Contract Packaging & Manufacturing July/Aug 2024

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6 An Exemplary Model of Niche Contract Capabilities

James Alexander has devoted itself to providing the best service in glass and plastic ampoules and a positive work environment.

Rides Against the

Reynolds Consumer Products lays out the qualities it looks for in a contract manufacturer or packager to build a lasting relationship.

Lazy Magnolia Blooms After Automation Influx

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company’s recent front-of-line automation investments are supporting in-house and contract packing growth, with plans for secondary packaging investment to further quicken operations.

Do You Have the Tools for Success?

Wheelhouse Contract Packaging asserts that the right tools and certifications open opportunities for growth.

Improves Worker Safety and Glass Filling Line

Contract manufacturer Consolidated Mills’ new automatic depalletizer has increased the company’s cooked liquids filling line capacity by 10%.


Joseph Derr EDITOR

Melissa Griffen-Young CONTRIBUTOR







David Newcorn PRESIDENT







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Contract Manufacturing and Packaging magazine is the official publication of the CPA, The Association for Contract Packagers and Manufacturers. The association provides business development support, industry education, networking opportunities, and industry intelligence for contract packagers and contract manufacturers. For more information on becoming a CPA member, contact Paige Jarvi, 571/287-6818, pjarvi@contractpackaging. org, or visit

Stay ENGAGEd Throughout the Year

This year’s ENGAGE – The Contract Packaging and Manufacturing Experience highlighted topics of perennial importance, including:

• The benefits and abilities provided by robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence within the contract packaging and manufacturing (CP/CM) space.

• Insights on extended producer responsibility (ERP) and how contract service providers fit into the equation.

• A forecast of the economic state of the industry and the predicted recession.

• Brand perspectives on supply chain challenges and relationships with contract service providers.

Be sure to check out p. 10 for insights from Reynolds Consumer Products, who spoke at ENGAGE, about what it looks for in potential CP/CM partners. Look for more coverage from ENGAGE in upcoming issues and online.

The issue also features James Alexander Corporation and the story (p. 6) of how it rose to the top of the crushable glass and plastic ampoule niche through innovations on multiple fronts.

This month, we also highlight how investing in automation is paying off for two co-packers. Consolidated Mills (p. 18) has increased its cooked liquids filling capacity by 10% with a new automatic depalletizer, which has also improved worker safety. Learn how Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company’s (p. 16) recent front-of-line automation investments are supporting in-house and contract packing growth.

Rounding out our issue is our interview with Wheelhouse Contract Packaging (p. 12), who share how using the right tools and certifications can open opportunities for growth.

I’d also like to introduce Joseph Derr, who will be taking over as editor of Contract Manufacturing and Packaging magazine. As always, please reach out to us for insights, leads, and suggestions.

It has been a pleasure working with you all.

Taking Your First Steps in Sustainability

Summer is upon us once again! I am excited to embark on my second year as president of CPA.

During the year ahead, I look forward to enhancing CPA’s ability to support our members in their sustainability efforts. Climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions, seems to be causing erratic weather patterns. This spring alone, we have witnessed unprecedented news of weather-induced floods worldwide and an increase in tornadoes.

The number of environmentally conscious consumers is growing. If your company is not thinking about sustainability, it is likely that your next customer is, so you need to be prepared. The word “sustainability” seems to come up on the job daily.

Where should a business begin? First, schedule a meeting with your customers. Have a candid discussion about their sustainability goals. What are their customers looking for? For example, are they aiming to reduce packaging materials? More recyclability? Have they conducted a comprehensive assessment of their current packaging materials, manufacturing processes, and supply chain practices to identify areas for improvement? Have they measured the environmental impact of their existing practices, such as carbon footprint, water usage, and waste generation?

Next, meet with your team to share the findings from these discussions. Starting this journey can be overwhelming, and you might feel discouraged. How do you stay motivated in your own sustainability efforts? It might be best to develop a series of goals.

One of my own goals was to create my company’s sustainability report. The report contains our company goals, concerns and how we educate and motivate our employees regarding the environment. We started with recycling; it sounds simple, but we needed to remind employees that waste generated was not just during production, but also during personal breaks and lunchtime. Every effort goes towards our larger goal.

Also, look at the bigger picture. When developing our report, we also examined waste on the production line and discovered that simple and repetitive waste adds up! We analyzed the waste generated from using a 4-gram polypropylene (PP) bag based on consumption reports from our Nulogy software. This seemingly insignificant PP bag resulted in over 31,000 pounds of waste by the end of the year. After this discovery, we are now working with a company that uses a process called pyrolysis to convert these bags back into biodiesel fuel. If each company made a move like this, imagine the collective contribution to waste reduction we could make.

Businesses are at the forefront of driving substantial change toward sustainability. Responsible practices will not only benefit the environment but also improve your company’s reputation and profitability. Even small steps toward sustainability are steps in the right direction. CM+P





Five Questions to Answer with New Automation Projects

As our industries emerged from the COVID pandemic over the last couple of years, volatility has persisted, especially in labor scarcity and inflationary pressures. This combination of factors has led many companies to take a fresh look at automation as a way to manage costs, solve labor shortages, and move their organizations forward in general. Both contract manufacturing/contract packaging (CM/CP) companies and their branded customers have witnessed this trend.

At times, automation for CM/CP companies can be clear and simple. If a customer has a clearly articulated need that fits with an automated solution, then the investment in automation by the CM or the CP is a straightforward exercise. Typical spend vs. savings (or cost avoidance) and return on investment calculations can quickly provide a rational way to guide the decision process.

However, decisions become more complicated when a brand owner customer of a CM/CP is working on an idea or application of an existing technology that is completely new to them and/or the CM/CP. This situation often comes with uncertainty about volumes and labor requirements, not only in capability but also in capacity to support the new technology. If it involves new equipment, space requirements in the CM/CP’s facility may also be a consideration.

