DecoPac now provides edible decorations, cake boards, sugar fondant sheets, and cake decoarting supplies and tools to customers throughout the United States and Canada out of its 335,000-square-foot distribution center in Anoka, Minn. “When you consider everything we supply [the facility is] pretty small,” CEO Mike McGlynn says. The company also has a subsidiary in England named Culpitt, which provides non-licensed supplies in Europe and manufactures some of DecoPac’s products.
Importance of Licensing
A walk past any grocery store bakery display is a quick lesson in the importance of licensed properties in the celebration cake market. It’s rare these days to find a customer that doesn’t offer licensed cakes. Even when there is not a price difference between a licensed and generic cake, McGlynn says desserts featuring well-known characters or beloved sports franchises sell better and faster. That licensed advantage is being realized at a 45-store regional test DecoPac is holding with a premier food retailer that previously did not sell licensed cakes. McGlynn did not have sales numbers, but he says feedback from the retailer has been overwhelmingly positive. “Apparently it’s wildly successful,” he adds.
Providing bakeries and supermarkets with the license themed cakes consumers demand has led DecoPac to enter into a number of agreements with property owners. The company offers decorations featuring Disney films such as “Frozen”; sports leagues including the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA; and Barbie and Monster High from Mattel. “We offer a very broad range that appeals to virtually any kid,” McGlynn says. DecoPac classifies licenses in two ways: event properties and evergreen properties. Evergreen properties are brands like SpongeBob SquarePants and Mickey Mouse that sell evenly year-round. On the other hand, event properties are typically tied to a one-time occurrence or the release of a tent-pole movie such as “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
Because DecoPac ships direct-to-store every day, the company has accurate sales numbers for which properties are most in demand. A strong event property that develops legs can morph into an evergreen property, a process McGlynn is now seeing unfold with “Frozen” as the sister-themed Disney animated film remains unstoppably popular more than a year and a half after its release.
Many companies are particular about how brands are portrayed, so DecoPac cake designers and artists collaborate with licensors’ creative teams to develop products. Oftentimes, the licensor has an online style guide that includes artwork and images DecoPac can use in the design. During that concept phase, licensors nudge DecoPac toward characters or vehicles that feature prominently in the show or movie, such as the Millennium Falcon in next winter’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” The iconic ship is the centerpiece of one of DecoPac’s upcoming cake kits. “We try to capture the essence of [the license] in the cake decoration and the design of the cake.”
Although licensing draws the most attention, generic decorations continue to offer opportunities in the business. McGlynn points out adult customers might want to serve an elegant after-dinner dessert or a festive Fourth of July themed cake. DecoPac is continually expanding its range of seasonal and special occasion cake kits. The past year has seen growing interest for the fondant and gum-based decorations produced at Culpitt. “We’ve been keeping the balance between our licensed sales and non-licensed pretty steady over the years,” McGlynn adds.
Technology Expands Offerings
Personalizing decorations has become possible through DecoPac’s PhotoCake system. Using a specialized printer, a soccer team can now celebrate the end of the season by sharing a cake adorned with an edible group photo, or a picture of a five-year-old girl can be inserted next to artwork of Anna and Elsa of “Frozen” to mark her birthday. The newest version of the PhotoCake system is online. Bakeries and supermarkets benefit by no longer needing to save a stockpile of images on in-house computers. Instead, cake designers can pull images directly from DecoPac’s growing Web-based catalog as the system calculates the billing and cut for the licensor. McGlynn explains having an online service makes a complicated process simple.
DecoPac has taken its online business a step further through The Magic of Cakes, a service through www.cakes.com that enables bakeries to create and link an online ordering page directly into a website or social networking page. Bakeries can feature in-house and DecoPac-designed cakes through the service. A Magic of Cakes kiosk can also be set up in store, allowing customers to more easily fill out orders in person.
The Internet has created more avenues for DecoPac to communicate with customers and consumers and improve the end-product. The company is conscious of not making designs too complicated so DecoPac experts offer tips and video how-to guides on the company’s website to help customers replicate its designs. Those efforts are all part of ensuring DecoPac meets all of its customers’ needs. Although the company left the bakery business 12 years ago, McGlynn says DecoPac still leans on that heritage to understand the industry it serves.