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.