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Packaging a Sweet Solution for Cheesecake Business

Tammy Craddock didn’t set out to make the perfect cheesecake.

“I never baked a cheesecake in my life,” says Craddock, a former schoolteacher and stay-at-home mom. “After baking breads and desserts for friends and family, the demand grew. A faithful friend encouraged me to try cheesecakes and I am glad I listened.”

In July 1989, after six years of baking cheesecakes out of her own kitchen, Craddock moved her cheesecake business into a production plant in Columbus, MS, and Jubilations Cheesecake was born.

Twenty years later, each cheesecake is still made by hand. Jubilations now supplies more than 60 flavors in a variety of sizes and slicing options to local grocers, organizations (for fundraising), foodservice distributors, and consumers via mail orders. But even though mail orders allowed for regional growth, packaging limitations presented obstacles to true nationwide expansion.

“We couldn’t grow our business without increasing our mail order business,” says George Purnell, vice president for Jubilations. The expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam package the company originally used could not keep a cheesecake cold for longer than a day, so all of Jubilations’ cheesecakes had to be shipped using next-day delivery.

“UPS services all of the country from Columbus, MS, but we could not reach any customers outside the mid-south with our EPS foam cooler using anything less than costly next-day air,” says Purnell. “In addition to reaching other parts of the country, we knew we could reduce our shipping costs significantly if we did not have to overnight items. We needed packaging with superior insulation qualities that would extend the days of distribution to allow for second- and third-day delivery.”

So in 2006, Michael Gibson, sales representative with Sealed Air, approached Jubilations Cheesecake with a new packaging concept. Sealed Air’s Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Packaging was used to create a solution that turned out to be the perfect “ingredient” for Jubilations Cheesecake.

Ingredients for Success

“You only get one chance to deliver it right,” says Purnell. “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.” In addition to superior insulation, Jubilations needed a new package 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 is,” says Purnell. “The Instapak® foam cushions give the package enhanced appearance in addition to superior insulation.”

Appearance on the outside is only as good as appearance on the inside, however. There is always potential for damage with a product as delicate as a cheesecake. It is important that Jubilations’ packaging is durable so the item does not shift or crumble.

“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 has 8 times the carbon output of ground. “We’re reducing carbon emissions and preventing the need for return delivery,” says Purnell.

In addition, the package size was designed to take up the least amount of space needed.

“The dimension optimization reduces packaging materials needed and vehicles required to ship, which reduces overall carbon footprint,” says Purnell. “Of course, the cooler can also be reused.”

Although each Sealed Air package costs Jubilations $5 more than the single-day shipment package, the extra days of insulation offered by the Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Solution offset packaging costs with lower shipping costs. Shipping the cheesecakes using 2- or 3-day transit reduces shipping costs by $30 to $33, providing net savings per package of $25 to $28.

Following the Recipe

Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Packaging is a high performance solution uniquely suited for shipping temperature-sensitive products with dry ice. Because Instapak® polyurethane foam is proven to insulate better than EPS, products can be kept colder for longer periods of time, allowing companies to choose more cost-effective shipping options.

The Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain 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 cooler lid has a ring that fits perfectly over the dome of the cheesecake package, reducing dead air space and sealing the lid securely in place to prevent the dry ice from sublimating at a fast rate.

Since the Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain coolers arrive at Jubilations’ plant in preassembled boxes, the packaging process is “a piece of cake.” The packager opens the box and removes the lid. After placing one scoop of dry ice in the pocket in the bottom of the box, the packager adds the cheesecake and then places the lid securely in place on top. To finish, the packager tapes the box 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 pre-boxed Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain 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.”

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 8 weeks, checking not only for efficiency and durability, but 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™ Cold Chain Packaging 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. The Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Package 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™ Cold Chain cooler was exceptionally durable.

“The Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain 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 dim-weight considerations.

“The testing phase never stops,” says Purnell. “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™ Cold Chain Packaging increased Jubilations’ sales while decreasing overall shipping costs. After switching to the Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Package, Jubilations experienced a 19% decrease in net shipping costs. And changing from next-day delivery to 2- and 3-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 Instapak® TempGuard™ Cold Chain Package,” says Purnell. “More than 3% 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!”

Efficiencies and increased sales are benefits Jubilations founder Tammy Craddock 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,” says Craddock. “Poor packaging could result in a ruined birthday or event.”


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