loot crate subscription box contents

Subscription Boxes Gain Steam

The holidays are supposed to be about family and friends, but let’s be honest. For a lot of us, it’s just about the presents. There’s something about getting a gift, even especially in the mail, that gives people the warm fuzzies. It’s no surprise Amazon addiction is a thing–it turns opening your mailbox into Christmas morning.

Except there’s one thing Amazon can’t replicate (or hasn’t yet) and that’s the surprise factor. Half the fun of getting a gift is the element of surprise. What’s in the box?! Now, you might’ve had too much wine before a late night purchase and could be very surprised indeed at what’s in said box. But for the rest of us who think and doublethink our online purchases, there’s a little thing called subscription boxes. And by little, I mean huge.

What are Subscription Boxes?

Once upon a time, you might have thought of them as Cheese-of-the-Month Clubs, but thanks to the popularity of Loot Crate and other subscription services, they’ve become designer. Very posh.

A subscription box is a box full of goodies, usually curated around a theme. Everything from food, to clothing, to makeup, to toys. Usually auto-renewing like Netflix, these ‘crates’ arrive at your door monthly, boasting cool (sometimes exclusive) inclusives worth far more than your payment.

A great example (and my personal favorite) is OwlCrate, a subscription box for Young Adult books. Each month’s box is focused around a theme–Dystopian Future, like Hunger Games, or Epic Fantasy. A subscriber gets a new book and a bunch of other surprises related to whatever genre happens to be the flavor of the month. Cool? Very.

OwlCrate_monthly subscription boxes

You could say the fascination with subscription services is the surprise factor, but for a lot of people it’s really about relinquishing the hassle of picking out items. Sure, the straits are not as dire if you’re talking about a box full of toys and collectables–although they do make picking out a gift that much easier. But there are subscription boxes for clothing too. Companies like MM.LaFleur that will have their experts assemble you a box of fully-formed outfits and ship it to your door. If the price is right, that’s a huge burden off a person’s shoulders.

As the designer nature of the ‘crate’ grows, so does the call for greater aesthetics. In fact, marketing experts are already advising e-retailers to move from the classic cardboard box to luxury packaging. Why? Well, the current box material of choice is corrugated, typically e-flute. It’s light, it’s rugged, it’s economical. But, to put it bluntly, it ain’t pretty. Granted, there are several ways to customize cardboard–even ways that will keep it completely environmentally friendly–but typically an e-retailer package looks about as glamorous as your stuffed packed for moving. Is that such a big deal? After all, it’s not like at a brick and mortar store, where that visual impression counts for everything. The customer’s already made the purchase by the time the box arrives!

However, it does come down to visual marketing. Currently, the main advertising for subscription box services comes from YouTube unboxers. Folks that open their crates live on video, with an audience of thousands, potentially even millions. Many more eyes than what could come through a department store on a given afternoon. So if the box is to be the star of the show, shouldn’t it dress like a star? You wouldn’t wear your bathrobe to a red carpet event, would you?

The custom box design needs to pop when it comes to subscription boxes. As the trend starts to rise, and the online unboxings grow, more and more of these services are going to make the move to presentation packaging.


Images: LootCrate.com, OwlCrate.com

leafs by snoop custom packaging

Designer Marijuana Gets Upscale Packaging Treatment

Every product needs packaging. Every product benefits from presentation packaging. Even marijuana apparently.

Our friends at The Dieline recently discovered some very unique promotional packaging. Design studio Pentagram has partnered with one and only Snoop Doggy Dogg to create a line of packaging for Snoop’s line of marijuana. I’m not sure what the story is here, that marijuana needs custom packaging or that Snoop Dogg has a line of marijuana. The man is nothing if not entrepreneurial.

And yet, I must admit, it’s probably some of the smartest, attractive product packaging I’ve ever seen.

leafs by snoop marijuana packagingleafs by snoop

From the outset, it looks like a line of fine chocolates crossed with an organic herbal tea boxes, both in shape and art technique. For the most part, the graphics are minimalist, the color palette soft, and the presentation rather clinical. There is some logic in this since the product is both recreational and medicinal. In other words, the design gives a clean, professional edge to those that see marijuana as a hobby while also providing a softer, warm side for those forced to use it as medication. The medical industry often uses custom boxes to take the ‘scare factor’ out of drugs and devices, and Leafs by Snoop seems to be embracing that on all levels.

