Thinking inside the bag with stand-up pouches from ePac

When two Belgian entrepreneurs wanted to upgrade their packaging choice, they turned to ePac Lyon for help with their unique Puzzle in a Bag.

Puzzle in a Bag, or PIAB for short, is a unique initiative by Ghent-based Niels Desot and Dimitri Devroe, who set up an e-commerce agency during lockdown. More than just offering consultancy, they wanted to get their hands ‘dirty’ and decided to set up their own store to really understand the process of marketing and selling online. The product they chose to launch was a contemporary jigsaw puzzle.

“When we founded our business, which we named ‘dear digital’, we realised that the best way to get close to our customers would be to walk in their shoes, so to speak,” explained Niels, who is in charge of growing the company, partnerships, and production and logistics. “Dimitri’s wife had gotten into jigsaw puzzles in a big way during the lockdown and she wasn’t very impressed with the themes. Most of them were fairly standard landscapes, famous paintings or Disney characters, so there was clearly an opportunity there to introduce something a little more modern and funkier.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, puzzling went from an old-fashioned hobby to being so popular that jigsaws were selling out everywhere, with manufacturers struggling to keep up. Suddenly, everyone from film star Hugh Jackman to your next-door neighbour were spending hours and hours during lockdown trying to piece together a picture of van Gogh’s Sunflowers or Elsa from Frozen. And Instagram was flooded with photos of the completed masterpieces.

What started out as a learning experience for Niels and Dimitri, however, ended up as a runaway success, when their topical jigsaw puzzle hit the headlines of national papers and the two friends were featured on TV news. Pretty soon, there was a long waiting list of customers eager to get their hands on a Puzzle in a Bag. 

The pair knew they were onto a winner. 

Finding the right packaging

The original puzzle design was packed with references to the year 2020. Set in an amusement park, the cartoon-styled image had references to coronavirus, Trump, lockdown parties, Amazon drones, Brexit, fake news, climate change, and much more. Initially, the two entrepreneurs boldly ordered 3,000 units, warning family and friends that they would find puzzles under their Christmas tree for years to come if the venture failed.

The puzzles were sold in bags that looked good but didn’t quite hit the mark. “Right from the start, we knew we wanted to use a bag instead of the traditional cardboard box for the puzzle. We found a supplier, but as it was a test, we didn’t spend enough time doing research to find the right material and partner,” said Niels. “As a result, it wasn’t very user-friendly because people couldn’t use it to store their puzzles, and there wasn’t the option to do much customization.”

The design for the second puzzle was created by the renowned Ghent visual artist Musketon, who is known for his satirical style of art. Asking the question: “What if … the internet was a physical location?” – it is set in a cityscape that illustrates what the real world might look like if the online world became reality. To contribute to a greener planet, part of the earnings of every puzzle that is sold goes to planting trees in Peru with the Go Forest initiative.

When the PIAB team brought the puzzle to market, a lot more thought was put into the packaging. They looked for a supplier that could help them upgrade the bag. 

The main criteria were flexibility in terms of design, fast production and delivery, and the right quality materials.

“We realised that we needed to find someone who could manufacture a resealable, stand-up pouch that was large enough to contain the puzzle, a small ‘newspaper’ that told the story and a surprise envelope. We also wanted more freedom and opportunities in design to really reflect the quality and excitement of the contents,” Niels explained. “After researching the offerings on the market, we came across ePac Lyon, and it was pretty clear that they had the capabilities we were after.”

Digital print from ePac solves the problem

With plans to scale up the business quickly and become the biggest online puzzle brand across Europe, PIAB carried out a customer satisfaction survey to find areas for improvement. The main complaint turned out to be the quality of the bag, so they were keen to enhance the user experience. Furthermore, as the team spread their activities to more countries, they wanted the design for each local market to be different, meaning the number of SKUs would grow. And being able to order several SKUs in one order was an advantage they show with ePac.

ePac Lyon specialises in digitally printed flexible packaging, supporting brands of all sizes with custom-made pouches, delivered in just 15 business days, and rollstock in 10. Many startups have been launched very successfully with packaging from ePac, because digital print gives them the opportunity to go to market with high quality pouches from very early on in their journey. 

From cookies, sweets and nuts to coffee, protein powders, socks, gloves and now also puzzles, the resealable stand-up pouch is popular with brand owners keen to leverage the benefits of this type of packaging application. For PIAB, the decision to move away from bulky cardboard boxes was also rooted in a desire to cut down energy used on transport and storage. 

