Chef Meiko Scott and Chef Kami Quinones are the mother/daughter duo that started Hella Nuts, a plant-based eatery in Oakland, CA. The chefs are known for their delicious, 100% plant-based food not just in Oakland, but nationwide through their retail line, and will soon be serving their signature dishes in their brick and mortar location which is due to open later this year.
What first put the chefs on the map was their signature product, the Hella Nuts ground walnut meat. The duo began selling the “meat” cooked into recipes (like tacos) to patrons at festivals and at pop-up locations. Consumers quickly fell in love with it, and one retailer even asked the chefs to package it to sell in stores. Before a retail product was feasible, they knew they needed to find the right package that aligned with the company’s goals.
Discovering Post Consumer Recycled (PCR) Plastic Packaging
A major goal for Hella Nuts was to reduce its carbon footprint. So, the duo began to look for a packager that could deliver on their sustainability model.
“We were looking for a supplier that had eco-friendly packaging since we want to reduce our carbon footprint whenever we can. We also wanted someone local, not overseas. With ePac, we found a local packager in California that had eco-sourced packaging,” said Chef Kami Quinones.
Once the team partnered with ePac, they were able to look more into the different types of sustainable packaging. When looking at options such as PCR (post-consumer recycled), and recyclable packaging, it was clear that PCR was a better fit.
“Recyclable packaging has to be taken to a specific location and it becomes the responsibility of consumers to do this. It was too complicated. We knew people were likely just going to throw the package away, so we wanted a different solution,” said Quinones.
With PCR packaging, there are no requirements or actions needed on the consumer end.
What is PCR plastic, exactly? PCR material is made from the items that consumers recycle every day, like aluminum, cardboard boxes, paper, and plastic bottles. These materials are collected by local recycling programs and shipped to recycling facilities to be sorted into bales, based on the material. The bales are then purchased, melted, and molded into new items that brands like Hella Nuts can use to create their packaging.
“We were happy to see that the company was offering an eco-friendly product because we weren’t finding many suppliers that offered PCR,” said Quinones.
Hella Nuts began selling its frozen ground walnut meat in PCR stand-up pouches from ePac in April of 2020. The meat is sold in 1-pound and 3-pound sizes, as well as in a case of six bags. The bags are sold to consumers directly from the brand’s website, but will be available in a retail store in the Oakland area soon.
“We love it! Everybody can’t believe it came out exactly how we imagined it. The graphics came out perfectly. And the bags came bigger than anticipated, which is great because they can fit all our product and they fit all of our messaging without the type being too small. The colors are super vibrant,” said Quinones.
And because we are in a very visual and social world, the team knew that the right package, as well as design, were going to be key to the product’s overall success.
“(Packaging) is the most important thing ever and we really see that now. People have been posting photos of the packaging, which spurs more orders for us. Also, we are getting all these out-of-state orders, and know they are mainly coming in because of our graphics and our packaging because these people haven’t even tried the meat. It’s crazy to think about… that they are intrigued by our product and want to try it,” said Quinones.
In fact, according to the chefs, 75% of the company’s orders are out of state. In addition to a great product and a great package, the brand received some great press that seemed to have further spurred sales.
“Since launch, it’s been very successful. We got mentioned in a few articles including VegOut magazine, VegNews, and LIVEKINDLY. The articles talked about our product and that we are a black-owned company and since then, sales have boomed,” said Quinones.
Partnering with ePac
To get those sales in the first place, Hella Nuts knew it had to find the right packaging partner that could accommodate their needs. Luckily, both companies were able to work as a team to realize the vision that the chefs had for their retail product, as well as get the product into consumers’ hands as fast as possible.
“ePac was super helpful; they were able to expedite our shipping. The bags were ready on a Friday and we received them on Monday so we could get our bags out to our pre-orders on Tuesday. We really appreciate them for that,” said Quinones.