Less obvious or lesser-known considerations can present a greater risk for both parties. In a situation with this kind of risk, clear communication between both parties becomes important. The CM/CP

wants the business but not at any cost. The brand owner is likely engaged with the CM/CP because they are also trying to mitigate risk and cost. Both parties want to make it work but need to be open about the risks and challenges—perhaps even more so than for a routine engagement.

This is the point where clear boundaries and expectations become critical. Some CM/CP companies may be fully ready to “take a chance” on the new technology. But prudence suggests that there should be some discussion about exclusivity or another means for the CM/CP to recoup costs in case the new product driving the automation spend does not become an ongoing market success.

Without getting into common project processes like requests for proposals, return on investment calculations, or even factory acceptance tests, let’s look at a few unique questions for a CM/CP to consider when there are automation projects that are new to them:

1. What is the brand owner’s go-tomarket plan for the product resulting from the new tech or new equipment?

• Will this support a test or launch of the new product?

• If a launch, will it be broad or more narrowly or regionally focused?

2. How will the automation be carried out?

• Are you automating easy or hard tasks?

• Is the automation driven by cost and labor management, or is it required for the product to be made at all? Your answer to this question will impact how critical automation is during the initial development, test, and/or launch of the new product(s).

3. Are there other applications for the automation?

• Does the CM/CP have or want the freedom to utilize the new technology for other customers or other applications? This plays a role in determining who pays and how much.

• Would the automation have any other application if the initial target product went away?

4. Who pays?

• I’ve written on this topic in previous columns but suffice it to say that the risk profile and other questions listed above should seed a healthy conversation between CM/CPs and their customers.

• There may also be contract and/or development agreement applications and solutions to help guide how the parties answer the question of who pays.

5. Watchouts

• In cases of limited or shared costs, are there clear tie-ins or promises resulting from the expenditure if the CM/CP decides to participate in that spend?

• Finally, consider what happens if there is an early end to the product test or launch. Knowing this upfront can prevent many issues and angst later.

Remember that most new products fail, and CM/CP providers are often called upon because of this! Be sure you are ready to discuss finding the right balance between being an all-in partner in the venture and one that is stuck with more equipment for your boneyard! CM+P

Walmart, CVS, and Gopuff: Private Label’s New Look

Retailers are revamping their private label offerings to attract a broader range of shoppers in search of quality and affordability. But the private label expansion is not just more of the same old approach in packaging design.

Brands like Target, Walmart, and CVS have recently shifted away from the traditionally plain and value-focused aesthetics of private label generics. Replacing them are contemporary designs, vibrant graphics, and approachable logos. This strategy, catering to both high-income shoppers and the budget-conscious crowd, is rewriting the rules of what private label looks like.

Inc. reported on Walmart’s April launch of bettergoods, the retailer’s largest private grocery brand in decades, underscoring this hot trend. The new private label brand offers 300 items, including frozen foods, dairy, snacks, beverages, pasta, soups, coffee, and chocolate, with most products priced under $5. Despite the wide range of products offered, Walmart emphasizes consistency and simplicity in the bettergoods packaging design, with bold colors, minimal graphics, and clear messaging.

Walmart launched be ergoods, its newest private label brand, in April.

Walmart aims to attract costconscious consumers, with “a new elevated experience that delivers quality, unique, chef-inspired food at an incredible value” through the new store brand. With bettergoods, Walmart hopes to beat the competition by offering items that are totally unique to Walmart, in another step away from traditional private label approaches.

Other big retailers are also joining the trend. As reported by Fast Company, CVS’ recently launched Well Market private label line includes snacks, beverages, and groceries. Package designs feature an approachable cursive logo, making that pharmacy-bought popcorn appear, as Fast Company writes, “anything but clinical.” Catering to busy customers with a prominent real estate on the packaging for nutritional information, packaging designs balance function and shelf appeal.

Big retail’s private label brands are gaining significant traction among Gen Z consumers, according to a recent Forbes article. The report cites a survey by the Private Label Manufacturers Association that found that 64% of Gen Z shoppers frequently buy private label products, with 51% choosing where to shop based on these offerings. Factors influencing these Gen Z preferences include their sustainability and environmental values—suggesting that private label growth may continue in the long term as retailers adapt to these demands.

Newer players such as grocery delivery company Gopuff—popular with Gen Z—are also expanding their private label offering to appeal to the demographic.

Gopuff recently boosted its private label brand Basically. Not only is Gopuff offering a segmentation they are calling Basically Premium, which is a new line of unique, high-quality products, they are also expanding the existing Basically brand, which launched in 2022. The new products, such as gluten-free beef sticks, aluminumbottled spring water, and premium coconut water, cater to Gopuff customers’ clicking trends: 20% of orders contain at least one private label item. CM+P







An Exemplary Model of Niche Contract Capabilities

James Alexander has devoted itself to providing the best service in glass and plastic ampoules and a positive work environment.

James Alexander Corporation (JAC) exemplifies just how effective a business can be when specializing in—and becoming king of—a few key capabilities.

Headquartered in Blairstown, N.J., JAC was founded by Francesca Fazzolari and Alex Davidson in 1976. It remains a privately held company dedicated to manufacturing, custom filling, and contract packaging (co-packing) of singleuse crushable glass and plastic ampoules.

James Alexander’s ampoules are primarily utilized in the pharmaceutical and medical industries, housing products that may present compatibility issues or sensitivity to air or light. Notably, when the company started out, several first aid companies were seeking a better way to package ammonia that was safe and patient friendly, and they found their way to JAC’s door.

James Alexander is a manufacturer, custom filler, and contract packager of single-use crushable glass and plastic ampoules. Image courtesy of James Alexander Corporation.

Faced with this challenge, Fazzolari and Davidson had a vision: manufacturing crushable glass ampoules with a strong seal. Davidson modified JAC’s equipment so it could properly handle the glass ampoules in a manner that also minimized product waste. After finalizing their process, Fazzolari returned to the first aid companies with this solution.

“Little by little, [the first aid companies] realized that we were doing a better job, and at a very attractive price point,” Fazzolari says. “They all stopped doing their own filling, and many even sold us their equipment, which we modified to the specifications that Alex had developed.”

