Amid the onset of COVID-19, New York City-based Levain Bakery experienced skyrocketing demand for its assortments of cookies available for purchase online. Simultaneously, the company needed to address an e-commerce packaging redesign while scaling up its warehousing capacity. To address these challenges, the company collaborated with R.R. Donnelley & Sons Company (RRD), a Chicago-based company with roots in printing that evolved to offer solutions from creative design and kitting to warehousing and proprietary supply chain management, and more.

“We were already a growing brand, opening new bakeries, scaling our e-commerce business, and expanding into grocery retailers,” said Andy Taylor, chief executive officer of Levain. “The challenge was creating a packaging solution that not only ensured our customers would receive our product in pristine condition, but also improved our efficiency to better meet demand. When COVID-19 caused New York—and the rest of the world —to shut down, we saw online orders multiply and we needed a supplier that had the flexibility to meet accelerating demand on a greater scale.”

R.R. Donnelley, a global provider of marketing and business communications, helped Levain Bakery meet a 200% increase in e-commerce demand during the pandemic. The 26-year-old bakery, which started on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, has transformed from a New York City institution popular among locals and tourists, to a national brand – while improving efficiencies and exceeding consumer expectations with the help of RRD’s packaging and warehousing solutions. 

Pam Weekes and Connie McDonald created Levain Bakery in 1995, out of their passions for food, friendship, and hard work. Competitive swimmers and triathletes, the founders passed their workouts by engaging in passionate conversations about baking, which inspired them to open a small bread shop in 1995, which they named Levain Bakery. Levain Bakery now has nine locations with more to come, e-commerce gift boxes, and most recently made its debut in grocery stores with the launch of Levain Bakery frozen cookies.

Available in packages of 4, 8, or 12, Levain’s cookies were already packaged in simple, shippable, self-erecting corrugated boxes filled with packing material. Not only were the boxes in need of a redesign to better reflect the brand inside and out, Levain strived to improve product protection and operational efficiency of the packaging.

“COVID-19 accelerated the urgency for Levain to address its evolving package design and warehousing needs,” said Lisa Pruett, president, RRD Packaging Solutions, Forms and Labels. “What differentiates RRD is our range of capabilities and expertise. From package design and engineering, to printing, supply chain, and marketing, we can serve as that single-source solutions provider for companies in growth mode.”

Collaborating closely with Levain’s marketing team and designers at The Creative Pack, RRD worked across multiple plants to deliver a vibrant e-commerce box that represents a combination of flexo and litho-lamination techniques. To address product protection, RRD designed a lightweight paperboard insert to accommodate all three pack sizes. The universal insert and redesigned package ultimately cut an 8-step process down to 4 steps.

“We supplied different iterations of packaging and inserts for the Levain team to evaluate. They then thoroughly transit tested the prototypes to ensure there would be no tearing or crushing of the packaging so customers would receive their cookies perfectly protected for the best possible brand experience,” said Pruett. “Our focus with clients is around sustainability and efficiency. For Levain, we were able to reduce the use of unnecessary materials per order while significantly cutting down the time it takes to package and ship the product, improving efficiency by 50%.” 

RRD also helped Levain solve its warehousing challenge using a replenishment model. This enabled Levain to receive partial orders for its rolling shipments of 15-pallets per week at its production facility while the balance remained in close proximity at an RRD warehousing facility in Pennsylvania. 

Following the success of the partnership for Levain’s e-commerce initiatives, the companies continue to work together as Levain expands availability of its grocery product: frozen, ready-to-heat cookies available in tuck tab folding cartons at over 1,700 grocery stores across the country. Additionally, RRD printed the promotional mailers for Levain’s new bakery locations in Washington D.C. and Bethesda, Maryland that opened in 2021. 

Levain’s redesigned e-commerce package also received a Gold Branding & Consumer Pentaward earlier this year in a highly competitive program that recognizes excellence in design.

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