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PUR pack extends cheesecake company's reach

Cold-chain packaging using custom-molded polyurethane foam cushions protects Jubilations’ gourmet cheesecakes over long distances, cuts shipping costs.
FILED IN:  Package design  > Structural
 Since 1983, Tammy Craddock, a former schoolteacher and stay-at-home mom, has handmade her delectable, gourmet cheesecakes—first from her home kitchen, and then from a production plant in Columbus, MS—under the name Jubilations Cheesecake. Today, Jubilations supplies more than 60 cheesecake flavors in a variety of sizes and slicing options to local grocers, organizations (for fundraising), foodservice distributors, and consumers via mail order.

For a long time however, true nationwide expansion eluded the company, as packaging limitations restricted the growth of its mail-order business. The problem was that the expanded polystyrene foam package the company used to ship its products could not keep a cheesecake cold for longer than a day. This meant all cheesecakes had to be sent using next-day delivery.

Says Jubilations vice president George Purnell, “UPS services all of the country from Columbus, but we could not reach any customers outside the mid-South unless we used costly next-day air.” To save shipping costs and extend its reach to other parts of the country, Jubilations needed packaging with superior insulation qualities that would extend the days of distribution to allow for second- and third-day delivery.

The solution came in the form of a new packaging concept, the Instapak® TempGuard™ cold-chain package from Sealed Air
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, introduced to Jubilations by sales representative Michael Gibson.

Following the recipe

Designed for shipping temperature-sensitive products with dry ice, the Instapak TempGuard is comprised of a corrugated case fitted with custom-molded or standard-size polyurethane foam cushions. According to Sealed Air, PUR is proven to insulate better than EPS, which means that products can be kept colder for longer periods of time using the Instapak TempGuard. This allows companies to choose more cost-efficient shipping options.

The Instapak TempGuard coolers designed for Jubilations are custom-molded. Sealed Air packaging engineers added pockets to the mold to accommodate dry ice and allow for easy removal of the cake by the customer. In addition, the lid of the cooler has a ring that fits perfectly over the dome of the cheesecake package, reducing dead air space and sealing the lid securely in place, which prevents the dry ice from sublimating at a fast rate.

Since the coolers arrive at Jubilations’ plant in preassembled boxes, the packaging process is “a piece of cake,” the company relates. The operator opens the box and removes the lid. After placing one scoop of dry ice in the pocket in the bottom of the box, the operator adds the cheesecake and then places the lid securely in place on top. To finish, the packager tapes the box shut and applies the shipping label.

“This is a much more efficient process than the original package,” says Purnell. The original EPS package for one-day shipment required the packager to assemble the corrugated box before adding the foam components. “Our employees were cautiously optimistic with the package change. The preboxed cooler saves about one minute of assembly time for each employee per package,” says Purnell. “That means we can ship more cheesecakes per day with the same number of employees.”

Ingredients for success

When looking for a new package for Jubilations’ mail-order business, Purnell says the company not only sought a container with superior insulation, but also one with high ratings for appearance, durability, environmental friendliness, and cost efficiency. “It’s important that we have a clean, beautiful package that’s as good as the cheesecake,” he says. “The Instapak TempGuard foam cushions give the package an enhanced appearance in addition to superior insulation.”

The appearance of the cake inside is just as important, Purnell adds: “You only get one chance to deliver it right. One cheesecake generates another. If the cheesecake is not delivered fully intact and at the right temperature, the cake is ruined, and we’ve lost a customer.”

With product as delicate as a cheesecake, there is always the potential for damage during shipping, so Jubilations required a package durable enough to eliminate shifting or crumbling of the product. “Damage prevention is important because it enhances the customer experience and reduces resources needed to create a replacement cake and ship the product an additional time,” says Purnell.

As for the environmental friendliness of the package, the Instapak TempGuard cold-chain solution allows Jubilations to use ground delivery for more than 75% of the continental U.S. instead of air, which Sealed Air says has eight times the carbon output of ground. “We’re reducing carbon emissions and preventing the need for return delivery,” says Purnell.

He adds that the package was also designed to take up the least amount of space possible. “The dimension optimization reduces the packaging materials needed and the vehicles required to ship, which reduces overall carbon footprint,” Purnell says. “Of course, the cooler can also be reused.”

Although each Sealed Air package costs Jubilations $5 more than the EPS pack, the extra days of insulation offered by the Instapak TempGuard offset packaging costs with lower shipping costs. Shipping the cheesecakes using two- or three-day air transit reduces shipping costs by $30 to $33, providing net savings per package of $25 to $28.

Efficiencies and increased sales are both benefits that Craddock says she appreciates, but both pale in comparison to her overriding goal: customer satisfaction. “The thought of just one cake being ruined in the shipping process is very upsetting,” she says. “Poor packaging could result in a ruined birthday or event.”

Taste testing

Before putting the new solution into service, Jubilations, Sealed Air, and UPS each performed separate testing to perfect the package. According to Purnell, the testing phase lasted eight weeks and was done not only to check for efficiency and durability, but also for safety.

“Testing of the sublimation process is crucial to what we do,” says Purnell. “Dry ice needs air so that it can turn to gas. The package cannot be a vacuum, or it will explode.”

ISTA-certified packaging engineers from Sealed Air’s Packaging Design & Development center performed a side-by-side shipping performance test to compare Jubilations’ EPS package to the new Instapak TempGuard solution. Using Sealed Air’s TurboTag® RFID time and temperature monitoring device, the engineers were able to determine the time and temperature measurement at any point during the testing process. Sealed Air says the Instapak TempGuard outperformed the EPS package by allowing up to three days of insulation at the optimal temperature, compared to only one day with the EPS package. In addition the Instapak TempGuard cooler was exceptionally durable.

“The Instapak TempGuard cooler surpassed all of our packaging requirements,” says Purnell. “We added a new box to accommodate the Instapak foam, which UPS helped to right-size for dimensional-weight considerations.”

“The testing phase never stops,” he adds. “We’re always looking to improve our package.”

Baked to perfection

In addition to reducing labor time by one minute per package, the Instapak TempGuard also increased Jubilations’ sales while decreasing overall shipping costs. After switching to Instapak TempGuard, Jubilations experienced a 19% decrease in net shipping costs.

Changing from next-day delivery to two- and three-day delivery allowed Jubilations to expand its customer base to a larger geographic region.

“2008 was a challenging year for Jubilations sales-wise, but it would have been terrible without the new packaging,” says Purnell. “More than three percent of our total sales came from a single new customer that we would not have been able to ship to due to shipping costs without the new package. Now that we’ve expanded geographically for our potential client base and have a package that allows for an affordable shipping price, the sky is the limit!”

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