From that moment forward, Fazzolari determined the company should focus solely on ampoules. She believed that rather than diverting attention to other services, JAC should concentrate its talents to become the premium copacking partner for companies that

required this niche packaging platform. The two co-founders realized their package was well suited for a myriad of products, and since then, their entire team has been finding new applications for the crushable glass ampoules across a range of industries.

“In some cases, we went to the customer, put their product in our ampoule, and presented it. I can’t tell you how many times they said it was a great idea. And as our solutions became more well known, people started coming to us,” says Fazzolari.

Success leads to expansions and innovations

As business expanded, so did the JAC facility. In 2006, the company’s assets expanded to encompass 50% more room, for a total of 30,000 sq. ft. This year, the company expanded again to meet increased customer demand, adding a

James Alexander Corporation

Location: Frelinghuysen, NJ

Number of employees: 145 employees in 2 shi s

Main industries served: About 80% pharma, as well as automotive, diagnostics, law enforcement, vet products, cosmetics, household goods

Types of products handled: Topical OTC’s, primers, inks, cyanoacrylates, tooth whiteners, liquids, and powders

Packaging services offered: Purchase of customer chemicals, mix formulas, fill, and assemble into JAC packages, box, or blister shrink band

Certifications offered: CGMP, EPA license, FDA registered

Number of patents: 25 U.S. patents and 14 foreign patents

Types of packaging equipment at facility: Ampoule fillers, swabbers, Tiromat blister machine, all generally customized to fit JAC needs

new warehouse and more manufacturing space. JAC’s total facility footprint now comprises 48,000 sq. ft.

While there has been no shortage of innovations en route to JAC’s longstanding success, chief among them is the single-use plastic ampoule, patented in 1999.

By the mid-1990s, Fazzolari was noticing a trend: not all clients wanted or needed glass ampoules. This realization was underscored when the president of a major potential customer expressed concern for the safety of both products—

and patients—should one particular formulation be housed in glass. Soon, Fazzolari went back to the company with an idea that could open doors where glass couldn’t.

Fazzolari explains, “I went back to the factory, sat down with the group, and said, ‘When they don’t need glass, I still want them to need us. We need a plastic ampoule.’ One of our engineers went back to the drawing board, and he came up with a plastic ampoule. It took a few years, but the result was a compelling, versatile product that performs exceedingly well

across a variety of product categories.”

The plastic ampoule consists of a proprietary makeup of different plastics. During the manufacturing process, its tube is initially open on one end for filling and subsequent sealing. Consumers then squeeze the neck of the ampoule, to rupture a disc inside and dispense the product accordingly.

The plastic ampoule is also agnostic to different dispensing tips, including swabs, droppers, and customizable configurations. In 2007, JAC expanded the line to include foam applicator tips, available in a range of shapes and sizes.

But JAC was by no means done innovating in the glass ampoule segment. In 2011, the company introduced its DuoDispersion System™, which comprises two glass ampoules in a single dropper or swab tube. This allows two necessary-yetsensitive ingredients in a multi-ingredient medication to be segregated while inhabiting a single space, preventing them from mixing until the point of use.

“Truthfully, we’re in business because instead of diversifying, we focused. We locked in on glass and plastic ampoules and committed to perpetually improving them. We invest countless hours and effort into both packages and the results showcase that dedication and diligence,” says Fazzolari.

JAC modifies equipment to fit its niche needs. Image courtesy of James Alexander Corporation.
JAC’s innovative spirit has led to the creation of the plastic ampoule and its many tips. Image courtesy of James Alexander Corporation.

Glass or plastic?

While the determination between glass and plastic ampoules may be influenced by customer preference, oftentimes the decision comes down to product stability and durability. In the example of ammonia, this unstable product needed the glass ampoule, which increased shelf life thanks to its tight seal. Fazzolari reports that even though JAC was required to put a five-year expiration date on the ammonia ampoules, the company has tested ampoules that were 18 to 20 years old that were still within spec and viable.

The ampoule sizes for both glass and plastic generally range from 0.1 to 1 ml; for specialty projects, JAC can accommodate larger fills. Fazzolari says 5 ml molds for plastic ampoules are in the works.

JAC makes it a point to collaborate with customers to devise tailored solutions for difficult-to-fill packages, or those with atypical size demands. This flexibility extends to the various needs a customer may have, such as mixing immediately before filling, assembly, and packaging— whether it be in packs of 10, 100, or bulk packs of up to 5,000.

As Fazzolari puts it, “Whatever the customer prefers is what we do. We’re capable of doing whatever is needed to be done.”

A core strength: equipment customization

From the time Davidson modified his first piece of equipment for filling hardto-handle chemicals in the crushable glass ampoules, JAC has been adapting and building machinery to fit its niche needs. Fazzolari likens the process to a house with a sturdy foundation and structure that requires significant renovations before it can become a home.

Of course, JAC won’t reinvent the wheel if it needs, for example, a conventional blister pack machine. However, over the years, the co-packer has developed its own equipment designs for projects ranging from automated swab production to inhalant packaging lines. Currently, JAC is utilizing its equipment modification prowess to develop a fully automated line.

“We’re looking at an inline machine that would fill and seal. And whatever package it goes into—whether it’s a swab, the inhalant package, or dropper tips—at that point, it would go right into the package it will be sold in,” says Fazzolari.

JAC envisions this automated line will be able to pack the products in cartons of varying sizes, ranging from 10 units to bulk batches. The development of this new line mirrors its goals with facility expansion to meet increased demand with an uptick in capacity. This means the co-packer will need every employee even with the added automation.

The DuoDispersion System™ crushable glass ampoule comprises two glass ampoules in a single dropper or swab tube. Image courtesy of James Alexander Corporation.

Through the decades, JAC’s equipment customization and modification efforts have grown from one man to a dedicated engineering team. Fazzolari and Davidson highly value their employees and the talents each individual offers.

