Celebrating 100 Episodes of In Clear Focus

Celebrating Bigeye’s 100th episode, we take a closer look at direct-to-consumer brands. Host Adrian Tennant catches up with previous guests to find out how COVID-19 supply chain disruptions and changing consumer behaviors have impacted their DTC businesses since they first appeared on the podcast. Listen in for lively conversations with Liz Mazzei of Provenance Meals, Delaney Doria of Luma & Leaf, Olivia Canlas of Meowbox, and Brandon Frank of Pacific Packaging Components.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this, the 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Liz Mazzei: Where are our clients, especially now that we’re in a new market in LA? Are they online? Are they on Instagram and Facebook? I think they might be other places. 

Olivia Canlas: We have been diligently posting a lot of creative, like trending TikToks and it’s very silly, lighthearted, very random, we’re going to keep exploring it. It’s a place where a lot of people go for information.

Delaney Doria: Less waste is what I think everyone will be looking towards, being sustainable in packaging. So shipping materials, as well as the cartons for the actual product, all of that.

Brandon Frank: I think our development of sustainable packaging, the temptation was for us to also put it on hold, and instead of doing that, we said, “You know, we’re going to do it all at the same time.”

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to the one-hundredth episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, a weekly podcast produced by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. A full-service, audience-focused creative agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, serving clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. Bigeye recently published an exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, which reflects responses from over 1,500 US consumers aged 18 to 55. One of the themes that emerges from the study is the growth of direct-to-consumer brands in parallel with the increased use of social media. The network effect amplifies social media’s popularity and effectiveness as a source for brand and product discovery. Warby Parker, Casper, Glossier, and Peloton all started life as online-only brands selling their products directly to consumers rather than via retailers. But what characterizes DTC shoppers? What we see in the study results are some significant generational differences. Members of Generation Z, those aged 18 to 24, are the most likely to have purchased from a direct-to-consumer brand in the past six months. Almost two-thirds of this group report doing so – at 63 percent – compared to just under one-half of Gen Y, those aged 25 to 39. And just over one-third of Gen X, those aged 40 to 55. Forty-nine percent of respondents identifying as male report purchasing from a DTC brand compared to 45 percent of those identifying as female. and approaching three-quarters of Hispanic consumers report purchasing from a DTC brand compared to two-fifths of non-Hispanics. Clothing, shoes, and accessories is the most popular category across all generations of respondents. Of those who purchased from a DTC brand in the past six months, 53 percent of Gen Z and X report doing so in this category. Approaching one-fifth of respondents report buying food or drink directly from brands. These include meal kits. Back in May of this year, we spoke with Liz Mazzei, Director of Marketing for DTC brand Provenance Meals. Liz explained the company’s founding story.

Liz Mazzei: The business started back in 2012 with our founder, Caroll Lee. She had a health coaching practice and she was recommending recipes and meal plans to her clients to help them reduce their weight, increase their energy, and overall really transform their health through the power of nutrition. And as long as she was actively coaching them and supplying them with guidance on what food to eat, they were very successful at reaching their goals. But when she stopped coaching them and they stopped eating the nutrient-dense food, they would quickly go back to those unhealthy routines because it was just too difficult to eat well on a consistent basis. And that’s how Provenance was born. The number one request she received was, “I know what I’m supposed to eat, but I just can’t find the time to go shopping and cook all week long.” We have to make time for exercise. We have to make time for meditation. But food is especially challenging because it’s three times a day, every day of the week. And if you’re feeding a family or you have a partner and spouse, it just makes it that much more complicated. So we realized that by providing these convenient meals prepared in really great ways with amazing ingredients, Caroll could help her clients get on that path towards health and longevity. You know, we really believe the fastest way from point A to B in your wellness journey is the food you eat. And it really is the best kind of health and preventative care. We make it easy to eat healthy in general.

Adrian Tennant: The market for direct-to-consumer meal kits in the US is highly competitive, yet the brand has carved out a very distinctive niche. So how many meals do you deliver each week?

Liz Mazzei: You know, we started in 2012, and we’re now delivering thousands of meals each week and we’re really expanding rapidly. Last year, during the pandemic, we started shipping our wellness products as well as a limited edition three-day meal program nationwide. And I’m very excited to share that we’re getting ready to launch our full meal delivery service in LA.

Adrian Tennant: Provenance Meals delivers organic prepared meal plans and detox programs that are gluten-free, dairy-free, with no refined sugar. What’s the strategy behind this approach?

