EP17 – How GemChocolates.ca Blows Customers Away With Custom Packaging

Listen to the Episode Below (49 minutes, 4 seconds)

Glenn Knowles used to work in finance and after the financial recession, he took the chance at a formal education in food and gave himself a 5 year plan to try his hand in the food business.  After many awards and recognitions, Glenn is in the 5th year of his plan.

Listen to how this first time entrepreneur took a career detour and now owns a successful physical and ecommerce store.

In this episode you’ll learn:

  1. how to blow your customers away with custom packaging
  2. how to get custom packaging made, how much it costs and how long it takes to get made
  3. and at the end Glenn reveals his strategy for product photos and descriptions to stand out from his competitors


Glenn Knowles from GemChocolates.ca
Glenn Knowles from GemChocolates.ca

Let’s dive into the details…


  • Up until 5 years was the director at the stock exchange in Canada
  • After the recession, decided to move into the food industry
  • Gave himself a 5 year plan and enrolled in an online chocolate-making course
  • Launched a web business 6 months later
  • Owns both a physical and online store.  Started with the online store
  • First entrepreneurial pursuit, originally had no desire to start a store, but after seeing early success he opened the online store


Opened a physical storefront

  • After successful online store, decided to open the physical retail
  • Made $8,000 in sales the first month of having the online store

Created a premium brand through premium packaging

  • Designed custom packaging to emphasize the premium brand
  • Designed it on pen and paper and sent it to a packaging manufacturer
  • Glenn’s boxes cost him $4 each
  • Can differentiate yourself through premium packaging


Finding a packaging manufacturer

  • Searched for packaging manufacturers
  • Looked at their portfolio
  • Ordered sample boxes to see the quality
  • Samples were free, but Glenn had to pay the FedEx courier fees and taxes (came out to a few hundred dollars)
  • Got samples from 3 different suppliers
  • After deciding on a custom package, it took 4 months for the manufacturer to produce the first order

Shipping food

  • Products have a shelf life of 4 to 6 weeks max
  • Use 2-4 day guaranteed delivery with tracking
    • There’s some regulation that prevents them from shipping food over night
  • Haven’t had a complaint from customer regarding shipping
  • Make sure that food is well-insulated and do not move around much
  • Add a cold pack into it’s own ziplock bag during the summer months
    • Cold pack can last several days



  • Source locally as much as possible
  • Chocolate comes from Belgium
  • Cacao comes from Dominican Republic
  • Organic and fair trade certified ingredients
    • Helps Glenn differentiate himself and Gem Chocolates


  • Ingredients and fair trade certification requirements increase cost
  • Calculates cost and then applies target profit margin to calculate pricing
  • $20 box of chocolate will cost Glenn $8 to $9 to ship


Running the store

  • The majority of the sales are coming from the physical retail store and wholesaling, but online sales is growing the fastest
  • Has a small team running the business

Getting customers

  • Never runs sales because there’s never excess product
  • Use social media to drive traffic and sales to their website
  • Writes blogs and stories about things that are happening at the shop
  • Keeps website fresh with new content frequently


Strategy for product photography and descriptions

  • Make product photos artistic and personal
  • Make product descriptions stand out and memorable