St. Louis, MO — Chris Miget is not your typical wine snob. His enthusiasm for the proliferation of fine wine clubs and their online shipping options has little to do with the upkeep of a discriminating palate. Instead, Miget’s enthusiasm for fine wines of all kinds is driven entirely by molded pulp — and the environmentally friendly packaging that is used by fine wine distributors across the country.
“We’ve enjoyed a tremendous amount of success in the past two business years, and our long-term growth plans now involve taking on additional facilities and equipment,” explains Miget, president of EnviroPAK, an 18-year-old manufacturer that produces 35 million molded pulp items annually.
“Wine shipping is just one example of how e-commerce opportunities materialized nicely for us. The comfort of browsing online and knowing that something will show up safely on your doorstep 4 days later became a real driver growth for us,” says EnviroPAK’s vice president of sales and marketing, Bryon Crump.
Looking forward, Miget says that EnviroPAK is now waiting for “the right time to pull the trigger” on an expansion plan that will augment the firm’s current manufacturing capabilities to help accelerate its “speed to market” and offer more packaging options for manufacturers hurrying to serve up more customized offerings.
“The sales cycle for packaging solutions in general is a rather lengthy one, so the sooner we are able to go to market, the sooner our distributor partners will be able to go to market — and this makes speed a top priority for us,” explains Miget.
As for offering more customized packaging options, Crump says: “Manufacturers are increasingly looking for ways to allow consumers to personalize their purchasing options, and what happens is that this moves packaging from the end of the manufacturing line to being a fulfillment type of operation.”
Meanwhile, outside its current St Louis office and facilities, 13 tons of newsprint arrive daily from regional recycling partners that deliver it in bales weighing 1000 to 2,000 pounds.
“We’re now seeing a much different mind-set among consumers, and Big Box retailers are now telling manufacturers that they may enjoy some preferential treatment if they’re more environmentally friendly than competitive products,” explains Crump, who adds that EnviroPAK’s largest customers are not manufacturers, but instead value-added distributors.
“We see a significant value in what distributors bring, which is their just-in-time packaging and delivery, and by EnviroPAK being centrally located in the U.S., we can essentially ship truckloads of our product directly to them,” observes Crump.
“It used to be that you could make a technology device in Asia and send it anywhere, but technology is now moving so fast that the time on the water is just too valuable. We’re seeing more manufacturers locating the last leg of their manufacturing here in the States and calling it “onshoring” or “reshoring,” and there’s an extreme amount of value that is now being added,” explains Crump, who says that more manufacturers are realizing that in the eyes of consumers, packaging is part of their purchase’s “total cost benefit.”
Having recently grown to more than 50 employees, EnviroPAK weighs the costs of hiring more full-time employees when it comes to plans for expansion, according to Miget.
“Being in the manufacturing business, we’re very cognizant of what our market labor rates are. Our average employee has been with us for 9 years. Part of the reason for this is that we treat our employees with respect, and we believe that how we address compensation and health insurance is all part of that,” says Miget.
Asked whether EnviroPAK would likely soon pull the “expansion trigger,” Miget comments: “We’ve got some things that we can do when it comes to the number of shifts that we run, but we know where our upper limit is, and we know that it does take time to acquire certain machinery.”