Liz Mazzei: Well, Adrian, there is a health crisis happening, and I really believe that food is a major component that is contributing to the rise in obesity, the rise in heart disease, et cetera. Practically all food that you see that is convenient and on shelves is processed. It has large amounts of corn and rice byproducts, has GMO ingredients, industrial vegetable oils, it’s junk. And I really think that the Industrial Revolution harmed us in that way as a society. You know, these large food companies really started innovating to make food that is addictive with so much salt and sugar. It’s harmed our health collectively. Thankfully, consumers are becoming more aware of this. I think that they are choosing what their fork and their dollars to buy organic and to demand better products and companies, you know, offering alternatives to processed foods. So our strategy is to provide a convenient food solution that will help our clients improve their health.

Adrian Tennant: Now you mentioned that provenance is going to be launching in Los Angeles. Why Los Angeles?

Liz Mazzei: Well, our business is really positioned at the intersection of the prepared meals industry, so ready-to-eat food, no cooking required, and the health and wellness industry. And we believe the LA market is really right for our business. It was ranked one of the 10 strongest wellness markets in America – I think it was by Mind Body Business and competition in that area is really smaller mom and pop operations. But we really feel there has yet to be a brand that has emerged to capture the attention of those health-conscious, busy Angelenos that are looking for organic, local, sustainable meal delivery and cleanse programs delivered to their door. Our strategy for the LA launch is already in development.  It will include a robust paid social and PR campaign. We’re also doing a combination of influencer and partnership activations, and similar to New York City, we plan to leverage those relationships we built, with the community of functional medicine, practitioners, doctors, nutritionists, health coaches, as well as those like-minded brands in clean beauty, fitness, and even sustainable fashion to help us spread the word. We love collaborating with other brands. And we really are focused on launching in LA and then we will continue to add in new markets and since we’ll have two hubs on both coasts, it will be a great base from which to ship nationwide products.

Adrian Tennant: I recently caught up with Liz to find out how things have been progressing since May and for an update on how Provenance’s launch in Los Angeles has been going.

Liz Mazzei: It’s been going really well. We are officially live in LA and delivering meals from our daily essentials program. So every week we have a different menu of options for both plant lovers and omnivores alike. And we’ve been live for about six weeks now, delivering and their response has been really great. You know, not only from clients who try out our six-day detox program that we launched back in May, but also new clients. We’ve seen a pretty good reorder rate, the clients ordering again every week, as well as clients becoming members. So setting a recurring delivery every week. So I’m proud of it. I’m really excited.

Adrian Tennant: Well, since we last spoke in May, what other changes have you noticed, if any, in the business?

Liz Mazzei: We’ve definitely noticed, I think, especially as people get back from the summertime, back into the routine of kids going to school. They want regular support, especially from the nutrition side to get delivery every week. I think that’s kind of been the biggest change we’ve seen since May is just the attitude that people have had in how they approach their lives. 

Adrian Tennant: We’re hearing from some direct consumer brands that Apple’s iOS 14 update has affected them adversely. Has that been true for Provenance? And if so, have you had to re-allocate any of your ad spend?

Liz Mazzei: I have noticed the impact. Obviously, results across the board have just been dramatically impacted. We’re currently working with our agency to understand what the real attribution loss is for our specific account. But it is very disheartening, that is where we spent a lot of our budget in the past because of the bang for the buck that it offered. So we are beginning to explore new channels. Actually, it’s kind of funny. I feel like we’re going back in time and exploring some at-home options, some direct mail options, just thinking about how we allocate that budget. And then it’s also kind of reminded me that, you know, where are our clients, especially now that we’re in a new market in LA? Are they online? Are they on Instagram and Facebook? I think they might be other places, especially since we have a little bit of an older audience. I’m excited about testing these new channels.

Adrian Tennant: What compels shoppers to buy from direct-to-consumer brands rather than traditional retail channels? In our study, among those who indicated they’d purchased from a DTC brand within the last six months, over one-third are motivated by the availability of fast or free shipping. Among Gen X consumers, this number is 43 percent. Twenty-nine percent of respondents believe that DTC brands represent cheaper costs than traditional retail, but again, this is most prevalent amongst Gen X at 35 percent. 29 percent of Gen Z and Gen Y respondents are motivated by reading positive reviews. 30 percent of Gen Y and Gen X are motivated to buy DTC due to the uniqueness of the product, or because it’s not available elsewhere compared with 23 percent of Gen Z. And almost one-fifth of Gen Z respondents by DTC because the brand aligns with their personal values or beliefs, compared with 16 percent of Gen Y, and 11 percent of Gen X. Gen Z is also the cohort most likely to buy because a DTC brand donates to people in need with every purchase at 17 percent. 40 percent of all respondents identifying as female report buying beauty and personal care products directly from brands. In June of this year, we spoke with Delaney Doria, Brand and Product Development Manager for a new skincare brand, Luma and Leaf. Delaney told us about the brand’s mission and the products in its line-up.

