herbs and all that. You have quality controls set up. But that doesn’t mean that the real QUALITY of the herbs is the focus. If an item is one of the hundreds you offer, you simply don’t care all that much about it- its just one of many.
Whereas, with a smaller company, there is often a higher level of care and consideration. You have people who are inspired and dedicated to the herbs and the art of growing, harvesting, making, and using them right. But their systems for managing their inventory isn’t that great or sometimes even non-existent.
We work with many of these smaller boutique suppliers. Take for example our Ashwagandha farmer and tincture preparer, we have actually helped finance their growth so they can keep things in stock better. Another example of this is the recent issues we’ve had with our Nettle Root Tincture being out of stock for a while. Changes have been made and hopefully, these issues are now resolved.
We’ve also been out of Mucuna for a while now. Unfortunately, this is because our supplier is out of stock. We could easily go find another supply of Mucuna elsewhere…but it wouldn’t be the same thing. And while there are some variations between batches of certain herbs for reasons listed in this article, we will not switch to a different supplier for a temporary fix like this when we absolutely love who we are currently using and the quality of their herbs.
All these scenarios can create big issues with our single herbs. But then the issues get even more compounded when it comes to our formulas because each formula has multiple ingredients. And our formulas are a bit different others in the market in the market. This is because, more often than not, each herb is coming from a different place. Again, this complicates things for us…but there’s a reason people love our formulas and they work!
Currently, Mucuna is out of stock, and it is affecting the production of our Thor’s Hammer, even though we have the rest of the ingredients available.
In short, there does appear to be a tradeoff between having only the best stuff and having it readily available.
Why We Run Out of Stock
There are plenty of other things that also can come up and are totally out of our control. Things like FDA holds on items passing through customs which happens randomly and can take months to clear up. (This seems to happen a lot with Tongkat Ali.)
And half the time, it is for the same reasons I mentioned above… like a supplier runs out of stock. This may occur on a farm where the herbs are cultivated. Or it could be due to the inability to wildcraft the wild herbs. And then sometimes a batch doesn’t pass QC controls which also delays everything. And the list goes on and on.
But I will not lie. Sometimes we mess up and it’s our fault. Things slip through the cracks and something doesn’t get ordered in time, or we massively underestimate how well a product will sell (*cough* Stag Swag *cough*).
However, we are working towards improving our internal systems. In fact, right now we are upgrading to an ERP (enterprise resource planning) system that should reduce these kinds of mistakes.
Plus, with so many different herbs, having the cash to buy a year’s worth of inventory is not always something we are financially able to do. We’re not investment backed, and we’re aiming to steer clear of VC’s or IPO’s so we don’t have millions of dollars just lying around. Instead, our inventory is funded by our operations and limited amounts of debt.
What We’re Doing to Keep In Stock Better
As I already mentioned, we are upgrading our systems so we can reduce and avoid mistakes on our end.
We are also getting some outside help with managing our cash flow and inventory, so at least we can reduce these situations and keep our most popular items in stock.
So this means that we may actually start discontinuing a few of the herbs that aren’t big sellers. This way we’ll have more cash flow to spend on our most popular herbs. It was a hard decision to make, but it is something we believe will help.
As we grow, with economies of scale, hopefully, we hope to eliminate out-of-stock issues or at least greatly reduce them. Then we can start to bring back some of the herbs we discontinue.
In the meantime, there are a couple of things you can do:
- Be sure to stock up if you can. Buy a few extra bags or bottles so you don’t have to worry about running out of your favorite, most essential herbs.
- And if you do run out, be sure to use our waiting list so you’ll receive the latest updates and know as soon as an item arrives and becomes available again.
- Subscribe to our Pine Pollen Powder and Capsules, and Tincture, which gives you first dibs (aka we hold some stock in supply specifically for subscribers). And once our systems are upgraded and we have a better handle on our inventory control, we plan to roll out subscriptions for everything… but this may take some time.
- If we are out of stock on something you need, most times we do have alternatives available that may be helpful in reaching the same goals. Please contact our amazing customer support at [email protected] or call them at 831-454-8947 and ask what can you use as a substitute.
In the end, please be patient with us. Trust me, we don’t like being out of stock either and are doing everything within our control and power to prevent these issues.