The packaging people

Cafe Culture’s Rob Marlowe finds out what separates the Packaging People from other Australian packaging companies in an engaging interview with Managing Director, Shayden Robinson.

G’day and welcome coffee roasters! I had the absolute pleasure of spending my morning with Shayden Robinson, Managing Director of 100% Australian owned and operated family business, The Packaging People. You only have to look at their website to pique your curiosity. An A-list of Australian and New Zealand coffee roasting clientele, but what I really wanted to explore was their claims at being Australia’s No #1 Product Packaging Company.

The first thing that will strike you, after the rather floppy Hugh Grant style messy hair do, is that this young 23 year old entrepreneur is an extremely charming, bright and without a doubt intelligent man. He’s equally grounded, if not groomed! Being rather charming and bright myself (maybe a lot less intelligent), Shayden and I were at ease with each other immediately.

I wanted to start with a stress-free question, giving Shayden a false sense of security and work up to the big questions;

Like many Aussie names, Shayden is an unusual one. Do you know where it derived from?

No idea! My father blames his mother in-law…but the number of different names I’ve been called in my life – Shay, Shane, Hayden, Jayden (the list goes on). It was easier for me to leave my first job, at a pub in Melbourne, after not having the guts to tell everyone my name wasn’t Shannon as seen on the roster. Also in true Aussie style, it’s a unisex name, as is my girlfriend’s name, Maison. So, on any given day we confuse people as to who might be who, when introduced as a couple.

What is your morning caffeine routine?

Since starting the business I have been fortunate enough to receive an education at client meetings from my roasting partners, as to what a good coffee should taste like. I leave the house everyday at 5.30am to avoid any traffic, so when I get to work I use our espresso Sunbeam machine to extract me a full cream latte. I might repeat this several times in the morning, which is when I get my best work done and where possible I leave work at 4.30pm to beat the Melbourne traffic home.

What are your hobbies outside of work?

I’ve been extremely lucky in my life with my friendship group, which has never fractured from our school days. I have the same 20-30 mates that catch up, to hang out every weekend, without fail! (Apart from these last several weeks where we have been in lockdown). That’s my weekends! Other than that I’m a mad sport fanatic, any type of sport, but footy tops the ranks! I’m a mad Western Bulldogs man. Winning the 2016 Grand Final is up there with the best day of my life!

How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your business?

There are many blessings that come with being a family business. We continue to come in to work every day as a father, mum, son and daughter combination. We have a really small team, an amazing receptionist/office manager, and the best warehouse man in Australia, who never lets us down. It’s these people that enable The Packaging People to continue operating and keep the wheels rolling!

We might not be the cheapest, but our mantra to be the best quality and offer the best service has appealed especially to small to medium sized enterprises, who have taken this down-time, created by the pandemic, to make enquiries with us, because they know our reputation.

Yes, we have had a downturn is sales, but this time has allowed us to set up our brand properly; create a new e-book catalogue, new policy and procedures and build a new culture for The Packaging People! We can’t help what’s going on outside, but we can help what’s going on inside of our business. In doing that, we hope to come out a stronger brand.

If I’ve learnt anything from my mother & father, who are the hardest working parents I know, more important than sales, dollars and cents, is to set up the business so you’re essentially bullet proof, the spectrum of industry we service, the financial backing and the team supporting us. It’s meant we’re not here panicking everyday during the pandemic, which unfortunately a lot of other businesses haven’t had the same luxury. Sales figures are nowhere near as good as they were, but they will come back. What we have achieved with the new logo, strategy, new branding, new website and social media engagement is invaluable to how we move forward.

How did it evolve that a good-looking 23-year bloke now runs the family owned business?

Mate, I do not know! My life goal was to be a radio disc jockey or sports commentator. However, I’ll never forget when I was in my first week at RMIT University, doing an International Business degree, I got an email from dad saying we’ve got a potential business, what are your thoughts? I looked at the numbers and could see that whoever had run the business had done an amazing job with their resources. I didn’t know how it would evolve, but I ended up moving to the Gold Coast, aged 19, for 6 months to learn the ropes of the business. We then brought the business back to Melbourne. I continued in the business and completed my degree as a part time student.

The more time I spent in the business, the greater the opportunity appeared, the more passionate I became. It was also somewhat vindication to me, in terms of having been given everything in my life by my parents. I went to the most amazing school, comfortable house, holidays. I couldn’t have asked for more and this was my chance to give back to them by taking over the family business and looking after them.  