“ePac Lyon and their digital print capabilities solved all of our problems,” said Dimitri, who focuses on digital marketing, branding and puzzle creation. “As we expand, we are introducing more SKUs in quite short runs, and we want our packaging to look professional and ooze shelf appeal, even on the online storefront. Furthermore, we need fast turnaround and just-in-time delivery with the flexibility to change design right up until the last minute. Digital print does just that.”

Great response to new pouches

But it takes more than the right technology to offer real value to small companies that are entering a new market. You also need technical experts that can guide you. At ePac Lyon, Etienne Soyer works closely with customers to find the perfect packaging solution for their products. 

“When we first contacted ePac Lyon, Etienne was very responsive from the first moment. He took the time to talk to us and quickly understood what we were looking for. Then he immediately sent us samples, so we could quickly decide on the right material and the size of the pouch,” said Niels. “We are very pleased with the result, and so far, this has been a great partnership. We hope we can work together for years to come.” 

Dimitri added, “The response from customers is also so much better. We are now getting the first reviews for the new product, and the soft-touch pouch is mentioned as one of the biggest pluses, both in design and feel, as well as in functionality. We took a big risk changing from cardboard boxes to bags, but it paid off, and we are now ready to bring even more puzzles to market in pouches with ePac.”

“Working with the PIAB team has been very exciting, and we are extremely happy to see that the new packaging is getting such a great response from puzzle enthusiasts,” said Etienne. “Putting a jigsaw puzzle in a bag is of course unusual, but it just goes to show how versatile and impactful our stand-up pouches are. I can’t wait to see what they do next.”

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.

Sports Glove Brand Finds Surprising Benefits Switching from Rigid to Flexible Packaging

Invictus Gloves, a Montreal based company of high-quality custom football, baseball and golf gloves, gives athletes the unique opportunity to express their own unique identity while maximizing their athletic performance. The company began in July 2016 when Karl Lavallée-Rodrigue, a former Canadian university football receiver, realized the growing desire for athletes to showcase their personality on the field. Lavallée wanted to offer every athlete in the world the opportunity to show off their individual flair.

Invictus Gloves allow athletes to customize their own sports gloves with a unique 3D gloves creator so they can express their true colors and identity. Invictus Gloves is dedicated to providing athletes with a premium sports glove to help them perform at their best. Their innovative and high-quality sports gloves support football players in their pursuit of excellence.

Subbing in the Pouch

When Lavallée first began selling his gloves, he was packaging them in rigid boxes with a clear window. After a few years in business, Lavallée began to explore new football glove packaging options as part of Invictus’s rebranding effort. 

Looking for a change, but not yet thinking “outside the box,” he began to explore different box styles to keep with this original format. But as the rebranding effort started to get off the ground, he was introduced to a new idea that wound up paying off right away. 

“We were looking to redo the packaging as part of our rebranding. At the same time, ePac contacted us offering a solution with pouches. I had never thought of it before… but once I saw what the final product could be, and then the cost savings, I quickly chose ePac,” says Lavallée.

The box that the brand originally used to package the gloves was a far heavier and bigger package than the new pouch. Since moving the gloves to pouches, he says he reduced the cost of the packaging by 78%, and the cost of shipping by 11%. Not only that, but the pouches are far easier to pack than the boxes. He estimates it takes about half the time for the small team to hand pack the gloves in the pouches than in the boxes. 

The Invictus football gloves are sold in stand-up resealable pouches from ePac that offer the quality and custom design that Lavallée was looking for. And since sports gloves are traditionally sold packaged in either rigid boxes, or hanging off a paperboard back, the new flexible package format is truly disrupting the market. 

Digital Printing Changes the Game

Invictus’ stand-up pouches are matte black and feature metallic gold writing. The digitally printed pouches are helping the small company to convey their custom and luxury brand. 

“The main goal was to come up with new packaging to show the brand image, personality, and core values. As a high-end company, we focus more on the quality first…We wanted super nice-looking packaging to match the quality and value of our custom gloves. My favorite part of this has been designing the new package…We wanted to be sure that we were seen as a premium brand for sports gloves. I think we really accomplished that with the design for the pouches,” says Lavallée.

Digital pouch printing has allowed Invictus to use crisp, high-definition imagery, with top of the line print quality in order to showcase the brand’s high-class image. 

“With using pouches and digital printing, the main thing I really like is the possibility of infinite design, as well as the high-quality images. We had high-resolution football, baseball, and golf images that we wanted to use on the pouch and I was worried that the quality wouldn’t be there once they were printed on the pouch. But they came out very clear,” says Lavallée.

