Expert Interview – Packaging Matters

Packaging is critical to protecting goods as they move through the supply chain to the final consumer. The industrial packaging market is currently a $112 billion industry and expected to grow to $139 billion in the next 4 years. For this edition of The Expert Interview, I met up with Richard Clarke Jr, GM of Imperial Dade’s Tampa Division. Richard has over 40 years of experience in packaging distribution.

LC: How did you get started in the industry?

RC: In 1975, I went to work for my family’s 64 year-old distribution company, Peninsular Paper Company, one day after I graduated from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. During my tenure I have worked in the warehouse, driven a truck route, worked the inside sales desk, worked as an outside sales rep, worked as a specialist sales rep for large accounts, worked as a buyer, worked as a sales manager, and then became President of the company overseeing 100% of our operations along with my dad. Imperial Dade acquired our company in May of 2017 and I am now the General Manager of the Tampa Division.

LC: Sounds like you held every position in the company at some point in your career.

RC: Yes, and it helps as I understand how every role, in some way, touches our customers.

LC: What type of products are considered industrial packaging?

RC: Industrial packaging is usually a form of packaging designed to package products for resale. Some examples include foam trays, molded fiber trays, clear plastic packaging, overwrap and other sealing films, shrink films, etc. It can also be packaging items designed to protect and enhance the appearance of the loads during production and especially during shipping. Examples are tape, stretch wrap, pallet interleavers, kraft wrap, corner boards, specialty bags, and specialty labeling.

LC: What types of businesses use these items?

RC: Any business who produces anything and ships it anywhere needs Industrial packaging to protect their product during the handling and shipping process. They use tape to seal their boxes, stretch wrap and corner board to unitize the load, labels to denote production codes and routing information.

RC: Food processors such as commercial bakeries, produce and meat processors also use industrial packaging products to prepare a product for resale.

LC: Why is the packaging important to those businesses?

RC: They cannot sell their products if not packaged properly. They can often increase sales if the packaging enhances the appearance and better merchandises their products. This has always been true in the supermarket business. Food that is packaged attractively and displayed near check-out will sell faster.

LC: What changes have you seen take place in this product segment over the years?

RC: The competitive landscape has changed quite a bit over the last few decades. In the 1970s and 80s, paper and janitorial distributors were the go-to source. Then, in the 90s, specialty packaging distributors began to develop as packaging items became more varied and complicated. Then the recession hit and many of those specialty distributors closed their doors. Now customers are coming back to broadline paper distributors, such as Imperial Dade, for their needs. This has created opportunities for us, especially with middle-market customers that rely on our expertise to help them source the right products.

LC: What are the current trends and innovations?

RC: There are quite a few. Molded-fiber trays are becoming very popular with food processors. Their customers are looking for more environmentally friendly packaging options to meet consumer preferences. The enhanced merchandizing has helped to increase sales. Special tapes and films are available for the produce industry that help protect and control ripening during transit. This reduces waste which saves money and prevents unsellable product from being thrown away.

RC: Colored sealing tapes are being used more often in warehousing operations. The colors help the operator clearly see that cartons are sealed shut. With clear or kraft-colored tape, it is not as evident and that can lead to damaged goods. Non-skid interleavers are now available that help prevent loads from shifting during transit, another way to prevent damage to inventory.

LC: What do you think the future holds for this segment?

RC: Industrial packaging will increase exponentially in importance for American manufacturers as we compete in the global market. Packaging is primarily designed to protect the product as it is shipped. Many manufacturers do not realize that the same packaging can also be used to very effectively and very inexpensively merchandise their product and thus gain more sales. A simple example of this would be to print cornerboards, or to print the tape that seals the boxes for a fraction of a cent per piece and get real advertising value. Good industrial packaging, versus poor, also shows the end-customer that the manufacturer cares and emphasizes that the manufacturer makes a quality product.

LC: What advice do you have for businesses on improving their packaging program to save time and money?

