How an idea is turned into a product

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Jana Wolf, Senior International Brand Manager at Cofresco, had an idea. This resulted in a convincing concept, from which she and her project team developed a product. Now the world's first paper freezer bags have come onto the market.

In this interview, Jana talks about the challenges she had to overcome during development, how happy she is to have worked with such a great project team and how proud it makes her to be able to contribute to Cofresco's sustainable portfolio transformation with Toppits® paper freezer bags.

 

 

How did the idea for the new product come about?

We regularly monitor and analyze trends, markets and consumer needs in order to create new concepts for our core categories. I've noticed that more and more products are being switched from plastic to paper, such as straws, plastic bags in hotel rooms for cleaning clothes, and mailers from online retailers. At Toppits®, we already offer products made of paper - such as our sandwich paper - but not yet paper freezer bags. I was immediately convinced that the development of a bag made of paper and at the same time protects food from freezer burn in the freezer would be a relevant product innovation.  My supervisor Lars Finke, who is in charge of innovation management at Cofresco, was also enthusiastic about the idea and supported me from the very first moment.

How did the product development go? How long did it take?

We received official approval to work on the project at the end of 2021. Previously, we had already carried out two market researches that delivered positive results.
We started product development in January 2022 and completed it in August 2023. The pre-development consisted of five important phases: the screening of paper suppliers, the evaluation of suitable papers, internal tests based on a developed evaluation form and finally an independent institute carried out tests with regard to handling, product quality, the protection of the papers and sensory tests. The three promising paper qualities were then produced in bag form so that they could be evaluated by consumers in so-called home-use tests. Once the results were available, we selected the winning quality and finalized the product development.

Vier Cofresco Mitarbeiter arbeitet an Papierqualität für Gefrierbeutel
Origin of Paper Freezer Bags

Which departments have you worked with internally? How did the collaboration go?

I worked most closely with my core project members: Sven Larisch from Product Development as sub-project manager, Christian Berndt from Purchasing and Jana Klabunde from Sustainability. Everyone was very committed and passionate about the project from the official start of the project. We always pulled together and worked together very constructively, even though we had to face many challenges.

In the further course of the project, the departments of Engineering, Controlling, Supply Chain Management, Quality, Marketing Operations and our local marketeers were added.

The cooperation went very well throughout. The fact that many colleagues found my idea of developing paper freezer bags very convincing certainly contributed to this.

 

What were the biggest challenges?

There were many challenges throughout the project.
The biggest task was to show that a paper without a plastic coating can be suitable for freezing.
When we were looking for potential partners, we were most concerned with the fact that we did not want to use a plastic coating. We then had to identify the right paper quality and use it to assemble bags in an existing machine park. After that, the challenges lay in the area of contract negotiations.
Overall, we had to cope with some setbacks during this time and often thought that we were back at the beginning.
Therefore, I would like to thank the great team for their commitment and perseverance. Without them, paper freezer bags would continue to exist only in my head.

 

What are you particularly proud of when it comes to paper freezer bags?

That my idea – which initially consisted of exactly four sentences – has always evolved. All the way to a product for which I have already received a lot of positive feedback and that has positively surprised many people.

I'm also proud of the team. We went through challenging times together, but never gave up. And now we have already achieved the first listings and promotions in the German food trade. We are all very much looking forward to seeing the product live on the shelf.

Testing
Meeting
Kaffeefarmer schwingt Kaffeebohnen in Brasilien
Kaffeefarmer in Brasilien auf Feld mit Harke
Harke auf einem Kaffeefeld in Brasilien

 

Do you already use the bags yourself at home?

Yes, in fact, I've been using the pouches at home since I received Sven's first handmade samples. Since I'm cooking for a family, there are rarely any cooked leftovers left over for freezing. But I regularly freeze bread, baked goods, vegetables or fruit with the bags.

 

How does it feel to be able to contribute to the Honest100 strategy?

That gives me a very good feeling. Our Honest100 strategy leads our division into the future and ensures our long-term success. I am very proud that my idea and now our new product is part of our portfolio transformation and will hopefully soon be a full-fledged and sustainable part of the core range.