Andrew Dunbar has made healthy snacking a way of life with an unconventional sweet: cacao nibs.
In 2014, Dunbar was working in the healthcare industry and was looking for a change. So he decided to follow a lifelong dream of starting his own business and launched a cacao nib startup. At that time, cacao nibs were not a well-known treat, but Dunbar was on a mission to bring the snack into the spotlight. He knew that with enough effort he could spread the word about the tastiness and health benefits of cacao nibs. He hoped that the snack would be a hit, but he couldn’t have foreseen just how much his business would grow in only a few short years.
Building a Cacao Company
In the early years, Dunbar was packaging his cacao nibs in stock bags with hand-applied labels, and selling them via Amazon. Eventually, he found a packer that would package the nibs for him and ship them directly to the e-commerce giant. The packer he found was Kakosi, a Venezuelan cacao brand that produced a variety of cacao products. Two brothers had started the company to help their friends and family grow and sell cacao naturally, without the use of pesticides.
As Dunbar’s business was growing, the stars aligned – Kakosi was looking to sell its cacao business.
“It all seemed to line up. The timing was perfect for me to acquire Kakosi,” says Dunbar.
Since Dunbar acquired the company in 2016, he works hard to keep the original sustainable and ethical farming practices in place.
A Chance Encounter with ePac Creates a Packaging Transformation
After the acquisition, one of the first things Dunbar set out to do was upgrade the packaging. Since the products were already sold in the popular pouch format, Dunbar was mainly looking to create a new design that would resonate with the end-user. He had chosen pouches because they’re so light-weight, unbreakable, and really resonate with consumers. Plus, it was the best format for the on-the-go size he would later relaunch in ePac’s digitally printed pouches.
As Dunbar began the rebranding in 2016, he started working with a packaging supplier overseas to create the new packaging, but he was having to endure large minimum orders, several plate set-ups, and mounting fees.
“Each package has a clear window and that meant extra plate fees,” says Dunbar.
Dunbar hadn’t yet heard of ePac and its capabilities so he thought that this was the only way. Budget constraints meant that Kakosi had to move through the repackaging process slowly.
“Once we figured out what the new packaging would be, we didn’t have the budget to do it all right away. It was expensive, and we had high minimums and huge orders… it was a big investment, so we broke it up into three rounds,” says Dunbar.
But the stars aligned again for the small business when out of the blue Dunbar received a call from ePac. The sales representative pitched him a new way of ordering pouches with digital printing. Even though he was already in the process of ordering new pouches from a different supplier, Dunbar still listened to the pitch.
“I needed a good price and a low minimum order, and she got back to me with exactly that!” says Dunbar.
ePac was able to deliver quality pouches with a low order minimum, all with a fast turnaround. What’s more, the order minimum was for the order as a whole, not by SKU, which helped stand the company apart from the competition.
“It took a long time to find a good vendor, with low minimum orders, and a good price point. I am so happy I went with ePac; I only wish I would have found them before, I wouldn’t have nearly as many pouches as I have right now, and I’d have more cash in the bank. We’ll be using ePac for all future products and orders,” says Dunbar.
From the start, Dunbar knew that working with ePac was different than working with his former overseas supplier. ePac specializes in short runs, is competitively priced, and has offices throughout the U.S.
“Our other packaging was printed in China, where it took three months to get here after sitting in customs for a month. ePac has offices all over, including in Boston, so we got our order in a matter of weeks instead of months,” says Dunbar.
Another big difference? With digital printing, various design elements and changes are a lot easier.
“With digital printing that doesn’t matter, you just change the image on the computer and you’re done. There are no set-up charges for each design and no plates to buy… that’s a big plus,” says Dunbar.
Andrew Dunbar and Kakosi know that a great package has the power to tell a story, draw consumers in, and keep them coming back.
“It used to be that it took a long time before customers knew the quality and flavors of our cacao. But with the updated packaging, people are much more eager to try it,” says Dunbar.
In July 2019, Dunbar received his 1-ounce, 3-side seal, lay-flat, recyclable pouches from ePac for five SKUs in the product line-up: cocoa butter, shea butter, cacao nibs, and two hot cacao varieties. The small size allows consumers to try something new, use just what they need for a recipe, or take the product on the go. The ePac pouches are fully branded, feature a clear window to see the product inside, and are recyclable, which aligns with the brand’s emphasis on sustainability.
Since working with ePac, sales for the popular 1-ounce size bags are up. Retailers and consumers like the look and feel of the small bags, and they offer a great opportunity for people to give the products a try.
“It’s easier now to sell the products because of the better packaging. Also, once stores put them on to shelves, they start selling much quicker than before, and re-orders are more frequent. And it’s because packaging sells,” says Dunbar.
Today, Kakosi creates hot cacao mix, cacao nibs, baking products like cacao and shea butters, as well as cacao baking powder. The brand sells its products to health food stores, grocery and gourmet stores, as well as online to consumers. Kakosi supports local groups in Ecuador and in the Dominican Republic so that cacao can still be produced ethically and sustainably. Thanks to the custom, branded and recyclable pouches from ePac, Dunbar is able to better tell that brand story through the best avenue- the packaging.
Are you a small brand looking to make a big impact through your confection packaging? Call us today for a free quote to see how we can help you.