Estimates suggest that cannabis retailers in Oregon sold $11 million dollars of marijuana in its first 5 days of legality.

Source: Statesman Journal

The custom setup boxes are not without a sense of humor either. From signature lyrics and catch phrases scrawled in classy script on the inset to a “Dogg Treats” brand, Snoop’s line of packaging seems to cater to a variety of markets. Including the collector crowd.

Like I said, no product is without need of upscale packaging–even if it is a celebrity’s line of designer marijuana. And somehow the custom boxes, with their elegant patterns and inviting lettering, steal the show. If you’re selling something similar (and I recommend making sure having the right permits and aligning with local laws first) then perhaps a similarly printed box might be just the piece you’re looking for.

Images: thedieline.com

cardboard mech suit for Boxwars

Cardboard Castles and Corrugated Combat

corrugated cardboard castle made by popup play appNo matter what new gadget arrives on the market for kids, the simple things are what seem to impress them. The box that the toy comes in often becomes the toy itself. But perhaps it’s not the ‘simplicity’ of it, perhaps it’s that a box is meant to be filled. And for kids, usually what they fill it with is imagination.

But, according to a new story from tech research site Gigaom, one little startup has created a site and an app that walks the line between physical playtime and the draw of digital entertainment. PopUp Play, brainchild of Amelia Cosgrove and Bryan Thomas, let’s kids–or adults, I guess–design their dream cardboard castle. That’s right, you’ve seen them in movies, perhaps even took a stab at building them when you were a kid, but we all know the cardboard castle was never as cool as we pictured them in our heads. But PopUp Play changes that by utilizing a cool interface that lets you create that dream castle, drawbridges and all.

Not only can you design it, you can order it to the tune of $99. That’s right. Design a castle online and it shows up at your doorstep in all it’s corrugated cardboard glory.

Adventures in Cardboard

If that seems a bit pricey to you, you can always stick to the old fashioned method of making one yourself. Or, better yet, you can help make one for a child. Or even better yet, you can help make cardboard box castles for many children right here in Minnesota. Adventures in Cardboard has about 22 days left in their Indiegogo campaign. AiC is half-art-project-half-field-trip that lets kids from around the Twin Cities go wild with cardboard at local parks, creating giant castles, suits of armor, anything else they can imagine. And it does it without the aid of a computer.

If you’re saying to yourself Kids?! What about me?! then maybe you better chill out and put things into perspective. But after that, check out Boxwars, the grownup gladiatorial combat event that takes cardboard castles to the next level.

I bet you had no idea that the cardboard box phenomenon had grown so epic. No matter which of these options is most appealing to you, you can’t deny the power of imagination that surrounds the good ol’ cardboard box. Ruggedly durable, endlessly customizable, economical, and environmental, corrugated cardboard proves that sometimes you just can’t beat the classics.

Images: popupplaytoy.com / boxwars.net


Bento: The Art of Compartmentalization

The box is by no means a new invention. You might intrinsically know the box has been around a long time, but do you realize how long?

Perhaps that’s a topic for another day, but for starters boxes can traced back as far as feudal Japan. Not only that, presentation packaging itself can trace its roots back to early Japanese culture. That’s right, some of the most modern trends in retail packaging, launch boxes, and display kits can be traced back as far as the artistic Edo period and beyond.

And, like most things, it all starts with food.

The Kamakura period, starting in 1185 AD, gave Japan’s rich history two of its most well-known points: the birth of feudalism and the warrior caste, the infamous Samurai. But it also gave rise to another famous feature: the Bento box.

“Bento” is slang for a Song Dynasty word meaning “convenience.”

Though it didn’t become a true box until the Edo period, bento described a meal of dried rice stored for travel. Eventually it evolved to include vegetables and meats, most notably fish and sushi. Time has crafted the bento box into a compartmentalized tray for different food stuffs, keeping sauces and other items separate and properly portioned. In many ways, it’s become an art form. In fact kyaraben, or “character bento,” is a style of arranging food to create popular characters and images from pop culture.

bento box

If this practice seems familiar it’s probably because you see it daily in retail stores, at trade shows and expos, and even in microwave dinners. While the beautiful lacquered wood bento boxes have mostly been replaced in these areas with thermoformed plastic or simply cardboard or turned-edge chipboard, the original idea is still there. A place for everything and everything in its place. This level of organization has become the gold standard for custom display kits and gift boxes. This aesthetic is especially popular in packaging supplied by online retailers and monthly subscription services. In fact, as the New Yorker recently reported, clothing company MM.LaFleur specializes in creating a type of Bento box filled with outfits.

