A Love Letter to Food Start Ups: Launch with Success

creative werks CPG product launch teamwork


You’ve done the market research and developed a new item to compete in the market. So now what? Launching a new product is daunting: unforeseen obstacles occur and there are countless things to worry about. Here’s a roadmap that details seven key steps to launching your product with success.




Your launch partners are almost as crucial to your success as the viability of your product. Lesson here? Be picky, choose wisely. Selecting the right partner for the project is one of the best ways to ensure a product launch goes smoothly. Beyond drafting a Request for Quote (RFQ), take time to meet with the company and understand their strengths as it pertains to: capabilities, quality management, available capacity, flexibility, and ways of working (i.e.: project management style). Beyond cost, it’s more important to establish trust with your supplier than to nit-pick costs. Once a positive relationship is established, cost improvement measures are easier to negotiate.



Communicating early and often ensures you and your partner(s) are on the same page. Information on items such as: artwork, pallet patterns, specific quality or safety checks, fill ratios, and work instructions should be shared as early as possible. This will allow for time to review documents, request feedback or concerns, and give you a second set of eyes so that every aspect of the project is carefully thought through. This will increase your odds of catching a discrepancy in the early phases of the project.



Whether your product launch is with a retailer or a B2B client, deadlines are critical. Missing key milestones can tarnish a relationship and hurt trust. Develop a timeline by backing into the Available to Order date. Build in time for artwork changes, delivery delays, and machine downtime. Request timing from suppliers up front to understand their time thresholds and be transparent about potential production hurdles. Creating a visible timeline will improve communication and align expectations. From there, build in checkpoints with your client to keep necessary stakeholders informed and up to date on the project.



The beauty is in the details, right? It really is. Inherent in launching a product are a minutia of details that need to align perfectly. You often see it in TV shows and movies: a dramatic, eleventh hour moment where an error is identified. Seemingly small oversights can result in large costs. Find a communication channel to update stakeholders and confirm changes. Some ways to do this include: establishing a system for checking and updating art files; asking for confirmation from partners; setting a deadline for art changes. If changes do happen late in the launch prep, having these processes in place will improve reaction time.



It may seem obvious, but marketing your new product will drastically improve consumer response. Companies take for granted that consumers will be drawn to the novelty of a new brand on the shelf, but research shows us it’s more complicated than that. Ecommerce has changed the landscape of customer loyalty; it’s no longer just about best price or product selection. Buyers need more information and interaction to feel swayed on a new item or brand. With social media at the forefront of our communication, there are opportunities abound to market your new item. Whether its conversation marketing, a promotional post on Facebook, or video series on Instagram, the important thing is to get your targeted consumers excited to try the new item.


6. TESTING, 1-2-3

When a project is coming together, it’s key to test for potential weak spots – from design to execution. A package prototype may look great, but the functionality during the production process could raise issues. Small changes can have a big impact on production, so any changes to the packaging, line setup, or product mix should be tested prior to launch. Three major ways to mitigate your risk when the product goes live are:

  • Run a trial
  • Complete a ship test
  • Complete a press approval



As much as you can, be present for the launch! Even if working with a co-packer halfway across the country, stay informed throughout launch week. Request pictures and samples of the product for your team to evaluate, ask for reports on line efficiency, and check for ways to improve ramp-up. A strong partner will walk through this process with you and be excited to do so. In addition to being “live” at the launch, be there for your consumers as well. Stay in touch across social media and consistently spread the word about the product, well after the launch. This will encourage new shoppers and open the door to deeper consumer insights on the item!



There are a thousand factors impacting the success of a launch, but at the end of the day it comes down to your team and your plan. Understanding and preparing for unforeseen bumps in the road will result in a smoother launch process and contribute to your item’s success at market!


Spotlight on… Johnny Warsaw!

The thought of starting work at a new company the day after a tornado blew off the roof may not sound like an ideal situation for anyone – but for Johnny Warsaw it was a welcome challenge. After a career in minor league baseball and completing 20 marathons by age 62, the energetic Security Guard has settled into an active lifestyle in Glencoe with his wife Elise. He credits creative werks with keeping him 69 ½ years young, and – by the sound of his wishlist items – doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon! From moonwalks to Netflix binges, coaching baseball to West Coast dreams, get a look into the world of Johnny Warsaw.


