Brown & Pratt Case Study: Sweet-D-Licious Kettle Corn

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A Better Bag: Branding for a Small Family-Owned Business

Case study

Sweet-D-Licious Kettle Corn.

As this little company began to grow, it was time to put their sweet branding on the bags containing their delicious product.

My experience with Brown and Pratt has been awesome!  Brandon Smith has went above and beyond to assist me. Everything from my initial set up design for my bags, providing a quality product and exceeding all delivery deadlines.  As a small business owner this type of customer service is invaluable!

Kelly – Sweet-D-Licious Kettle Corn

Case Study highlights

Reinforcing and Extending a Brand with the Right Packaging.

01. Collaboration

Resolving disconnects between client vision and vendor realities.

02. Packaging Specs

Quantities of bags, inks, and printing costs are all intertwined.

03. Flexibility

Business owners must make decisions—some are hard, some are easy.

04. Logisitics

Solving client pain points can result in referral business.


Client Relationship and Problem-Solving

It has to be right to win the client’s trust

Our team of experts really pushed the outer limits of our technological capacities to make it work.

Sweet-D-Licious is a small family-owned and operated company that makes kettle corn. It’s a simple product that finds its way into people’s hands primarily through fairs, festivals, and other events, but also through a growing niche of fundraisers for schools and community-based organizations. Sweet-D-Licious had existing artwork for their logo, a cartoonish, vintage-looking image of a little girl in pigtails standing modestly in front of a large kettle of popcorn. It’s a great logo with an old-timey 1950s kind of feel, and it’s got a lot of detail. From a vendor’s perspective, the level of detail in the logo was immediately a cause for concern. 

Knowing what the client wanted was their exact logo artwork printed onto the clear poly bags into which they pack their kettle corn, the last thing you want to do is come right out in the first meeting and say it’s impossible. At Brown & Pratt, our approach isn’t telling clients what can’t be done. It’s about collaborating with the client, gently educating them about the capabilities and limitations of printing on plastic bags, and finding out how to bring the client’s vision and our printing realities close enough together that a mutually acceptable solution can be established.  We must think in terms of both graphic quality and cost-effectiveness. 

The biggest technical challenge with this client was navigating the limitations of the printing capabilities onto poly bags relative to their vision.  Their desire was to reproduce their branding graphics exactly as they’re used to seeing them, but now printed on the poly bags in which they package their product for sale at events and fundraisers. It was clear to us we would not be able to do an exact reproduction of their artwork in its full level of detail on the poly bags. It simply wasn’t technically feasible.  Even if we could find a way to make it work, it would be cost-prohibitive for their growing but still small business.

There’s a give-and-take that must happen in this kind of scenario. The client was educated as to the need to simplify the artwork to some degree, and our team of experts really pushed the outer limits of our technological capacities to make it work. We were bumping up against color print tolerances to get the girl’s hair color, the blue eyes, and the rosy cheeks, as close as we could to the original artwork.

Packaging Specs

Putting the Brand on the Bag

Every Project Has Unique Technical Challenges to Solve

This type of project requires a deep understanding of printing onto poly bags in terms of what inks will work. Our choice of inks also had to be informed by the conditions in which the bags would be used, which includes not only the heat and humidity common at outdoor events in the Midwest but also the intense humidity and greasiness in the air within the context of their popping station booth set up at those events. 

In addition to those sorts of printing challenges, there’s also the bags themselves. The client might be used to poly bags (Sweet-D-Licious offers two sizes of their product, a medium bag, and a large bag) of certain sizes and a thickness they have found to be just right. These kinds of bag specifications do matter in terms of ordering the bags and what they cost to order from bag manufacturers. In addition to the cost of the bags themselves, these bag specifications also affect the printing process. Post-printing on a prefabricated poly bag in low quantities is often simply not cost-effective. This can be very disappointing for a client to find out because when you start talking about much larger quantities that bring the per-bag cost way down, those quantities and the financial commitment to get there can be very intimidating for a small business.