Delaney Doria: So Luma & Leaf leverages the best in clean, plant-powered active ingredients to provide gentle, effective, and uncomplicated solutions that restore skin to its most healthy and luminous state. Our debut line includes a brightening cleanser, a serum, a moisturizer, as well as a clearing serum, and a soothing moisturizer.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney you joined Luma & Leaf back in January 2020. What were the primary challenges facing you 18 months ago?

Delaney Doria: Luma & Leaf was really just an idea when I started, there was definitely an initial concept, but nothing was set in stone. I personally had never worked somewhere that didn’t have set standards or messaging. So in this case, the brand had to be established first. So it was truly working from the ground up, which was a really exciting and new challenge for me.

Adrian Tennant: How did you arrive at the name, Luma & Leaf?

Delaney Doria: We looked at the end results we wanted to achieve with the product, which was illuminated, healthy skin. Then we looked at how we’d maybe get to that end goal, which we knew was thoughtfully formulated botanical blends. So we combined that idea of bright illuminated skin with our plant-powered formulas, hence Luma & Leaf.

Adrian Tennant: Is plant-power a current skincare trend?

Delaney Doria: Definitely. Everyone is really just looking for a less harmful way to treat their skin. Vegan is definitely a big thing in the clean beauty market. So people are looking towards plants. It’s a natural alternative to a lot of these more harsh ingredients.

Adrian Tennant: Luma & Leaf’s brand mission is, and I quote, to “Illuminate the skin-obsessed and skin-confused with clean products that make a difference on people and the world.” Now it’s a very inclusive message. How did you approach the development of the brand positioning?

Delaney Doria: We knew we wanted the messaging to be approachable and inclusive. Because skincare is really confusing. The industry is flooded with so many brands and it’s really hard to know as a consumer, where to turn to, especially if you’re new to the world of clean beauty. So we harness this confusion and our confusion, to be honest, into “simple skincare” for all messaging.

Adrian Tennant: Last year, you and I collaborated on several consumer research studies, the results from which informed many of the decisions that you ultimately made about Luma & Leaf’s ingredients, product names, packaging, design, and pricing. Were there any findings arising from those studies that made you reconsider a previous decision, or maybe explore a different avenue?

Delaney Doria: We always found interesting results specifically when asking about product componentry. One example that we ran into was we found the majority of respondents preferred a glass bottle for their cleanser, which honestly we were hoping would be the outcome. But we just weren’t sure how it would survey as cleansers are sometimes used in the shower. And, we just weren’t sure how people would prefer that bottle to look.

Adrian Tennant: Insights from the primary research enabled us to develop buyer profiles – or Personas – for the kinds of customers that Luma & Leaf is designed to serve. In what kinds of ways have you used those Personas during the brand development process?

Delaney Doria: So definitely use them every day and I still do use them, just knowing their preferences on ingredient stories, even collection colors, really went into each and every decision when developing the brand. We could really tailor the messaging to the audience and the platform, knowing this, which makes for a much more personalized user experience.

Adrian Tennant: I checked in with Delaney a couple of weeks ago to learn what had changed since we recorded that interview in June.

Delaney Doria: There’s been actually a lot of changes. I’m still, of course staying true to the brand, but we’ve updated our packaging. Which we’ll launch for next year. And we have made the decision to remove CBD from our formulas for next year as well.

Adrian Tennant: Why did you remove CBD?

Delaney Doria: So we really just wanted to be more accessible for our consumers.we were constantly facing regulatory constraints, lack of education with CBD, and our hero ingredients and proprietary blends are just as efficacious without the inclusion of CBD. So we just really wanted to make it more accessible for the consumer so they could still shop clean skincare, without kind of that hesitation or restriction.

Adrian Tennant: Right? So that necessitated some changes to the packaging, I would guess.

Delaney Doria: Yes. So changes to the packaging and we also just wanted to feature more of our beautiful hero patterns. So the new packaging will show more of that. so it’ll look really beautiful, you know, on a counter, on a shelf and of course, on the website.

Adrian Tennant: Any new merch?

Delaney Doria: We’re always doing new merch! Holiday season’s approaching. So definitely some holiday-inspired pieces that will be available on our site.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any challenges that you’ve had to overcome since we last spoke?

