Flexible Packaging Round Table Podcast

Podcast: Episode 6 – Rob Johnson from Born Simple

Why is the premade STANDCAP Pouch the best packaging option for your brand? Tune in to hear what Rob Johnson, Founder & CEO of Born Simple has to say.


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00:00:10 Sara Januszewski
So, I’m just going to hop right in here and welcome the three viewers that we have at the moment to the 6th episode of the Flexible Packaging Round Table. And today we are speaking with Rob Johnson, Founder and CEO of Born Simple about your brand and why you chose the premade STANDCAP Pouch, which I actually have an example of right here. I was really excited about this. I was like wait a minute, I had to go run back downstairs and grab that.

00:00:42 Rob Johnson
Awesome, Whole Foods thanks you.

00:00:44 Sara Januszewski
Yes, absolutely. And I am your host, Sara Januszewski. But just to jump right into it, Rob, can you tell us about Born Simple, what it stands for, and what it is that you do.

00:01:11 Rob Johnson
Sure, I’ve been in kind of the packaged food business for a long time and I had an opportunity a couple years ago to join up with some investors that were very progressive and forward thinking about how we solve modern issues in the food space and one of the things that we started talking about was that feeling as a consumer when you go to categories in the grocery store. So, I’ll use barbecue sauce as an example, you walk into the barbecue sauce section and you step back from the massive wall of barbecue sauces and your eyes just glaze over because there are so many options, there are so many different flavors. There’s so many different brands, they’re all talking to you about something different and we saw an opportunity to really simplify that for consumers.

00:02:05 Rob Johnson
So, could we create a brand that delivers on like 4th grade level simplicity, only kitchen level ingredients, organic as much as we possibly can. Simple usage experience all those kinds of things that a consumer can trust across the store, so I think about it like a mainstream to premium product, but that is really easy to understand and just really simple because there really wasn’t anything out there. It was sort of like this race to who can make the most complicated complex products and you’ve got these shelves that are just full of different things. So anyway, long story short, we partnered to create that. Born Simple came to be about two years ago. And we went and pitched that idea to Whole Foods, and they loved it. It’s actually what they do. You know, they obviously want to simplify as much as possible and they’ve been a great partner for us for about the last 18 months. This journey is just getting started, but the first products that we launched were a line of barbecue sauces in the STANDCAP Pouch so we’re very happy with it.

00:03:19 Sara Januszewski
Fantastic, and what makes the Born Simple barbecue sauces in particular unique, in comparison to other barbecue sauces? I know you touch on this a little bit there, but can you explain further?

00:03:32 Rob Johnson
Sure, one of the other things that we did when we knew that we wanted barbecue sauces in those categories we wanted to enter, was we went out and talked to heavy barbecue sauce users and said what is it about this category that you wish was different or you wish was better or you wish was easier? And they gave us a couple of pieces of feedback pretty consistently. One was we really don’t like glass for a number of different reasons, and I’ll talk about that in a minute when we talk about how we got to the STANDCAP Pouch. But we don’t like glass, primarily because if you’ve ever had barbecue sauce and you get to like about the last 10% of it, there’s just no way to get it out of the bottle. I’ve heard some really funny, interesting ways that people have solved for that problem themselves, like I put a little bit of wine in there and swish it around and then I end up with this wine barbecue sauce and it’s one of those things that we, in packaged foods shake our heads at because it’s a problem that everybody experienced, that no brand has solved for. It’s just one of those things that people have just said, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” And we’re not going to try to make it better for consumers. So that was a big reason.

00:04:48 Rob Johnson
The other big reason was again, an experience that everybody who’s used barbecue sauces had, once you open that barbecue sauce and use it for a couple of months and then you’re putting the cap back on it, put it into your fridge, maybe not seeing it again for a month and taking it out. The cap just becomes like a science project. So, they pretty consistently said, we really wish there was something out there that had some kind of a spout or something that didn’t make me have to grind this cap onto a crusty rim. So those are the primary drivers, just in terms of the package type that we’re looking for.