If you could share a meal with anyone in the world, alive or dead, who would it be?
I would like to have a long, long meal with my late, mother and father. There is so much to tell them, and questions I would like to ask, all these years later.


If you weren’t doing what you’re doing here at cw, what would you be doing?
I would be sleeping a little later each morning. My alarm sounds at 4 am! Then, I would like to live close to the Pacific Ocean. I would enjoy teaching kids how to play and appreciate the game of Baseball.


Johnny Warsaw

Take him out to the ball game! Johnny is a huge baseball – and Chicago Cubs – fan!

What would be the most amazing adventure to go on?
I grew up in the 1960’s. I idolized the original 7 NASA astronauts. Space travel is my ultimate adventure. The idea of establishing human life on another planet is within our reach. I’d love to take a space walk, or go to the moon. Many days, my wife wishes I would go to the moon!


What’s the best way to start the day?
There is an old Yiddish expression: “Too soon old, Too late smart.” I’ve learned that every day is a gift, a chance “to do.” My morning ritual starts with a look at myself in the mirror and a laugh, at the face looking back at me. Then, COFFEE!


If you didn’t have to sleep, what would you do with the extra time?
99% of my Xfinity recordable space has been taken with movies, documentaries, shows that I plan to view. I would like to binge watch some of it. I have an entire season of “The Walking Dead,” so I don’t know – who is still alive?!


Where did you grow up?
Highland Park, Illinois.


What was your first impression of creative werks?
Chaos! Back in 2011, the roof had fallen down, literally. The pace was frantic from my start. Each day I got a tutorial on a different problem that we never want to experience again. My previous career was commodity trading, and I was the risk manager for an electronic trading firm. I learned the term “organized confusion,” back then, and applied it to my role at cw. I function well amidst chaos because it is only temporary.


What’s the craziest phone call you’ve received at work?
Anytime I get a call from Chris Burton, it’s a little crazy! He is my soul brother, from another set of parents!


Johnny Warsaw

The dynamic duo – Johnny and Chris pose for the camera at our first meeting at BRU HQ.

What songs have you completely memorized?
When I hear a new song that I love, I play it over and over, so memorization comes naturally. I grew up loving The Beatles, and The Beach Boys, so I know all those tunes. When my son went to U W Madison, I memorized the words to “Jump Around.” Not an easy task for an old, white guy!


Why did you decide to do the work you are doing now?
From the first moment, I saw and felt the effort and dedication, on every level of the C W totem pole. A team/family environment was created, and it moved this company forward. If you look around, there is a palpable buzz of caring and growth, within our facilities, our home. The name is creative werks, but it’s all of our people who make it that. I’ve been around, and this is special. I wanted to be a part of that, in any way, shape, or form that I could contribute.

IDEA LABS: Hosting focus groups to derive key insights for seasonal and everyday packaging

Werkshop Design Group (WDG) – creative werks’ in-house design collective – is expanding its research efforts to include focus groups, engage consumers directly, and better understand purchase drivers. Most recently, WDG held an Easter and Christmas gifting consumer focus group geared toward kids – the very individuals who enjoy the holidays most.


Parents brought their kids in for an afternoon of activities and stocking filling to understand what exactly kids are hoping to find when searching for the Easter basket or turning the stocking upside down. The forum was organized to encourage discussion surrounding gifting occasions and preferences for what would best fill a stocking or basket. As kids gravitated toward their favorite items, the WDG team was looking to answer:

           –  How can the holiday be expanded? 
           –  What occasions have the most potential?
           –  What do consumers really want?


Two rooms were decorated to the brim for the respective holidays where the participants, ages 6-12, had the opportunity to select five items from two categories: small gifting ($1 – $3) and mid-level gifting ($5 – $10). Each room had table displays of novelty candy, toys, games, and seasonal offerings. Upon selection, participants were asked about their choices, preferences, and how they determined which items ultimately made it to their stocking (or basket). In addition to the specific data gathered, participants were also asked about their favorite holiday traditions, movies, hobbies, and candy.