Delaney Doria: Definitely just navigating shipping, you know, overseas. Just trying to get everything on time and planning for the holiday season, what’s to come next year. Trying to go with the flow in some ways, but also plan ahead has been a challenge, but something that we’ve definitely been able to get over.

Adrian Tennant: Have you made any changes to the website?.

Delaney Doria: Yeah. We’re actually making a bunch of changes right now for holiday gearing up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday. One of the features is being able to add a free merchandise item at checkout, which is really exciting because we have all of these beautiful merchandise pieces. So that is live and ready for the holiday season and we’re also making other changes, like a gift shop page, which will house our Black Friday, Cyber Monday sale of buy one, get one 50 percent off. So perfect time to stock up on gifts, anything for yourself as well.

Adrian Tennant: Last time, we talked about the popularity of plant-powered ingredients. Delaney, since that conversation, I have been seeing references to biophilic design and the use of nature-inspired imagery everywhere. As we close out the year, are you seeing any emerging trends in ingredients or packaging that you think we should be paying attention to in 2022?

Delaney Doria: Well, definitely still keeping up with plant-powered. People are moving towards that every day, but also just being sustainable in packaging. So shipping materials, as well as the cartons for the actual product, all of that. It could be through the material encouraging, reuse, or recycle. So just making strides towards less waste is what I think everyone will be looking towards.

Adrian Tennant: And you have recently announced a new partnership with Project Glimmer. Can you explain what it is and Luma & Leaf’s involvement?

Delaney Doria: Sure so Project Glimmer is a national nonprofit serving teenage girls and women through thousands of organizations like foster care, crisis care, and youth services. So as a brand partner, we’ve created a limited edition set of scrunchies that feature patterns inspired by project glimmer’s bold red shade and our plant-powered formulas. And we’ll be selling them on our website through the holiday season with 20 percent of proceeds going back to the girls at Project Glimmer.

Adrian Tennant: That’s excellent. Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages.

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, VP of Media and Analytics at Bigeye. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals. At Bigeye, we always put audiences first. Knowing who we’re targeting – their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations – is the foundational step in our media planning process. For every engagement, we undertake research that yields actionable insights. These inform our media and analytics strategies – and ensure that we’re working in unison to deliver measurable results for our clients. If you’d like to know more about putting Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email info@bigeyeagency.com. Bigeye. Reaching the Right People, in the Right Place, at the Right Time.

Adrian Tennant: Today’s shoppers are more informed, connected, and demanding than ever before. To examine how the rise of e-commerce during the pandemic has disrupted the retail industry, Bigeye recently conducted a national study with over 1,500 consumers. Our exclusive report, Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today, reveals that while people enjoy the convenience of online ordering and home delivery, many still prefer to shop in physical stores. But their expectations of merchandise selections, in-store technology, and customer service are all heightened. To understand consumers’ new shopping behaviors, and mindsets – and what they mean for retailers, direct-to-consumer marketers, and traditional brands – download the full, complimentary report available now at Bigeye.agency/retail. Retail Disrupted: What Shoppers Want From Brands Today.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. You’re listening to the one-hundredth episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS. And this week we’re taking a look at direct-to-consumer brands. One of the ways that DTC brands generate recurring revenue is through product subscriptions, but just how popular is this model with consumers? The data in Bigeye’s report, Retail Disrupted, shows that Gen Y is the most likely to report having just one current product subscription, 19 percent, and the most likely to have canceled a subscription in the past 28 percent. Approaching one-third of all Gen Z respondents have more than one current product subscription, while Gen X is the most likely never to have had a product subscription with over one-half selecting this response, 55 percent. One-third of all respondents identifying as Hispanic report having more than one current product subscription, compared with 16 percent of non-Hispanics. Among all consumers who subscribed to a direct-to-consumer brand, one-quarter do so for pet care. In November of 2020, the co-founder and CEO of Meowbox, Olivia Canlas, talked to us about her brand’s pet subscription service.

Olivia Canlas: So I’d like to think of Meowbox as monthly deliveries of cat happiness. So it is a box full of themed cat toys and treats that we choose exclusively for our subscribers. And we deliver that monthly or bi-monthly, in the subscription model.

Adrian Tennant: Now, back in 2013, when you launched Meowbox, direct-to-consumer wasn’t nearly as well established as a business model, as it is today. What inspired you to start a subscription box for cat owners?

