After her last trip to PACK EXPO, Peggy Shannon, the founder of artisan cookie manufacturer Queen City Cookies LLC of Cincinnati, Ohio, purchased a shrink packaging machine that helped ensure the freshness and quality of her cookies.
Almost Too Beautiful to Eat
Queen City Cookies is the brainchild of Peggy Shannon, a life-long baker and artist, as a way to offer consumers delicious and beautiful baked goods. Her creations are made from scratch and use natural, preservative-free ingredients like European butter, farm-fresh eggs, cane sugar and unbleached flour. But what makes them unique is that Shannon and her artisan bakers use vintage 14th century German-style molds and finish cookies by hand with decorative piping.
Shannon’s crispy and buttery shortbread cookies can be custom-made according to each client’s personal taste and any occasion, including birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, baby showers and corporate events. Gift packages partner the artistic cookies with elegant cards that tell fictional stories of the life of Queen City’s elephant — the company’s imaginary mascot — or display images and inspirational messages. The cards are meant to be kept long after the cookies have been consumed — and the company says they are.
These distinctive cookies have helped Shannon grow her small boutique bakery into a larger wholesale business. While production has successfully been scaled up to satisfy the demands of customers in Cincinnati and across the United States, packaging has been a greater challenge. The expansion to wholesale has added new levels of complexity, including extending the shelf life of the products and protecting them during distribution.
Finding the Right Solution
“We take great pride in ensuring the superior quality and taste of our cookies, and we need to uphold that commitment consistently to warrant the higher prices we charge for our product,” Shannon explains. “Packaging plays a critical role in achieving that goal, both from the perspective of shelf life as well as protection, especially now that we’re servicing customers around the country. Shipping stale or broken cookies just isn’t an option. We thought PACK EXPO would provide the information we needed to present our products in the best possible way.”
After visiting several exhibitors, Shannon stopped at the PACK-ALL booth and met with Skip LaFontaine, the company’s sales manager. It was there that she learned the benefits of shrink wrapping and how it would provide the protection and shelf life her cookies needed, while still allowing customers to fully appreciate the beauty of her creations.
Shannon brought a selection of cookies with her to PACK EXPO International 2010, so La Fontaine introduced her to another exhibitor, a film manufacturer who could counsel her about the film that would best fit her needs. La Fontaine took a roll of the recommended film to the PACK-ALL booth and made sample packages for Shannon on the spot using the PACK-ALL Model U1319D Unitized Shrink Package System.
Shannon knew immediately that she had found her solution — and the suppliers — she needed. She decided to buy the system immediately — right off the show floor.
The compact, easy–to-use system features patented TurboFlow™ technology, which creates an adjustable air flow for more consistent film shrinkage, as well as automatic tunnel cool down. Wire changes can be made safely and easily without tools, and Teflon curtains keep wires clean. The system is designed to wrap a variety of different sizes products and operates at speeds around 8-12 packages per minute. The machine is also easy to install because it operates on 120 volt current and doesn’t need any special power lines or compressed air outlets or connections.
It is shipped already assembled and ready to use. In the case of Queen City Cookies that caused a “little” problem: “They had to take a window out form the second floor and get a crane to lift it through,” La Fontaine said.
Shannon hasn’t forgotten La Fontaine’s consultative approach and continues to rely on his counsel even as the PACK-ALL system continues to run smoothly. She has even turned to him for advice on other equipment purchases she’s considering.
More Challenges Ahead
With demand continuing to increase, Queen City Cookies is building a new 12,000-square-foot bakery in Cincinnati. And, she has already purchased rotary molder machines to produce 24,000 cookies per hour, a significant increase from prior speeds of 300 per hour.
Making this shift means ramping up packaging machinery to keep up with production, so once again Shannon’s turning to PACK EXPO for solutions. She’ll attend the show this October to hunt for the innovative wrapping and bagging technologies she needs to add to her lines. And she has full confidence that she’ll find what she’s looking for.
“I feel like a kid in a candy store when I go to PACK EXPO,” Shannon says. “The show provides access to so much different technology, and I’m sure my trip this year will be as successful as my last one.”