RC: Businesses that use packaging need to realize that their distributor sales rep can be a real asset to their program as a partner. A good DSR studies what products are on the market and studies his or her customer’s needs, then matches the two. I recommend that they not only show the DSR what they use but tell the DSR how they use it and what they are trying to accomplish by using it. A good DSR, one who is a partner to their customer, will then recommend products that can help their customer achieve increased profits and efficiencies.

Richard and his team are available to consult with businesses about industrial packaging programs. He can be reached at rsc.jr@imperialdade.com.  

 

Expert Interview – Dealing with Disruption in the Grocery Segment

The US retail grocery market segment is currently a $608 billion industry and growing. However disrupters including online retailers and meal-kit delivery services are creating competition for traditional supermarkets and consumer lifestyles are changing the way people shop. I spoke with two of my colleagues about this industry for this month’s Expert Interview. Bob Waxman, Director of Supermarket and Chain Store Sales and Oliver Munoz, National Account Manager, shared their insights and advice.

LC: How long have you each been in the industry?

BW: Over 35 years. I started as a sales rep for another New York-based distributor and joined Imperial Dade in 1987. Been here ever since.

OM: I’ve been with the company for 5 years focusing on sales, sourcing, and market research.

LC: What are some of the big changes you’ve seen in the grocery and supermarket industry in recent years?

OM: Mergers and acquisitions have been prevalent.

BW: I agree, consolidation of single stores and smaller chains into buying groups or larger chains has been the biggest and most defining difference. The consolidation has both added to the competitive edge as those retailers now have an expanded presence. But it’s removed some competition by lessoning the number of independents that the consumer can choose from. There is also a large European influence that has captured part of the market with the introduction of new chains.

BW: There has also been consolidation among distributors, including Imperial Dade. Fortunately, our expanded reach has opened up opportunities to partner with more customers.

OM: Non-traditional competition is also changing the landscape. Although online sales have not been a very profitable venture for most grocery retailers it is an important channel to consider. In 2017, online grocery sales were over $14 billion and that figure is expected to more than double by 2021.

LC: What the challenges that grocery operators are facing today and how do you get involved in helping solve those challenges?

BW: Economics continue to be a major concern and challenge. It is a delicate balance of image and cost that make up the dance we do every day.

OM: Costs are the big issue. In 2017, the data shows high increases in raw material costs, both for store supplies and agricultural products. These costs would have to be passed along to the consumer unless we can help find solutions. In these cases we work with manufacturers to identify alternative products that provide cost savings.

BW: We work as an agent for our customers. We listen and understand their needs. Then we work with a wide variety of manufacturers to source the best products at the best prices. We look at new products daily and stay on top of innovative ideas.

OM: For example, store-cut fresh fruit programs have been a hit in recent years. One of our customers was using an outdated container that came open easily and did not present a consistent look across the sizes offered. We introduced a square, tamper-evident container that has better clarity, an upscale look, and fit in the display case better. Their sales of increased by almost 30% following that change. Improved merchandising can be the key to driving sales and increasing profits.

BW: We also offer a variety of technology tools that help our customers manage their inventory more precisely which saves money. We help them prepare for sales and seasonal trends, as well as set controls on supply items such as gloves and bags. For some stores we offer VMI (Vendor Managed Inventory) which saves on labor costs and allows store management to focus on center store profit.

LC: What are the trends you each see for the coming year?

BW: I’m seeing more interest in sustainable packaging as well as more upscale packaging. Though cost is still a concern, keeping up with or outdoing other forward thinking retailers is important to the end-customer’s experience. Prepared foods and in-store restaurants are also going to be the flavor of the year.

OM: Yes, prepared foods is likely to continue booming. I work with our customers to help them initiate or grow this key category. Also, understanding the demographics of different neighborhoods is important. Understanding the ethnic foods that consumers are looking for and merchandising them correctly leads to higher sales and customer satisfaction.

LC: Any other suggestions you can offer retail grocery operators?