Olivia Canlas: I was a subscription box customer, maybe two or three years before I thought of the idea of Meowbox. I was a subscriber to cosmetics, so I knew that that was something that appealed to me, to my friends, people in a similar demographic as I was. And so I was aware of the concept of subscription boxes, but specifically like the moment where I thought, “You know what? There needs to be a Meowbox in this world” was when I started getting targeted on my Facebook for a dog subscription box. And I thought, you know what, instead of just ignoring it, thinking, well, that doesn’t apply to me. I don’t have a dog. I wondered – because I’m more of a cat person – I wonder if there was a box for cats and upon my initial research, there wasn’t a box that was dedicated just to cat parents.

Adrian Tennant: Meowboxes each contain a themed, curated collection of cat toys and treats. How do you come up with the ideas for the theming of each box?

Olivia Canlas: It used to be a lot easier, at the beginning when it was just the start and we had, we’re fresh with ideas. Like, you know, it was actually difficult to choose from all of our ideas and narrow it down to just 12 in a year. And now that we’ve been doing themes for a number of years, we also take into consideration what’s been popular. It kind of narrows down our choices. Cause I feel like we did our favorites right away and then, had to figure out, “Okay, how do we make the next year even better when we already did our favorite ones this previous year?” So what we like to do is actually send that request out to our audience on social media, our current subscribers and ask them for what they love to see in the box. So sometimes it’s like your classic themes, of course, like winter holidays and Halloween, Valentine’s Day. Those are the staples that we will likely repeat each year. But then in between all those major holidays and events, I mean it depends. Like some years it’s going to lean towards, I mean, like for example, this year with COVID everyone at home, some of the themes suggestions are like sort of tied to that. So things in the home. You know, for example, a lot of us have been staying in and taking up hobbies like gardening, baking. And so sort of things like that that are trending also help us choose what kinds of themes to do. And then like I had mentioned there’s our classic themes, separate from the holidays, but we’ve done sort of a camping theme one year and we did repeat, a similar theme to camping another year because the first time we did it, it was so popular.

Adrian Tennant: Now many established, direct-to-consumer brands initially acquire customers through social media. How does Meowbox typically attract new customers?

Olivia Canlas: The most effective way that we have found is yes, it’s associated with social media. I mean, especially even during this time, the past, I’d say five to six months, people are spending a lot more time at home, which means that they have more time to be closer to their cats. Perhaps take more photos of their cats, perhaps want to provide some, something more for their cats like Meowbox. So there’s been a lot of social sharing so that organically. Well, it helps us showcase our product to more people. Our community does that for us and with us, and also lean very heavily working with influencers on social media as well, and sending lots of boxes out and them sharing the word as well of what Meowbox is.

Adrian Tennant: Are there any emerging tools, technologies, or social apps that you foresee influencing the way that you connect with your customers or ways that you conduct your business in the future?

Olivia Canlas: Yes, we are spending more time on building our TikTok account and good news that it’s TikTok is going to stick around for a little bit longer, but I’ve always been a huge fan of jumping onto any of the social platforms that are trending and that seem interesting. And TikTok has been a lot of fun for us and something that we’re currently working on building right now.

Adrian Tennant: I recently caught up with Olivia and asked her what changes have occurred at Meowbox since we recorded that interview a year ago.

Olivia Canlas: I mean, honestly, we’ve grown a lot since last year. It’s been very busy for us. So last year, we did MeowFest digitally, and we decided that for 2022, we wanted to do it in person again. So we’re already choosing a venue, and vendors and talent and all of that. Yeah, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot to do in the past year, but also, we’re now dealing with some challenges with the supply chain. So a lot of challenges with shipping, bringing our international goods, across the water. Now that sort of has reached us for this year and so there’ll be some work next year to see how we work around that challenge.

Adrian Tennant: How did your experiments with TikTok go?

Olivia Canlas: Oh, so I love that question. So TikTok, we have been diligently posting once or twice a day doing a lot of creative, like trending TikToks. It’s not me doing it. We probably don’t want me doing it. A couple of team members who got really into it and we’ve actually hit a couple of viral TikToks. I mean, it’s really exciting to see, it’s a whole different audience when we compare definitely to Facebook, very different, different from our Instagram audience. So it’s really exciting to see people who we may not be reaching on other platforms, responding to the TikToks. It’s very like silly, lighthearted, very random, we’re going to keep exploring it. I recognize that it’s a place where a lot of people go for information, to see what’s new and trending. And I definitely don’t want to miss out on that. And it’s also a lot of fun and I like seeing my team also enjoying making these silly TikToks. So we should go take a look and see the stuff we’re doing.