Because consumers have indicated that secondary uses can influence purchasing habits, WDG wanted to understand which activities resonate with participants the most. Coloring books, word puzzles, mazes, stickers and other games were laid out on the table and researchers gathered insight from the participants to understand which games were most appealing and why. Kids were eager to share ideas and explain which games illicit the greatest excitement.

Not only does this research become the foundation for understanding the consumer, but it also inspires WDG to identify future design opportunities and gaps in the marketplace. “We’re committed to exploring consumer preference in order to design with purpose and deliver insight-driven packaging solutions that are creative and fun, and also mindful of real-world constraints,” remarks Kelly Zelmanski, Sr Industrial Design Manager, Werkshop Design Group.



Werkshop Design Group is a design collective within creative werks llc – one of the United States’  leading co-packers and manufacturers. creative werks’ mission is to be the ultimate packaging partner and to deliver the highest quality products that win the hearts of consumers. Werkshop Design Group collaborates cross-functionally with creative werks’ team and expansive supplier network bringing ideas to shelf that are loved by the consumer and retailer alike. 

Spotlight on…. Claudia Villegas!

Claudia Villegas is the epitome of creative werks’ values – resilient, driven, and compassionate. Born and raised in Mexico City, Claudia found her way to Chicagoland in 2008 after studying telecommunications engineering at Instituto Politécnico Nacional. Starting from scratch in Chicago’s suburbs, she quickly found a place at creative werks and grew into the company seamlessly. When not at work, the Supply Chain Supervisor’s life is kept exciting with Zumba, a passion for music, and – of course – her son Marc. Read on to learn more about Claudia’s talents, inspirations, and a view of the world through her eyes.  



Who inspires you?  

My family has always been my inspiration. Growing up my mom was a big inspiration for me. I wanted to be strong, happy and always have a smile. Now that I’m a mom, my son inspires me to learn more about everything. I want to be ready for all his questions. 


What position at creative werks would you like to do for a day? 

I would like to be in Sarah or Liz’s position for a day. I’d like to work a day in HR because I would love to help make our temporary work force stronger and help on the day-to-day HR duties that make creative werks a great place to work. 


What do you tend to splurge on? 

In activities/getting things for my son. He goes to swimming and soccer lessons; I hope he will learn to swim at a young age. I’m also thinking of registering him in a music class. And of course, clothes and toys… 


Casting call: Claudia’s pick to play her in a movie would be Meg Ryan

Who would play you in a movie? Why? 

Meg Ryan in City of Angels, maybe– she’s sort of a regular, down to earth girl that enjoys life.  


What was your first week like at creative werks

It was challenging and exciting. It was great to meet people and was always supported by everyone here. 


What do you think has been mankind’s greatest invention? 

Electricity – I think is the base of a lot of things, communications, technology, etc.… 

Claudia cherishes her friends and family. She and some friends climbed one of the highest mountains in Mexico – Nevado de Toluca – in 2002.


If you could be stuck at an age forever, what age would you be (and why)?   

Ufff.. I wouldn’t like to be stuck at any age. I have enjoyed all the stages of my life so far. If I must pick one it would be my early 30’s. But I’ve really enjoyed all the parts of my life – I would rather keep growing older and see what phases I’ll hit next. 


What did you love most about the place you grew up? What about it did you love the least? 

I grew up in a town with a lot of friends; I remember the fun afternoons singing, dancing and playing a lot of games. I always liked it.  


What is your most bizarre talent? 

Maybe not bizarre but I love to do crafts!!!  I was just looking at pictures of all the things I have made: invitations, decorations, seasonal cards…. “If I picture something in my head, I’m sure I can make it!“ 


Fearless: Claudia posing for a quick photo – while skydiving- 2012!

Is there a documentary, album, or book that really changed the way you thought about something? 

Every time I read or see a documentary about nature or the planet it amazes me to see all the amazing, bizarre, and different things that are out there in the world. 


Spotlight on Myron Friedman

He may call himself Grandpa, but Myron Friedman is one of the more youthful spirits we have at creative werks! Myron, accounting guru and invoice warden, came to creative werks nine years ago, after exploring many interesting lines of work. Growing up in Rogers Park and completing all schooling in Chicago, staying in Chicagoland was an easy decision for Myron to make. The avid reader and music enthusiast gets in plenty of domestic and international travel to visit his mother, brother, two children, and (soon to be two) grandchildren. Read on to hear more of Myron’s thoughts on government, careers, and early morning chatter.





