According to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), the 28 million small businesses in America account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales. More and more, these small businesses are competing with larger companies. In order to keep up with big businesses, small and medium-sized manufacturers are upgrading their equipment to fill larger-volume orders from major distributors.
However, the journey to the right equipment is not always easy. Many small manufacturers do not have the depth of resources and expertise to determine which processing and packaging technologies will help them achieve their new production goals. That is where suppliers can help. Coffee Express Co., a specialty coffee processor and retailer, utilized PACK EXPO International 2014 as its first step towards finding the right supplier partner.
The Need to Scale Up
Launched in 1975 and located in Plymouth, Michigan, Coffee Express Co. roasts whole bean coffee products in addition to offering a wide range of syrups, smoothie mixes and chocolates that enhance the coffee experience. The company sources its beans and ingredients from small farmers around the world, including North, South and Central America, Indonesia, Asia and Africa. Coffee Express Co. differentiates its brands by experimenting with new and unique roasting styles from these regions.
Coffee Express Co. has always distributed its products to coffee houses, restaurants and retailers around Michigan, Ohio and Indiana. However, the company recently rode the wave of consumer demand for specialty and niche coffee products toward a path to faster growth.
With an expanding consumer following behind them, the eight-person team at Coffee Express Co. set their sights on grocery stores as a distribution channel – but knew they would need faster, more efficient equipment in order to fulfill the larger orders necessary to stock retail shelves. Unsure of which solution would propel the small operation forward, Charles Sarin, the Packaging and Beverage Manager at Coffee Express Co., decided to attend PACK EXPO International in 2014 to get the lay of the land.
“We came to PACK EXPO not necessarily knowing what we needed, but the incredible amount of technology at the show pointed us in the direction of growing our business and finding solutions,” Sarin said.
Finding the Right Solution
In order to expand their distribution from small coffee houses to large grocery stores, Coffee Express Co. needed to replace its 30-plus year-old sealer, a machine that would not accommodate the production volumes and speeds necessary for growth. Coffee Express Co. also had to keep its operations agile, so flexibility would be a key attribute for success. Lastly, any new solution had to be user-friendly so that each member could quickly overcome any learning curves to properly operate the machinery.
After combing the isles of PACK EXPO, Sarin knew that what they needed was a new band sealer equipped with a vacuum and gas flush (VGF) system.
Plexpack Corp., one of the foremost producers of packaging machinery on a global scale, prioritized development of a VGF design that would allow SMBs like Coffee Express Co. to operate at a faster and more efficient rate, allowing small companies to boost production at a comfortable level. A year prior, Plexpack’s band sealer shown at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013 caught Sarin’s eye, however it wasn’t until PACK EXPO International 2014, with the addition of the VGF system, that Sarin knew that the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF was his company’s solution.
“I didn’t know that I was looking for a new band sealer until I saw what Plexpack has to offer. As someone who was not formally trained in packaging, this kind of equipment grabbed my attention because of its unique features,” Sarin said. “Once I saw it in action with the VGF system, I knew that this was something my team could get excited about too.”
From One Solution to a Partnership
In order to meet a variety of industry needs, Plexpack’s band sealer offers a faster production time in vacuuming, flushing and sealing bags. At an average rate of 15 bags per minute, the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF was significantly faster than the equipment previously used by the team at Coffee Express Co.
However, it was not the speed that convinced Tom Isaia, the owner of Coffee Express Co., to pull the trigger on their new project: it was the band sealer’s VGF system and modular interface. The Emplex MPS 7500-VGF is equipped to handle an optional bag top trimmer, emboss coder, dry ink printer, or inkjet printer. These features allow for an all-in-one production line, which greatly improved efficiency.
"With Plexpack’s design, Coffee Express Co. could accessorize their machine to better fit specific needs,” David McGurk, Plexpack’s Director of Sales said. The easily removable parts are optimal for keeping a clean production facility. It allows employees to clean thoroughly and ensure a top-of-the-line product.”
Not only could Coffee Express Co. vacuum and seal more bags per minute, but the customizable equipment allowed for the whole Coffee Express Co. team to operate the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF.
“With the new equipment, we are able to vacuum and seal 15 bags running the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF slowly, allowing us to fill more bags and readying our company for big retailers,” Sarin said.
Additionally, the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF has the capacity to vacuum, flush and seal a variety of bags that suit Coffee Express’s offerings. This particular sealer is capable of sealing bags up to 12mil in thickness at its maximum production rate and is equipped to handle an assortment of weight. These features allowed Coffee Express Co. to efficiently switch between runs of whole bean and ground coffee.
After in-facility testing, Coffee Express Co. and Plexpack continue to work together as the coffee manufacturer grows, and its needs evolve with an expanded roster of both single and multi-unit grocery customers, including Plum Market, Hollywood Markets, Busch’s, Lucky’s Market (Ann Arbor location), Holiday Market, Produce Station and Arbor Farms.
“It is important for small businesses to show their strength and be able to support large customers – and that isn’t always an easy task with a small, sometimes inexperienced staff,” Sarin said. “PACK EXPO allows for people who work at small businesses, who do not always have professional packaging training, to learn everything they need to know about packaging at the show.”
The Future of Small Business Packaging
This year’s PACK EXPO International 2016 and the co-located Pharma EXPO (McCormick Place, Chicago, Illinois; Nov. 6-9, 2016) will enable small- and medium-sized manufacturers to find the solutions that allow them to grow.
PACK EXPO International and the co-located Pharma EXPO present attendees with technologies for the entire processing and packaging supply chain. Each show offers can’t-miss educational programming and networking opportunities for the food, baking and snack, confectionery, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and biotech industries served by PACK EXPO.
PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, represents the voice of more than 700 North American manufacturers of equipment, components and materials for processing and packaging. We work to advance a variety of industries by connecting consumer goods companies with manufacturing solutions through the world class PACK EXPO portfolio of trade shows, leading trade media and a wide range of resources to empower our members. The PACK EXPO trade shows unite the world of processing and packaging to advance the industries they serve: PACK EXPO International, PACK EXPO Las Vegas, Pharma EXPO, PACK EXPO East, EXPO PACK México, EXPO PACK Guadalajara and ProFood Tech, launching in April 2017.