Adrian Tennant: Have you introduced any new products that exceeded your expectations?

Olivia Canlas: So for new products that have gone really well, we have really tried to put focus into each individual toy having its own story. So it’s easy to see when we group four or five items together, sort of the theme that we’re projecting. But one of them um, directions we’re trying to go in is to have each toy, have its own sort of like, identity. One of our favorite toys that we created. It was the one for our work from home box and it was basically like a wool toy of a cat with no pants on, like if you’re on Zoom. You know, like business on the top and like, and party on the bottom. So we tried to make a toy like that. I’m not sure if we were the only ones who thought that was funny, but in that same box, we did also create like a mini laptop basically for your cat to sit in front of, while you’re working. So you have a coworker, while you’re working from home and that particular little laptop toy did extremely well.

Adrian Tennant: I love that.

Olivia Canlas: We love it too. We weren’t expecting some of the unboxing reactions from that toy. They were very positive and of course, just happy to see people enjoying those designs and that people get our sense of humor.

Adrian Tennant: Now you left us with a cliffhanger at the end of the podcast we recorded last year. Olivia, are you able to tell us what you did with all those crazy cat-related stories you invited your customers to submit.

Olivia Canlas: Oh, that was a while ago. Okay. So we did a call-out for some crazy cat tales from our audience. We emailed out and asked on social media and we actually created quite the large collection of very like interesting, cat stories. And the plan was to have them put out on a podcast, but unfortunately, that project is on hold. We just had other sort of I guess more operational things to accomplish. But we still have those stories and they’re still excellent. So that is like a TBD, to be determined, future project.

Adrian Tennant: In December of 2020, we talked about the growing interest in the use of sustainable materials in packaging design with Brandon Frank, the CEO of Pacific Packaging Components based in Los Angeles. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation.

Brandon Frank: My grandfather and grandmother started the company, like you said, about 50 years ago and my parents joined the company about 40 years ago. And so I was basically raised in the world of packaging. I like to joke that I knew about net finishes before I knew my ABCs, but that’s not probably totally accurate. And it was set up as a packaging distribution company. And that’s what we still are today. And so for, the listeners that don’t know what that is, basically we represent the customer and we figure out what they need from a packaging perspective. And then we go to our preferred vendors around the world and find the perfect manufacturer for their specific situation. And then we broker the deal. We buy the packaging from the manufacturer and sell to the end customer and manage the entire supply chain.

Adrian Tennant: Pacific Packaging Components developed custom packaging for the skincare line Drunk Elephant. How did that partnership originate? And what did the design process look like?

Brandon Frank: Tiffany Masterson is the founder and owner of Drunk Elephant – and they actually recently sold to Shiseido – but when we started with that company, they were still relatively small and still getting started. Their story with Drunk Elephant is very consistent with a lot of our kind of interactions and processes that we have with a lot of our other brands to where it starts off with a vision from the founder or from the owners or from the people in charge of kind of developing the packaging. And we were right there to basically guide and support and to go bring those things to reality. The other part too, is that we knew that there was going to be scaling with Drunk Elephant. She had a great idea, a great concept. And so we were expecting really great things. And so we weren’t just trying to supply the first round of packaging, but we were looking down the supply chain as well, to be able to make sure that as the brand grew, that there weren’t going to be supply chain issues from a packaging standpoint. But the creative process is really different, you know, for everybody. Sometimes it’s really straightforward and it’s really easy to be able to deliver on what the vision is. Other times it’s a little bit more fluid and a little more dynamic. And I think our agility is a real benefit in that regard because if things start to pivot away from kind of the initial concept or we’re going in a different direction, we have no problem changing manufacturers and going to someone else that can accomplish what we need to in order to make the customer happy.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the differences, if any, between packaging components used for beauty and skincare products versus food packaging? Are there any regulations that you have to take into account when dealing with food or drink?

Brandon Frank: Yes, absolutely. Really any time, you know, it’s going to be a CPG product there are going to be regulations that are going to be relevant, but if it’s going to be food beverage, anything that’s going to be ingested, there are strict laws through the FDA and other governing bodies. With beauty and personal care, there’s kind of less barrier because most of the products obviously are not being ingested. They’re kind of more topicals. But it’s still a really good idea to be able to use products and develop products that can be certified to some degree.

Adrian Tennant: We know that the youngest consumers – Generation Z – are very concerned about environmental issues. How is Pacific Packaging Components approaching the use of sustainable and recyclable materials?

