How to Hire the Best Contract Packager: Part Two

Choosing the right contract packager or contract manufacturer (CP/CM) for your brand is a big decision.  As we discussed in part one of this two-part blog series, there are many decisions to consider as you work to optimize sourcing, production, packaging, and distribution in order to ensure the growth of your business and keep the momentum going.

In the first part of this blog series, we looked at the basic services contract packagers and manufacturers provide, the benefits of using these third-parties, and some reasons why it may make sense to integrate these third-parties into your supply chain. All in all, when choosing to outsource various production processes many companies find relief from common pressures regarding personnel, facility space, and equipment investments, as well as the flexibility to try new products. CP/CMs can help new companies get off the ground, and small to medium-sized businesses expand to meet new deadlines, launch new products, enter new markets or transition into new packaging formats.

Before you start the search for a contract packager or manufacturer, it’s a good idea to have a strong sense of exactly what you are looking for in a partnership, the nature, and scope of the project(s), and the timeframe in which you’d like the work completed. There are several factors to consider as you look for the right CP/CM for your brand, and it’s not always as obvious as you may think. Remember that a contract packager or contract manufacturer is your partner, and acts an extension of your business.

According to the Association for Contract Packagers & Manufacturers (CPA), there are many things to consider as you look for the right contract packager, including:

  • Location. A convenient location relative to your manufacturing and distribution facilities can save delivery time and lower freight charges.
  • Experience. Be sure the contract packagers you consider are equipped to deliver the services you need, and have serviced other clients with similar product lines and packaging needs.
  • Strong Ethics. Obviously, honesty and integrity are vital to the health of any company.
  • Good Communication. A good contract packager knows how to listen, and how to convey ideas clearly.
  • Personality. A good match of personalities between your company’s and the contract packager’s key staff helps to ensure a successful relationship.
  • Size. Is the company large enough or small enough to handle your project? Does the company have enough experienced personnel to solve your problems and implement a solution?
  • Quality. Look for signs of innovation, unique approaches, and a different perspective.
  • Strong References.
  • Conflicts? Check to see if the contract packager offers a proprietary line, which might compete with your product line.

As you work through the points above, remember that these are just considerations, and some may factor more, or less, into your decision.

For example, an inexperienced CP/CM with the ideal location and price may be a tempting choice, but know that this may not be the best move down the road. Like most major financial decisions, the lowest priced bid does not always mean it is the best choice, and the highest bid doesn’t necessarily mean that the company is the most qualified. Also, relationships and communication play a huge role in fostering a successful partnership, as do the obvious factors of quality, experience, and the right capabilities.

When your ready to start your search for the right contract packager or manufacturer, word-of-mouth and referrals are great places to start. That said, it’s important to understand the context in which the referral was based on. Depending on the needs of the project and the values and personalities of each company, the best partner for your brand may not be the same as your peers who operate in a different snack category (for example, pretzels vs. popcorn) or at a different scale.

Like most life endeavors, clarity on where you are in the process and what your trying to achieve is critical in finding the right partner for your brand.  

Hiring a Contract Packager or Manufacturer

Now that you know what to ask, and what traits to look for in a contract packager, what are the steps to actually hiring one?

First, define the project clearly. Then, identify the contract packager or manufacturer available with the expertise that you require. You can find an industry directory on the CPA’s website that can help you get started.

Next, call each company and ask a lot of questions. Make sure to request references, and discuss past work experience and qualifications. The more information you can gather about the company, the better. Eventually, you’ll want to meet the key staff and tour the facility.

Since you’re ultimately outsourcing the most critical parts of your company’s physical operations, it’s important for you to leave no stone unturned when determining the best fit for your business. Once all the due diligence has been completed and you’ve justified a short-list with logic and reason, go with what feels right for you and your brand.

If you’d like to learn more about partnering with contract packagers and manufacturers, the CPA offers CPGs a helpful step-by-step guide to help you along your journey.

Building Your Team of Partners

Finding the best CP/CM for your company is just as important as finding the right packaging partner. If you’re looking for a new flexible packaging printer, make sure you’re working with one that has the knowledge and experience to work with your CP/CM. At ePac Flexible Packaging, we strive to be an extension of your brand. Contact us today to talk about your packaging needs.