Consumer packaged goods and brand owners keep increasing investments into packaging materials, equipment and operations as markets rebound from the pandemic and accelerate towards a new normal; many food producers were already accelerating stock keeping units before the pandemic. Elevation Charcuterie, Denver, CO, falls into this category as the company recently increased investments into its co-packing operations and updated to an overwrap packaging format.
“Elevation started as a very small company and did everything by hand, literally, and we’ve evolved into a larger operation,” says Chad Nelan, owner of Elevation Charcuterie. The artisan-meat producer has a number of regional distributors, works with Whole Foods and Chicago-based Eataly, and recently landed a new national distribution partner.
The new overwrap packaging format with a die-cut window relies on horizontal flow-pack wrappers from Ulma Packaging Group, Onati, Spain, to create this unique packaging for Elevation Charcuterie. The new packaging format adds new design elements but many design characteristics of the previous packaging come along for the ride, such as the product information. The previous packaging had a separate label attached to the outer layer and now the overwrap format includes the product information, and eliminates materials.
“We were a bit nervous about consumer reactions to the new packaging, but customers love the updated look,” says Nelan. “Plus, an approximate eight to ten percent savings on the operations side is a big improvement for Elevation.”
Elevation Charcuterie recruited C-P Flexible Packaging, York, PA, to provide the die-cut rollstock material that continues the rustic aesthetic for the packaging while also providing a clean, modern design that allows consumers to view the charcuterie chub.
Before the recent design change, hand packing of cured-meat chubs was the process for Elevation Charcuterie but the manual workload began to be too much. Before adding the flow-wrap machinery to the packaging process, hand-packing would take approximately four minutes per package and the company had to employ 50 to 60 production operators.
“It looked like the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie scene where hundreds of people are seen ripping open candy bars to find the golden ticket,” says Nelan. “The process wasn’t efficient and it took time, and we were looking to expand.”
The new pouch design and packaging process with the flow-wrapping machine debuted in 2020. Packaging production now has been reduced from 60 workers down to two production operators that oversee the flow-wrapping equipment and can produce up to 32 packages/minute, while reducing packaging costs in half.
“With the older packaging, there were multiple pieces of packaging that were expensive and custom, and now it's all one thing,” says Nelan.
Modern Meets Rustic
Besides the operational efficiency, the new flow wrap format connects to the product’s rustic sensibility with the help of the kraft rollstock and the die-cut window from C-P Flexible Packaging. The previous package design and its “butcher-block” paper aesthetic also hit the right notes, but the new “window into the product” and the rustic design from the new packaging materials adds a new level of sophistication for a product in an upscale food category.
“C-P was super helpful with packaging size, the dye lines with the window and all the issues my designer needed,” says Nelan. During the design phase, C-P Flexible Packaging worked closely with Elevation’s package designer to place the die-cut window in the right place for the charcuterie chubs.
“Once the correct dye line was established, we sent the file to Elevations’ art team and they dropped the artwork in,” says Aaron Hausman, director of sales at C-P Flexible Packaging. “C-P then created a ramp up order for Elevation to make sure that the packaging fit and Chad liked the style; then we went to a full production line.”
The rollstock is 30-lb, bleached kraft paper with stain-resistance while also providing a 1.5 mil. polyethylene laminate. C-P Flexible Packaging prints the four-color rollstock on a flexo press for eleven different charcuterie products with its unique color identities. Elevation also adds a clear, shrink-wrap to the charcuterie chub before entering the conveyor that goes to the flow-wrap machine.
The food industry and its explosive growth is being felt by distributors, original equipment manufacturers, material suppliers and, of course, food producers. Scaling business is a huge challenge, but Elevation Charcuterie’s new processes and designs are finding the right solutions for now and the future.