“I have an amazing team,” says Fazzolari. “Most of the people have been here for years. And I don’t mean 10—I’m talking up to 25 years.”

Taking care of its own

Personnel retention and longevity is a strong indicator of JAC’s attractiveness as an employer. The company enjoys an exceedingly low turnover rate and has seen instances where employees leave and come back shortly thereafter, realizing the grass was far less green on the other side.

Fazzolari shares that the multi-product, pivot-centric nature at JAC means no one gets bored. As one project wraps up, another entirely different and often customized project rolls in, keeping the work environment energetic and engaging.

Fazzolari is passionate about treating employees well and providing them with every opportunity for success in their careers and lives. In 2011, she wanted to show her appreciation to her employees through a gesture greater than a bonus and announced that James Alexander would become an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) company.

Now, JAC employees own 20% of the company, which essentially provides them an additional retirement fund. As the company grows, so does their stock value.

“I feel so blessed to have grown and prospered in a company where I’ve been able to do it my way and treat people the way I think they should be treated,” says Fazzolari. “I’m proud of us—proud of the committed pros that have become far more than colleagues. It’s a family—and a multi-talented one at that.” CM+P

JAC values its employees and their talents. In 2011, the company became an ESOP. Image courtesy of James Alexander Corporation.

Sustainable packaging solutions built and supported locally

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CPGs: Find a Contract Partner Who Rides Against the Current

Reynolds Consumer Products lays out the qualities it looks for in a contract manufacturer or packager to build a lasting relationship.

All brands and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies need dependable contract service partners to lighten the load and to rely on in times of innovative testing and looming deadlines. At Contract Packaging Association’s ENGAGE: The Contract Packaging and Manufacturing Experience, Reynolds Consumer Products (Reynolds) laid out how it chooses and develops lasting relationships with a reliable contract packaging (CP) or contract manufacturing (CM) partner.

Reynolds has about 60 contract manufacturing partners spread out around the world, the majority of which are based in North America. Doug Powell, vice president of global commercialization at Reynolds Consumer Products, emphasized that the strength of the company’s relationship with each partner matters. Many of those relationships that have persisted through the years have grown more beneficial to both sides. Powell and his team have nourished relationships and taken ideas and solutions from the contract manufacturers to Reynolds to solve the problems and challenges Reynolds has faced.

A partner throughout successes and failures

Powell cited one particular Reynolds contract manufacturing partner with whom the relationship has been maintained since both Reynolds and the contract service were young and budding businesses.

“The annual value of the relationship we have together, it’s worth millions of

Doug Powell, vice president of global commercialization at Reynolds Consumer Products, emphasizes a great contract partner survives and grows through failures.

dollars. And back when we started this journey, neither organization knew the future. But we both adapted well. And this manufacturing partner was quick to recognize the opportunities with us and move rapidly to meet our needs. Over the years our relationship has evolved into many new product launches and many new product deaths,” said Powell.

In the CPG landscape, Powell noted, 90% of new product launches fail. But the 10% that succeed often have great success. Both the failed and successful products prompted conversation about the next big thing and helped shape the brand and its contract service partners into the companies they are today. Powell said driving that conversation and strengthening relationships are the purpose of failed product launches.

Powell further explained that some product and CP/CM relationships

experience overnight success after a few years of struggle. Some successes only blossom after they have been through challenges and failures. He shared the journey of Reynold’s slow-cooker plastic liners that were by all accounts a failed product and somehow made it to launch though marketing attempts could not entice consumers to purchase. But just as the brand was going to pull the plug, the president of Reynolds was replaced and a different new product launch, Fun Shapes, failed even worse.

“The [Fun Shapes] product’s problems consumed the President’s attention as well as everyone else’s. The slow-cooker liners continued to grow slowly in the background. Then one day someone in our company took note of this product that was growing well and generating really good profits. It was a three-year overnight successful new product. And

they are still doing well today almost 20 years later,” said Powell.

Powell listed the lessons this experience taught Reynolds:

• What a company might think is true often isn’t—successes and failures come from unexpected locations.

• Be ready to pivot once the information changes.

• Recognize and take advantage of serendipitous events.

• Overnight successes often take years. An organization must develop patience or risk killing products and relationships that may turn out to be successful.

A partner who can ride with and against the current

The world has been through many challenges in recent years, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-

Ukraine war. With challenges such as new regulations, social compliance, bans, and changing consumer trends, there’s no end to the number of challenges that can impact industry. Powell explained that we don’t need to be able to predict the future to succeed.

“We have to be ready for the changes that the future will bring both in terms of challenge and opportunity. We’re predicting how certain people and companies will swim against the current. We’re not predicting the fluctuation of the current,” he said.

Powell and his team use this mentality when looking for contract manufacturing partners. They put the focus on skill and the ability to ride the current in times of success and ride against it during challenges. He said to face the difficult times that will surely come in the future,

a brand must align itself with partners who are strong swimmers. Powell’s team may visit potential contract manufacturers multiple times over several years to determine whether they meet the potential Reynolds sees in them before signing a contract.

An example of such potential meeting fruition began with a contract manufacturer who Reynolds had done a small amount of business with that asked the CPG what it could do to win more business. Reynolds’ response was to build a cleanroom, which the CM did. The CM’s proactiveness resulted in a substantial amount of business from Reynolds from then on. Reynolds has had multiple such experiences where the CM listens to its feedback and implements it, showing their desire and ability to swim against the current.


How a CM can land Reynolds’ business

Powell listed five main points that companies like Reynolds look for in a contract service partner, which he calls, “quick, easy, accurate, darn-near-free, and yes.” He explained that you don’t need all five to gain business, but having more of these qualities will make you a stronger swimmer.

Quick entails being quick to respond to inquiries and to accomplish jobs and tasks. Speed will get you in the front of the line. Speed at times trumps cost, depending on the need of the customer. Some very last minute, time-sensitive tasks may come your way, and the better you respond to them, the more likely you are to win future business with that brand or CPG.

Quickly responding to a customer’s needs can also equate to darn-near-free when it results in saving that customer a lot of money. Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with being quick to respond to a customer’s needs.