This style is perfect for luxury packaging as it creates a clean, organized presentation for virtually any product. Perhaps emulating this classic style will put you on a course for your next custom box solution. Your box can be as simplistic as custom insert, or an elaborate series of removable rigid boxes each meant to emphasize a specific product. Launch kits and medical devices often use a similar technique just as a best practice, but investing in the full-on Bento box aesthetic might just give your product that extra edge of appeal. After all, isn’t “convenience” at the heart of all retail packaging?

Chipboard Insert

Images: japanesestyle.com, alloveralbany.com


Pizza Box Gets the Premium Treatment

Has pizza gone…turned edge?

No, we’re not talking about a new style of stuffed crust (but, technically stuffed crust is the turned edge of the pizza world). The pizza itself is the same…it’s the box that has evolved. Behold the Triple Treat Pizza Box in all its glory.

pizza hut turned edge pizza box

A post from Delish pointed us to this little slice of heaven. Pizza Hut’s new Triple Treat Box turns the classic pizza box on its, well, edge. From the image we can glean that this custom layered box consists of three trays that each pull out to reveal a new tasty item. But the box pictured looks, dare we say, to be a turned edge pizza box?

We’d recognize those tightly wrapped edges anywhere. And look at that custom printing! Bellisima! Now whether or not these Triple Treat custom pizza boxes will actually show up at your door looking like the one in the picture, we don’t know. That will take some more research (probably by me, and probably tonight). This may just be a promotional image, but the three-tiered box has been seen in its more traditional corrugated cardboard threads. Either way, Pizza Hut has stepped up their packaging game, and we couldn’t be prouder.

I salute you, Pizza Hut. Thanks for letting me write about pizza today.

Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time Pizza Hut really went above and beyond in the realm of packaging. Earlier this summer, The Verge discovered a pizza box in Hong Kong that doubled as a movie projector! Seriously! The little plastic pizza protector that keeps your cheese off the top of the box worked as a lens punched through the side of the oversized box and projected a smart phone’s screen onto walls or other surfaces. How’s that for presentation packaging: packaging that puts on a presentation!

Images: Pizza Hut / Delish

Soft Touch Lamination

We <3 Minnesota

Your Minnesota Box ManufacturerAt Sunrise Packaging, we know we’re a part of a community. Not just here in Blaine, but in Minnesota as a whole. If you’re a resident here, you know it’s a unique state. It’s only little ecosystem, if you will. And, according to a story in the Star Tribune, the rest of the world is starting to realize it too.

Patch of Earth looked at 7 different ‘best cities’ lists and it looks like the Twin Cities is the common denominator. Multiple factors contributed to this, but among them is the fresh food selection and job growth. Working in Minnesota is a treat (some wintery days excluded, of course).

So what does it mean to be a Minnesota box manufacturer?

Does it mean you have to wear a jacket to work a majority of the time? Yes. But it’s much more than that.

If you’re going to be a MN box manufacturer, you have to keep a couple things in mind. For starters, Minnesota has a lot of lakes. Upwards of 10,000 from what we understand. That fact could explain why we have such a unique ecosystem. Therefore, it’s important for any Minnesota manufacturer to be socially aware of our environmental footprint.

At Sunrise, a lot of our custom boxes are made from corrugated cardboard. Corrugated cardboard is a recycled material and can, in turn, be recycled. Many a custom marketing kit manufactured by our team has been made out of this fluted material. E-flute cardboard is a very popular option for trade show packaging since it rides the line of decorating nicely and being disposable and economical enough to be given away. Even our custom rigid boxes are made of chipboard–a dense, recycled material. Paired with our optional soy-based inks and aqueous coating lamination technique, you could conceivably create completely green custom packaging! In fact, as a look and selling point, this has been a very popular choice.

recycling_symbol_182651-300x212We work with plastics, true. Yet we push for plastics that are easily recyclable. Most plastics are recyclable, although some require a little extra legwork. But, come on, do it for the team! We try to stay informed on proper recycling of our products. In fact, visit our Recyclable Materials page and you’ll discover a whole lot of info and links to Minnesota recycling FAQs.

