A Maine investor teamed up with an Alaskan inventor to launch a heavy-duty cooler that received two “best of” pre-sale awards last year, gets orders from two or three stores a day and is now making the subject of contractual negotiations which could lead to distribution in 475 stores.
“I was the first investor in PacBak and funded the angel investor round,” Jac Arbor said. “Then we raised additional capital from accredited investors.”
PacBak is a rotomolded cooler available in various sizes, featuring insulated compartments, a removable processing table with folding legs and a battery-operated vacuum machine.
Courtesy of PacBak Inc.
Last year, the product won two “best of” for sport fishing coolers. A model has been named Best Outdoor Canada Cooler this year.
Arbor has declined to cite its investment to date.
The product is now available at sporting goods retailers Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s stores in Alaska.
Big Rock Sports, one of the largest distributors of outdoor sporting goods in North America, has begun marketing this product. Outdoor retailer Public Lands, a subsidiary of Dick’s Sporting Goods, has also expressed interest.
“Smaller chains and non-chain stores from Florida to New Jersey are starting to carry the product,” Arbor said.
Arbor, a certified financial planner, founded private wealth management firm JM Arbor in 2007, with offices in Maine and Arizona. Its headquarters recently moved from Hallowell to a larger location in Gardiner to accommodate the company’s growth.
As an entrepreneur, he serves as a consultant to startups and an executive at PacBak Inc. As a consultant and investor, his area of focus is companies in the financial technology and outdoor equipment industries.
He co-founded PacBak with Brian McKinnon of Wasilla, Alaska.
How it started
Arbor met McKinnon through a friend who recommended he check out the cooler McKinnon was preparing to launch.
Arbor was impressed and became a partner with the startup, providing resources to grow the product and business, with production and warehousing facilities initially in Alaska and Colorado.
McKinnon is a die-hard builder, according to the startup’s website.
He and a friend were working together on PacBak when in October 2017 they traveled to Las Vegas for a country music festival. There, a gunman opened fire, killing 58 people and injuring more than 400. His friend was killed, and McKinnon had to fight through immense grief to move forward.
Courtesy of Jillian Blum, PacBak Inc.
The PacBak is seen here in use in Alaska.
After the festival, McKinnon started from nothing, working his way through various jobs until he had enough money to fund the development and patents of a battery-powered sous vide machine that became one of the hallmarks from the cooler.
PacBak is marketed as an innovative solution that allows fishermen to clean, cut and seal fish immediately after catching them, rather than throwing them into a conventional cooler to process at home. Additionally, PacBak has become popular in overlanding, tailgating, meat smoking, hunting and various other outdoor lifestyle communities, Arbor said.
A better cooler
Coolers have come a long way since their Igloo and Coleman ancestors. Yeti Holdings (NYSE: YETI), founded in 2006, changed the cooler market and showed that consumers are willing to pay higher prices for coolers that can keep food and drinks cold for days rather than hours. Today, Yeti has a market capitalization of $3.4 billion.
In this case, PacBak’s rotomolded cooler features two separate insulated compartments that isolate wet from dry or cold from hot, a removable processing table with flip-up legs, and a compartment equipped for the sealer. The cooler lid doubles as a work surface and large cutting board, while the sealing compartment lid doubles as a slide-out cutting board.
There is an additional top-mounted work surface with flip-up legs that can be attached to either side of the cooler for an extended work space, serving area or cutting surface. There is also a rechargeable vacuum sealer with replaceable heating strips.
The rotomolded construction passed “a 24-hour live test against a 1,250-pound Alaskan Kodiak brown bear,” according to the website.
Last year, the product won “Best in Class” for both soft and hard coolers and “Best in Show” overall at the American Sportfishing Allied Trades International Convention. Association.
The product competed for the “best in show” award with big names in the sportfishing industry such as Raymarine and Garmin, Arbor said.
This year, one of the models was named Canada’s Best Outdoor Cooler.
Production and assembly of parts currently takes place in China. Arbor said PacBak is working with companies in the United States and Mexico to bring assembly to North America.
Courtesy of PacBak Inc.
McKinnon is on a year-long national marketing tour.
Current monthly production numbers in the thousands, with multiple sizes and eight colors.
The PacBak team is made up of 11 people. The product began pre-sales in 2022 and began shipping this year.
The marketing strategy calls for McKinnon to travel the East Coast in a new van, pulling a trailer, which sports full branding. The trip began in mid-July and generated orders at a rate of two to three stores per day, Arbor said.
From the East Coast, the plan is to travel to the West Coast and then to Southern California this winter, followed by a trip back east with the goal of picking up orders in Texas and elsewhere across South.