00:05:27 Rob Johnson
So, what makes ours unique? Obviously, the STANDCAP Pouch is a huge part of that, so we have really, really simple ingredients. Literally only things that you would find in your kitchen. So, you could make our barbecue sauces if you really tried, you could make our barbecue sauce with what you have in your kitchen cupboards. And then the packaging obviously, the STANDCAP Pouch does a great job of solving for both of those problems because you can get 99% of the product out of the package. It’s a great visual when we go to trade shows and stuff, because we squeeze one down till there’s nothing left in it. You can see that everything comes out of it, so it’s really easy to use that way. And then obviously, the ability to have the spout on the bottom, and you know, kind of meter out your barbecue sauce as opposed to like again, something everybody experienced where you’re pouring it, pouring it, oh God, poured it a little too much and then you got like a plate full of barbecue sauce that you didn’t want so, that’s what makes us unique.

00:06:26 Sara Januszewski
Great and you mentioned it there, but could you just tell us the story of how you found the premade STANDCAP Pouch and why that was the best choice for your brand?

00:06:41 Rob Johnson
Yeah, so the investors and I had worked on another brand that primarily packaged its products in glass and so I live in Boise, ID and very sort of progressive, you know, very into recycling and very environmentally conscious. And we got a notice in the mail one day that Boise City garbage and recycling was no longer going to be accepting glass in curbside recycling. I thought that was really odd, because as a consumer I just sort of assumed that glass is like eminently recyclable, right? So why would the local recycling company not want to take glass anymore? So, I started to do some research on it and found out that Boise was not alone. That municipalities all over the country were discontinuing their glass recycling at curbside because for a number of different problems or a number of different reasons. One being something like 65% of the glass that we recycle actually ends up in a landfill anyway, because the recycling infrastructure. Two big reasons, right? The recycling infrastructure just in terms of having processors to recycle glass and those kinds of things is just not equipped to handle the amount of glass that there is out there that people want to recycle. The other problem is that it’s just not an economically viable practice anymore because it’s a lot cheaper to create virgin glass than it is to wash, process and then sort of re-manufacturer recycled glass. So, it’s one of these business problems that unfortunately has left all this glass ending up in the landfill.

00:08:35 Rob Johnson 
So, then I started to think about this as we were developing Born Simple because they happened almost right at the same time and so as fate or luck or whatever you want to call it, I happen to be at a trade show and a salesperson from Glenroy happened to stop by my booth and was talking to me about flexible packaging and I started telling him this story about how Boise wasn’t accepting curbside glass and curbside recycling anymore, and I didn’t realize how big of a problem was across the country and all these kinds of things, and he reaches into his back pocket and goes well I have something that you might be interested in. Maybe want to think about and showed me the STANDCAP Pouch and it was like all of these things, all this research and this personal experience, all came together and it’s like you can solve all the consumer issues we know that they have with glass, you can solve for the recyclability piece, which I know you guys have done tons of work on and are about ready to come out with a recyclable pouch, which we’re very, very excited about and has been the goal from day one. And then it was like listen, let’s talk about partnering because this could be a perfect fit for what we’re trying to build and showed it to Whole Foods, they loved it. Then I would say the cherry on top of it all is that I didn’t necessarily realize when we sort of got into this was, we partnered with the Natural Marketing Institute to do a sustainability study, so comparing a traditional glass bottle to the STANDCAP Pouch. It measured things like from sort of birth to grave, meaning from when the pouch is manufactured and the raw materials are sourced all the way through when it’s either thrown out or recycled or washed and reused, or whatever. What kind of natural resources are we using and compared that to the same lifecycle for glass. What we found was, we knew that it’s obviously a lighter package, so there was going to be some transportation savings. We knew that it was a more efficient package to ship because it ships flat as opposed to when you’re shipping it into a manufacturing facility as opposed to a glass bottle which just ships in exactly how it ships out. But what I don’t think we anticipated was how the magnitude of the savings in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, fossil fuel usage, and so on and so forth. That pouch across its lifetime uses 80% less water than a traditional glass bottle. We’re finding especially out here in the West, as droughts are becoming more common and we’re having heatwaves and all those kinds of things, water is a very precious resource and speaks to another one of the reasons why the glass recycling ecosystem is sort of failing because it’s so water intensive to recycle glass. So long story short, the STANDCAP Pouch ended up being sort of a silver bullet for us in terms of all the consumer problems, all of the sustainability problems, all those things that we are trying to solve all at once and we’ve been super happy with it. Glenroy has been a phenomenal partner and you know, happy to say that Whole Foods is very happy with it as well.