Our mission has always been to create “presentation packaging.” The whole point of presentation packaging is to craft a box that’s reusable. Whether it’s for proper storage of the product or just as a box worth keeping on your shelf, you could say creating a box that you won’t want to throw away is just our “deal.” Reusable packaging–really reusable, saveable, post-consumer packaging–is always a step in this direction.

So we’ll keep up our end of the bargain as a Minnesota boxes manufacturer and hope that you meet us halfway. The idea of an “eco box” is cool, but at the end of the day, any box can be an eco box if you try hard enough.

Guy with a box

Last Minute Box Costumes Save Halloween

Halloween is so close, I can taste it. And it tastes an awful lot like candy corn.

Tomorrow is the big day, or night, for trick-or-treating and costume parties. I’m actually going to a Halloween wedding–costume required, of course. But if you’re like me, you don’t have a costume yet. Or, maybe your ‘costume procrastination’ has passed onto your children and they don’t have costumes yet.

transformers kid 2

Luckily, the good old cardboard box comes to the rescue. This time of year, every blog and Pinterest board is filled with ideas for costumes that can be made from corrugated cardboard. From robots to candy bars, I’ve seen it all. And reusing packaging is an amazing idea–it’s environmental, cost-effective, and creative.

But where are all the presentation packaging costumes? I mean, let’s see some true box costumes! Not just costumes made of boxes, but costumes of boxes! What’s easier than that, right? The basic shape is already there. Cutting and decorating would be minimal. Here’s some costume ideas for luxury packaging aficionados.


Two-Piece Setup Box-kini

Add a whole new meaning of “two piece” by making a two-piece bikini out of two boxes. Good for guys and gals alike, this costume just takes a couple cardboard boxes, maybe some string or clear packaging tape, and voila! Instant costume! Show off your love of presentation packaging at the Halloween mixer. Just be sure to mention that, technically speaking, rigid setup boxes are made from chipboard, not corrugated material. (What a great icebreaker!)


Cigar Box Dracula

The classic cigar box’s biggest feature is the hinged lid, the source of its elegant reveal which makes it a favorite for gift boxes and display kits. So why not dress as one. Find a long box–maybe  a refrigerator box–and cut some leg holes and a slit down one of the seams to create the hinged lid effect. Be sure to add some metallic trim to represent the foil stamping (after all, what’s a cigar style box without foil stamping?) As a twist, you can dress like a scary vampire on the inside. That way, when people open up your lid expecting to see you dressed as a gold watch or fancy sweater, they’ll be in for a shock! Or just go with the fancy sweater idea. Be a gift box from your favorite store!

Gate Fold Gold

If you want to be the ‘belle of the box’ at your Halloween party, you have to go as a custom gate fold box. Those double doors swinging open will make you the presentation piece that everyone will be talking about Monday morning. Make an entrance in every conversation, showing off your dazzling magnetic clasp.

What do you think? Okay, okay…maybe these costume ideas are better left as custom boxes. But you have to admit these costumes would turn some heads. That’s the point! Presentation packaging does turn heads! If you think these custom boxes make a splash at parties, imagine what they can do on the sales floor!

Have a happy (and safe) Halloween from all of us at Sunrise Packaging!

Images: cheeseburger.com, redriderleglamps.com


Rigid Packaging Vs. Flexible Packaging

At Sunrise Packaging we specialize in custom boxes that are rigid. Does that mean they are uptight at dinner parties? Definitely not. It does make them the top tier of luxury retail packaging. Why? And what does this all have to do with high school geometry? Glad you asked.

What is Rigidity?

square tea boxTo understand rigid packaging, you have to understand the concept of rigidity. Rigid how mathematicians use it is a little different from how packaging manufacturers use it. A rigid structure is a geometric shape that cannot collapse. Let’s take a square versus a triangle: if a you pretend the shapes are made of rods and each corner is a hinge, then the square would fold down and the triangle wouldn’t. That makes the triangle rigid and the box, well, not. But how does that make sense for packaging, where setup boxes are considered rigid?