In the case of kettle corn, two common sizes of flat poly bags would be 9 inches wide by 15 inches high for the medium bag, and 9 inches wide by 24 inches high for the large bag. This is where we also get into additional considerations around the manufacturer of the poly bags, such as what their minimum orders are, and where the price breaks fall for cost-effectiveness. All minimums for poly bags are based on the minimum poundage of raw material required for an order.  This is fairly consistent with all manufacturers.  For the 9×15 bag, the minimum is a higher quantity for ordering because it’s a small bag and requires more bags to reach the minimum film requirement. The minimum run for those would be 10,000 bags. Because the 9×24 bag is a larger size, the minimum run on those can be only 7,500. These order minimums can sometimes make a small business client start to feel very anxious, and our goal is to work with our customers to find the ideal bag and quantity combination that fits their company best!

The bag quantities for printing in color also come into play. How many colors of print will be needed to achieve that artwork? As the number of ink colors goes up, so must the quantity of bags go up to make it financially viable for us as the vendor. More ink colors increase the setup time for the project, so from the vendor’s perspective, it’s usually not financially viable to do four-color printing on the minimum number of bags outlined above. This leads to higher minimums, which again can make a small business owner uncomfortable.

The good news in this case study is that it all came together! The customer understood that artwork changes needed to be made to turn their artwork into a four-color image in order to most efficiently print the poly bags keeping their order quantities lower while still providing them with a beautiful branded packaging piece. Sweet-D-Licious was all in and loved the bags, so it was a definite win-win for the client and vendor!

Post-printing on a prefabricated poly bag in low quantities is often simply not cost-effective. This can be very disappointing for a client to find out .


Thinking Through Business Decisions

Some Clients Need More Time to Make Decisions than Others

They were having peel-and-stick labels printed, which they then had to manually place on their bags. The amount of time spent sticking labels on bags was unsustainable.

It can be nerve-racking as a vendor to watch a client get that classic “deer in the headlights” look when they see the numbers. These include the quantities of packaging they need to order to make it cost-effective, the financial commitment for creating the printing plates, and then the cost of placing large orders for the printed packaging. Some clients just can’t commit, and as a vendor, it’s not up to us to coach them on business decision-making, though we’re happy to do that if they want us to. In this case, all the business owners really had to do was look at the current situation of how they were putting their branding on their bags.

They were having peel-and-stick labels printed, which they then had to manually place on their bags. They looked great and fulfilled the vision of accurately reproducing the logo artwork and other branding elements. However, the amount of time she and her staff were spending sticking labels on bags was, as she put it, unsustainable. She intuitively understood that the savings in terms of time and labor more than justified the switch to printed poly bags with Brown & Pratt. Can you imagine hand pressing peel-and-stick labels onto thousands of bags? It’s clear she was right! Working with us she’d get thousands and thousands of branded bags without lifting a finger. To her, it was a dream come true and well worth the investment.


Solving Client Pain Points is the Key

Clients Must Understand the Value They Receive 

That pain point of manually applying printed labels to the bag was the most important thing the client understood we were solving. But in addition to that pain point, there were other logistical considerations that also came into play. In their previous way of doing things, it was easy for there to be a mismatch between the quantity of bags on hand and labels on hand. There were times when they ran out of bags even though they had labels and then other times when they had plenty of bags on hand but ran out of labels. Having the bags and branding happen together as one smooth process, with only one vendor instead of two, was another pain point we solved that made the logistics of their business operations simpler and hassle-free.

Also, there is an additional logistical concern in terms of getting two different products (the bags and the labels) from two different vendors in an event-driven business environment. If they had an important event coming up and saw they needed more bags, would they be able to get them in on time? In the case of a global pandemic, lead times on orders for all sorts of things suddenly became very long. Because Brown & Pratt is in the packaging industry, we know the ins and outs of getting what we need when we need it, even in the midst of supply chain disruptions. A busy small business owner simply can’t navigate all of that far enough in advance to avoid potential snags and delays. 

When a client understands how many pain points you’re solving for them, the results can often be referral business. In this case, Sweet-D-Licious referred another kettle corn business to us, one that they are friendly with when they run into each other at the one event they both attend, so it wasn’t really a direct competitor. When this other kettle corn business owner was explaining their packaging challenges, the Sweet-D-Licious owner simply told them how very happy she was with the working relationship she had with Brown & Pratt. This other kettle corn business needed the same type of packaging and the same type of printing and immediately got in touch with us after the event. The result? We are now proud to have two very similar kettle corn companies among our valued partners!

There were times when they ran out of bags even though they had labels and then other times when they had plenty of bags on hand but ran out of labels.

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