Today is November 1, and you can purchase Carl the Snowman (also known as the original hot chocolate bomb) to help you celebrate the holiday season 2019. Carl is the brainchild of Kate Weiser, Kate Weiser chocolate. He is a chocolate snowman who loves marshmallows and drinks chocolate mix. Even though he has his own Instagram page, he gets lots of attention from Kate’s Instagram account.
Shipping Carl is challenging, as I’m sure many of you can see. Kate wrote a blog entry about shipping Carl in February 2017. You can find that blog post if you missed it.
Oprah included Carl the Snowman in her Favorite Things List for 2018. We were not surprised to see him in Oprah’s Favorite Things List. He is so adorable and makes the perfect gift.
Kate was able to write a blog about the changes in shipping during Carl and Oprah’s holiday season. Kate shared her knowledge and provided a wealth of information.
Is the process of making Carl different?
This year, the process of actually making Carl has been drastically altered. We bought equipment in last year’s last quarter, which we are excited to use for Carl’s production. The first is a mold-spinning machine that uses custom Carl the Snowman molds. These molds attach via magnets to the device. The machine allows you to make eight snowmen in one go rather than making them one at a time and then gluing them together. It costs $35,000 to build. You can see the machine on Kate’s Instagram.
A machine is also available that can poke a hole into Carl’s underside to allow us to fill him with cocoa mix or marshmallows through a funnel. We then plug the hole using a square piece of custom-made material that Carl can sit on. This method eliminates all weaknesses in the exterior seam, making Carl much more durable and protecting him during shipping. The new system reduces the labor required to produce Carl from 6 months to 9 weeks. It’s amazing.
However, it takes work to create Carl the Snowman in such a short time. It’s impossible to order ingredients slowly and steadily. We now have to collect all Carl’s ingredients in advance – that’s 14,000 pounds of chocolate I need to figure out where to place. Two hundred mini marshmallows, 200 white chocolate cases, and 75kg of white and orange-colored cocoa butter must go somewhere. This is also a drain on cash flow as the purchases must be made during my third quarter, which is usually my lowest-performing quarter. The reality is that I can buy this much at once, sometimes by half my unit costs. It will be well worth it when they move in the holiday season.
Is Carl’s packaging different this year?
Carl’s box received a major overhaul when we recently did so. Last year, my partnership with Neiman Marcus was so successful that I felt compelled to make an additional investment. Neiman Marcus tripled their order last year, so I wanted to ensure that the packaging was consistent with the brand’s quality. The new box is more attractive on the shelf and provides additional protection for shipping. It was a wise decision to hire a professional graphic designer over DIY. It was crucial that Carl the Snowman’s packaging looked the part since he has been my brand ambassador. What’s the downside? The downside? My boxes will arrive five weeks late this year. This means that we will need to store 20,000 snowmen temporarily until the proper containers arrive. This means Carl will have to be moved twice as often instead of once. We will also need to buy temporary packaging and labor costs.
Since the start of the trade war with China, I have been working hard to transfer my packaging from Chinese producers to domestic. Carl will be the only overseas packaging I purchase this year. It was a tedious and stressful process that led to me running out of six-piece boxes within a month.
Shipping Carl the Snowman can be a difficult task. What changes have you made in shipping this year?
We also invested in better shipping technology this year for Carl. Over the past 4-5months, I have been working with a shipping specialist at ADE, Inc to develop a new way to get Carl from A to B safely. The guys from ADE were great to work with and came up with some brilliant ideas to keep Carl safe.
The suspension package allows the Carl box to be suspended within the shipping container, preventing vibrations from getting knocked about. It works great, and I cannot wait to try it out on a larger scale. The new shipping box was easier to assemble for my crew and has a higher success rate than the last year’s. It’s also cheaper than the previous method.
Oprah named Carl, the Snowman, one of her Favorite Things in 2018. What did this mean for production and shipping last holiday season?
Last year, Oprah’s Favorite Things was an exciting ride. I didn’t know what I would get, so I went for it. I increased bonbon production by 3x and increased Carl’s production by 5x. Traffic was supposed to drive sales for all our products, but it only affected Carl the Snowman.