What would your slogan be if you were a candidate for president?

Jobs For All! I would revamp the tax code to incentivize job creation over wealth creation.


What’s the craziest job you’ve had?

You doubtless think I would answer my cab driving days. The craziest job for me, personally, was working as a Doorman at various Gold Coast residences. This was completely at odds with my populist mindset.


Forever young: Myron celebrating his birthday with the creative werks team in 2015.

If you could be stuck at an age forever, what age would you be?

Mid-twenties: Old enough to have some sense, and young enough to have the energy to enjoy it.


What was your first impression of creative werks?

Quite the unusual business model. I started just before the growth began, at a time when the production lights were basically offline for April. There was doubt in my mind that we would survive.



What do you tend to splurge on?

Travel to visit my kids, in Toronto and Puebla [Mexico].


Who would play you in a movie?

Adrian Brody. Think “The Pianist.”


Myron’s actor of choice to portray him in a movie: Academy Award winner, Adrian Brody!

What animal would you most like to have as a mode of transportation?

A giraffe.


What was your first concert?

Classical: Artur Rubinstein at Orchestra Hall.
Other: The WHO at the Kinetic Playground at Lawrence and Clark in Chicago. Bet most of you do not remember that place!


What was your proudest moment here at creative werks?

The support by creative werks for immigrant rights made me kvell.


Who do you let speak to you before coffee?

Stuffed animals.

Spotlight on Chris Santimauro

Chris Santimauro 2If ever there was a living definition of the term “jack-of-all-trades,” Chris Santimauro would fit the bill. The Illinois native graduated from U of I’s Industrial Engineering program in 2013 and found his way to creative werks. As an Operations Management Trainee, Chris has worked in a whopping 5 departments! His versatile nature isn’t just work related. Chris has a wide array of interests: he’s an avid gamer, adventurer, trivia buff, and secret ax throwing professional. Read on about Chris, and why he may just be too cool to play James Bond.



What game show do you dream of being a participant on one day, and why?

It would be fun to be on MXC. It’s sort of like the Japanese version of Wipeout, but even crazier.


What animal do you think best represents you?

The koala bear. They just hang out and eat leaves all day.


If you could possess any superpower what would that be?

Probably telekinesis. But being able to shut off my alarm without moving would make it even harder to get out of bed in the morning.


chris s 4Who would play you in a movie?

Daniel Craig… although he might not be suave enough to pull it off.




What was your first impression of creative werks?

That the people were great! Everyone was so accommodating and made me feel welcome, especially as I’ve moved between departments.


If you could live in a book, TV show, video game, or movie what would it be?

Chris S 2

Chris and his friends are regular attendees of trivia night at Cortland’s Garage in Chicago.

The world of Futurama looks like fun.


What was your dream job growing up, and why?

I wanted to be a mad scientist. I thought that was an actual job title and I wanted to invent crazy new things.


If you could master one skill you don’t have yet, what would it be?

I would love to learn to play guitar or drums. Playing in a rock band is a secret dream of mine.


Where do you think creative werks will be in ten years?

I think that creative werks will be much bigger and we’ll have expanded our food capabilities beyond co-packing. I can see us working on projects even more involved than paste filling, but along those same lines.


Chris S 3

Travel junkie: Chris spent two weeks road tripping through Montana and Canada in 2016.


What words of wisdom would you pass on to your childhood self?

Don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone. Every new experience will make you stronger.





Spotlight on Liz Girten

Liz Girten

Liz Girten, HR Manager

Beautiful, smart, patient, and brave: Liz Girten, creative werks’ HR Manager, uses these words to describe her superhero Esther. While these words likely describe her superhero well, they could not be more emblematic of Liz, too. A fluent Spanish speaker, Liz studied in Ecuador while attending the University of Illinois. Upon graduating, she worked for Target Corp before coming to creative werks in 2011. Her optimism, smarts, and cheerful nature are characteristic of any ideal candidate we want working for our team.  Read on to find out more about Liz Girten.

If you were a superhero, who would you be?