Easy means taking extra tasks off the customer’s plate, such as picking up materials and returning finished goods so that the brand doesn’t have to make arrangements and put resources into those tasks. It means taking and putting out the notes from a meeting with your customer and scheduling the follow-up call. It means figuring out solutions and making them so compelling and easy that the brand wouldn’t want to give the job to someone else.

“This not only helps you guide the narrative, it makes us

want to bring you work because you’re making it easy for us. And guess what? This is darn near free,” said Powell.

Accurate requires the CM to be spot-on in terms of inventory, scrap, and order fill rates for the CPG’s customers. When quoting, understand your costs so you can be right about the price, then don’t let it drift. Your customer’s prices can’t drift with consumers. Do not let your business add on extra costs. Accurate also includes not only integrating into your customer’s ERP system, but putting your best people on the system and ensuring they are trained. If you need training, don’t hesitate to ask for it.

“Help us gain control of our materials, our inventories, our invoices, and you will get more business,” said Powell.

Darn-near-free can be achieved by being one or more of the other qualities. Powell also explained that if a CP/CM is getting a lot of requests for quotes, but no orders, that is a good way to know the price is too high.

Yes is being willing to say yes to nearly any customer ask, even when you are unsure how you will fulfill it.

“I do understand you can’t say yes to all things. But when you trust your team, your skills, your ability to swim in the current, this powerful word can take you and your organization on many surprising and very fulfilling journeys,” said Powell. “The future is certainly unknown to me, but I do know what has consistently brought success.” CM+P

Lazy Magnolia Blooms A er Automation Influx

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company’s recent front-of-line automation investments are supporting in-house and contract packing growth, with plans for secondary packaging investment to further quicken operations.

It’s not every day a brewery breaks onto a scene unoccupied since before prohibition. But that was the case for Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company in Kiln, Mississippi.

Opening in 2005 as a small family brewery, Lazy Magnolia was the first in Mississippi to enter the packaged beer space after the state repealed a slew of old regulations that had prevented this type of business.

Fast forward to late 2022, when the brand was sold to investors out of Utah. Lazy Magnolia’s name and character stayed the same, but its packaging horizons widened significantly.

The new owners have made significant investments in new equipment across the board, by “upgrading our packaging equipment, upgrading our fillers, upgrading our depal,” says Christopher Maros, general manager at Lazy Magnolia. “And we’ve picked up a lot of business due to getting to the fully automated stage.”

Both canning and bottling operations were treated to equipment investments, but the new can filling equipment has been the biggest game changer for the brewery. A twin set of rotary fillers now sends triple the product down the line every hour, with quality control leaps ahead of the legacy equipment.

Lazy Magnolia’s focus on cans keeps the brand in line with the growing popularity of cans as a packaging format. “Cans don’t take up as much real estate, they’re

lighter to ship, and they’re easier to package in my mind,” Maros says.

All that extra canning capacity and convenience has driven Lazy Magnolia’s own portfolio growth, paving the way for plans to introduce eight new styles of beer in 2024.

Lazy Magnolia is far from the only brand benefitting from the new equipment, though. Contract packaging makes up most of the company’s operations.

About 80% of Lazy Magnolia’s packaging operations are done for Richard’s Rainwater, a water brand whose product runs perfectly well on craft brewery equipment. Another 5% of the business is for contract brewing and packaging of craft beers, leaving about 15% of packaging operations for the

brewer’s own beer. The new equipment has allowed Lazy Magnolia to take on even more contract packing work, with two new contracts to package for other brewers set to begin by the end of March.

“Co-packing in the world of craft brew is heating up. Everybody’s wanting to come up with some kind of new innovative product,” says Maros. “Being a primarily co-packing facility, [the investors] saw the opportunity in co-packing, that is most of the drive to put the capital into this facility.”

Front-of-line automation boosts productivity

Lazy Magnolia’s upgraded canning line begins with the unloading of Ardagh brightstock cans with a new full-height CIB automatic depalletizer from Ska Fabricating , which replaced an older Ska depalletizer. Maros says the new machine has no trouble keeping up with the increased speeds further down the line.

“It’s fully automated; that’s what I love about it,” Maros says. “You throw the pallet of cans in there, cut the straps, take the top frame off, and the depal does all the work itself. It’s pretty much hands-off, so I don’t need to have an operator there.”

A single-filer organizes the depalletized cans into a Ska S-Grip straight lowerator, and a GR-X ionic air blade rinses the empty cans as they drop down to the lower level. A Videojet inkjet coder also date-codes the bottom of each can during the lowerating process.

An operator interacts with the HMI on the GAI monoblock bo le filler and crowner.
Lazy Magnolia’s own brand canned beers currently use pressure-sensitive labels, but the brewery plans to switch to printed cans as soon as volume justifies the move.

The ion-rinsed and coded cans are split into two lines via Ska-supplied, Modular Convey Express (MCE)-manufactured conveyance to the most impactful upgrade on the line so far—a duo of parallel GAI 3621 monoblock 10-head rotary can fillers each with single-head seamers.

The seamers can be adjusted for a maximum of three seam sizes, and Lazy Magnolia standardizes around 200 mm, 202 mm, and 206 mm. This range of can end/lid diameters allows Lazy Magnolia to seam seven different can varieties; an 8-oz sleek, a 12-oz sleek, 12-oz standard, 16-oz standard, 19.2-oz standard, a 21-oz “Arizona-style” can, and an 8.4-oz “Red Bull-style” can, Maros explains.

Each seamer can be changed over within about 30 minutes to run whichever can size Lazy Magnolia needs on a given day, with functionality to pull product from a single tank into two different sizes at once, one on each line.

“With both of those fillers behind one depal, we’re able to feed both of them consistently at speeds of 4,000 per filler, or 8,000 an hour total,” Maros says. That’s 133 cans/min, compared to the roughly 40 cans/min Lazy Magnolia produced with its legacy filler.

These fillers have been not only faster, but “very high quality, they’re very well put together, very user-friendly,” Maros says.

