A New York Favorite Coffee, All Dressed Up
Glimmering graphics and sturdy foil pouches have spearheaded a corporate makeover for coffee roaster Dallis Coffee of Queens, New York. With the introduction of a series of new pouches, Dallis Coffee launched an image campaign that highlights the company’s emphasis on quality.
Since Abe and Morris Dallis began roasting coffee in 1913, the company has focused on a high-end clientele. And when third-generation owner David Dallis joined the family business in the early 1980s, after a stint as an electrical engineer with General Electric, Dallis Coffee kept up with the wave of demand for signature gourmet coffee.
In fact, David Dallis was among the early proponents of the estate coffee purchasing model, dealing directly with top growers to acquire the green beans that would deliver the desired attributes to the company’s blends. Dallis coffees grew in sophistication and acclaim. As the company rolled through its ninth decade in business, its client list read like a “who’s who” of the New York culinary scene: Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Café, Aquavit, the Sea Grill, the Metropolitan Opera House, and other top venues.
But as with most wholesale coffee, packaging was an afterthought.
“There had been no scrutiny of the packaging in thirty or forty years,” says Jim Munson, the general manager hired by David Dallis in 2000 to add spark to the company’s marketing efforts. “We were being served in some of the finest restaurants in the world, but the packaging seemed to say ‘diner coffee from the ‘50s and ‘60’s.’ We had a figure on the pouch, sort of a typical image from that era, like the Pillsbury doughboy or Bob’s Big Boy. It was upbeat, but it was very dated. In general, we thought we could make a bigger statement about the quality of what was inside the bag.”
A Closer Look
Munson points out that although most wholesale coffee is packaged without pizzazz, there’s an increasing need for wholesalers to present their product with a retail-like flair. The alternative: they risk becoming a commodity.
Fortunately, packaging technology has advanced substantially in recent years, offering an array of options to savvy marketers. “The ability to produce better-looking packaging today is light years ahead of where it was five years ago,” says Munson.
CLP Packaging Solutions of Fairfield, New Jersey supplies Dallis Coffee’s packaging. Through offices in the U.S. and abroad, CLP serves coffee roasters in the U.S., Israel, Central America, the Dominican Republic, Romania and South Africa, so the company is familiar with the spectrum of approaches to packaging coffee. CLP’s vice president of sales and marketing, Meir Sigal, says Dallis Coffee has shown a strong commitment to communicating the quality of its coffee - and preserving that quality - through top-of-the-line laminates and design.
That sounds expensive. But Munson figures the investment in new packaging adds less than three cents per bag for the company’s flagship five-pound stand-up pouch, which replaced flat, five-pound pillow pouches that tended to tip over and spill their contents. Formed from rolls of pre-printed, laminated film on Dallis Coffee’s packaging line, the five-pound bag features gussets that allow it to stand up on its own. A one-way valve allows carbon dioxide to escape from the pouch as freshly roasted beans cool in the bag, and the three-layer laminate protects the beans from oxygen, sunlight and moisture. It’s a lot of performance for just three extra cents, Munson notes.
“With a marginal increase in cost, we could get a significant bump in interest, appeal and sales,” he says. “It’s a tremendous benefit that adds less than a penny to the cost of marketing a pound of coffee.”
The new pouches bear the revamped Dallis Coffee logo, a pair of half circles - one a rich brown and another a café au lait hue - surrounded by bold white arcs that evoke the company’s “DC” monogram. It connects coffee connoisseurs to the tradition of cupping.
“We’ve been cupping for sixty or seventy years, and it’s as important today as it’s ever been,” says Munson. “We felt it was the right combination of tradition and modernity. Cupping is at the center of our craft. Cupping takes place in the middle of our building. And now it’s at the center of our logo.”
Dallis, Munson and their graphics team put a heavy emphasis on securing the highest quality print jobs available. “In addition to using high-end printing to create a durable, attractive package, the Dallis Coffee design uses the printing and laminating processes to their best advantage,” adds Liesl Kielp, Dallis’ account representative at CLP. “The result is a metallic ‘third color’ that delivers the look of an expensive foil stamping print job with absolutely no additional cost.”
More Than Skin Deep
The beauty of Dallis Coffee’s pouches is more than skin deep. Munson says the company specified a particularly sturdy laminate. Inside, a 100-gauge polyethylene layer preserves the flavor of the beans and gives structure to the pouch. Outside, a 48-gauge polyester printing layer serves as a first barrier to oxygen and moisture, and carries the bold graphics. Between the two plastic films, the five-pound pouch features aluminum foil an impressive eight microns thick. Munson explains that although thinner metallized polyester would probably have offered a similar look and perfectly adequate product protection, the Dallis team insisted on aluminum.
That substantial feel is part of a complete tactile experience that Dallis Coffee wants to deliver, says Munson.
“The decision-makers we’re approaching with our fine coffees aren’t the cost-conscious bean counters,” he explains. “They’re the chefs, the people with a taste for fine coffee. And in addition to their culinary taste, they’ve got other aesthetic tastes. They ought to get a positive experience dealing with all of their senses, from the moment they tear open the bag and get hit with that rich coffee aroma through the time they roll the pouch back down, seal it, and stand it back up on the shelf.”
While coffee roasters in many European countries have moved away from aluminum foil and toward thinner films in order to comply with the EU’s environmental rules and trends, there is no substitute for real aluminum in a large package when it comes to feel, structure and barrier properties, says CLP’s chief technical officer, Dr. Rani Stern. And though laminates containing aluminum foil got a black eye in Europe because they are not recyclable, they are actually quite efficient as fuel when incinerated. In fact, a Swedish study showed that, pound for pound, aluminum yields as much energy when burned as coal, and twice as much energy as corrugated cardboard.
Dallis Coffee’s smaller fractional packs are a laminate of polyester, metallized polyester - which features a metal coating just a few molecules thick - and polyethylene. Though they don’t offer the shelf life or internal structure of the five-pound bags, the smaller pouches comply with European environmental regulations and offer the needed level of protection from light, air and impact.
Both the heavy foil-based laminate and the lighter films used in smaller pouches perform well on the packaging line, says Munson. (That’s especially important to David Dallis, whose engineering background draws him continually to the nuts and bolts of running an efficient facility.) CLP helped Dallis operators tune the company’s two packaging machines to handle the film optimally and form, fill and seal the pouches like clockwork. “It’s been like liquid metal going through the machines,” Munson says. “Smooth.”
Ironically, the radical change in Dallis Coffee’s packaging caused a little confusion in the marketplace at first. “People said, ‘this can’t be Dallis Coffee,’” Munson recalls. “But we followed up on our packaging changes with changes to our business cards, stationery, truck signage, web sites, uniforms - our entire presentation.”
Dallis Coffee staff - in the office, in the field and in the delivery trucks - is outfitted in an array of coffee-colored shirts that reinforce the new logo and company identity. Winter finds their delivery people wearing fashionable microfiber jackets with embroidered Dallis Coffee logos. The company’s business cards are printed on high-quality stock with rich coffee colors. Trucks display the new cupping logo on a grand scale.
“The idea is to have the whole experience come together,” says Munson. “I think we’re almost there.”
Dallis Coffee, 100-30 Atlantic Avenue, Jamaica, NY 11416
CLP Packaging Solutions, 18 Madison Road, Fairfield, NJ 07004