Case Study: Fleurir Chocolates (Alexandria, Virginia)

by Austin Johnson April 15, 2016

Over here at Tap Packaging, the spotlight has been shining on a set of custom chocolate bar boxes that we designed and manufactured for our client Fleurir, an artisan chocolate shop based in Alexandria, Virginia. What’s the big deal? These bar boxes are Tap’s winning submission for HP’s first ever “Inkspiration” Awards of North America for digitally printed packaging.Click here to learn more about the award and read this interview below with Robert Ludlow, owner and chocolatier at Fleurir, about his brand and what makes his creative digitally printed bar boxes so worthy of international recognition.


TAP: So what’s the story behind Fleurir?

Robert Ludlow: Fleurir was established in 2008, and it’s family owned. We started out in Georgetown but four years ago we got a new production facility in Alexandria, Virginia.

I was a cuisine chef for a long time. I started in fine dining, and as time went on I started taking pastry classes and I realized how much I enjoyed it. I went into sugar work and then into chocolate work. It’s a nice profession because everyone tends to be in a good mood. It’s rare if we have anyone in a bad mood. You get to come into work and deal with happy people, and share what someone enjoys. It’s phenomenal. We’re looking to open up two more locations.

TAP: Where did the name “Fleurir” come from?

RL: We wanted the shop to have a brighter feel. A lot of chocolate shops tend to be chocolate brown with accent colors, and we didn’t want that at all. We wanted a springtime feel. “Fleurir” means to bloom or to blossom in French. The shop and the brand was designed around the feeling we wanted to impart.

TAP: What does Fleurir use Tap’s packaging for?

RL: We use your custom packaging for our “regional” chocolate bars. They’re based on the different regions of the county, and we actually source the ingredients form the different location themes, with the exception of the Great Plains bar.

We were trying to come up with a fresh take on a line of bars, so we came up with the idea of representing something nostalgic. So many of our customers are from so many different locations, and the illustrations help them connect with us. One of the ideas that we came up with was to make the boxes feel more like postcards, like they came from the particular theme locations. I think your Senior Design Engineer did an amazing job of cleaning up our design and making that concept less obvious than it initially was supposed to be – you get the feeling without it being over the top. It was a long process, but she did a phenomenal job.  We also have your stock truffle boxes and wine bar boxes, and we have a smaller custom Georgetown bar that was made by Tap.











Fleurir’s Region Inspired Chocolate Bars

TAP: What inspired the dreamy images on the front of the regional chocolate bar packaging?

RL: One of my best friends’ wife illustrated the scenes for us. Her name is Lauren Weens. They’re mixed medium water color and pencil. Again, it was pulling out the feeling – we wanted to get the flavors and the feeling across in a very impactful way. We wanted that the illustrations be a little rough and refined so you could actually see the sketch patterns underneath the trees. You can really tell they were hand done illustrations. The regional bar packaging also has the same copper foil stamping that we use on our truffle boxes. The foil stamping ties all of our different brand items together and it’s insanely intelligent. It make a huge difference.

A lot of chocolate bars these days tend to be very minimalist. Nice packaging is a really common technique for truffles, but not a lot for chocolate bars. We didn’t want it to be that way; we wanted to maintain the nice feeling across all of our products.

TAP: How did Fleurir create its brand identity?

RL: We had an idea of where we wanted to go and we maintained that for about two years, and then about two years ago we redid everything. The regional bars were done as one of our last projects to get rebranded. It took us a while to find ourselves. I still like all our packaging, it’s just the new stuff is significantly cleaner than the old stuff. We’re getting better as time goes on. We’re going to be making a Richmond bar from peanut butter and dark chocolate, and we’re going to be making a local Alexandria bar by working with a local coffee shop. It’s going to have caramelized espresso beans and dark chocolate.

“Northeast” Bar


TAP: Why did Fleurir choose Tap Packaging Solutions as their brand consultants and packaging manufacturers?

RL: I found Tap online and I chatted with one of your sales people, and she was really nice. Then I came out to Cleveland for the day to meet you. One of the big things that I had trouble with in the past was lead times, shipping times and quality control, so I knew I was basically looking for a packaging manufacturer in the USA, and you really made a great impression and did a great job.


Fleurir’s “South” Bar


TAP: What do you think about our new Inkspiration Award for digitally printed packaging from HP? Did you ever expect your chocolate bar boxes to attract so much attention?

RL: I know that they’re beautiful and I’ve been completely blown away by your Senior Design Engineer’s skills. I can’t rave enough about what an amazing job she did with the regional boxes. I’m really excited, because this award means we were quite successful at what we were trying to portray. And I love how you can get a sense and feeling with each bar without even opening it. She was able to convey a message that’s hard to get across with chocolate bars.

One of the biggest things I love about what I do is the nostalgia factor. Everyone has that story from when they were a kid – I remember when I was five or six I used to eat Fudgsicles every summer and share them with my dog. I grew up in Texas. That nostalgia factor is something that brings you back to happy times. We really try to concentrate on that. One of the flavors we have is peanut butter banana, and that’s one of the things my mom used to eat when she was a kid. We make flavors that are kid friendly, too. We wanted all of our flavors to be very approachable and relatable.


Tap’s winning submission for HP’s first ever Inkspiration Awards of NA, “Fleurir Chocolates — Taste the Nation, Bar by Bar”


TAP: We’ve talked a lot about the regional bars, but your “Nancy’s Bar” box was part of the award winning submission too, in addition to a Christmas bar box. Who is Nancy?    

RL: Nancy is this lady who lives two blocks from the shop. She’s basically a research writer, and every day while she’s writing she eats a dark chocolate bar with almonds and sea salt. One day she stopped in and asked for one, and I said we don’t have it, but I’ll make you six of them. A week later she came back and said she needed more bars. She started ordering thirty to forty bars at a time every month. She’s a phenomenally kind woman, and a simple nuts, dark chocolate and sea salt bar was one of the things we were missing in our bar menu, so we decided to sell them. Nancy wrote the poem on the back of the box. They’re selling really well.

TAP: Your best advice on brand marketing through packaging?

RL: Listen to people who are smarter than you! When I look across the board, we have mostly different products that have multiple different price points, so they have different types of packaging. It’s sometimes like a puzzle. I feel like in successful brand management there’s always some sort of connection web from one product to the next product. They still manage to be individual so that they stand out, however they all feel cohesive when they’re put together.

Also, bite the bullet and buy custom packaging, because putting stickers on stock boxes isn’t fun. It makes all the difference in the world to go ahead and have custom packaging. I know it’s terrifying to look at the number and buy so much, but it makes all the sense in the world.


Fleurir’s Region Inspired Chocolate Bars, splattered with colorful cocoa butter

Austin Johnson
Austin Johnson