Just before lids are placed on each can, an undercover gasser injects CO2 inside. The lidded cans are sent to the seamer within two to three seconds from there, limiting trapped oxygen in the cans to virtually zero. That translates to low dissolved oxygen in the beer, meaning high quality and shelf life.

Once seamed, the cans are transported and combined via MCE conveyors into a single, foot-wide mass follow-style conveyor. The belt sends the cans through a Hermis TP-HRW 5 pasteurizer for a 42-minute dwell time.

The pasteurizer ramps up to a temperature capable of killing any potential pathogens or spoilage organisms before cooling the cans back down to room temperature on exit. It can also be

used simply as a warmer, Maros explains, “so the cans come out the other end dry. It’s very humid here in Mississippi, so we usually have to run it at a certain temperature just so the cans don’t sweat.”

The pasteurized cans are then single filed and sent through a series of inhouse-fabricated air jets to further ensure removal of any moisture.

Once past the air jets, the cans can either be sent to a CVC Technologies Inc. labeler, or to an accumulation table if the cans are pre-printed.

Lazy Magnolia uses pressuresensitive labels for its own cans, but also accommodates printed and sleeved cans for its contract packing customers. The brand aims to switch to printed cans for its own products once volumes are high enough though, “just because there’s gigantic money savings there,” Maros says.

Secondary packaging for cans is currently done by hand, with plans for automation soon. The brand’s current setup for beer products includes Pak Tech four-pack can carriers for 16 oz products, and six-pack carriers for 12 oz products. Trays are hand-folded, and multipacks placed in them by hand.

Further upgrades on the bo ling line

Not to be outdone by the canning line, Lazy Magnolia’s bottling line received its own upgrades to help scale operations.

Lazy Magnolia can run 12-oz bottles of various shapes, as well as a 750-mL bottle usually reserved for specialty beers. The bottles are amber for in-house beers and most contract packing customers, and clear for Richard’s Rainwater. Bottles for the brewer’s own product are supplied by Colorado-based Owens-Brockway Glass

The bottling line starts with another Ska depalletizer, this one a bit older with an infeed at the filler level instead of overhead. From there, the bottles are sent to a GAI 16-head rotary filler with a threehead capper/crowner, which runs up to 5,000 bottles/hour, or 83 bottles/min.

The GAI filler is new to Lazy Magnolia, but it’s not the first time it’s been on a packaging line, as Maros explains, “our

old [filler] was just very neglected, so we actually found this used one from a brewery out of New York.”

After filling and capping, the bottles are sent through the same pasteurizer that services the two canning lines, allowing the brand to pasteurize bottles and cans at the same time. “We run everything through the pasteurizer and pick off the cans after the pasteurizer at the accumulation table,” Maros says.

A single pasteurization tunnel with a 42min dwell accommodates both cans and bo les at the same time.

Bottles run through the same CVC Technologies labeler as the cans, where they are also date coded before heading to secondary packaging.

Room for more automation in secondary packaging

Now that front-of-line operations have been automated to allow for new business, Lazy Magnolia’s eyes are on its secondary packaging optimization, keeping a similarly quick pace as with earlier upgrades.

That starts with automating case packing for bottles, with the brand currently waiting for upgrades to arrive.

Currently, an offline master case erector from Eagle starts the process by assembling 24-count master cases of bottles. Six-pack carton carriers need

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company

to be manually erected and placed into the master cases. The cases with cartons inside are then manually added to an APE drop packer, which picks and places 24 bottles at a time.

That process will be taken out of workers’ hands soon though, explains Maros. “We’re waiting on one new piece that’s going to be able to erect the six-pack carrier, put the four six-pack carriers into the master case, and then drop the bottles into the six-packs [with the APE drop packer], and then tape the cases as well.”

The master cases are palletized by hand, but the brewer plans to purchase a palletizer in 2025.

The canning line has its own automation upgrades in the pipeline as well. “Toward the end of the year, we’re going to get a Pak Tech machine that automatically puts [can carriers] on. We’re either going to get that or a HiCone machine, the plastic ring applicators,” Maros says.

Bo ling operations will soon get an automation upgrade by way of a box shop that will erect 6-pack carton carriers and the 24-count master cases that hold four carton carriers each. This upcoming box shop installation will then feed the drop packing operations.

This year’s plans also include a “continuous motion packer that makes the tray and then places the six-packs or loose pack in the tray,” Maros says. The brewer says it is planning to install a DMM Packaging T300 tray former packer,

as well as a DMM CTC 40 can carton packer, in about a year.

The brand’s 12-oz and 16-oz standard cans require trays with a different footprint than its 8-oz and 12-oz sleek cans, so its focus is on flexible equipment to accommodate the different sizes.

Later in 2025, Maros also aims to have shrink bundling capability for cans.

Even as Lazy Magnolia finds itself in the middle of an upgrade plan, Maros sees major benefits to operations from the brand’s current progress. “Going to full automation, where you take the human factor out of it, you can literally cut your labor costs in half, especially on the packaging side,” he says.

As front-of-line productivity boosts are coupled with plans for further end-of-line automation, Lazy Magnolia continues to cement its legacy as Mississippi’s pioneering packaged beer brand, poised for growth in its own portfolio alongside its contract packing partnerships. CM+P

Events and Networking, Designed For You

CPA’s busy spring tradeshow season

CPA was present at back-to-back tradeshows on both U.S. coasts in March. At the popular Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif., traffic was busier than ever, with emerging brands looking for contract manufacturers and packagers. CPA was able to share information on our new brand/retailer membership category with attendees. At PACK EXPO East, CPA had speaking engagements and held a busy meet-and-greet event at our booth. Both shows had many CPA members showcasing their contract packaging/ contract manufacturing (CP/CM) capabilities as tower sponsors as well. In May, CPA exhibited jointly with the Independent Beauty Association (IBA) at the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists Suppliers’ Day show in New York.

