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Supply In Command with Areli Pino

As Mast Market’s supply chain director, Areli Pino is responsible for the creation or curation of every single item in the store. She meticulously sources all the ingredients that go into our Mast Made goods, from the organic cacao for our chocolate bars to the beans for our house roasted coffee to the local grain for our freshly milled flour. She also purchases the fresh produce, compelling condiments, cookware, books, and more that we offer to customers.

“I do a lot of research about producers and brands and establish relationships with them,” she explains. “I also deal with the organic and kosher certifications. I need to make sure that everything we make adheres to our requirements—specifically organic and as local as possible. For things that we don't produce, I’m looking for brands that align with our vision.” Under Areli’s guidance, Mast currently produces over 150 certified organic products.

With Areli at the helm of an increasingly complex supply chain, producing and selling the best possible products on the market is made possible. Here, she shares her favorite parts of her job, what her professional day-to-day actually looks like, how she ended up working at Mast in the first place, and why the role is a perfect fit.

Mast Journal: What is your favorite part of your job?

Areli Pino: My favorite part is connecting with suppliers and producers. I really like discovering new brands and finding out what farmers are doing. And the same goes for packaging. Our new packaging is compostable, so there were a lot of things that I learned along the way. I really like learning what's happening, how things are improving, what new things are coming up, and working with the people that align with our same mission.

MJ: That's awesome. And how did you get into supply chain work? What did you do before? 

AP: I've always been in the food world. I'm from Mexico and my parents actually own bakeries, so I've always gravitated towards food. I got my bachelors degree in nutrition and then I came here to do my masters degree in food studies at New York University. That basically covered everything from culture to business to the food economy.

Before this, I was doing operations for another food company. For me, it was about putting better products out on the market. With nutrition, yes, some people have better eating habits than others, but a lot of times it comes down to the food access that they have. My main thing was, ‘How can we have better products out there so that more people can get them?’

MJ: That’s super interesting. How did you find your way to Mast?

AP: I was just looking for a company that shared my values in the products that they were making. That's how I ended up at Mast. And since I started, which was back in 2017, we have expanded the range of things that I'm sourcing. Now, we have way more products than what we used to.

MJ: Do you have a favorite product that you work on?

AP: I personally love the almond butter, which is also a popular item with our customers. It's just one ingredient, it's literally just almonds. But the flavor comes from the actual quality of the almonds that I'm sourcing from California, from one farm that I've been working with for a while now. In my opinion, that just makes it taste so good. And obviously we use the same method with our chocolate. 

MJ: That sounds delicious.

AP: I also really like our ice cream. We don’t have it right now—we took a little break for winter—but in the summer, we're going to have it again. We have one that is made with English breakfast tea that I think is really good. And we make them in small batches.

MJ: Wow. And what does your day-to-day look like? Are you based at the Mount Kisco location?

AP: Yes, I'm always here. Sometimes I go to the city, just to check in with the guys, because another part of my job is sending all the products to the city. I'm in close contact with them and I obviously order all the products and all that, so I do make trips to the city, but I'm based here in Mount Kisco. This is where my day-to-day is.

For the most part, I'm tracking inventory, which is a very critical part of our business. And I’m supervising online orders. We have someone that ships the orders, but I'm supervising that things are going out of the door. And again, I’m just looking for new products. We're always looking to expand our categories, so I’m contacting new suppliers and researching new brands that we want to bring in to fill a spot.

MJ: That makes sense! What new categories are you working on?

AP: We just launched our prepared foods, so we're making sandwiches, salads, and soups. We've been working a lot on that lately, so obviously making sure that we're sourcing the right ingredients that we want to use. And because we use local produce, that means that a lot of things change all the time. We're basing the menu on what's available by the season, which is also very interesting because not everybody realizes that most of the food that they get is not grown near them. 

MJ: Totally.

AP: That's something that people need to know. We don't have strawberries yet because it's too early in the season, but they’re coming soon. So I'm already talking to Fishkill Farms in upstate New York, who we've been working with for three years. Every summer I wait for them to have strawberries, which are so good for making strawberry jam.

MJ: Who doesn’t love strawberry season?

AP: And tomatoes are coming back soon, too, so we’re preparing for that.

MJ: And what about brands? Are there any newcomers you’re excited about?

AP: We’ve been expanding our non-alcoholic beverage selection, so I’ve been talking to a bunch of different brands in that category. I recently learned about dealcoholized beverages, and we’re bringing in non-alcoholic wine and non-alcoholic gin. We also brought in a new organic medicine brand called Genexa. And I'm also trying to source products for the home and kitchen sections now. 

MJ: Very cool! Do you have a team that supports you in these tasks?

AP: Yes, I have someone that helps me with inventory, for the most part. So she's really great. And then, again, I supervise fulfillment, so I have two people on that team. And we just recently hired a shipping coordinator. 

MJ: That’s awesome.

AP: Most of them have been here since we moved to this location and opened this facility in late 2019. I think, at this point, I’m the only one that came from Brooklyn.

MJ: Ah, you moved right before the pandemic. How did that affect your job?

AP: The supply chain changed a lot in the past three years. Obviously, COVID was really hard for everybody, but the area that was the most hectic was supply chain. And things haven't gone back to the way that they were before. Things keep changing. And for me, that's one thing that makes it exciting. We're working with local producers and suppliers—because we live in a world where you often don't even realize where you're getting things from—so it hasn't been easy, but it's also what makes my job exciting.

MJ: Challenges can be good! And what do you love most about Mast as a company?

AP: I just really believe in what we do. Like I mentioned, I always wanted to help people have better eating habits, but part of that is accessibility. So I love that we’re making products that have good ingredients and that we're supporting local farms and other brands that have the same mission that we do. That's something that I really like about working here. And honestly, all the products that we make and the team that we have is the best. We have a reliable group of people that work and live in this community.

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