The packaging entrepreneur who’s wrapped up business from Ben & Jerry’s

VaioPak Group was set up by Fogel nearly eight years ago, originally with the goal of creating a platform for brands to advertise to the general public.

The model worked by first securing the backing of companies, and then providing branded products such as coffee cups to independent shops and restaurants free of change. “It was like putting the brand in the hands of the consumer,” Fogel explained.

However, over the course of the company’s first two years, during which it was entirely self-funded, Fogel noticed that many of the shops and restaurants he was providing branded packaging to were actually after innovative items that each were willing to pay for.

It was this demand that led Fogel and his team to focus on being more of a food packaging company – rather than one which was putting brands on the side of sourced packaging.

Production was initially done by going out to China and finding a factory. However, four years ago Fogel formed a partnership with a factory in Ireland. It is there that VaioPak now produces around 80 per cent of its packaging.

“We started with paper cups, then moved on to the deli side of things. We recently launched our range of juice bottles – there is a huge craze for pressed juices,” he told us.

Looking back, Fogel added: “The market has been an enjoyable one for me, but I never thought I’d be in it. In the last 15 years it has been rather set in its way, but what gets me really enthusiastic is that there are so many ways to innovate.”

One particular packaging product Fogel was keen to share was the company’s Combo Lid. Created by the InnoPak part of the VaioPak empire, it takes the form of a normal cup with an innovative lid. In addition to sealing a takeaway drinks cup to avoid spillage, it contains a recessed space which can be used to store food items.

US ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s is one such brand which has bought into the concept – allowing it to serve a two-part cup fusing a drink with ice cream.

Innovation, Fogel explained, comes equally from within VaoiPak and as demands from customers. “The Combo Lid idea was one I’d had for years, but there was not really anyone coming to us saying ‘this is what we want’.

“In the last year we’ve seen that customers are more asking for that. I recently went to see the largest sausage roll maker in the UK which had set up a secret innovation thing so it could say ‘this is what we’ve got, but we want something better’. As the industry develops it will be more and more about customers setting up these kind of initiatives.”

A quick trip to the VaioPak website presents you with eight division options, including InnoPak, Printed Cups, Printed Bags and InstantCanvas – evidence of Fogel’s innovation and diversification as an award-winning entrepreneur.

Read more about Growing Business Awards winners:

So what can others learn from Fogel’s career so far? The most important thing, he explained, boils down to simply doing something you enjoy. “It might sound weird with me being in paper cups, but it is so interesting and there is so much going on.

“My advice is find yourself a niche, don’t go into something that is flooded with so many competitors. Even if you enjoy it, you’ll need to review. To grow you need to take risk and if you are in a flooded market it probably isn’t the right one for you.”

Without serious passion, even if money is coming in the door, Fogel believes the drive to pursue it quickly evaporates.

He is also a big fan of an open office plan, where those in senior management positions are working amongst everyone else. “Certain businesses and structures have the MD or CEO in a separate office, but that is not my style,” he said. “I get a lot more back from my team, and they look up to me more, as we have that personal relationship. I’ve always wanted to run it like that.”

On picking up the Young Entrepreneur of the Year gong, the business builder sees it as a huge validation for what he and the business has done, and is doing now. He also added that it’s great at retaining customers and attracting new ones.

He’s an ambitious entrepreneur who is clearly never going to shy away from taking a risk and being innovative. The development of VaioPak’s new arm, Juice Bottles UK, cost £70,000, but was ultimately a success. 

With the diverse range of arms VaioPak now operates, it allows brands such as Ben & Jerry’s to up-sell products and keeps them coming back to Fogel for more and more.

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