Started in 1949 as one of Standard Packaging’s cap and seal divisions in North America, the Stanpac Company manufactured caps for glass milk bottles. In 1970, Steve Witt, the company’s present owner, purchased the Canadian portion of the cap and seal business from Standard Packaging and changed the name to Stanpac.
As the dairy industry moved away from glass bottles, Stanpac diversified and moved into ice cream packaging, which is now the largest part of its business. “We do everything from paper forming to die cutting to flexo and litho printing,” says Murray Bain, vice president of marketing.
More than 20 years ago, the company began manufacturing tab lids and branched out into other types of novelty ice cream packaging. At that time, Stanpac partnered with Norse Dairy System. Norse, which manufactures state-of-the-art packaging equipment, looked to Stanpac to supply much of its customers’ packaging needs, including paper cups, disc lids and heat seal lidding material for ice cream products that are 12 ounces or less. It is a partnership that has been one of the cornerstones of Stanpac’s business for more than two decades. In an effort to grow the multi-service part of its business, Stanpac added pint or multiserve ice cream containers to its product line. Today it provides a complete line of packaging products from the ice cream novelty size packaging up to and including the 64-ounce package.
In addition to ice cream packaging, the company continues to supply milk bottles and other supplies to those in the diary industry that rely on glass, such as organic dairies, local dairies that produce milk on the farm, and companies that provide home delivery of milk. It also produces packaging and ceramic labeling for wine, liquor, and beer bottles. “There’s a renowned product in Canada called Ice Wine,” Bain says. “We print right on the bottle using gold and silver. It’s a very sophisticated type of printing and we apply it to a variety of products.”
In March, 2008, Stanpac purchased the ice cream packaging division of Solo Cup Company. This packaging division was purchased by Solo a few years ago from the Sweetheart Cup Company. Prior to the acquisition, Stanpac employed 100 people; now it employees approximately 300 and is focusing its efforts on integrating the two businesses. Today, Stanpac is the number one supplier of packaging solutions for the fluid milk market and the number two supplier of formed or shaped paperboard ice cream packaging. Ice cream packaging accounts for two-thirds of Stanpac’s business, with fluid milk packaging and wine accounting for the remainder. According to Bain, the company produces “hundreds of millions of units per year combined for all products,” and its packaging can be found all over North America, Central and South America, Africa, Australia, and Europe, with the majority in the United States.
WHERE IT ALL COMES TOGETHER
Smithville, Ontario, Canada is home to Stanpac’s 150,000-squarefoot headquarters and manufacturing facility. The company also has an 8,000-square-foot service and parts facility in Smithville, along with two warehouses in the Niagara peninsula. The company recently opened a 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and warehouse in Dallas, Texas. “We’re ISO: 9001-2000 certified,” says Bain. “And we’re continually looking to implement the best manufacturing and organizational practices. We do what we say we are going to do and then we try and do it better. We manufacture consistently high-quality products but at the same time we’re looking at how we do things and how we can improve.”
As a result of the recent acquisition, Stanpac is focusing part of its efforts on reducing the number of suppliers the company uses. This process is complicated by the fact that both Stanpac and the company it acquired from Solo each had its own set of capable suppliers. “It’s a matter of figuring out where we can get the right product at the right price,” Bain explains. “We tend to have a relatively small group of suppliers that are loyal to us, and we’re loyal to them, and that’s very important to us and to them. When we develop research initiatives, these organizations have experts available to help us, which results in a quick turn-around. They’re part of our team.”
CHANGING WITH THE TIMES
Traditionally, Stanpac has experienced a 10- to- 15-percent growth rate per year, prior to its recent acquisition. However, this ongoing growth would not be possible without Stanpac’s ability to recognize and respond to trends in the marketplace.
In the early 1990s, the Tylenol scare was on everyone’s mind, and manufacturers and consumers alike faced concerns about product tampering. As a result, many food products, including fluid milk, were required to become tamper-evident. Stanpac recognized this concern and developed a number of tamper-evident products for the milk and ice cream packaging industries. Top Tab, or the lift-and-peel, was one of Stanpac’s first patents. The company initially saw this product as a solution for fluid milk packaging, but eventually sold that technology. Today, the Top Tab can be found on a wide-variety of foods packages, including mustard and ketchup. “We have seven patents either granted or pending in more than 20 countries, all related to tamper evidence,” says Bain, “and we are the only company that has a tamper-evident solution for the ice cream industry. We developed a tamper-evident band that separates from the lid when the package is opened. This unique patent was tested with Nestle for about a year and then we moved it to Thrifty Ice Cream, a division of Rite Aid. That has helped us put the technology forward and introduce it into a variety of shapes and sizes of ice cream packaging, and we now have a full product line that works with all shapes and sizes of ice cream.”
The ongoing change in package size, particularly the recent trend to move toward smaller packaging for ice cream, presented Stanpac with a challenge. Each time a package changes so does the artwork, the graphics, and the packaging equipment. For some companies this creates a big problem, but not for Stanpac. To meet these ever-changing demands, Stanpac created a division whose sole focus is to provide ice cream packaging equipment to its customers. What this means for the customer is that dedicated machine builders work in the parts departments, and field service people work on equipment throughout North America, so when a package design changes, Stanpac is able to respond and retool in a fast and effective manner.
According to Bain, there is also an increasing trend and growth on the fluid milk side of the business. More and more consumers want to know where their food originates. As a result, dairies in small towns are selling their own milk in glass bottles, and more and more customers are relying on this supply rather than regional dairies.
Stanpac had a motto that still appears from time to time: “Everything but the milk.” And that’s exactly what Stanpac provides to the milk product industry. From cases, caps, equipment, knowhow, and service, Stanpac has the resources to meet its customers’ needs. It stands to reason that Stanpac will continue to dominate the ice cream and fluid milk packaging markets for a long time.