2009 PLANTS OF THE YEAR: Engineers produce unique candy carton
Brown & Haley is all about manufacturing and packaging a product that’s worth its weight in gold. Its Almond Roca is no exception. It has been instantly recognizable for generations by its unique gold foil wrapper, where unwrapping it has become a tradition in itself.
“There’s a ceremony attached to consuming Almond Roca butter crunch,” says John Melin, chief operating officer at Brown & Haley. “There’s a ritual in unwrapping the foil, flattening the foil and then folding it over slowly.”
The company, founded in 1912 and located in Tacoma, Wash., distributes its products to 60 different countries worldwide. Its Roca-branded products comprise 80% of its sales, and, specifically, its Almond Roca butter crunch toffee makes up 60% of those branded revenues.
So naturally, when the company introduced its Roca Thins, a new variation of the Roca line, it had to make sure not only that it would get the product formula right, but the packaging, as well.
Melin explains that it’s important for a company the size of Brown & Haley to meet three “proof points.”
“First, we have to prove that we can manufacture it; second, we have to be able to have retailer sell-in; and third, we need to have consumer receptivity and off-take,” he says.
The company has met the first two and expects the third to follow once consumers actually taste the items.
Shelf awarenessSince the Roca Thins were given a thin toffee center that came out at 6.5 to 7 millimeters in a stick that was 66 mm long, packaging had to take into account product fragility, as well as stand out on shelf with other confections.
“The retailers were expanding their premium confections category,” says Pierson Clair, chief executive officer at Brown & Haley. “At the same time, they didn’t want to see another chocolate bar. In essence, all that would amount to was a different colored wrapper. They wanted a fresh, new premium product.”
And for marketing purposes, there were strong packaging demands from the get-go. Brown & Haley wanted to make sure that the packaging designed would be a similar size in depth, height and with to a premium chocolate bar, so as to make sure the product could display within the premium chocolate bar display. It was also to reflect the indulgent nature of the product, as well as offer convenience.
The box and beyondThe result was a unique carton with a reclosable flap that flips open for consumers to have easy access to the tray of eight Roca Thins. Brown & Haley worked closely for almost a year with Emerald City Graphics to design the box. Emerald City’s custom design department was given some Roca Thins candies, which it then used to design the carton around.
It also saw what kind of equipment the cartons were going to run on and modeled the carton around an existing carton former that had been used for nearly 20 years. The uniqueness of the package required a little more attention to the machinery.
According to David Armstrong, senior vice president supply chain/operations at Brown & Haley, the system, supplied by Adco, had worked fine for years and years. Brown & Haley’s mechanical team took it from there. “We worked to make several substantial modifications to set up and form the package so it could accept the tray with product,” Armstrong says.
Armstrong also sees innovations in the future when it comes to the tray. At the moment, the eight-piece trays are hand-filled. While volume will be the ultimate determinant, Armstrong sees the company responding by adding robotics to the line to fill that role in the future. Since robots don’t fall ill or take lunch breaks, they can work longer and maximize production.
And production is key. Brown & Haley experienced 8% compounded growth during the last four years, with exports accounting for 20% of the company’s sales. Truly, in both product and packaging, the Roca brand is something unique.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Background for this article was provided by Bernard Pacyniak, editor-in-chief of Candy Industry, a sister publication of Food & Beverage Packaging.
Emerald City Graphics
AT-A-GLANCECompany: Brown & Haley
Plant location: Tacoma, Wash.
Size: 110,000 square feet
Products handled: Butter-crunch toffee-based confections, chocolate sticks, pralines, bars
Packaging types: Paperboard cartons, paper and foil wrappers, trays, tin canisters
No. of packaging lines: 3