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Ken Swanson, President and CEO of Liqui-Box, and Paul Kase, Vice President of Marketing, Strategy, and Planning, sit down to discuss the company’s current success, as well as its budding future. Steve Engelhardt reports.
Liqui-Box was founded in 1961, beginning as a consolidated cardboard company. “The entire bag-in-box sector that constitutes Liqui-Box today began with this business,” Swanson says, adding, “there was a clear need to package, deliver and dispense liquid and semi-liquid foods in a safer, lower cost, and more sustainable way and that need is even stronger today. Since those early days, Liqui-Box was able to spur quite a bit of innovation over the next few decades, including pioneering the development of aseptic bag-in-box technology; much of which has culminated into our identity today of being a complete solution provider of liquid and semi-liquid packaging globally.”
In terms of the company’s specific product line, Liqui-Box comprehensively designs and supports nine different types of filling equipment, from the newly designed Liqui-Box 900 to the industry leading Orbiter, a wide range of fitments, and multi-ply film structures and bags for a variety of applications. “Every product that we design and produce here at Liqui-Box is done so with the goal of providing the best possible solution for our customers,” says Swanson, adding, “Seamless integration of our bag-in-box system into our customers’ value chain is paramount to our identity.”
And their customers can be found all over the world, as Liqui-Box conducts business in over 80 countries on 5 continents. The company recently moved its global headquarters to Richmond, Va., opened a new manufacturing facility in China, and added a state-of-the-art technical center in Ashland, OH, as part of its continued rebranding and global expansion. “These improvements provided us with the ability to meet our ambitious goal of taking our company and products to the next level,” Kase says.
In addition to global reach, Swanson and Kase both agree that one of the biggest differentiators Liqui-Box possesses is its dedicated commitment to a strong innovation culture, a sentiment that was reflected in the company’s decision to construct the new “Center of Excellence” research and development facility in Ashland, Ohio. “The integration of our innovation center within our Ashland, Ohio site will be a great resource for our customers and supports our strong commitment to develop new and improved ways to package and deliver liquid and semi-liquid products on a regular basis,” says Swanson.
The expansion comes on the heels of Liqui-Box winning a Silver Award for Technical Innovation at the 2014 Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Ceremony in March, for their development and production of the Ecoflex99™ Fountain Beverage Bag and Connector System. “The Ecoflex99™ is the most innovative solution to be introduced to the fountain beverage market in over 40 years,” says Kase, adding, “the outstanding durability of the film structure, exceptional performance of the connection system, and concentrate evacuation of this product provide unmatched value to distributors and end users.” A key highlight of the product is the leak proof connection system with triple seal technology, and a content evacuation of 99.75 percent (provided by the company’s Helical™ technology), making it statistically the most efficient solution on the market today. Swanson and Kase add that they unveiled a number of new products at Pack-
Expo 2014 in November, further expanding not only their geographical reach, but product diversity as well.
Investments into innovation, and the subsequent breakthrough technologies achieved, are why Liqui-Box is relied upon and trusted by many Fortune-500 and -100 companies around the world. “We developed the Ecoflex99™ and other products like the QCD Encore and the Helical Evacuation System, with the needs of Fortune-100 companies in mind,” Swanson says, adding, “and as a result, we have established strong, lasting partnerships with market leaders not just in North America, but around the world.”
Because, at the end of the day, Liqui-Box goes where their customers go, and the borders and regions in which their products are utilized are expanding every year. “We’re experiencing healthy growth here in the U.S. for both existing and new products, but it’s our rapid growth outside of North America that has us extremely excited about the future,” Swanson says.
In fact, as a sign of the company’s long-term commitment to the international market, Liqui-Box decided to recently open a new, 100,000+ square-foot facility in Taizhou, China. “We’re looking forward to supplying our customers locally in China with a strong portfolio of bag-in-box packaging products as the market converts from not-in-kind ways of dispensing their products,” Swanson says, adding, “This new facility will strengthen our global manufacturing footprint, allowing us to serve the needs of our customers in and around that region.”
Enabling Liqui-Box to effectively expand itself into new markets around the world is the presence of dedicated servicing. “We keep our ‘finger on the pulse’ in terms of what are the current and potential future needs of our customers,” says Kase, adding, “On a daily basis, we are proactively communicating with our customers, sending teams out into the field, and analyzing their concerns, because if our customers are successful, then so are we.”
And the needs of their customers, or rather the customers themselves, are changing as well. Swanson and Kase say that while the company primarily does business in the beverage, food products, and dairy markets, they have lately been garnering interest in other industries as well. Kase stated, “With this type of flexible packaging, you’re reducing all sorts of waste and material usage as well as improving safety and cleanliness, and much like the shift in the beverage industry from steel transfer tanks to flexible packaging, you’re seeing similar opportunities in chemicals, motor oil, and many other nonfood sectors.”
Swanson adds that given his company’s proven reputation for quality, service and reliability in their current markets, he is quite confident that additional future expansion isn’t a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when.’ “Here at Liqui-Box, we’re able to deliver the complete package from a machine, product, and service standpoint; effectively bringing a turnkey solution to our customers,” says Swanson, continuing, “We’re innovating, investing, and growing at rapid rate, and I believe our focus upon these factors has us well-positioned for continued success as we build off our position as one the world’s leading providers of bag-in-box and pouch packaging solutions.”