Looking to the Future of Their Glove Packaging 

Today, Invictus Gloves is working on expanding outside of football and into creating gloves for both baseball and golf players. But for now, one thing is for sure: switching to quality, custom pouches from ePac has helped Invictus meet its goal of a high-end, premium packaging look for their high-end, premium sports glove. 

Whether you’re seeking to do a rebrand of your packaging, or are just starting out on your packaging journey, we’d love to connect with you to help you get the quality flexible packaging solutions your brand needs.

How One Apparel Company Dropped Everything to Help During COVID-19

BELLA+CANVAS, the second-largest apparel manufacturer in the world, is known for its premium quality, buttery soft clothing used by brands around the world. Based in Los Angeles, the company was born when two high school friends were sick of the plethora of ill-fitting and feeling off-the-shelf garments. Their solution? A retail-quality apparel business for the print-to-wear market, with superior craftsmanship and quality. Fast forward twenty-five years and BELLA+CANVAS continues to lead the industry, one well-crafted t-shirt at a time.

Shifting From T-Shirts to Masks

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S., the CDC suggested that everyone start wearing a face covering to slow the spread of the disease. There was just one problem – a huge shortage of face masks. 

BELLA+CANVAS saw an opportunity to support those worried about their health, and immediately stepped up. Summer Barry, Vice President of Marketing for the clothing brand, said that its L.A. manufacturing facility shifted overnight from producing t-shirts to cloth face masks.

“We heard of the shortage of masks and the CDC suggestion of a simple face covering for people going out in public and we saw an opportunity to help. We stopped making t-shirts immediately and started making masks. We were running 24/7 for about six weeks; we had never done that before,” says Barry.

The masks that BELLA+CANVAS makes are a cut-only, no-sew design, produced from only one piece of fabric. The company chose this design so they could get them to market as quickly as possible.

“We are really well suited for the mask operation. No one can do it at our scale; we have the capacity to make 100 million masks per week,” says Barry. 

Watch the video of BELLA+CANVAS’ mask operation

There are two face mask design options for the cut-only mask, one in the original tee shirt material and one in a heavier, sweatshirt material. Consumers are able to choose which mask works for them based on preference and usage. 

“The purpose of the mask is to reduce transmission and protect other people. Our lightweight fabric is great for everyday wear, for going into retail environments, as well as when running or walking outside,” says Barry. 

The 100 million face masks being produced per week are sold in retail packages at stores like Target and Office Depot, as well as in bulk orders to large corporations, like food service companies. BELLA+CANVAS has also donated five million masks to different organizations and communities to help those most in need and to spread the word about the importance of wearing face coverings during this pandemic.

The Challenge in Finding a Face Mask Packaging Manufacturer

BELLA+CANVAS had the manufacturing ability to run at full speed and produce millions of masks, but the company ran into a packaging problem. Since the company specializes in making t-shirts for bulk wholesale orders, it wasn’t prepared to start turning out a packaged retail product. 

“The huge bottleneck was the packaging,” says Barry. “I didn’t know much about it, but I learned quickly that the average lead time for retail packaging is six weeks. But that just wasn’t an option with what we were doing. There was a real shortage of masks in America, and six weeks wasn’t going to cut it. We had to do something quicker than what’s ‘typical.’ “

The Ideal Packaging Partner 

What they needed was a packaging partner who could match them for quantity and speed, without skimping on presentation. It was once BELLA+CANVAS was introduced to ePac Flexible Packaging that the face mask packaging design plans started to come together.

“We were really fortunate to find ePac! They could turn the packages around super-fast… ePac has been great about being flexible with ordering. We feel like a top priority client, which is great. It’s all new to us and they have explained the process to us. We’ve had many changes, but they’ve been patient. Overall, it’s been really great,” says Barry.

ePac was able to produce and ship the packages out to BELLA+CANVAS in a fraction of the time that other suppliers were quoting. Now each of the brand’s masks is packaged in ePac’s matte-finish, lay flat pouches with a tear notch for easy opening. The pouches come in three different sizes to fit a varying number of masks in each.

“It was cool to see them [ePac] really respond to the importance of face masks in the current pandemic…They supported our mission, and there has been a very human element to all of it,” says Barry. 