Brandon Frank: Sustainability is incredibly important to us. And it’s been something that has kind of been, I would say, a focal point of how we’re viewing our own company and then the kind of industry as a whole. Obviously, we have been producing millions and millions of units of plastic and glass and other types of packaging for the past 50 years. And, as a family company, I’m looking at the legacy – what are we going to be a part of for the next 50 years? And so we want to be a part of the solution, and we are, you know, actively trying to improve, not only the sustainability of packaging, but really looking at the entire value chain. You know, I think traditionally we’ve really approached packaging from two central points: is it going to be functional? And is it going to look great and is it going to be on budget? And what’s really required right now is we need to take our blinders off – consumers, brands, packaging companies, packaging manufacturers, everyone involved – and say, “What materials are the best to use right now, according to the capabilities of our recycling stream?” So it’s really looking at the end and saying, “Okay, how can we design and choose packaging right now that it is going to be recycled?” Because it’s not enough to make something that’s quote, unquote “recyclable” if it’s not going to be recycled. We see this a lot with tubes and monolayer tubes. People call them recyclable all the time, but they’re never going to actually be recycled, especially here in the US. And so we’re taking a really active stand. We’re inspiring companies to be able to really consider and make sustainability a part of their brand and their ethos. You know, 81 percent of consumers in the US think that brands should be making decisions that are benefiting the environment rather than hurting. You know, we’ve seen the popularity of sustainability really come and go every decade for the last 50 years – It kind of comes, it’s really popular,and then it fades away. But something’s different this time. We feel like the levee’s kind of been broken on the topic of sustainability – whether it’s because of social media, or Netflix documentaries that have kind of shown the amount of plastic waste that’s in the ocean, but sustainability is going to be here to stay.

Adrian Tennant: I spoke to Brandon again recently and asked him about the availability of materials and logistics over the past 12 months.

Brandon Frank: So the supply chain issues have certainly continued to be one of the most significant issues, for most U.S. brands and companies. The challenges at the port have been the most popular in the media. But the way that we’ve seen it in the way that I like to describe it is that the supply chain issues are an interconnected, incredibly complex spider web that has tremendous ripples across multiple industries and product lines. And so this solution is not an easy one and there isn’t a legislative fix. There’s not a decision that can be made. There’s not more people that can be thrown at one part of the problem in order to fix this. And so while it’s continued to be an issue since we last spoke, I think what has changed is the realization that this is not going away anytime soon. And we need to kind of settle in, realize that 2022 is going to continue to bring these issues. Maybe in 2023, things will start to alleviate a little bit for some companies, and to plan accordingly. And so a lot of our customers, and our supply chain has really looked 12 months out and placed orders for their packaging, to make sure that their business isn’t held up by long lead times. You know, a difficult time in getting plastic resins or whatever it is.

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, are there any significant challenges that you’ve had to overcome since we last spoke?

Brandon Frank: I mean, apart from the supply chain issues, COVID disrupted a lot of movement or progress that had been made on the sustainable packaging front. It was almost like the whole industry said, “We know it’s important. We know we eventually want to get to it, but timeout, we’ve got some other things we want to work on.” And I think our development of sustainable packaging, the temptation was for us to also put it on hold, to stop pursuing different PCR resin supply chains, or different refillable options. And instead of doing that, we said, you know, we’re going to do it all at the same time. We know that sustainable packaging is going to be important going forward. And so we’re not going to slow down the development of solutions. So we just continued there, but I have noticed that the conversation around sustainable packaging and the decision to actually purchase more sustainable packaging has certainly changed.

Adrian Tennant: Bigeye recently published a report, looking at consumer behavior and what shoppers want from brands today. Four in every five shoppers say that a brand’s policies and stances related to the environment and sustainability are extremely or somewhat important. And over three quarters say that whether a product packaging is made from sustainable materials or can be recycled or upcycled is also important to them. Brandon, I know these data points won’t surprise you. Have there been any initiatives or projects you’ve worked on in the past year that illustrate how brands have responded positively to changing consumer attitudes?

Brandon Frank: I don’t know if I’ll be able to share any specifics. We pride ourselves on being the best kept secret in the packaging industry. We sign a lot of NDAs and non-competes. And so just as a general, kind of comment, especially around the selection of glass and aluminum has continued to be popular and that when plastic needs to be used, the most sustainable option and that most people are going toward is to use the highest percentage of post-consumer recycled resin as possible. We know that there’s a lot of bio-based resins and other, biodegradable additives and things like that but we follow the guidance of the sustainable packaging guidelines. And we really say that, you know, if you’re going to use plastic, use the highest percentage of PCR that you can. There’s a lot of supply chain issues with that right now, because the largest companies in the world are buying up most of the highest quality PCR, which leaves a lot of large middle and small brands struggling to be able to meet MOQs and price points. but the industry is responding. We’re seeing investment in recycled facilities. And so I think, again, 2022 will continue to show a lot of issues and, hopefully, 2023 things will really start to come together for that. 