What is Rigid Packaging?turned edge box_rigid packaging

Rigid packaging is called rigid because compared to corrugated products, for example, it is not made to
collapse. Yes, the
shape, mathematically speaking, is collapsible and, yes, if you had to, you could (with great force) collapse a rigid setup box. But in terms of other packaging, it is shipped as a cube and remains a cube on the retail shelves. Whereas your standard cardboard box would probably come to you flat, be assembled by you when you need it, and broken down much the same way it was put together.

Confused yet? Maybe instead of trying to differentiate between rigidity and rigid boxes, we could understand rigid packaging by it’s packaging world opposite: flexible packaging.

What is Flexible?

Flexible is also a math term. I could’ve sworn it originated in gym class, but I guess not. Flexible packaging isn’t collapsible, but it is bendable. Picture a rubber band stretched between two pencils. Tug down on the middle. The amount of bend in the band is its flexibility. So what makes flexible packaging flexible?

What is Flexible Packaging?

For the most part it means plastic. Ice cream buckets, for example. You can squeeze it. There’s a give. It’s widely used for food stuffs. However, it’s a cheaper material. Cheaper in perception, at least. If a product comes in a flexible plastic case, it feels more breakable, less valuable. More disposable.

That’s why rigid packaging (turned edge setup boxes and hinged boxes) are considered top shelf in the world of packaging. Retailers know when a customer buys a product that comes in a rigid case–such as a cell phone or tablet–they feel better about their purchase. The packaging is a first impression. A promise of what’s inside. If your product is packaged in the equivalent of a fast food fountain drink, what message are you sending? What promise?

There you have it. You’ve survived the math lesson. Rigid packaging is so named because compared to its flexible, bendable competitor, it holds its shape. Providing superior, durable protection for whatever product it holds.

two piece boxrigid setup box

Pairing Craft Beer with Presentation Packaging

What could craft beer and luxury packaging possibly have in common?

After all, one is all about an upscale, elegant presentation and one finds its aesthetics in industrial, stripped down, gritty visuals and presentation. If you’ve been to a brewpub, you know that’s true. Everything is repurposed wood from a turn-of-the-century barn and copper piping that looks like something out of a 1920s speakeasy.

Gritty as it is, however, this is still a design aesthetic. A style choice. A carefully crafted appearance meant to showcase the trends in a specific industry.

And just like that, craft beer is speaking our language.

craft beer_magic_hat_custom_labelsEven more so than the the breweries themselves, the packaging design for the beers themselves is becoming a work of art. From the often-loud visuals of the corrugated box the beer comes in–designed to be a splash of color in an already colorful market–to the extensive artwork appearing on the labels. Beautiful paintings, woodcarvings, and Celtic designs are among the many images you’ll find adorning the bottles in the ever-growing craft beer section at your local liquor store. In fact, websites like Oh Beautiful Beer celebrate the artwork that is the craft beer label.

Full color graphics? Stylish digitally printed logos? Foil stamped lettering? Hmm. Sounds familiar.

These are all trends in presentation packaging. A press kit or hinged rigid box can have all these design elements (and more, actually). Thus matching a craft beer to a custom box is like pairing barley with yeast.

In fact, speaking of trends, let’s look a little closer, shall we? Earlier this month, Creative Bloq posted an article titled Top 6 Trends in Beer Packaging for 2015. As I explored each trend, I couldn’t help but thinking how each one related back to the upscale presentation packaging industry.

A call for cleaner designs? That was reported as a major trend in luxury packaging at the beginning of the year. That minimal, almost clinical, look that puts the focus on the brand in a classy way. So maybe beer doesn’t want to look clinical, per se, but this idea of a clean label, focus on an eye-catching font or logo, and similar design across all products definitely has roots in our industry.

In the second trend listed, we see the call for the understated, industrial look. The report even mentions corrugated paper labels and embossed, textured lettering. These extra upgrades might become signs of more successful breweries.

Are you a can fan? For me, personally, I prefer a bottle. However, the industry secret is that beer stored in cans–without exposure to light–is better tasting. Now a custom box could definitely be the ‘best of both worlds’ answer here. A personalized brew kit could reflect a brewery’s style and graphics while deflecting sun. Bottles stored inside, tucked safely in die cut foam. nestled in with tasting glasses and a bottle opener shows craft beer aficionados that a brewery means means business when it comes to flavor.

