When brands are contemplating a new product launch or a redesign of their packaging, there are many items to take into account. BRANDPACKAGING turned to Birch Benders, makers of the first natural and organic, just-add-water pancake and waffle mix, to see how it created a successful brand identity and packaging as well as product launch. Matt LaCasse, CEO, and Lizzi Ackerman, COO, —affectionately known as “The Pancake Man” and “Dr. Pancake” at the micro-pancakery — fill us in with several truths on creating great packaging and connecting with consumers.


1. Do what you know and love: The passion will be evident in your branding and packaging.

Birch Benders’ founders (LaCasse and Naomi Honig) went into the pancake business for a reason: It’s fun. The duo likened their idea of excellent but convenient pancakes to birch bending, an innocent and merry pastime of climbing the flexible trees until they tip the fellow back down to the ground. Birch Benders was created, and the brand set out with a purpose: bringing happiness and simplicity to the kitchen through pancakes.


2. Believe in your idea 1000 percent and be able to defend it with passion and conviction against all odds.

It’s so hard starting a company, and you will get challenged and questioned a lot at first, even if it’s a great idea,” says Ackerman. “It takes time to get right, so if you don’t believe from the bottom of your heart in what you’re doing, you might want to consider doing something else.”


3. Take the time to understand your brand.

Your brand can’t be everything to everyone,” says LaCasse. “You will have to choose to whom you’re trying to appeal — and in that process, you will figure out who finds you unappealing. Your brand will be unappealing to some people, but you can’t sweat it! Without that sort of focus, it’s very easy for your brand to get lost amongst the competition”


4. Don’t put your face out there until you’re ready.

“We spent two years testing our brand in just a few Whole Foods stores and went through three rounds of rebranding in-house before hiring professionals and putting ourselves out there at Expo West this year,” Ackerman notes. “And we’re really glad we waited that long. Since launching our new branding and packaging at Expo West, we’ve been taken on by three national distributors and many new accounts across the country. There’s no need to rush it! You only have one chance — better to take your time and put your best food forward.”


5. Work with the pros when it comes to packaging.

“While you may have the vision, they will have the resources and experience to make it come to life,” says LaCasse. “Shop around the different firms and do your homework on the different options. There are plenty of companies that will gladly take your money and give you little in return. If you form great relationships with great companies, you can make it work.”


6. Find a mentor!

“We would not be here right now were it not for the invaluable wisdom of our amazing mentors and advisors,” says Ackerman. “Find a few companies that are years ahead of you, companies you admire whose success you aspire to reach, then reach out to them. As long as they aren’t in your exact category (in our case, aren’t making pancakes/waffles/breakfast food), you’ve got a great shot! People are a lot nicer and more open than you might think — even extremely successful people. And unless you have an industry veteran on your team, you will eventually need the advice and counsel of people who have succeeded in your industry — whether that be food, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceutics, packaging, etc. — if you want to make it! There are tons of tough decisions to make, and they only get harder, so it helps to find an ally, or ideally, multiple allies, to offer their wisdom and guidance when you face those tricky decisions.


Want some inspiration for your redesign or new product packaging? Visit The Brand Zone pavilion at PACK EXPO International, Nov. 2-5, in Chicago to see the 11th Annual Showcase of Packaging Innovations, sponsored by Dow Chemical Company.