Doing things the old way just isn’t our bag.

February 01, 2023
Innovator Award
  1. Blog

Doing things the old way just isn’t our bag.

Where do great new ideas come from? Sometimes they seem to smack you on the head, like a stray golf ball. Plenty of others grow and mature over time. Our big idea involved a bit of both; it crystallized in 2010, in the most unassuming of places: the Minneapolis Coffee Fest.

Roastar: The Origin Story

It’s no secret that coffee conventions are brimming with inspiration. Call it divine purpose, insightful conversation, or caffeine-fueled delusion, coffee lovers know a thing or two about striving for greatness. After chatting with the crowd of roasters and steeping in their frustrations, we formulated an action plan.

  • Step one: make better packaging.

  • Step two: make it domestically.

  • Step three: make it easy for small business owners.

  • Step four: make it look awesome.

  • Step five: world domination.

The very next year, we were honored with Best New Product at San Diego Coffee Fest. We’re still working toward step five.

Steps 1-5 of Roastar's Process

Packaging Pioneers

What do Roastar and the Oregon Trail have in common? (Hint: it’s not dysentery.) We may lack covered wagons, but we boast an endless supply of pioneering spirit.

Those conversations with coffee roasters over a decade ago showed us that the packaging industry wasn’t fully meeting its customers’ needs. We knew that we wanted to go beyond basic product offerings and offer a better packaging experience. Here’s how we did it.

In 2011, we released the first digitally-printed gusseted coffee bag. Digital printing allows for smaller runs and faster turnaround times — by digitally printing our bags, we were tipping the scales to favor solo entrepreneurs and small businesses. And just like that, roasters no longer had to entertain enormous orders or wait months for production and shipping. Ordering the perfect coffee bag suddenly sounded feasible to businesses that once settled for blank packaging due to budget constraints.

2011 1st Place Award

That victory felt good, but we were merely scratching the surface; Roastar had an innovative product — we needed to sell it innovatively. In the early 2010s, the universe followed a different order: Netflix was transitioning away from its mailing model, infinity scarves ruled the roost, and flexible packaging was sold over the phone. My, how times have changed.

To deliver our acclaimed, industry-disrupting product, we launched the first e-commerce platform for ordering custom, flexible packaging. If that concept sounds mundane today, good; we had a feeling that phone calls with sales reps weren’t the way of the future (if only we’d acted on our hunch about Apple stock). Our online process allowed customers to maintain complete control over the entire packaging experience, from quote to design. Just as nature intended.

Old Roastar Website

Our original site (pictured above) was a solid start, but it certainly had room to grow. In the decade since, we’ve made client-side account management an easy, fully-online process, provided templates and tutorials for artwork submissions, and built out a network of incredible designers that love coming back, again and again, to work with us. We also ditched that weird greenish-brownish-beige… what even is that color?

We covered a lot of ground early on, but our creative wheels really revved up when we acquired an HP Indigo 20000 (cue: angelic choir). Our initial emphasis on gusseted bags was part intention, part equipment-based limitation — the legacy printer we used could only print up to 12” wide. With the addition of the Indigo, we could print wider than ever before, scaling up to 30” and unlocking a new realm of packaging possibilities.

Suddenly, we were printing flat-bottom and stand-up pouches – the containers of choice for pet treats, vitamins, snacks, and everything in between. Over the decade that followed, the “cottage industry” mindset that altered the landscape of coffee went mainstream; as consumers moved towards small businesses making quality products, we were proud to provide killer packaging to the rebels of retail.

The HP 20000 Printer

In 2022, we made waves with the first digitally printed coffee can. Our 100% curbside recyclable cans offer a 360-degree canvas for design with a nostalgic flair. Our customers asked us for them, so we delivered; they are, and have always been, the driving force behind our innovation.

Our latest accolade is deeply personal. Roastar is based in Wausau, Wisconsin — a community that we’re proud to support through our growth and initiatives. The Ruder Ware Innovator Award celebrates the late, distinguished attorney G. Lane Ware and his drive to make the Wausau community a better place for life and business. We’re honored to be named its 2022 recipient.

Innovator Award from Ruder Ware

Can we let you in on a secret?

We didn’t always have things down pat. True story: our starting equipment wasn’t meant to print bags, at least not in the traditional sense. Our first printer would take a roll of film, shape it into a bag, fill that bag with coffee, and seal it for shipping — the way large-scale coffee operations did it. That process was exactly what kept small roasters out of the game, which convinced us we had to flip it on its head.

We learned along the way, flattening pre-formed bags by hand (shoutout to Lance in web development) until we upgraded to better equipment. We also always took the time to understand our clients' needs and wants, evolving our process to meet (and usually exceed) their needs. A huge slice of our innovation is just the way we take care of each customer partnership – with dedicated, knowledgeable service reps and a transparent process designed to save time, energy, and money. It’s all part of “the whole package.”

Remembering our roots keeps us humble. A decade of experience makes us reliable. You’ve supported us through our growth — we’re here to support you in yours. We believe that every business, regardless of size, deserves to look and feel like a big deal.

From one innovator to another: let’s make some awesome packaging.

To get your innovated product packaged get started with a free quote.

posted February 01, 2023