Case Study: EPIC Foods (Austin, TX)

by Amanda Nugent March 09, 2017

Taylor Collins, cofounder of EPIC Foods, wasn’t afraid to break the status quo in the health bar market — or in the packaging design realm, either.

We didn’t know any limitation with meat,” says Collins, a former vegan, who wants you to be cognizant of the origins of your food and your body.

EPIC folding carton manufactured by Tap

These aren’t the typical high-carb granola bars you find on their last leg at the bottom of your backpack. EPIC‘s animal-based bars are portable, savory, and protein-packed with what our human ancestors ate. 

Entering the market with a radical new bar like this, Collins and Katie Forrest, Collins’ wife and EPICcofounder, knew that they needed to create a unique branding & packaging strategy to be able to articulate EPIC‘s message to their target market.

Do the wild west, “americana” package design illustrations of real farm animals make you feel uncomfortable, or at ease with what’s inside? For EPIC‘s target audience, they deliver a thoughtful message of respect for life and eating with your eyes wide open. 

TPS (Tap Packaging Solutions): How did you establish EPIC?

TC (Taylor Collins): We started in 2013; that’s when the product line launched. My wife, Katie Forrest and I actually had a vegan raw food company, and we were hard core raw food vegans for a long time. We were training for ultra endurance events and the Ironman Triathlon, but our bodies were at our limit. We went to health practitioners, and luckily we found some guy who said to question our diet. So we changed to what wasn’t called a “paleo diet” at the time, but a “traditional” diet that humans evolved eating — high protein, healthy fat, cook your vegetables, etc. Katie got better seemingly overnight.

EPIC founders

Katie Forrest (L) and Taylor Collins (R), cofounders of EPIC

We had experience in the natural foods industry, so we understood the bar realm. We didn’t know any limitation with meat. We worked really hard to make it happen and did a lot of at home research and design, and we created the four original bars and launched them at Natural Products Expo West 2013. On the first day of the show, we had national distribution with Whole Foods. We also won Best New Brand of 2013 with New Hope Media. It’s been a firestorm since then — and a fight to make as much product as we can sell.

epic bar with a bison illustration

EPIC Bar Point-of-Purchase Folding Carton, with bison illustration

We partner with a ton of different really cool ranchers. We’re awesome with manufacturing the product and creating the brand, but to be a rancher is a completely different skill set. Some of our biggest partners are in Georgia, Colorado, Wisconsin, and California, really all around. But we also purchased land and actually have our own ranch. We have an educational center and train others on how to properly manage livestock. We really connect people to our food sources.

TPS: Where did you draw inspiration for your package designs?

TC: The paperboard packaging designs were really intentional, and we put a lot of thought into them. We said, we have to stand out on the shelf. In any kind of meat product at the grocery store, they do a really bad job with communicating the actual biological creature inside of the package. We thought it was super important that consumers saw an anatomical image of what they were eating and be really conscious of what they were eating. It was important to stand out — but also to respect the animals.


EPIC boxes designed by tap

EPIC point-of-purchase boxes by Tap

We probably spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours going through archives and looking through thousands and thousands of images, collected old lithographs — total “americana frontier” images that provoked a lot of feelings of adventure, the outdoors, and being part of nature. We love branding and packaging. I think my favorite design for sure is the bison package. It’s such a powerful image; it’s the essence of the original mammal of north america.

TPS: When did your partnership with Tap begin?

EPIC folding carton made from kraft paperboard by Tap

TC: We met your salesperson Gabe Bures at Natural Foods Expo West. EPIC really resonated with him, and it was really nice to have a human element and a personal connection with someone behind the packaging. He was unbelievably responsible and friendly, trying to look out for our best interests. He was really flexible with our needs and run sizes. It was tough with these smaller runs, but Tap was always really flexible and unafraid to try new things.The print quality has just been awesome. For me, when I think of the hallmark of what our packaging is supposed to be, I always think of our Tap Packaging manufactured point-of-purchase displays.

TPS: Why have you maintained a partnership with Tap over the years?

TC: I just think it’s the human relationship that EPIC has with Tap. It doesn’t feel like we’re just talking to a corporation that’s first and foremost looking to generate profits for shareholders. Tap really cares about the projects and getting it right, and they have the flexibility and the agility to do it. They have a lot of speed and ability to pivot and adapt, and they always meet EPIC’s needs early on. We didn’t have storage for our packaging inventory, so Tap actually physically stored part of our production runs and sent it to us when we needed it — which was really unique for a startup. They’ve been such awesome partners; they’re kind of part of our “wolfpack” and our family. We like to do business with people who do things right.

EPIC folding cartons manufactured by Tap

Tap is just a badass custom packaging company that helped us and scaled with us from when we were an online company only, to when we became part of General Mills. They have grown with us and are part of our legacy and history, and we’re very proud to partner with them!

EPIC point-of-purchase boxes by Tap

Amanda Nugent
Amanda Nugent