From Food Truck to Freezer Aisle: mmmpanadas Finds Packaging Innovation in Digital Printing
What do you get when you combine two foodies, an entrepreneurial spirit, and some really good empanadas? You get mmmpanadas, an Austin, Texas-based empanada brand that sells its goods from a food truck around town, and now also in the frozen food aisle.
After years of dreaming and talking about making and selling delicious empanadas, Cody & Kristen Fields took a big leap of faith when they brought a batch of their homemade goods to a new bar opening. Pitching their idea to sell them to the bar became the first step in the business plan that would launch them from restaurants and coffee shops, to food truck, to retail over the course of ten years.
The Birth of a Brand
Cody Fields had a passion for empanadas since living in Costa Rica. In 2006, when he came back to the states, he realized there were few, if any, empanada options available. So, he began making his own, and dreaming of making them on a large scale. Cody also had an entrepreneurial spirit, coming up with ideas to sell his empanadas one day either with a bike delivery, a trailer, or a food truck.
“We would talk about the fantasy business we would have one day,” says Kristen.
At this time, Cody was also in a job that he didn’t particularly enjoy, which only further fueled him to dream about an empanada business. Well, one day that dream became a reality when the couple stumbled upon a new bar that was opening in their neighborhood. They got to talking to the owner and Kristen pitched the idea to sell them their empanadas. As Kristen puts it, “It was time for action. No more talking.”
So, they brought the empanadas in and everyone in the bar loved them; they got their first deal. At the same time, Kristen was selling the empanadas to the clients she had from teaching Pilates.
“We built a brand around it (the empanadas). While we had no experience with consumer-packaged goods, we were very curious people and we believed in ourselves,” says Kristen.
After they got into their first bar in the Austin area, the couple then began selling to more local bars and coffee shops. The couple bought a big red food truck in 2008 and began selling the empanadas out of that, distributing them to the people of Austin.
From Food Truck to Freezer Aisle
Now, the company sells its goods out of H-E-B stores in the Austin area. How did mmmpanadas go from bars, to truck, to the freezer aisle? Initially, the brand was selling them in the cold section as a grab-n’-go item. But that wasn’t a long-term plan, and the couple wanted to have a more permanent space on the shelf.
The major turning point for mmmpanadas came in 2018, when Cody & Kristen Fields won the grand prize H-E-B’s Quest for Texas Best competition, winning a cash prize and the opportunity to sell a frozen version of their empanadas in H-E-B stores.
“Winning that legitimized all our dreams and got us on the shelf in mass quantities,” says Kristen.
But first, there was one major problem that needed to be addressed before the product could appear on store shelves on a large scale…. the packaging.
At the time, the brand’s frozen food packaging supplies included a clear plastic bag with a hand-applied sticker for each packaged empanada. After a few weeks, Kristen started to notice a problem with the packaged goods in stores– the stickers were falling off the bags, and the bags were breaking. This was a major problem that went on for months, with no real solution being presented.
“The packaging reps that we were working with just wanted to pitch us a thicker bag, with better stickers. Basically, keep doing the same thing… nothing innovative. Plus, we had to order 100,000 units with no guarantee it would solve the problem,” Kristen explains.
The couple was faced with a looming deadline to have a better package for the launch of their frozen empanadas, so they needed a solution.
Enter: ePac’s digital printing technology that creates quality, custom packaging from a pdf file, delivered in only a matter of weeks. Plus, the technology means low minimum orders and the ability to print a variety of SKUs.
“We had met with the people of ePac at tradeshows, so we knew what they did,” says Kristen.
In fact, mmmpanadas was already considering using ePac for its line of cocktail empanadas, that would be packaged in stand-up pouches. While the couple hadn’t yet considered ePac for their single empanada product, it then clicked that this could be the innovative solution they were looking for. And since mmmpanadas was soon to be in 140 more stores (making that 200 in total) they knew they needed great packaging, and fast.
“We needed someone to meet our impossible deadline,” says Kristen.
Luckily, ePac was able to meet, and exceed the deadline. ePac was also able to provide a quality, fully branded, lay-flat pouch that delivers the strength and durability that the freezer aisle demands. No more plastic tearing open and stickers falling off.
The custom frozen food packaging is helping the brand to better tell their story and build a brand identity. Since working with ePac, mmmpanadas is also enjoying the flexibility the young brand needs with their packaging orders as regulations, recipes, and messaging changes.
“Digital printing is great for us since there are no plates, we can get the package right before we spend a ton of money on inventory,” says Kristen.
Digital printing allows brands like mmmpanadas to be nimble in their ordering, responding to market demand and ordering on a need basis.
If you’re looking for a frozen food packaging supplier, or for a better way to order packaging for frozen food products, for your brand, call us today at 844-623-8603 and see what we can do for you.