Looking to the Future 

In May, after six weeks of running at full capacity, BELLA+CANVAS has caught up on orders and has started to slowly make t-shirts again, in addition to working on expanding their mask choices. In the future, they will offer different face mask colors, as well as a higher value sewn mask available in different sizes to give customers a more custom fit. They are currently testing a variety of packaging sizes for more retail opportunities, from a single-use package to a bulk size for club stores. ePac will be the supplier of these masks once they are ready for retail sale. 

ePac’s digital printing platform serves as a one-stop-shop, capable of accommodating last-minute changes, quick turnaround time, and simultaneously running multiple SKUs. The partnership between ePac and BELLA+CANVAS is what enabled the apparel brand’s face masks to quickly get in the hands of consumers during a time of need. 

If you are looking for a company that can support you every step of your packaging journey and work within your deadlines, give us a call or request a quote today.

How Seasonal Packaging is Enriching Sock Fancy’s Customer Experience

There’s something about seasonal and limited-edition packaging that makes each of us light up with excitement. Whether it’s Starbucks’ red cups during the holidays, Superbowl packaging, or your favorite product wrapped in a seasonal package, packaging is an incredibly powerful tool that can pique interest and evoke joy.

“Packaging is another piece of canvas for your branding… when used correctly, it’s priceless,” says Stefan Lewinger, Co-Founder & CEO of Sock Fancy, a sock subscription service that ships to sock lovers all over the country.

But creating seasonal packaging can be a big undertaking for brands as they face high plate set-up fees and high minimum orders from conventional printers. But with digital printing, brands of all sizes can print seasonal, holiday, and specialty flexible packaging to celebrate any occasion. And one company out of Atlanta, GA, knows firsthand how easy it is to utilize digital printing for holiday packaging.

Sock Subscription Service Keeps Their Packaging Festive

Sock Fancy is an Atlanta based sock subscription pouch service that ships to over 20,000 subscribers each month. The experience-based company leverages digital printing to create unique pouches for their regular line of socks, as well as for holidays and special events to add that “something special” to each order. But before the brand teamed up with the digital packaging printer ePac, Sock Fancy didn’t think that creating seasonal designs were feasible.

“We didn’t even know we could do it. We thought it would be way too cost-prohibitive, with plates and high minimum orders. We thought, ‘maybe one day we can do that’ but once we were introduced to ePac, we learned we could do it now,” says Stefan Lewinger.

Since discovering ePac and digital printing, Sock Fancy quickly learned that printing multiple designs per order was no problem. With digital printing for packaging, there are no plate or set-up fees, so it’s as easy to print one design per order as it is to print hundreds.

“Our only limit is our imagination,” says Lewinger. 

Currently, Sock Fancy is creating holiday packaging for its subscription pouches that looks drastically different from the all-black design it ships out regularly to subscribers. And subscribers have taken to the new designs.

“Halloween was the first adventure beyond the solid black bag; we made them orange. It was a fun and refreshing change, adding some color, and playing with design. It’s been a new thing for us, and we’ve had good feedback from customers,” says Lewinger.

For Christmas and other winter holidays, the team got even more creative, shipping out two unique holiday bags that depict traditional designs like gingerbread and snowman, as well as four unique “gift-wrapped” bags. These “gift-wrapped” bags are printed to look as though they are wrapped in gift wrap, and are designed to go right under the tree, from the mailbox. 

The seasonal and holiday packaging campaign is going so well that two of the designs sold out before Christmas. Plus, Sock Fancy is seeing more social media interaction with the bags than ever before. The pouches’ success has paved the way for the brand to create even more designs. 

“We’re building it out throughout the year with more gift-wrapping options. We’ll have bags that look like gift wrap for Valentine’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, and birthdays,” says Lewinger.

Seasonal Packaging Creates A Special Experience

The stand-up, resealable pouches from ePac are easy to open and handle and make receiving the socks a unique experience over a traditional subscription box. And with the packaging design opportunities opened up by digital printing, subscribers get to enjoy a new design each month delivered right to the mailbox.

“A lot of care goes into each package. The seasonal packaging emphasizes our attention to detail, and creates a fun experience for subscribers,” says Lewinger. 

Leveraging digital printing to create seasonal designs allows brands like Sock Fancy to deliver short run flexible packaging designs that resonate with consumers as they celebrate a holiday, a birthday, or a season. 

“It’s been a great tool to create really timely package designs, and play around with different designs in different seasons. Using multiple designs in our packaging is a great option for us to complete our branding and show our dedication to our customers,” says Lewinger.

Have you been thinking about adding seasonal packaging to your brand’s line-up but didn’t think it was possible? With digitally printed flexible packaging, you can affordably create seasonal packaging with short runs and low minimum orders, all with a quick turnaround to get your packaging into consumers’ hands fast. Call ePac today to learn more about our flexible packaging services !