I love coming to work everyday and love kicking goals. Anything we could have done wrong in this business we have done, which has been a tremendous learning curve and vindication in itself. But here we are bigger and better.

You claim on your website to be Australia’s No1 product & packaging company. What separates you from other packaging companies in Australia?

In my mind this is certainly not hype or marketing, not wanting to sound cocky or arrogant. For us, what makes a good business and makes you No #1 is when you have the best product in the market, second to that is when you have the best service. What our customers say is that we are better than our competitors because they know they can pick up the phone and talk to someone and that they are going to get a service above and beyond the call of duty!

We are one of only a small minority that don’t source their packaging from just one central location, we get our packaging from up to 10 places globally, we are not looking at the cheapest packaging we look for the best supplier for each and every product we do and don’t want to pigeon hole ourselves because one manufacturer or country offers the best price. Not saying anything bad about centralised manufacturing but we pay for a premium product.

What comes with that is we will be the best in terms of quality. My clients know they can ring myself or any staff member, midnight to midnight, any day of the week and we’re happy to talk to customers and we do whatever we possibly can to meet customers needs. Ticking the boxes on the 3 slogans on our website; leaders in quality product, customer service and innovation, is what I believe makes us the best packaging supplier in Australia!

Knowing the cafe industry requirement for eco-friendly products, do you have any in your range? And how was the transition to eco-friendly products?

Can I make this relevant to a report we got from APCO (Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation) that confirmed a belief that I had. What this APCO report said is that biodegradable and compostable packaging moving forward is going to be quite difficult in this country, Australia! We don’t have a lot of facilities to make sure the bags break down; we don’t have, so to speak, enough industrial composting facilities. What that report has said to us is, the way forward is to use recyclable, packaging made from recyclable materials and reusable packaging.

That’s not to say we’re not going to be developing biodegradable and compostable products moving forward. We have a new bio bag range, with a new material, yet unseen in Australia coming soon, which we think is great but it’s not perfect. I don’t think anyone can claim to have the perfect eco products. I think our goal is to continue to be innovative.

For us, the one that we’ve seen the most success with are our 5kg and 9kg coffee drums and working on bringing a 1kg option for the retail space. They’re so good because they’re reusable! Not biodegradable or compostable but can be used as many times as you like, indefinitely.

We also have the cardboard cylinders, that aren’t abundant in the market. We have these new biodegradable liners, like a thin cellophane bag that go inside the cylinders allowing for the cylinders to be reusable.

The biggest eye opener to us has been the recyclable packaging bags. They’re nothing more than your normal coffee bag, without the foil. We’re not reinventing the wheel with these and we’re probably halving the shelf life from 24 months to right now around 12 months, which for the roaster is still fine. Consumers are recognising there is no perfect solution and to satisfy the educated customer is to show innovation and be moving in the right direction. We want to innovate and meet the developers in that space.

Where do you envisage The Packaging People to be in ten years?

I need a job, so I hope nobody comes in with an offer we can’t refuse to buy the business. For me, it goes back to the eco friendly side of things. In the next 5 years our warehouse will look nothing like it does now. The standard foil bag/packaging will not be marketable with the way the world is going. In 10 years, I hope and pray we are still living up to our reputation, as the No#1 packaging business in Australia and we have customers, big or small, buying from us eco friendly products, especially in the recyclable and reusable space.

I harp on about us being a small team, but on a national level we are not a small business and this has all been achieved organically, which is encouraging when I think we haven’t to date gone out and targeted roasters, or we don’t have a sales team out on the road knocking on roasters doors. We have customers in all states of Australia, some in NZ, in the UK and Singapore. Most encouragingly, fingers crossed, when we do choose to expand and show ourselves on the road, that’s real success, when we can show more people what we do!

I concluded the interview with Shayden at this point. I believe Shayden had demonstrated to the coffee roaster folk that when enquiring after a packaging partner, The Packaging People should be the first people to call. And maybe call at midnight, just to check he is a man of his word.

I’ve also fallen in love with Shayden somewhat in our time together, and apologies in advance to girlfriend Maison, but I might have found a future son-in-law for my teenage daughter.

The Packaging People

The Packaging People

Call 03) 8361 8063

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