Packaging pros take Greeley's advice and "Go West!"
If you want to test new packaging concepts, evaluate the latest in packaging technology or determine what new consumer packaging ideas are likely to be flowing through the American manufacturing-to-consumption pipeline in the next year or so, go West now.
By Ben Miyares, editorial director
You'd be well served to take the nineteenth-century advice of New York newspaper man Horace Greeley who said "Go West young man!" Nineteenth and (almost) 21st century America have little in common (Ah this Miyares... He really is the master of understatement). Nevertheless packagers and their suppliers still consider Greeley's charge good advice. With the advent this Fall of Pack Expo West (October 9-12 in Las Vegas in case that fact somehow slipped your notice elsewhere in this issue) and WestPack (October 17-19 in Anaheim) thousands of packaging professionals - young and old men and women - will be heading West to demonstrate evaluate and create packaging opportunities. Many of those who are heading West for the shows will be stopping in Texas Arizona Colorado Nebraska Oregon Washington and other West-of-the Mississippi markets to conduct retail audits of what's new. In the last year or so some favorite western test sites (and the packages that emerged there) have included: * Tulsa and Oklahoma City OK where the pre-teen set is now finding Pepsi's Smooth Moos dairy shakes (see PW July '95 p.2) in 9.5-oz glass bottles from Anchor Glass Container Corp. (Tampa FL) carrying PVC shrink sleeve labels from American Fuji Seal (Bardstown KY); * Denver CO where consumers are still among the few to savor Hormel's Jennie-O frozen meat entrees in pressed paperboard trays from Pressware International Inc. (Columbus OH) lined with quick heating and browning liners and sealed with surface crisping film lids from Beckett Technologies Corp. (Mississauga Ontario Canada); * St. Louis MO Phoenix AZ and Houston TX where liquid "freeze 'em and drink 'em" cocktail slurries from Brown-Forman Distillers debuted in laminated foil pouches developed by Lawson Mardon Flexible Inc. (Arlington Heights IL); * Boise ID; Portland OR and Olympia WA where P&G first figured it could keep 2.5 million lb of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) a year out of landfills with its lightweight square-footed Crisco oil bottles developed in cooperation with Continental PET Technologies Inc. (Florence KY); * Omaha NE; Salt Lake City UT; Spokane and Seattle WA and Phoenix AZ where Pepsi took the time to test open dating of its cans and bottles; * Dallas TX where Procter & Gamble first introduced the concept of big flat-bottom bags made of recycled polyethylene film from Paramount Packaging Corp. (Chalfont PA) for its Tide and Cheer powdered detergents. Today the packages that can profitably blaze trails from the R&D labs into the hearts and homes of Western consumers are the ones most likely to carry their brands into the wide-open American marketplace tomorrow. Get big get focused or get out The packaging supplier trend to "get big find a niche or get out" of the business is intensifying this summer with several big international deals announced and others being talked about: * Crown Cork & Seal Co. (Philadelphia PA). Growing over the last few years from merely big to VERY BIG Crown is merging Carnaud-Metalbox SA (Paris France) into its operations. The deal will make it more than twice as big as Toyo Seikan Kaisha (Tokyo Japan) which with $5 billion in sales used to be considered a pretty big outfit in its own right. The Crown/CMB niches: metal cans plastic bottles can making/handling systems closures. * Saint-Gobain SA (Paris France). Partnering with Ball Corp. (Muncie IN) Saint-Gobain is buying Ball Glass Container Corp. and Foster-Forbes Glass Co. (Marion IN) to become the world's largest glass container producer and just a little smaller in North America than Owens-Illinois Inc. (Toledo OH). * Pechiney SA (Paris France). Pechiney is getting out of the glass business with the sale of Foster-Forbes to the Saint-Gobain/Ball joint venture. It is also taking American National Can Co. (Chicago IL) out of the food can business with the sale of those operations to Silgan Holdings Inc. (Stamford CT). ANC now has two niches: aluminum beverage cans and flexible packaging. Silgan a company that didn't even exist nine years ago is now America's biggest food can producer. And through a series of strategic acquisitions Silgan is now also a major player in its other niche: plastic bottles. The trend among packaging suppliers to get big get focused or get out is a mixed blessing for packagers. On the one hand bigger suppliers generally have more purchasing clout offer more technical assistance and operate in wider geographic areas. On the other hand mega-suppliers generally prefer to do business with mega buyers. They're also less willing to shave pennies to gain or keep contracts. The biggest complaint small packagers have about big suppliers is that in their quest to satisfy the demands of their biggest customers mega-suppliers are less interested in meeting their short run and unique specifications. Packaging machinery sales trends U.S. packaging machinery shipments rose approximately 12% to reach an estimated $3.79 billion last year and according to the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (Arlington VA) per plant expenditures for packaging equipment should rise 11.6% this year. The data developed in separate studies of packaging machinery manufacturers and buyers indicate that bar code printers and scanners shipping container coding/dating/marking/ stamping units preprinted label applicators and bag sealers are the most frequently purchased equipment types.