OM: Consider getting into the online space by partnering with a third-party grocery delivery service. This can help fend off the competition from other online retailers and help you grow your market share by capturing new sales. This space will continue to grow, but you need volume to make if profitable. Create a consumer-friendly website that is updated regularly with special deals and informative content that is of interest to your target market. Couple that website with online-ordering capabilities, either through a third-party service or your own platform.

BW: My advice is to let us help grow your business. We have been doing this a very long time. Put our resources and economies of scale to work for you!

The dynamic duo of Bob and Oliver are available to consult with retail grocers and related businesses about supply chain programs and solutions. They can be reached at bwaxman@imperialdade.com and oliverm@imperialdade.com.

Expert Interview – Foodservice Packaging Trends

For this month’s Expert Interview I spoke with Howard Hirsch, VP of Business Development at Imperial Dade. With 25 years’ experience in the distribution industry, Howard has a great deal of knowledge about foodservice packaging.

LC: How did you get started in the industry?

HH: I graduated college in 1992. It was a Friday afternoon. On Monday at 5:30 AM, I started working in the warehouse of my family’s distribution business. I had the opportunity to learn all aspects of the business from loading trucks, making deliveries, managing inventory, and working with customers. I loved making connections with customers, listening to them tell me about their business and then helping them solve problems. Today, I enjoy mentoring the next generation of sales professionals and teaching them about our industry.

LC: What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the marketplace over the last few years?

HH: The customers have immediate access to information about new products and manufacturers, domestically and world-wide. They see a photo of a product online and want to order it. However, that product may not be something that is readily available or even appropriate for their operation. My role is to educate them on the supply chain, manufacturing processes, and guide them in selecting the best product for the application.

HH: Another big change in recent years has been our customers’ interest in “going green.” That movement is still going strong with no signs of slowing down. And, there is a focus on portion control and cost-savings.

LC: Tell me more about how you do that.

HH: For example, we have a fast-casual restaurant customer. They were using a standard 32oz bowl that was too big for their salad. By sourcing a custom 28oz-30oz bowl we were able to help them reduce the package to better suit their needs. This resulted in a cost-savings on both food and packaging as well as reducing waste.

LC: What are the current trends in packaging right now?

HH: Everyone is talking about sustainability. Compostable versus recyclable products is a hot topic. The issue is that our industry and our customers are far more ahead of the curve than most municipalities. We have compostable products and our customers want to use them, but the product usually ends up in traditional garbage collection. Composting facilities are not yet available in many areas.

LC: Take-out and delivery are a big deal now. Has that trend impacted packaging choices?

HH: Yes, when food is packaged to travel and be eaten at a later time there are other considerations. A tight lid fit is important as is rigidity. Temperature and humidity are also factors. We work with our customers to find a packaging solution specific to their menu items and operational needs.

HH: Branded packaging is huge. Everyone wants it. Single-unit stores want to print everything before opening. Some restaurant concepts need to open and breathe for a while. I recommend taking a look after 60-90 days to see what’s working and what’s not. At that point in time operators can make a more educated investment in printing their packaging. In the meantime, they can use labels.

LC: Branding is key to connecting with customers, especially in crowded markets.

HH: It is their identity and how they differentiate themselves. Keep an eye out for branded bags walking down Boylston Street or Madison Avenue. If done properly, the customer will identify with the brand and feel good about carrying that bag. When it comes to food, you eat with your eyes first. Presentation and quality contribute to that first impression. Packaging, when done right, can be a powerful experience.

LC: What predictions do you have for the future of packaging over the next few years?

HH: Customized packaging, not only the printing, but the shapes, colors, and sizes. Operators are not always satisfied with what’s currently available. They want their own proprietary items designed specifically for their menu items and that enhance their customers’ experience.

LC: What advice can you share to help restauranteurs with their packaging program?

HH: Spend time on research and development. Question every aspect of your packaging. Every detail, little or big, matters. Rely on an experienced supplier to guide you. Your customer’s experience is what you need to zero in on. If you can put a quality product in a quality package you are on your way to operating a successful foodservice business.