Does Esther count? She was beautiful, smart, patient and brave. When she found out her people were in danger, she risked her own life to save them.

What’s your favorite thing to do on a Saturday?
On Saturday mornings I like to go to cardio kick boxing class and then have a good meal with great friends.

Where do you think creative werks will be in 10 years?
I think we will continue to grow, we will have more buildings or bigger buildings. I think we will win new clients and new markets and we will expand our capabilities. Maybe we will get into co-manufacturing or a new type of business that doesn’t even exist yet. By then it will be 2026 and we should have flying cars, right? At least we should have self-driving cars.

What would your slogan be if you were a candidate for president?
I do not consider myself to be a very political person, perhaps my slogan would be “In God we trust” or “One team, one dream”.

What do you think has been mankind’s greatest invention?
Written language, think about how much of our communication is in writing. It’s kind of bananas! Most of us wouldn’t have jobs if we didn’t have written language.  I couldn’t be communicating this right now…

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.

What was your first week like at creative werks?

It was so fun and refreshing, an exciting new adventure from what I was doing when I worked for Target. Sarah and Colleen and I shared an office, it was up where the Design/Marketing office is now. I remember we did a lot of interviews! At Target we had interview booklets and you could not deviate from the questions in the booklet. Interviewing at cw is much more fun, we ask a lot more questions tied in to our culture.

What were you like at the age of 10?

Liz Girten and Allie

Liz, pictured center in pink with her lifelong friend, Alli, on the right.

I was a dork then too. I played outside in the street a lot with my dear friend and neighbor, Alli. We would tie a rope between our mailboxes because we wanted to play tennis and we didn’t have a court nearby. We lived on a dead end street so there weren’t many cars, but we would always rush to untie the rope when a car drove up! We rode our bikes a lot too since we lived in a small neighborhood surrounded by corn fields. I basically lived (and still live) in Mayberry.

How many times do you hit “snooze” in the morning?
Maybe this is embarrassing, but I intentionally set my alarm early because I know I will hit snooze a few times.

What celebrity would you like to meet for a cup of coffee?
C.S. Lewis – I guess he’s not really a celebrity, but a famous author. I would love to pick his brain about how he wrote Mere Christianity and have him read a few passages from one of my favorite stories, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader from the Chronicles of Narnia. It’s such a great adventure story! I would highly recommend it if you haven’t read it already.




Spotlight on Juan Aguinaga

1spotlight logo


juan-spotlightJuan Aguinaga, creative werks’ Production Supervisor, joined the team in June  2013 at the opening of Brummel operations. Juan and his wife moved from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to the suburbs to raise their children, four daughters and a son. With the kids all grown, they now enjoy being grandparents to five (four granddaughters and one grandson). Having worked in fields ranging from fraud analysis to carpentry, creative werks appreciates his leadership, problem solving ability and strong work ethic. When creative werks acquired its third production facility in Bartlett, Juan was more than happy to carry the cw torch and continue the good work on the production floor. Read on to learn more about Juan, where he’s itching to go, his favorite parts of the Windy City, and more!

What do you tend to splurge on?

Food, I love going out to eat. Wildfire in Schaumburg is a favorite: Filet Mignon Wellington with twice baked potato is highly recommended.

What was your first concert?

Bon Jovi. Love the hair bands.

What were you like at the age of 10?

What I remember about being 10 is going to school and loving little league baseball. My brothers and I would play from morning to night.

What’s your favorite spot in the city of Chicago?

Chicago has so much to offer hard to say favorite spot. But if I had to pick a spot I would have to say lakefront. Museums, restaurants, Bears, zoo, biking, swimming, volleyball, soccer, softball, concerts, so on and so on. Always something to do.

Pictured here in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, Juan remarks, “I love the Southwest; so beautiful and so much to see.”

Pictured here in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, Juan remarks, “I love the Southwest; so beautiful and so much to see.”

If you won a free plane ticket to anywhere, where would you go?

This plane ticket would take me around the world and I would stop in 1 city, on every continent. Does Antarctica have a city?

What was your first impression of creative werks?

There seemed to be an excitement around cw, like there was something special happening, and I wanted to be part of it. Throughout my journey I have realized sitting at a desk is not for me. My first job in the food industry started 6 years ago where I worked as QC and then Supervisor. Now I’m at the best company in the world!

