Shipping is a significant challenge for anyone working in the chocolate industry. Because chocolate is fragile, it can be scratched, broken, or scratched. Temperature changes can make chocolate sensitive and may become out of temper. You want your chocolate product to arrive in perfect condition after you have worked so hard to make it!
Imagine the challenges of packaging and shipping a 3D chocolate snowman. This is what Kate Weiser, Kate Weiser chocolate, had to do when she needed to send Carl The Snowman across America. Carl, also known as the original hot cocoa bomb, is a chocolate snowman with a stomach full of chocolate mix and a head full of marshmallows. Even though he has his own Instagram page, he also gets lots of attention on Kate’s Instagram account. We were thrilled when Kate offered to answer some questions about her challenges. So without further ado, here is Kate’s insight on shipping and packaging, Carl!
Combining molded and drinking chocolate in a cute shape is a fantastic idea. How did you do it?
This was my first Christmas at my new storefront, and I knew I wanted to make some molded pieces for this holiday season. It was late in the game. I believe it was late October. I made a prototype of a snowman with nothing inside and gave it to one of my customers. She said, “Oh, how cute! But it’s so sad you have to kill him!” After I laughed, I realized that forcing my customers to kill their cute snowman was a great idea. How do you get rid of a snowman? You melt HIM! It was like lightning. The only way to make people melt him was to give him hot cocoa. The best part was adding marshmallows that would rise to the top of the cocoa. Another prototype was made, this time with homemade marshmallows and our cocoa mix. It was tested to determine how much milk would taste best, and several prototypes were tested to ensure it worked. We knew it would work once we had it tested. So I created a quick recipe for our customers to tell them how much milk they should use. That was it!
What are the steps to make Carl?
Over the years, the steps required to make Carl have changed. The first year was the most absurd. He was created in October, so I needed more time to experiment with different techniques. We only made 100 copies, to begin with, but once word spread in Dallas (he was featured on the Dallas Morning News food and wine section), we couldn’t stop making them. There was a huge waiting list, so I had to hire a Carl team to meet the demand.
We took these steps to make him happy in his first year.
We used both a small and medium sphere mold
1-shell both size sphere molds with three layers of chocolate
2. Make the hot cocoa mixture in robocop
3. Make the marshmallows and then freeze them
4- Cut the marshmallows into small pieces
5- Fill the larger sphere molds with hot cocoa mixture and seal them together. Rub smooth
6- Fill the smaller spheres with marshmallows, pack them together, and rub them smooth
7. Use a hotplate to create a flat bottom for the larger sphere so that it stands upright
8- Use glue to attach the smaller sphere to the larger one for the basic shape of the snowman.
9- Glue the two sphere pieces onto a flat chocolate bar base
Let him cool for 10 minutes, then spray him with white chocolate cocoa butter to give him that fuzzy texture.
Eyeballs – 11-hand pipe
12- Create a custom orange transfer sheet, layer it with chocolate, cut small triangles for his nose and glue it on.
13- Create a custom green transfer and layer it with chocolate. Cut into ovals to make his big button. Then glue the switch on.
14 – Make his hat from a shell and attach it to his head with a swirl mold
You can see that 14 steps seem insane when you consider that you will be selling products to people before they even get them on the shelves. This allowed us only to make about 100 per week, so we hired an overnight crew to help us finish these.
We created a mold that was unique for the second year. This allowed us to skip many previous steps and produce him in two pieces instead of four. We used the same mold but started production in August instead. Carl is stable and can be stored for a long time, so that we could make him a manageable amount of time ahead of the deadline. We sold 1000 the first year, 3200 the second, and 4300 the third year. There was still some left. We could make 100 sales per day by the end of year 3.
Please tell us about the packaging Carl received in his first year of sale. What was the first year like for Carl? What were the obstacles?
It’s incredible that the packaging I chose that first year still functions today. It’s a simple, clear stock box from clearbags.com. This is a great place to buy clear packaging without minimums. We also created an insert-branded platform with all instructions for customers. This is the same packaging we use today. This packaging is ideal for display on our shelves and allows customers to transport their homes in one piece. Carl will not move if he is securely attached to his base.
Carl was not shipped in his first two years. I knew he was too fragile to ship from how he was made. Some customers ignored our warnings and sent him anyway. Each one reported how the whole snowman exploded upon arrival and became a massive box of hot cocoa mixture. Many customers begged me to find a way to get them to their destination. Each holiday I meet with my team to discuss the things we would like to improve. Our big goal for 2016 was to create shipping packaging for Carl.
Carl is three years old now. How has Carl’s packaging changed over the years? How did you design Carl’s new packaging?
Packaging and products can both change with each new year. It is essential to always look for ways to improve packaging and products, regardless of whether they are functional or form-based. We strive to improve both the appearance and the protection of the chocolate. Since it is usually a significant investment, I focus on one or two areas that require improvement. He comes in a clear plastic box with a customized branded insert. We spent very little on the box, and the more units I bought, I paid per unit. Our money went towards the custom-branded insert. We knew telling Carl’s story was vital, so we ensured the product looked great and told Carl’s story well.
We began shipping Carl in April last year, just two years after we had been with him for two years. We decided to put our efforts into making Carl shippable by Christmas. It can take several months to create custom packaging, so be patient. A few local packaging companies looked at Carl to come up with initial ideas for keeping him safe. After two months of reviewing different companies, I was convinced it couldn’t be done.