I ran across this article from The New Hope Network. It’s a two-part video case study given by Serafina Palandech of Hip Chick Farms. It’s well worth a watch. She recounts her story about the packaging trials that her small food brand has endured in its short history. It’s a great (and all too common) snapshot of what a lot of small food companies encounter in the early stages of their business as they try different things and learn from their mistakes.

My initial reaction was probably different than most readers.

On the surface, this seems like a success story – the headline reads, How a redesign increased product sales by 300 percent – but to me, this is a cautionary tale about early mistakes, missteps, and failed investments that absolutely could (and should) have been avoided.

Far too many passionate entrepreneurs with marketable ideas, great products, and compelling stories end up taking their lumps because of poor packaging execution, and sadly, most can’t recover.

Hip Chick Farms has been really fortunate. They had a great product that was perfectly positioned to disrupt a category that was ripe for innovation, and as a result, they got an unusual amount of support from both customers and retailers to keep the product on shelves. Not only was the company able to raise capital through successful crowdfunding efforts, they were able to secure investments from Whole Foods Market through their local producer lending program to pay for high-end branding and packaging (twice!) – they believed that strongly in the product, the brand, and the people behind it.

The owners’ decision to bring in outside resources to supplement their own strengths is admirably self-aware – Serafina humbly admitted that she and her partner were not knowledgable about branding and packaging, and that they learned a lot along the way. They’ve seemingly managed to weather the storm, and come out on the other side relatively unscathed, so in that sense, this is a success story. Unfortunately, this education came at an extreme cost – many tens of thousands of dollars, significant debt, and delays…all because the experts they hired failed to hold up their end of the bargain.

Upstart Food Brands didn’t exist when Hip Chick Farms launched 4 years ago, but this is the exact sort of story that led to its founding. We offer superior branding, packaging, and food business expertise that companies can rely on, and at prices that don’t hamstring growth. For the budget that this company spent, just on packaging iterations, we could have produced their branding, packaging, website, custom photography, and other key assets, and done it in a way that better served both consumer and retail audiences, putting them much further ahead in their lifecycle, and allowing them to use some of that capital to instead promote and grow their brand.

Good design and good packaging design can be very different things. Packaging design takes more than just the ability to create an attractive layout; it requires an understanding of packaging regulations, knowledge of current trends and marketing claims that can be leveraged, printing techniques, packaging substrates, the competitive landscape for the brand, market conditions, retailer needs, an intimate knowledge of the brand and the hopes and dreams of its founders, and most importantly, an understanding of how to effectively engage their specific audience with their distinct story at the shelf.

Effective packaging design doesn’t require a big investment, it just requires finding the right partner and making the right investment. If you’re just getting started with your food or beverage brand (or you have a packaging design that’s not performing to your expectations), don’t gamble with your limited capital. Hire an expert like Upstart Food Brands that you can rely on to help you navigate the unfamiliar territory. Contact us today, and let’s talk!


Josh Schipkowski

Owner of Upstart Food Brands, Josh is dedicated to helping food brands realize their potential.