The fourth trend suggests that what beer you’re drinking sends a message about who you are. In an age where all our books and music are stored digitally, that bottle of fine beer might be the only heart on your sleeve. Using packaging to give others a good vibe about you? We can’t argue with that.

The fifth trend is the biggie. The gamechanger. The true crossroads of beer labeling and high-end custom packaging. What they call “apothecary-style packaging” we’ve been calling presentation kits or product launch kits since, like, forever. Packaging that looks like a keepsake, a beautiful piece worth of your mantle, always has added value for a product, even if that product is drinkable. Let’s be honest: sometimes to sell that top shelf, big ticket beverage, you have visually communicate its quality with a little showmanship. That’s presentation packaging in a nutshell.

The final trend points to building a brand with similar products under the same banner. If you can’t see how that relates to packaging…well, what blog have you been reading? If you’re a company looking to diversify into other products, sometimes the only unifying factor will be the packaging.

So what does it all mean? Beer is great. End of story.

Okay, but seriously? The craft beer industry is an industry like all the others. And as the industry grows, breweries are going to realize they have to play ball like the big dogs have been doing all along. Shelf presence. Peacocking your brand. Adding value to new or unknown products. And when the epiphany hits, presentation packaging will be there to create a custom box that’s a perfect fit. Hinges, handles, magnetic clasps. You name it, we got it.

great lakes


What is Presentation Packaging?

StarbucksPresentation packaging. Presentation piece. Luxury packaging. What does it all mean?!


These are terms our industry throws around a lot. But if you Google the definition of “presentation packaging” you don’t get a lot of hard answers back. Is it so difficult to put a finger on?

To define presentation packaging, you have to look at its purpose. What does your custom box want to convey? Is it instructions how to open, printed on corrugated cardboard? Is it steps to ensure proper stocking? A QR code for easy shipping tracking?

That sounds more like “retail ready” or “shelf ready” packaging. This type of packaging contains details about the product inside, right on the outside. Fragile. Do Not Cut. Tear Here. This informational nature is important–there’s actual guidelines to being considered retail ready packaging–but it is more functional than luxury. And if you’re talking a QR Code for scanning, or any kind of interactive packaging that might provide online information, or links to a video, then you’re talking about smart packaging. This is the newest development in packaging, going as far as to embed microchips or devices to measure freshness of produce.

Usually, packaging of this nature is only seen behind the scenes, by employees. So transparency–clarity–is key. Easy open, easy disposal. Eco-friendly. Recyclable, like corrugated cardboard.

It presents information, sure, but is it presentation packaging?


There is a sort of middle ground between smart or retail packaging and luxury packaging. Sometimes you have a product that has instructions or directions or unique storage guidelines, but also needs to be on display. It needs to grab the customer’s attention, provide info, and mirror the value of the product it contains. You see this a lot in cell phones or tablets. These are expensive, high-end devices. Now, would you want your next smartphone to come in a two-piece setup box with gold foil, turned edges, and a snug-fitting insert? Or do you want it to come in a taped up cardboard box? Do you want to open it like a gift, and have a box perfectly designed for the device’s storage–or do you want a handful of garbage?

Presentation packaging is more than just a box. It’s a visual polish for an element of retail that is a must. Products need packaging. Unfortunately, most products can’t just be set out bare on a shelf. But luxury packaging comes with so many options that each box can be tailored to the company or product. Turned edges replace bare cardboard ends. Embossing a logo versus just printing it. Handles and magnetic tabs.
  starbucks_presentation_packaging  custom display box     starbucks-spotlight-new

And these elements aren’t just for retail either–they’re not even just for custom boxes. Press kits and product launch boxes for organizations and their material. Turned edges are a technique which have become the hallmark of binders. Thermoformed plastic trays and die cut foam have given medical device packaging an aesthetic boost. Software and flash drives are being delivered in new ways thanks to these elements.

So maybe “presentation packaging” isn’t something you can put a finger on. It’s more a collection of techniques and processes that turn an ordinary box into a complementary piece of art.

Short answer: you know it when you see it.