Who would play you in a movie?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Don’t you agree? lol


Juan and his celebrity Doppelgänger, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Juan and his celebrity Doppelgänger, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Where did you grow up?

Elgin Illinois. Did you know that in the early 1900’s the entire nation used to set their pocket and wrist watches to “Elgin time”? The Elgin watch factory had an observatory they used to set time using the stars. Which at that time was the most accurate way to tell time. “Elgin takes the time from the stars and puts it into your pocket.”

Do you have any irrational fears?

Clowns. They freak me out.

Who’s your hero? Why?

My dad. Very strong work ethic. Taught me the value of hard work.

creative werks, llc Commits to Go for Zero: Eliminating Waste from Facilities and Processes

Bensenville, Ill. – As part of creative werks’ commitment to continuous improvement and reducing its carbon footprint, the company is excited to announce its zero waste initiative.  In a company-wide effort, the initiative will engage cross-functional teams to examine waste streams and seek alternative methods to avoid landfill.  zerolandfill

In order to achieve zero waste, creative werks will focus on plant operations, training and education, constant monitoring, and measuring of results.  Each production line will have Green Leaders who are trained on waste stream management and sorting from each line.  Additionally, each line will be monitored every hour to ensure compliance and procedures are followed.

“Our goal to achieve zero waste is grounded in our continuous improvement mentality,” remarks founder and President, Steve Schroeder.  “Our company is committed to operating with a lean mindset and removing waste from our processes and facilities.  Sustainability and environmental soundness is embedded in our culture and critical for our future success.”

All three facilities, which span nearly one million square feet of space collectively, will enforce the waste management program.  By year end 2016, every creative werks associate will undergo recycling training.  In addition to its zero waste initiative, creative werks also runs on 100% wind power and is an EPA Green Power Leader.


creative werks, llc™ Will Relocate Corporate Headquarters to Elk Grove Village, IL

Bensenville, ILcreative werks, llc, a leader in packaging design, manufacturing, engineering and co-packing, is pleased to announce the relocation of its corporate headquarters from Bensenville, Il. to Elk Grove Village, Il., where the company currently occupies 245,000 square feet of operating space.   Effective in January 2017, the location will support creative werks’ growing business needs and will allow the company to create a campus with a modern and innovative office space.  The company has extended its Bensenville lease and will continue its operations there.

Elk Grove Village, which Crain’s Chicago named North America’s largest business park, granted funding to creative werks through its Tax Increment Financing (TIF) program.  The business friendly village hosts over 3,800 other businesses in the five-mile radius park.

Although we are excited to move our headquarters to Elk Grove Village, Bensenville will continue to be an important part of our organization and we are committed to supporting the Bensenville community,” remarks founder and President Steve Schroeder.  “Our team is growing and we want to provide a work atmosphere that fuels creativity and improves communication.” The headquarters will host the executive team along with human resources, finance, accounting, IT, engineering, design, marketing, client services, and supply chain.

 With an open layout and unique design elements, the offices will be constructed to facilitate communication between departments.  “Bringing cross-functional teams under one roof will increase productivity, drive efficiency, and build team collaboration,” explains Sarah Bajek, Vice President of Human Resources.  In 2015, creative werks expanded its footprint an additional 400,000 square feet in Bartlett, Il. to bring the company’s total operating footprint to nearly one million square feet of operating space.

The Elk Grove Village location will continue to run on wind power, like creative werks’ two other facilities, and will be outfitted with energy efficient LED lighting throughout the building.  The new headquarters is located on Brummel Avenue, just four miles north of its current headquarters in Bensenville.

About creative werks, llc:

creative werks’ mission is to be the ultimate packaging partner, to deliver the highest quality products that exceed its clients’ expectations and win the hearts of consumers.  The creative werks team brings over 60 years of entrepreneurial energy to its state-of-the-art manufacturing, co-packing and design facility. It maintains SQF Level III food-grade facilities to provide both labor-intensive and automated fulfillment for Fortune 100 food brands.   In addition, creative werks is an EPA Green Power Leader and runs nearly one million square feet of space on wind energy.