Plans for ENGAGE 2025 in the works

The CPA Board of Directors met in person in Clearwater, Fla., in April at the site of ENGAGE 2025 to plan for next year’s conference. The directors toured the facilities of the Sheraton

Sand Key Resort and discussed plans for the annual event for the CP/CM industry. Your annual meeting committee continues to plan networking events and timely, engaging programming throughout the year to ensure 2025 will the best conference yet!

Sustainable Packaging Webinar a success

The CPA education committee continued its thoughtful programming efforts by bringing together executives from Dow Chemical to speak on sustainable packaging efforts. Our May 16th webinar, “Designing for the Future: Creating Recycle Ready Packaging,” highlighted real-world case studies to discuss progress and challenges of Designing For Recyclability (D4R).

Chicagoland Tech Event at Frain

CPA and Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network returned to the Frain headquarters in Carol Stream, Ill., for another joint event on June 13th. “Charting a Path for Success: Navigating Tomorrow’s Technology and Its Impact on CPG Manufacturing” featured top panel speakers, sessions and networking between brands and contract manufacturers and packagers, with a focus on the future of technology in manufacturing. Look for coverage at CM+P


Do You Have the Tools for Success?

Wheelhouse Contract Packaging asserts that the right tools and certifications open opportunities for growth.

Wheelhouse Contract Packaging (Wheelhouse) is a family of secondary contract packaging (copacking) companies strategically placed across the United States. Each location offers a wide range of capabilities, from flow wrapping, labeling, and kitting, to fulfillment, promotion and variety packs, shrink banding, and more. The company will also provide on-site embedded teams when necessary.

The Wheelhouse family has been in business for more than 30 years and has experienced a fast growth rate, with 95% of its revenue coming consistently from returning customers.

tive), which once set the company apart from its fellow contract service providers and is now considered standard among best practices. Each Wheelhouse facility has received an SQF score of 95 or higher each year. The company asserts that maintaining SQF excellence provides benefits beyond safety and reputation.

To keep operations seamless across the Wheelhouse family, this co-packing enterprise also utilizes key systems to manage time-sensitive details that are critical within the industry and provide quality training to employees at all of its facilities. These systems are Nulogy, Alchemy, and a system built in-house called Wheelhouse Agile Time Tracking Application (WHATTA).

at probably five to six new customers each year, across our locations. Brands and retailers are recognizing those companies that are SQF certified. It has become a requirement now, especially at Costco, Walmart, and the grocery industry as a whole. We’ve seen a lot of growth doing pallets, variety packs, and seasonal promotional displays.

CM+P: Can you explain how SQF can also be a great starting point for more complex non-food related projects, such as cosmetics and pharma, providing them a great foundation?

The company believes a significant contributor to this success is its ability to be in synch both on a local and national level. Whether it be through common goals, decision-making, compensation, and communication, a company and its teams must be on the same page, even across facilities. Some of Wheelhouse’s strategies to achieve such unity are to maintain Safe Quality Food (SQF) excellence and utilize robust and flexible digital tools.

SQF is a food safety standard recognized by GFSI (Global Food Safety Initia-

Contract Manufacturing and Packaging (CM+P) met with the following leaders from South Atlantic Packaging, a member of the Wheelhouse family: Julian Bossong, chief executive officer, Pat Grantham, chief sales officer, and Robert Fix, chief operating officer.

CM+P: Has SQF excellence helped you land contracts, including long-term contracts?

Grantham: It absolutely has. We have seen a lot of growth in food and beverage,

Fix: SQF certification shows that we have the discipline and processes to provide a high-quality service to a customer. And as it’s become an industry recognized standard, it provides a comfort level to the customer from the very beginning. We have the systems and processes in place for the very complex, detailed, and quality related projects. Integrating one of those projects can be easily done. A project that is not as complicated flows seamlessly through the processes. This gives us a lot of versatility and agility.

CM+P: Can you expound on how SQF and industry best practices help you deliver quickly and efficiently?

Grantham: We’re able to execute promotional programs in numerous locations so our customers can develop an East Coast and West Coast strategy for promotional displays. And we have the latitude and agility to implement in all those locations simultaneously.

Pictured from le to right: Julian Bossong, chief executive officer, South Atlantic Packaging, Pat Grantham, chief sales officer, South Atlantic Packaging, and Robert Fix, chief operating officer, South Atlantic Packaging.

Fix: As we can launch from multiple locations simultaneously, we can reduce shipping costs, and provide a consistent delivery. It’s a more resilient solution for the brand.

CM+P: How have Nulogy and Alchemy kept your operations seamless? How have they helped you manage time-sensitive details?

Bossong: Nulogy is the leading software solution for contract packaging in track and trace. It has great inventory and production detail capabilities, all in real time. We’ve been using Nulogy since 2015. And it has worked very well for us as part of our quality solution.

Alchemy is a repository of best practices and a training tool for us. We have more than 20 years of contract packaging experience bottled up into digestible training sessions for our line leaders and our quality technicians. We can continue to add to it as we roll out GMPs or any improvements. It consists of both third-party training and in-house training created from our own content.

With these trainings, we can confidently say, “Yes, our people have gone through the right training, know how to run their lines, and manage quality effectively.”

CM+P: Tell me more about WHATTA.

Bossong: For a company like us, labor management is really important. It includes tracking all of your people, where they are, and what they’re doing every single day, for every single project. When you’re managing more than 15 staffing agencies, that can be cumbersome.

We spent one to three years looking for the right solution and ultimately decided to build it ourselves. So, we built an application in-house that allows us to track all of our people and all of our projects.

In concert with Nulogy, it helps us manage our margins, as well as audit and reconcile our staffing firms and associated data. In the bigger picture, WHATTA is a database of records that allows us to look at real-time detail as well as trends. We use it for trend analysis of customers, projects, industries, line leaders, and days of the week that need to be optimized, etc. We’re continuing to roll out WHATTA to other to all of our sites.

CM+P: Would you suggest other contract manufacturers and packagers try to build a similar platform in-house?