Howard is available to consult with foodservice operators on packaging and other restaurant supply chain topics. He can be reached at hhirsch@imperialdade.com.

Expert Interview – Sustainability Programs

Print

For this month’s Expert Interview I sat down with my colleague Grace Best, LEED GA, in our Jersey City Headquarters. Grace plays several roles at Imperial Dade, one being Director of Sustainability.

LC: Tell me about your role directing Imperial Dade’s Greensafe program.

GB: The Greensafe Program is focused on our customers’ sustainability initiatives. In the world of foodservice and janitorial distribution there has been a huge push for sustainable products but there is also a lot of confusion in the marketplace. My role is to help our customers understand their product options and explain about sustainable business practices in general. I also assist with reporting requirements related to our products and services. The concept of sustainability continues to evolve so I make it a point to stay on top of the trends, regulations, and certifications and keep our sales team informed.

LC: What got you interested in sustainability?

GB: A little over 2 years ago one of our large cleaning contractors needed assistance providing reports to their customers who managed LEED Certified office buildings. These reports are required for the building to meet criteria for Green Spend. This was something new for me and I decided to work with the customer to understand more about their needs. They took me under their wing and taught me about LEED Certification and green cleaning. I found it very interesting and was enjoying the challenge so I decided to take the exam and become a LEED Accredited Professional.

LC: Tell me more about the Green Spend and how that ties into LEED Certification.

GB: Green Spend reporting is needed to make sure that a building’s maintenance supplies are compliant with the LEED guidelines. This may include a third-party certification such as EcoLogo or a certain amount of post-consumer recycled content. For example, one of the largest buildings in New York City was up for LEED Certification. They were within their performance period which means that during that time their purchases of sustainable supplies must be at a particular level. Although the building is not our direct client, I worked with the cleaning contractor and carefully monitored their purchases each month to ensure they hit the mark. They were very appreciative of the extra attention I gave them during this process and presented me with their annual Client Focus Award.

LC: Congratulations! Sounds like you found your calling.

GB: I did and the timing was perfect. In New York City the foodservice industry was also focusing on sustainability. I was able to assist clients with their packaging options, explain the differences between compostable vs. recyclable products and show them how they could lower their carbon footprint. It was a new concept for many of the restaurants at that time and it was new education for me that I found really exciting. There is always something new to learn and then teach others.

LC: What are some common misconceptions that people have about sustainability?

GB: The biggest misconception is that by purchasing a sustainable product, they are now a sustainable business. This is difficult for people to understand. If a fast-casual restaurant chain wants to start implementing compostable products into their locations, they then must implement a new trash program. This includes having different trash cans on site clearly labeled for landfill, recyclable, and compostable trash. Then to take this a step further, they must locate compost facilities and hire another carrier to pick up the compostable items. The process truly goes full circle and it does require extra time, effort, and sometimes upfront costs. Our job is to explain all of the steps required and help the customer implement their program successfully.

LC: What are the current trends in sustainable foodservice and janitorial supplies?

GB: Right now the trend in sustainable foodservice supplies is pulp. Whether it is pulp bowls, plates or containers, even portion cups, its pulp. Everyone is looking for the next best pulp item with a unique size so they can differentiate themselves. Luckily for us we can deliver on those requests.

In the janitorial segment the trend is cleaning contractors promoting their green- cleaning programs. We focus on helping those cleaning contractors gain clients through our Greensafe Program. This includes going over all of the green certified products we have available and selecting the correct products for the situation. It also includes procedural training, reporting, and advice on best practices.

LC: What quick tips can you offer a business to get started in implementing a sustainability program?

GB: Do your research and ask for help. Know the facts before you begin. There is a ton of information out there but sometimes the information is inaccurate or even misleading. Seek the advice of a LEED Accredited Professional or a supplier partner that has a formal sustainable supply chain program.

Grace Best and Imperial Dade’s Greensafe Specialists are available to consult with customers about sustainability programs. Grace can be reached at gbest@imperialdade.com.