00:11:54 Sara Januszewski
That’s awesome, that story is really interesting, and it really sounds like it was fate, the way that it all worked out.

00:12:00 Rob Johnson
I think so. Sure felt like it!

00:12:06 Sara Januszewski
Another question here, would you like to speak to the overall evolution of your brand and what you might be seeing for it in the future?

00:12:15 Rob Johnson
Yeah, I think a lot of what we’re doing is built off of the model that we created when we launched the barbecue sauces in the STANDCAP Pouch. So the things I think that really resonate with consumers are obviously the simplicity, which is sort of the hallmark of our brand but also trying to solve problems that consumers have in categories today that no large manufacturer seems to want to solve. So, we have launched a line of soup broth concentrates that are in an inverted tube. Then we have a whole line of products that are in the process of development now that are going to follow that same model. So how do we utilize packaging innovation to make consumers’ lives easier? How do we make sure that the product inside the packages is as simple as possible? The only ingredients that we work with, are things that you can find in your kitchen. Then I would say as we’ve gone along the last year and a half, one of the things that we’ve learned is there’s a pendulum in terms of your packaging design and the simplicity versus complexity that you know you have and I would say we really went to the one side of simplicity, and so I think we’re going to probably be taking a look at our packaging graphics. More so just because I would say more interesting way to be able to communicate all of those things that we’re trying to do to consumers and so the brand is going to definitely evolve. It will still be, you know, as simple as possible, but we have tons of really cool, really exciting innovation plans for the next 8-9 months. Some of that will be coming out.

00:14:04 Sara Januszewski
Great exciting stuff. Congrats. And just to wrap it up here, is there anything else that you would like to add?

00:14:16 Rob Johnson
You know, I want to give Glenroy super kudos for all the work that you guys have done. Just around trying to find post-consumer recycled (PCR) solutions, recyclable solutions. You know that was when we very first started to partner that was my first question was hey, are we going to be able to get to a recyclable plastic on these pouches? Because that’s really important to our consumers. It’s really important to us, and if we’re just producing virgin plastic, we’re not necessarily going to be achieving the goals that we set out to achieve, that were spurred on by this realization that glass recycling, that ecosystem is failing. So I’ve had lots of conversations with Evan and Geoff and folks on the team telling them that we’re still pushing for that and the fact that, you know, that’s going to be coming to life here in the next couple months is really, really exciting for us, but I would say also for the flexible packaging industry because I’ve worked for a number of different companies that use flexible packaging and that has been a huge sticking point for as long as I’ve been involved in the business. So, kudos to you guys and we’re really looking forward to continuing to partner on all this.

00:15:30 Sara Januszewski
Great thank you so much, Rob. Yeah, and I’m going to turn it back on you and say thank you for joining us today. It was really great to hear about the Born Simple story and why the premade STANDCAP Pouch was the right choice for your brand.

00:15:51 Rob Johnson
Yeah, thanks for having me.

00:15:51 Sara Januszewski
And of course, and I also want to mention that next month in September we will be having Glenroy’s very own, Evan Arnold, VP of Business Development to talk about all things Pack Expo. So again, Rob, thank you so much and thank you to everyone that tuned in and for all the comments down below, we really appreciate it.


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