Bossong: I can’t make a definitive recommendation, but it has been very helpful for us. It’s important with any kind of software development project that you manage it very tightly. It needs to be finished on time and on budget, and we’ve largely done that. But it did require a lot of time and attention. CM+P

Co-man Improves Worker Safety and Glass Filling Line

Contract manufacturer Consolidated Mills’ new automatic depalletizer has increased the company’s cooked liquids filling line capacity by 10%.

For many contract manufacturers and contract packagers (co-man/copackers), moving towards automated lines has been on their collective radar and/ or has already been installed for a variety of reasons from increasing efficiency and output to mitigating labor shortage issues and speeding up changeover rates. Right before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, co-man Consolidated Mills had also decided to invest its own automated solution to improve worker safety and increase output.

Worker safety


Consolidated Mills is a co-man located in Houston, Texas, since 1962 that serves the food and beverage industry. The company specifically offers services for spice dry-blending, liquid flavor concentrates, and cooked liquid product such as sauces, salsas, and other acidified foods. Consolidated Mills has little staff turnover, with some employees having worked there for

over two decades. Understandably, it is very important to the owners to enhance worker safety through automation, which can reduce injuries from accidents and repetitive motions. Automation also allows workers to be placed in different positions to optimize production.

“We have 54 employees, and we want to utilize them the best we can. I’m not looking to buy machinery to replace people. I’m trying to buy machinery to make their jobs easier, and to make our capacity bigger, so we can take on more customers and utilize the same people that we have,” says Keith Vrana, co-owner and executive vice president of Consolidated Mills. Vrana and his brother Scott have owned the company for nearly 20 years.

The machine that Consolidated Mills was on the lookout for was an automatic depalletizer for its cooked products liquid line. Before the pandemic, Consolidated Mills received most of its glass bottle

The Ska Fab FHA 5000 automatic depalletizer designed to discharge full-height pallets of empty glass jars or bo les up to 4,000 lbs.

packaging for cooked liquid products in reshipper boxes to be sent out in. But as suppliers adjusted to COVID-19-related regulations and shortages and customer needs changed, it quickly became apparent that reshipper boxes would no longer be an option.

The depalletizer helped the co-man adjust to supply chain consequences from the COVID-19 pandemic, and has increased Consolidated Mills’ cooked liquids line production by 10%.

The co-man began buying glass in bulk, which arrived shrink-wrapped on pallets. This necessitated manually building boxes, inserting dividers, and placing bottles on the production line. Though the company says it never missed an order with this laborious process, the Vranas knew a change needed to be made to maintain and grow the cooked liquids side of the business.

Adjusting to supply chain needs through automation

The Vrana brothers were aware of Ska Fabricating (Ska Fab) and approached them at PACK EXPO International to get the conversation started. The machine manufacturer suggested the Ska Fab FHA 5000 automatic depalletizer designed to

discharge full-height pallets of empty glass jars or bottles up to 4,000 lbs.

Created with flexibility in mind, the FHA 5000 can be tailored to customer-specific configurations and requirements. The machine includes a user-friendly HMI touch screen with automatic and manual controls. The programmable push-andplay PLC has up to 20 product menu options to program different container types. Adding a new container to the PLC can be done by Consolidated Mills’ team and is a semi-automatic process with the team moving the machine parts into place to then save the new configuration to the system. Toolless adjustability makes the semi-automatic line changeovers quick and easy. The FHA 5000 is also portable, allowing for easier relocation and reconfiguration down the road.

“Our maintenance guys feel pretty comfortable about moving things around as long as they know how to set it up. If they don’t, they just make a phone call [to

Consolidated Mills also purchased a sidegrip lowerator designed to safely lower containers from high elevations.

Ska Fab], and somebody’s going to help,” says Vrana.

To further efficiency, Consolidated Mills also bought a side-grip lowerator designed to safely lower containers from high elevations and an ionized air rinser, which serve as a dry-clean system as the containers go into the line. The small footprint of the FHA 5000 helps save valuable

floor space, especially in smaller facilities.

“Ska Fab came in, did all the measurements and tried to figure out how to put this thing into our facility, which is tight, we don’t have a lot of room. And so, we had to be creative to do it. [They] came down and helped put it all together, [and taught] us how to use it. It is amazing how much faster we’re going in with less people involved,” says Vrana.

The FHA 5000 arrived in the Consolidated Mills facility last November and was running product the next month. Since then, the automatic depalletizer has increased Consolidated Mills’ capacity by 10% and the co-man has reduced the number of employees on that line from seven to four.

Vrana says even though his team was hesitant at first about a new machine being installed, they became comfortable enough with the FHA 5000 to start making modifications to enhance the equipment. CM+P


• Accumulation

• Horizontal motion conveying

• Incline, belt and bucket conveyors

• Filling and multihead weighing

• Bagmaking and casepacking

• Checkweighing and seal checking

• Foreign object and defect inspection

• Controls and information systems

We are successful when you are successful. That’s why we apply creativity, engineering excellence, and determined perseverance to every project to help our customers get the performance their business demands—whether measured by flavor, efficiencies, sustainability, improvement, or innovation.

Nov. 3-6, 2024 Booth N-6106

McCormick Place Chicago, IL, USA

Inclined &

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From Small-Scale Projects to High-Volume Packaging

Contract Packaging Solutions


to Meet Your Demands

CSS Series Continuous Motion Side Sealers –High throughput speeds with patented Motion Trim Technology™. Accommodates randomly fed or spaced product and separates them into reliable, consistent packages using the absolute minimum amount of film.

Kayat SRX Series Shrink Bundler

Bundle pre-formed trays on the SRX-CTF or loose packaged food and beverage products on the new SRX-CUF. Both machines accommodate clear or print registered shrink film and speeds of up to 60 cycles per minute.

BVS Series Continuous Motion Vertical Wrappers

Multipack products in an upright position including bottles, canisters, aerosols, or jars directly from a filler.

Tekkra In-Line Wrappers

Designed for shrink bundling products that can stand by themselves, this machine provides options for shrink bundling product on corrugated pads, in trays, or loose.

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