The secret is out of the bag: innovation cornerstones Bemis Paper Packaging’s success. That applies to the past and the present, and it will no doubt remain true in the future, as the business is rolling out advanced products while embracing new business strategies. Dan Harvey delivers the package.
Bemis Paper Packaging embraced innovation, wrapped it up and then bagged it in a sustainable and/or tear-resistant package. Indeed, innovation defines the Omaha, Neb.-based company’s past achievements, current product offerings and even its anticipated growth and development.
A division of Bemis Company Inc., the business helped advance the concept of multiwall bags, a packaging design that features multi-layer construction and serves a variety of functions for various industries and their related products. But Bemis has taken the concept several steps forward with creative modifications. These include sophisticated inner-ply laminations, odor and grease barriers, reverse-printed polyester laminations and ultraviolet lacquer coating, among other improvements.
DEEPLY ROOTED FAMILY TREE
The parent company, which is based in Neenah, Wis., is the largest supplier of flexible packaging materials in the Americas, and a major manufacturer of pressure-sensitive materials used for labels, decorations and signage. Like the sister companies residing beneath that parental umbrella, Bemis Paper Packaging engineered advancements that improve customers’ production line performance, drive sales and shelf-life performance, and enhance ease-of-use for consumers.
But while Bemis Company may bask in parental pride of its overachieving progenies’ successes, Bemis Paper Packaging was the child that fathered the man. “Actually, the Bemis Paper division was the founding basis of the Bemis Company, and everything started from there,” informs Jim Watson, Bemis Paper Packaging’s vice president of sales and marketing, adding that it all began 151 years ago.
That takes us back to 1858, when Judson Moss Bemis founded J.M. Bemis and Co. in St. Louis. An archetypical entrepreneur, pioneer and risk-taker, Bemis used his $2,000 bankroll, six sewing machines and two printing presses to start a bag manufacturing business.
Further, Bemis established his enduring company’s legacy of innovation: He produced textile bags stitched together on machines instead of sewn by hand. Not surprisingly, this new manufacturing technique met with strong resistance. The millers that purchased textile bags doubted the viability of this new-fangled product. But Bemis’ bags proved highly resistant to tearing. In addition, his items could be printed in multiple colors. Eventually, reticence gave way to acceptance and the rest, as they say, is history. The business evolved from a street-level operation into the largest bag manufacturing company in the United States.
Today, Bemis Company’s products are sold worldwide to leading food, consumer products and manufacturing companies. In all, the corporation consists of 12 businesses that operate 61 facilities in 11 countries and employ nearly 16,000 people. Its substantial annual revenues (nearly $4 billion) are directly attributable to development and deployment of innovative, sophisticated technology that comprise the packaging and adhesive solutions that meet international customers’ complex product needs.
GOTTA BRAND NEW BAG
Carrying on the founder’s creative vision, Bemis Paper Packaging produces a wide range of multiwall bags in categories that include the pinch-bottom open mouth bag, a “customer friendly” innovation that offers effortless access to the contained product and features convenience-enhancing built-in poor spouts and re-close features.
In addition, the company’s products include pasted valve and patch-style pasted valves that offer superior leak and sift resistance as well as improved spouting, packing line performance and packing speeds. Among other advancements are self-opening satchels and sewn open-mouth packaging.
Products find application in many areas, according to Watson. “We’re heavily involved in the food industry, both people food and pet food,” he says. “We’ve also developed significant business with building products and industrial clients.”
For the pet food sector, Bemis Paper products feature numerous advantageous characteristics including high gloss, square-bottom graphics, re-closeable capabilities, tamper-proof design, reduced head space, no back seams, easier scoopability, carrying handles, cube shapes and stand-up square bottoms. Consumer products include bags for flour and bakery mixes, rice, sugar, coffee and dairy products. Its industrial-focused products are used to package items such as chemicals, fertilizers, feed and seed, minerals, and building materials. The company also provides balers, printed-paper roll stock and bag-closing tapes, as well as high quality flexographic printing. Further, the company’s engineering team will perform an on-site “packaging audit” to help determine the most appropriate packaging solution for customers’ products and production needs.
Meanwhile, Bemis Paper Packaging’s engineers and research and development staff continue developing new solutions. In fact, the business is currently positioning itself as a leader in innovation in the paper packaging industry in bringing greater convenience, strength, and even sustainability to their products.
Efforts are highlighted by the new HybriCore™ poly/paper hybrid bag. Introduced in 2008, HybriCore integrates benefits of both paper and plastic. “It addresses the bag-strength issue, as bag products face significant challenges as they travel through large distribution channels, such as those that exist with a large retailer such as Walmart,” says Watson. “In response to the challenges, many companies opt for a woven polypropylene (WPP) bag for additional strength.” Unfortunately, in some cases, WPP can have some drawbacks, he explains: “Much of the raw material comes from overseas, and many must be closed by sewing the ends, which can lead to infestation concerns, and the loss of the end panel as a place to communicate, which represents a disadvantage when compared to HybriCore’s pinch-bottom style.”
HybriCore provides significantly stronger alternative to paper, yet with all the benefits of current multi-wall construction. “It’s more than just another multiwalled bag,” describes Watson. “Its outer layer is a reverse-print polyester sheet laminated to nonwoven material. This gives it significantly greater strength on the outside, in terms of tear and tensile, but it also provides a significantly improved print surface. As it’s reverse printed, the inks never get to the outsides of the bags, so there is no scuffing or rub.”
Customers also find HybriCore attractive for both environmental reasons and supply reasons.
This distinctive pinch closure ensures seal and barrier protection to help prevent infestation. At the same time, the package’s outer layer readily accommodates add-on features such as handles, zippers, and sliders. “So, this new product offers several substantial advantages,” Watson indicates.
Another new development driven by market needs is the company’s IntegraGuard™, which Bemis Paper is in the process of trade-marking. “Its development was driven by tremendous efforts across several industries related to sustainability,” reports Watson. “With many multiwall bags, the basic construction includes several layers of paper. Within that is a polymer sheet that provides protection against moisture or grease. However, that polymer layer renders the package un-recyclable and non-biodegradable. But IntegraGuard includes a layer comprised of a heavily patented water-borne polymer that not only provides the necessary protection but also allows the bags to be recycled. We feel it will be very important to our business as we move forward, as it will differentiate us from other multi-walled bag manufacturers.”
STRENGTH MOVING FORWARD
With these new introductions, Bemis Paper anticipates increase run rates and, in turn, growth. Bemis Paper still has four production facilities, three in the United States (Omaha, Crosset, Ark, and Vancouver, Wash.) and one in Mexico (Bolsas Bemis S.A. de C.V.). Each U.S. facility brings something different to the table, says Watson. “For instance, our Crosset facility is our pasted valve facility. In Omaha, we tend to focus more on pet food products. The Vancouver plant serves a cross-section of customers. As far as size, they are all about the same in terms of employees, but in total we have more than 500 employees, and the staff is fairly evenly split among the three U.S. facilities.”
While these facilities enhance the company’s versatility, Bemis Paper is further strengthened by its parental relationship. “As part of Bemis Company, we benefit from additional financial strength,” says Watson. “The parent organization is the largest flexible packaging company in the Americas, with total sales just under $4 billion. But we’re also strongly connected to technology. The readily available resources from our sister companies have really helped us.”
But while Bemis Paper is bolstered by numerous resources, it’s advancing its position by simplifying its business approach, specifically focusing on two strategies: optimal quality coupled with responsiveness and, of course, innovation. In this way, Bemis Paper should bag the competition.