Fast Facts About Bleach

Bleach is a common household item that is often misused in both residential and commercial settings causing an unhealthy environment and damaging surfaces and equipment. Here is what you need to know about bleach:

  1. Bleach is a whitener and when used correctly kills many types of germs and bacteria.
  2. Bleach is effective in combatting mold but only on smooth non-porous surfaces. When used on grout and caulk it will whiten the mold but will not eliminate it.
  3. Bleach does not contain surfactants and therefore is not a cleaner.
  4. When bleach is introduced to ammonia it creates chloramine gas which is hazardous to humans and animals. Urine contains ammonia as do cleaners containing Quaternary Ammonium, neither of which should come into contact with bleach.
  5. When beach is combined with common dish detergents it can create Mustard Gas which is also hazardous to humans and animals.
  6. Bleach deteriorates quickly. Once the bottle is open and air is introduced to the product the efficacy will be reduced by 50% in 90 days.
  7. Bleach is extremely corrosive and will break down and eventually destroy metal surfaces such as kitchen equipment and drain hardware.

Rust on Prep Table
Prep Table Cleaned with Bleach

Bleach has many practical uses but only when used properly. If you have questions about the use of bleach or other professional cleaning chemicals please contact Imperial Dade. We have experienced consultants who can perform a complimentary assessment of your cleaning products and practices. Visit us at www.ImperialDade.com.

Expert Interview – Helping Restaurants Become Sustainable

GRA

This month I had the opportunity to interview Michael Oshman, Founder and CEO of the Green Restaurant Association. Michael is passionate about creating a more sustainable business environment, especially in the restaurant industry.

LC: When did you get started in the restaurant business?

MO: I founded the Green Restaurant Association in 1990 when I was 19 years old. So I’ve been doing this for 27 years. We were one of the first green business organizations and helped start the green business movement. Thankfully today, sustainable business practices are much more mainstream.

LC: Tell me about the Green Restaurant Association and the inspiration for starting the organization.

MO: If the restaurant industry was a country it would be in the top 15 countries as far as GDP. It is a trillion dollar industry. We got started to help restaurants become more environmentally sustainable which has a significant impact. We wanted to make this process of change easy and profitable for restaurants. We break down the industry into seven environmental components of energy, water, waste, disposables, chemicals, food, and building. We have hundreds of environmental standards ranging from napkins to paper towels, cleaning chemicals to equipment, etc. Restaurants earn points for each of the steps where they meet our standards. Depending on the number of points earned, they can become level 1 star, 2 star, 3 star, or 4 star Certified Green Restaurant®.

LC: How does the process work and what guidance do you provide the restaurateurs?

MO: Our organization provides environmental consulting. We walk the restaurant through the process starting with an environmental assessment to find a baseline of how the restaurant is operating in relationship to our environmental standards. We discover where there is room for improvement and then set up a strategy of steps. We don’t just give them the prescription, we help them do it. We also work with their distributors, vendors, waste haulers and property managers to make it happen. Once the restaurant has become certified we assist with public relations and marketing. We are really proud of the support we provide and that we have become the trusted resource for the industry.

LC: You mentioned working with distributors. Please share how that program works.

MO: Our Green Restaurant Distributor™ Program, which Imperial Dade is part of, is a great way for distributors to have an external source of validation that their products meet our standards. We take the hundreds or thousands of products that a distributor carries and match them up with our standards. Then we publicize those distributors on our website. If you go to www.dinegreen.com  you will see all of the products from Imperial Dade that meet the GRA’s environmental standards. The website provides a transparent source of information to the restaurateur.

LC: What is the biggest trend or change you have seen with regards to green restaurants?

MO: More restaurants are realizing the importance of sustainability and calling upon our organization for assistance. We now have universities, corporations, transportation hubs, etc. that are all doing this. Some want to create cleaner air, cleaner water, sustainable food sources and some just realize that consumers prefer dining at Certified Green Restaurants®.  The movement continues to gain steam!

LC: What are some simple things a restaurant can do to get started in becoming more sustainable?

