Finding and perfecting a recipe is its own art form. With recipes flooding the internet, you can find many versions of about any recipe. As a candy maker and baker, I find myself researching recipes both in books and online. Over time, I find the perfect ratios and ingredients -- I believe it is this evolutionary process that yields a final product both special and unique, in which the original form is still present, though greatly improved.
In some ways, packaging is as much of an art form as creating the recipe itself. You could have the most delicious sugar cookies in the world, but if they are concealed by packaging that doesn't convey their deliciousness, the world may never know. Personally, I enjoy designing and executing the packaging of my products almost as much as I enjoy making the sweets themselves. When the final bow is tied on my caramel gift boxes, I envision the recipient untying the bow and filling with excitement as they open up to find two dozen handmade caramels. It is a complete experience. And just as the recipes took many tries to perfect, the packaging at Snowshoe Candy Co. has seen it's own evolutionary process.
My first season of candy making, in the fall and winter of 2013, I began developing my brand, sourcing many of the materials from the grocery store isles: coffee filters, wax paper, ball jars, grocery bags. Other materials were purchased at craft stores and the like: candy pouches, decorative ribbons and threads. You have to get pretty creative when working on such a small scale! My aesthetic has always tried to capture the simple beauty of a winter day, with the comfort of seasonal traditions and memories. All of my labels were typed on my grandma's typewriter, which added a personal touch. On busy order days, my poor roommates would tolerate my plunking away on the keys.
Through the second season, as I began to scale up little by little, I realized that I wouldn't be able to type each label by hand. Additionally, in line with federal labeling requirements, I had a lot more information to include on my packages such as ingredients and business information, that were absent on my initial designs. As I moved towards a streamlined process, I sought to maintain some of the features of my previously type-written labels by incorporating details such as period "." or dash "-" key marks in the design of each label. (Did you know that most typewriters don't include an exclamation point, but rather expect the typer to use a lower-case "L" and a period "." to create their own?) I invested in a printer, which allowed me to print my labels at home. While my process was simplifying, I still printed, cut, and stapled each label to each package; a tedious process. And while our thrifty packaging had a special handmade feel to it, I began to experience some issues with it. Like the batch of caramels (about 400) that all adhered to the wax paper wrappers that I had cut to size from a wax paper roll (as was standard at the time) and was then inedible (unless you wanted to eat caramel and wax paper at the same time)... Quite the bummer, after spending so many hours preparing them!
This past summer and fall, I spent a great deal of time refining my process and packaging. Just as it is sometimes difficult to perfect a recipe, the perfect packaging can also take time to develop. But the time spent to find the right packages has saved a great deal of time preparing each item. Our previously hand-typed, hand-cut, and stapled labels have since been replaced with a sticker label (sticker labels are my new favorite thing!). We ordered caramel and candy wrappers online from a distributor, and I have no more concern that the candies will be lost to the wrapper. We even expanded into using heat-seal-able pouches, which helps to maintain freshness in all of our products! We continue to use jars for some of our special products, but by switching to resealable pouches, we are saving on material and shipping costs.
Each time we improve the process, there is a great sense of relief! When I switched to a font rather than the typewriter (which I still use from time to time, to write letter and the like), or a sticker rather than a stapler, I have to ask myself if the improvement has strayed from my intended brand identity. Does the package seem too sterile, or are is there still evidence of my initial creation? Can you tell it was made my a person or does it seem like it was spit from a machine?
It is fun to observe the evolution of the process. Without the first tries (and failures), the final product would not be possible. And as the process improves, it becomes more possible for me to share my craft with an increasing audience. It is from simple roots, patience with change and constant adaptability, that I feel confident in my process and look forward to many more years as a candy maker.