Adrian Tennant: Liz, what are you most excited about in 2022?

Liz Mazzei: Oh, I can’t wait for this new year. I’m really excited to test these additional channels. I think that’s one of my main goals. I’m also really excited about focusing on the customer and client experience. So thinking about how their experience online translates to offline and really understanding how it’s a complete ecosystem, make sure that we are supporting them in all those different activities. I really want it to be more holistic and look at the bigger picture there. I think I’m also excited about some brand evolution, to our creative strategy that we’re working on. The company’s been around for about 10 years and we have a really sophisticated and contemporary look and feel for the brand. And I want to continue to push that envelope and to continue to refine that. So we’re looking at some branding changes as well. That is going to be very exciting.

Adrian Tennant: Liz thank you for being a guest again today and helping us to make it to 100 episodes.

Liz Mazzei: Thank you for having me. It’s very exciting. I look forward to talking again in the future.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney, what are you most excited about for 2022?

Delaney Doria: So we are at the final stages with our rejuvenating collection. We are just at the stage right now where we’re ordering materials, packaging, all of that and getting it ready. So we’re very close. Of course with everyone there’s been supply chain issues and delays, so we’re just trying to navigate that but we’re all ready for a launch early next year.

Adrian Tennant: Delaney. Thank you very much for catching up with us today.

Delaney Doria: Thank you. And congrats on episode 100 of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you very much.

Adrian Tennant: Olivia, as you look ahead to 2022, what are you most excited about?

Olivia Canlas: So for 2022, I am very excited for our growth plans. One of the most fun things for me is building our team and bringing more people in, learning more and seeing more of the talents that people have. Everyone that we bring in has a set of talents that I don’t have so it fascinates me. We bring in someone who has the patience to do the customer service, the creativity to do design, and has the wisdom to do paid ad strategy. It’s fascinating to me to watch a group of people get together collectively to reach our goals and with growth, like I said, being our biggest goal for next year. It’s fun for me to bring people together like that. And it’s just so fascinating to watch people thrive and flourish and watch their talents come out. I’m optimistic and also putting into play all the things that we learned from last year. We feel much more prepared. But I mean, who knows what 2022 has to bring, but we feel prepared for whatever it may be as prepared as we can be. I personally love the unknown. It’s exciting. So, yeah, a little bit of the unknown and a little bit of being prepared for that too is exciting for me.

Adrian Tennant: Olivia, thank you for helping us make it to 100 episodes.

Olivia Canlas: A hundred episodes. Congratulations. That’s a lot of talking.

Adrian Tennant: And thank you for catching up with us on IN CLEAR FOCUS today.

Olivia Canlas: My pleasure.

Adrian Tennant: Brandon, what are you most excited about for 2022?

Brandon Frank: There’s a lot that I’m hopeful for, for this next year. Certainly getting through COVID, together. Feeling more united in the way that we’re combating, that is certainly something that I’m hoping for. And then from a business standpoint, I am happy that, after 50 years of being in this industry, we’re on track to be able to double our size and revenue in a pretty short period of time. So 2022 from a business standpoint for us personally, I’m really excited to reach the milestones that we’ve never been able to reach before. Just as a company.

Adrian Tennant: Congratulations. That’s excellent. Brandon, thank you for catching up with us today and helping us make it to a hundred episodes of IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Brandon Frank: Adrian, thank you so much. And it really is an honor to be on your show and you do such a great job as a host. So I wish you all the best.

Adrian Tennant: Thank you, Brandon, very much!

Adrian Tennant: As we come to the end of this 100th episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’d like to thank all the guests on today’s show: Liz Mazzei of Provenance Meals; Delaney Doria of Luma & Leaf; Olivia Canlas of Meowbox; and Brandon Frank of Pacific Packaging Components. And a big thank you too, to all our previous guests, who’ve been so generous with their time and willing to share their insights with us. I also want to thank the team at Bigeye that helps make this podcast possible every week: from brainstorming content ideas, identifying and scheduling guests, editing the audio and ad breaks, and creating episode artwork and show transcripts. But most of all, a very sincere “thank you” to you. Whether you’ve been with us since the first episode in 2019, or joining us for the first time today, I really appreciate you choosing to spend time with us. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS from Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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