MO: A couple of examples include getting the most efficient spray valve. If they are using a 1.4 gal/min valve they can go down to one that is a gallon or less. Switching out old CFL or incandescent lighting to LED bulbs is an easy option.  Go to www.dinegreen.com to see a bunch of products that we have already vetted. Using our website is more efficient than general internet searches. Sometimes a restaurateur may come across a product online that interests them. The marketing pitch makes it sound great, but then it ends up not meeting expectations which is disappointing. That is called greenwashing.  We have 27 years of experience greening restaurants. My advice is put us to work for you!

Contact the Green Restaurant Association at outreach@dinegreen.com or 617-737-4422 for more information about becoming a Certified Green Restaurant® or Green Restaurant Distributor™.

 

 

 

 

 

Expert Interview – Safety & Savings Through Chemical Management

CMS Dispensers New LabelsFor this month’s interview, I tapped into one of the many experienced professionals here at Dade Paper. Lynn Miller, Miami Branch Chemical Manager, has worked in the janitorial industry for over 30 years including 14 years with Dade Paper.

LC: Tell me about your role? What does a Chemical Manager do?

LM: I love my job as Chemical Manager. I work alongside our sales consultants, assisting them in developing solutions for their customers. For example, in one of our grocery chain accounts we created customized cleaning programs for each department. We trained their staff on proper procedures helping them maintain a clean, safe and appealing store. In addition to the hands-on training we also provided written manuals and tools to ensure that the programs were consistent across all store locations. I enjoy the interaction with both management and employees when they grasp the concepts of the training. We are helping them be more successful and that is really rewarding.

LM: I also love to solve problems. A cleaning contractor called me just the other day to just tell me how much time and money he saved on a very large job after installing the chemical management system that I had recommended.

LC: What is a chemical management system?

LM: It is the best thing since sliced bread! A chemical management system, or CMS, is an automated dispensing system that controls the precise amount of chemical concentrate mixed with water in reusable spray bottles. The system can be set up with multiple products depending on the cleaning needs of the customer.

LC: What are some of the benefits of this type of system?

LM: Safety is a big one. Because the mixing is done automatically, there is no “glugging” of chemicals from one bottle to the next which can pose risks in improper dilution ratios as well as spills. Some people think that if some is good, more is better. That is not true! Using too much concentrate can make the product less effective, damage surfaces and can create health risks. Everything in a quality CMS should be color-coded with corresponding product numbers and names. The system should also include instructional wall charts and manuals making it very easy to use.

LM: Cost is another important factor. The CMS chemicals are super-concentrates, reducing the expensive shipping of water and excess packaging.

LC: That sounds like a more sustainable program as well. Reduced packaging and transportation, both of which have a big impact on the environment.

LM: That is correct! Also, the cost-in-use is much less compared to a pre-mixed, ready-to-use chemical. For example, a quart of ready-to-use product may be $3 compared to a quart of CMS product as low as $.035. And, because the dispensing is controlled there is no waste or overuse. These systems also help prevent theft of ready-to-use products.

LC: What types of businesses use these systems?

LM: All businesses that use cleaning chemicals can benefit from a CMS.  We partner with healthcare facilities, grocery stores, schools, restaurants, food processing plants, office buildings, building contractors, hotels, the list goes on and on.

LC: What factors should be considered when selecting a CMS?

LM: The major considerations when selecting a CMS provider are, first, a knowledgeable consultant to recommend the correct products for each surface and provide training for the cleaning crew. The second is safe, reliable equipment and technical service.  The service technicians need to maintain the equipment on a regular basis and be available 24/7 to respond to any emergency repair needs. And lastly, high quality chemicals that are compliant with all regulations and perhaps even third-party environmental certifications.

LC: I see why you are so enthusiastic about CMS programs! Thanks, Lynn!

LM: Thanks for the opportunity to share the info.

If you are interested in learning more about chemical management systems, Lynn Miller is gladly available to answer your questions and can be reached at lmiller@dadepaper.com.