COCO teams up with ePac for arty pouches

Artisan chocolate company COCO Chocolatier uses its packaging as a canvas for artists and artisans from around the world. Its chocolate bars are wrapped in artwork showcasing a multitude of styles and genres. However, bringing that successful concept to stand-up pouches for a new product line proved a challenge, until the COCO team was introduced to ePac UK’s digital print expertise.

Bringing together chocolate and art with packaging

Edinburgh-based COCO Chocolatier was founded in 2004. The company was acquired in 2013 by Calum Haggerty, who spotted an exciting opportunity to combine business with his passion for art, and in the process make art more accessible to the public. Working with a leading design agency, the COCO branding for each product was evolved under the tagline ‘The Art of Chocolate’, moving it from generic geometric designs to specially commissioned artwork. 

“We collaborate with independent artists from all over the world to create unique designs to wrap our chocolate,” said Calum. ‘We also work with many like-minded creative businesses, such as TATE and Talisker, to create limited editions.” 

High profile partnerships have resulted in exclusive collections of chocolate bars, such as the Thank You NHS! project, which was created to raise funds for the NHS and express gratitude for the amazing work done by healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. This featured artwork by Sir Billy Connolly, along with illustrator and graphic novelist Andrew Rae, and Portis Wasp, a Scottish mixed media artist whose work is inspired by pop culture and celebrity.

Winning designs for ethical chocolate products

As the company has grown, new flavours have been introduced and the product portfolio has expanded. Personalized artwork from contemporary artists grace the packaging of premium chocolate bars, batons, thins, drops, truffles and drinking chocolate, which come in both traditional and new innovative flavours, such as Rose & Black Pepper, Lavender and Haggis Spice.  

The arty chocolate products really stand out in a crowded market, and in 2020, they won COCO a place on The Dieline’s list of Top 50 Package Designs. “Our art concept allows our products to look unique, and simultaneously provides a platform for artists to showcase their work to an audience that may have never come across their art before,” said Calum.

COCO’s approach to sourcing the ingredients for the chocolate is also very innovative. The company decided early on it would work with its Colombian supply partners to create a more finished product at origin, rather than importing the cacao themselves. 

“We like to challenge the industry norm, so instead of buying the raw commodity at much lower cost, we purchase coverture (high-quality chocolate buttons) directly from Colombia and use those to create our chocolate products here in Edinburgh. This contributes to the economy of a developing country, and it is something that we are really proud of,” explained Calum. 

Getting to market with short pouch runs

The latest product line from COCO is a range of giant chocolate buttons, sold in pouches produced by ePac UK, with artwork by illustrator and fine artist, David Bray. There are three varieties – dark, milk and white chocolate – each featuring one of David’s delicate drawings with themes that are rooted in the reality of dark fantasy, beauty, erotica, and the female form. David’s art can also be found on jars of chocolate caramel spread, another recent introduction.

The new button stand-up pouches have been digitally printed and converted at ePac UK’s Silverstone plant, leveraging the power of their line of HP Indigo 20000 Digital Presses and state-of-the-art pouch-making machinery. ePac UK was able to deliver the perfect combination of high-quality graphics, short run lengths of each SKU, and just-in-time production, finally enabling COCO to get to market with this packaging format.

“Previously pouches have been cost prohibitive due to the volume we would be required to purchase, so this is the first time we have created pouches like this for our products,” said Debbie MacLennan, COCO’s Product Development Manager.

Digital technology skips a whole step in prepress, as no printing plates are required. This naturally speeds up the process and eliminates the costs associated with making plates. As a result, minimum order quantities (MOQs) can be kept low, giving brands the opportunity to print multiple SKUs at lower cost and without the financial risk of ending up with surplus stock. With conventional printing, brands must order thousands of pouches up front, which in the past has denied many new companies access to professional looking packaging. 

For COCO, the benefits of partnering with ePac are clear. “Working with ePac UK has allowed us to produce smaller numbers per SKU than we would traditionally have been able to. For us that meant we could launch the new line and that we are able to offer it at a cost-effective margin,” said Debbie. 

She added, “We chose ePac because we liked the quality and the bold colours they can produce. They also offer much more flexibility than other suppliers and have kept us updated about the progress throughout the project.”

Expanding the chocolate experience

COCO Chocolatier is currently renovating a building at the Port Edgar Marina in South Queensferry, as it prepares the next step in its journey by moving its production and office facilities to larger premises. 

The new home will also include a visitor centre attraction to allow customers closer access to the brand and the artwork it has become so famous for, including work David Bray created for the new pouches. 

“It has always been an aspiration of ours to open a visitor centre, where people could take chocolate making classes, attend chocolate tasting experiences and view the artwork that we use on our wrappers, so this is very exciting,” concluded Calum.

Are you looking to get your products into stand-up pouches with photo-quality print in bright, clear colours, but finding it difficult due to high minimum order quantities? Get in touch today to hear how we can help you.