You may have seen a new face at the 2022 Dallas Chocolate Festival: Vincent Scandura, national account executive at S. Walter Packaging.
At the same event, you also could have seen the “Spooky Collection” offered by Kate Weiser Chocolate in Dallas. This packaging series was recently recognized by GEA for excellence in the folded carton and specialty inks and finishes used category. It was an attention getter at a festival stocked with chocolate products galore, and it was all produced by S.W. Packaging.
Fine chocolate is one of the key markets served by S.W. Packaging, or SWP—other markets include food and beverage, fashion, beauty, jewelry, and hospitality. SWP is one of the companies that make up the S.W. Packaging Group, led by president and CEO Kurt Koloseike.
The Pennsylvania-based company (with offices and warehouses across the U.S.) has been around since 1904. For nearly 120 years, SWP continues to innovate across multiple industry segments, including storage, distribution, and design, while thriving amidst seismic shifts in technology, regulations and sustainability.
They have more than 118 years of experience and more than 320 employees working with specialized retailers and both brick-and-mortar operations to provide custom packaging solutions for online commerce. Clients include Lindt, Godiva and independent operators like Weiser.
“Chocolatiers are a unique customer group due to their role as both artisans and creators. They each have their own story and a specific view of how it should be told.” Koloseike says. “Their craftsmanship and innovation challenges us to develop custom packaging solutions that not only protect the product, but is a customer-engaging, storytelling brand experience.”
S.W. Packaging loves dealing with this kind of client, whose brand is everything to them, working hard to infuse those ideals into the packaging while keeping it cost effective. A new member of the Fine Chocolate Industry Association (FCIA), the company boasts a worldwide supply chain to provide flexible packaging needs for the chocolate industry—it also works with food, beverage, liquor, and more recently, cannabis companies.
Design, Sourcing, Manufacturing, Warehousing, Distribution & Logistics
S. W Packaging offers a full spectrum of services including their dedicated design teams, folding carton and rigid box manufacturing, tailormade bags, bows, boxes and accessories, and leading-edge enhancements and prototyping. S.W Packaging is ready to bring a chocolatier’s vision to life and products to market.
They also provide a strong distribution and inventory management system using warehouses around the country up to and including placing the chocolate in the packaging to ship to the customer. In addition, S.W Packaging has earned the highest level of certification for direct and indirect food contact from the Safe Quality Food Institute and works with a wide range of specialty foods. Even cereal giant General Mills is a client.
“We know food in the high-end space and elsewhere and employ tightly controlled operating standards,” Koloseike says. “We have a lot of variable data we can process through printing and enhancement presses like embossing foil and printing on the carton itself that have become very cost-effective ways for niche brands to differentiate themselves from bigger companies.
Their specialty is in balancing the value add for each client, where it makes sense to go the extra step–or not–in the process of creating a brand image for the consumer and the functionality of the packaging.
“We inventory the packaging and work through very detailed design and fabrication processes with our clients. Then we store that inventory for them,” Koloseike says. “It allows them to buy in economies of scale, and we work with them on detailed processing and forecasting.”
Known for leading with design, S.W. Packaging is doing more and more three-dimensional packaging in the carton space, considering the structural aspect to ensure high-durability packaging.
“Design and engineering have always been a big part of what we do to get form and function,” Koloseike says. “A lot of our work with chocolatiers is about color scheme, the decoration on the box itself, how that impacts customers at their store and on their website.”
For Weiser, S.W. Packaging worked with her to develop a Halloween-themed design from scratch that she loved and was distributed at Costco–which also loved it.
All About Relationships
It’s not the first thing creative—and tough—chocolatiers want to think about, but technology has come a long way in packaging. S.W. Packaging embraces technology, invests in it, and brings that value to everyone it works with. It’s that approach that has endeared them to clients.
“In terms of the real customized work we do for middle-market, customer-based, high-end chocolate and candy companies, it’s about service, the relationship, and the quality of product we provide,” noted Vince Scandura, a vice president of sales for SWP. “That drives a lot of our success, because we take the same approach to their packaging as they do to their products.”
According to Scandura, most FCIA members are purchasing a range of packaging options, but boxes are, by far, the biggest in terms of demand. And now that S.W. Packaging has invested in domestic manufacturing, they can help clients enter markets across the country. Whether that means bricks-and-mortar or e-commerce and the unique needs of the client growth model, new markets can be key, as is the fulfillment and operational infrastructure to serve those markets.
Sometimes those client services include taking legal parameters into account, as is the case with the laws many municipalities have enacted that regulate the use of plastic bags. As a service to all business owners, S. W Packaging developed and regularly updates a website, baglaws.com, that is free to use, where retailers can check on current and pending legislation that might affect their business. In today’s environment, it’s important to understand the requirements for each market, and SWP has products to help their clients navigate an increasingly complex area of their business.
“It’s all part of our service to our clients. We understand where you’re located and the rules and laws of packaging in those areas, and we’re going to help avoid that becoming an issue,” Koloseike says. “There might be a ban on plastic or any walk-out-of-the-store bags. We come to the table with that knowledge and help you with products that comply with these regulations because there are penalties for non-compliance.”
There’s a growing need for this service in the marketplace and S.W. Packaging has more than 20 years of experience in this area. Sustainability is a huge issue in the fine chocolate industry and at the company, too, which has a solar field to feed energy to the plant. It also recycles 90 percent of everything flowing through the plant.
With all these services in place, some for more than a century, S.W. Packaging is ready to work with more chocolatiers.
“Our goal is to get to know every FCIA member, who they are, what we can do for them, and how we can provide value,” Koloseike says. “Our focus is on chocolatiers. We want them to know we’re here and can provide value in a very cooperative way and by not putting them in competition with each other.
According to Koloseike, the next steps for S.W. Packaging are more customer-facing marketing initiatives, as well as continuing to invest in property, the company’s plant and equipment to increase value to its customer base.
“We want to make sure we’re bringing turnkey value—meaning speed, quality and service—to our customers, helping them grow their business, which will help us expand the number of chocolatiers we work with,” he says.
When not thinking about and acting on all aspects of the packaging industry, Koloseike spends time with his family. He has seven children from four years of age to 22.
So far, the only packaging work he does with the family includes bundling them up to go skiing in New Hampshire.
“Some of my kids like cold weather, some don’t, but they all love chocolate,” he says with a laugh.