Case Study: Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate (St. Louis, Missouri)

by Amanda Nugent November 04, 2016

Dan Abel Jr. speaks of his family-owned business, “Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate,” like it’s his home. He can tell you anything about the company, from how his family is “changing the world with chocolate” with rooftop solar panels adorning their plant, to how they’re spinning out chocolate bars at high-speed with the latest Swiss technology – at 12 bars per minute. “And that’s our pace without even pushing it,” he says. “It could go faster.”

With non-stop progress like this, you can be assured that Abel’s brand packaging strategy isn’t stagnant. He and his family recently launched a new line of “Craft” Chocolate Bars, and during the drawn out development process, he called up Tap Packaging Solutions to manufacture quality boxesthat would keep doubling the size of Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate. Read below to learn what Abel says about his new “craft” branding strategy, his own “three pillars of packaging,” and the tremendous value of custom packaging he witnesses at the shelves.


Tap Packaging Solutions: What distinguishes Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate from other shops?

Dan Abel Jr.: We’re primarily about two things, family and chocolate. And we make that message clear in the new packaging.

My parents started this business in 1981, and my brother, sister, and I have joined in. All five of us are on campus every day that we’re producing. That’s how the company really grew all the creative energy that went into the culture of the brand. We maintain that family atmosphere and environment from the retail stores to the factory and warehouse.

Our specialty is craft chocolates. We’re taking artisan recipes and using a handmade approach with skill, sometimes hand decorating. Even the chocolate bars, which are produced on high-end Swiss automated equipment, still have all our caramel centers that we make in copper kettles, stirred peanut butter, and our fresh cream truffle center made by hand. Those bars are also hand topped.

TPS: What’s your branding motto?

DAJ: “Changing the world with chocolate.” Twenty percent of our plant’s energy is solar powered. We have solar panels on our roof. All of our cardboard is recycled, which typically equates to truckloads a week. We actually give our recycled cardboard to a shelter workshop. We use only natural, clean ingredients; and last but certainly not least, is all the sugar and chocolate we use istrade certified.

The company has doubled in size several times over last 5 years. Probably from 2013 on is when we really started sitting down and creating a strategy for a fresh brand look – and that has put us in thousands of retail stores.

The wholesale program is where we wanted to implement a new, mature branding strategy, and packaging has absolutely had to do with our growth. We take pride in making a premium product, but packaging is what the customer will interpret first. So we need to make that hook and get the customer to pick our bars up. If they pick up the product, there’s a greater chance of them taking it with them than putting it back down.

The first pillar of our packaging is the structure and quality, photography is the second pillar, and design is the third. We really focus on those three aspects as a combined effort.

TPS: What kind of problem(s) did Tap Packaging solve for Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate?

DAJ: Packaging 10 versions of our new Craft Chocolate Bars. Our decision to get into the chocolate bar business progressed as a series of positive events, such as buying the technology and equipment to actually make them. In December 2015 we started sketching out the ideas of this bar program, and 11 months of work went into it.

I really wanted to see if we could do something with Tap. So I called up your sales person, Chuck Castle, and he worked with me on getting a sample. He came in and met with me. He made it work – came in on the budget, and the quality was beautiful. The term warehousing, inventory and cash flow, everything together was just a great partnership.

We’ve run tens of thousands of bars already. I think the bar line is going to be the biggest thing we’ve ever done. We run 12 bars per minute. And that’s our pace without even pushing it. It could go faster.

I really wanted to accentuate the packaging’s the craft branding strategy, and the gorgeous “abstract photography.” We also wanted to use color as a major theme for nice visual merchandising.

We believe that people associate their favorite flavors with color. Their favorite becomes the peanut butter banana flavor, for example, but as they come back to buy more, they go directly for the yellow box – because they just know it by yellow.

Numbering the boxes also added to the art of craft branding, as did shying away from shiny gloss or embossing. We wanted it matte.

TPS: How did you come up with your name, Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate?”

DAJ: My parents did it for three kids. Three chocolates, representing me and my two siblings.

TPS: What do you see in the future for your brand packaging strategy?

DAJ: I like the direction we’re in right now. We’re seeing more products coming out, but there are some packaging and products we sell that don’t fit the current strategy. So what we’re going to do in 2017 is phase those out and focus on the craft branding strategy, and keep developing.

Always keep developing. If you slow down, you’re out. As soon as you stop innovating, you’re done. So we love to keep coming up with new products and innovating. It’s just part of our everyday jobs.

TPS: What has your experience working with Tap Packaging been like? Would you recommend Tap?

DAJ: Absolutely. From prototyping to pricing and inventory, to the quality of the printing to the manufacturing materials. For example, the box sample was in the range of exactly what we were looking for. I can tell that Tap has the experience to bring the first draft to the table of what we want to run with. I used to prefer traditional printing, but with the quality of your HP Indigo Digital Press, it just amazes me what it has done. I don’t want to change a single thing about our bar boxes, except keep ordering them. I think everything came out perfectly.

Amanda Nugent
Amanda Nugent