CASE STUDY: Sock Fancy

Sock Fancy Delivers An “Open Pouch” Experience

In today’s subscription box culture, one subscription brand did something unlike anyone else: they chose a pouch instead of a box for its mailed goods to deliver a truly unique experience. And unique is the name of Sock Fancy’s game, delivering an unexpected product, in an unexpected package to thousands of subscribers each month.

Sock Fancy was created in 2013 to fulfill a need in the clothing industry. The owners wanted to create a brand of socks that would bring excitement and fun to the often-neglected market. By delivering creative and colorful socks directly to subscribers’ mailboxes in innovative pouch packaging, Sock Fancy is filling the void and giving consumers a better way to shop for socks.

“We wanted to build something exciting that people could enjoy, for a longer period of time. And we felt the best way to do that was through subscriptions since they offer more time to communicate your story to your customer, more exposure to the brand, and better messaging opportunities,” says Stefan Lewinger, Co-Founder & CEO.

Today, the premium sock brand ships out 20,000 sock subscriptions per month in digitally printed, premium stand-up pouches from ePac.

Why Sock Fancy Chose the Pouch

Sock Fancy isn’t just a sock company, they’re ALL about the experience. So, when Sock Fancy launched their business, they knew that they needed to deliver a better user experience than mere socks in a box.

Enter: The stand-up pouch.

The stand-up pouch delivers a premium feel, in a highly visible package that offers great space for branding and design. But for Sock Fancy, that wasn’t always the case. Before working with ePac, the company had gone through a handful of packaging options looking for the perfect one. First was a paper sealer, which didn’t hold up in the rain, then a poly bag mailer, which provided the durability the company craved, but still fell short. Not on that, but because the supplier was overseas, Sock Fancy had to deal with very long production times, huge minimum orders, and zero flexibility with order changes.

Today the company uses a fully branded, digitally printed, stand-up, resealable pouch that is aesthetically pleasing and delivers big user benefits. It fits nicely in the mailbox, is lightweight, unbreakable, and resealable, which comes in handy if consumers opt to exchange the pair they received. If they do, they simply pack the socks back in the pouch and mail them back, which eliminates the need for additional packaging.  

The pouches are also picture-worthy in a black matte finish with the Sock Fancy logo. In addition to the standard design, each month the company produces a variety of designs based on the sock stylist who packed it, current holidays, or if that month’s pouch is a birthday gift.

ePac Brings the Solution, and Then Some

Sock Fancy knew the pouch was a key part of the brand and didn’t want to stray from that. But the company was looking for a better solution from a supplier that could get product shipped quickly, and offer the flexibility to create personalized packaging.

With ePac, Sock Fancy enjoys the ability to customize its packaging, with short runs, and amazingly low minimum orders. Because ePac is a domestic supplier, Sock Fancy also benefits from reduced shipping costs, and shorter lead times, all with unmatched quality. While all of this sounds great, it wasn’t the reason Sock Fancy ultimately went with ePac. The driving force behind the decision? Variable imaging, or the ability to create personalized packaging easily and affordably.  

“Everything about the digital technology is why we moved. Sure, it did save us money but that wasn’t even the point. We are an experience-based brand… we don’t just sell socks. The variable bag printing allows us to speak to the consumer almost as much as the socks do, and that is priceless,” says Lewinger.

Variable Imaging Is the Future

With digital printing, variable imaging is made possible in a fast and cost-effective way. For example, in one run there can be 10,000 unique designs for all 10,000 packages printed. Digital printing and variable imaging allow for an order like this to print just as fast and efficiently as if it were 10,000 packages printed in the same design.

“The big reason we switched (to ePac) was the personalization aspect. Nobody else that we found could do the type of high-level customization and personalization. With other companies you have to order tens of thousands of one SKU. ePac was our knight in shining armor!” says Lewinger.

ePac’s digital printing, which leverages HP technology, allows customers the option for complete package personalization with short runs. With this technology, every SKU in a run can be a unique design. With no plate set up or fees, time to production is fast, and flexibility is a normal part of the process.

“We didn’t know that short runs with variable designs in one order were even possible. This opens up a whole new world for us. Now we’re only limited to how quickly we can design a bag, not how long it takes to get produced. We’re only starting this now, but it will go a long way to further the brand image.”

With digital printing, companies like Sock Fancy can create a truly unique experience for each of its customers, offering a personalized experience delivered straight to the mailbox.