Are you struggling to find the right flexible packaging supplier for your company’s needs? Have you found a handful of potential packaging partners, but aren’t sure which is the best fit for your business?
Whether you’re a new brand seeking out a flexible packaging supplier, or a seasoned business interested in taking advantage of the benefits of partnering with a US-based flexible packaging company, starting the conversation with a solid list of questions to ask is key to finding the best packaging company for your business.
We know just how hard it can be to choose a partner for your business, so we came up with a list of questions to ask when hiring a flexible packaging company.
Where to Start
Every great research project starts with, you guessed it, a list. Pull together a list of flexible packaging companies you found via your referral sources, online searches, and recommendations from other CPG businesses/colleagues.
Jot down notes about which companies you’d like to learn more about, what information you need from them and any other big gaps in your knowledge about those companies.
After you’ve done a bit of research, now comes the fun part: setting up a time to talk with each of them to get your questions answered.
Think of Your Packager as an Extension of your Business
Before we dive into the questions, we want to share some wise words from Eric Fish, Editor of Flexible Packaging Magazine. (Note: In his quote, he refers to a ‘converter,’ which is another name for a packaging supplier). He said:
“When considering a flexible packaging company, you should be doing your homework. And while there are lots of questions you should be asking of any would-be converter, it’s important for CPGs to attain a relationship beyond the typical customer-provider one. Ideally, a converter should be an extension of a CPG’s business, so you have to be comfortable knowing you’re not just another ‘job.’ This starts with understanding and being comfortable with the processes the converter will be used to create your packaging.
Lead time is also important.
Last but not least, you have to know if you’re the type of CPG a converter is experienced working with. Some converters will only perform long runs, while others prefer working with small- and medium-sized businesses to produce shorter runs.” says Eric Fish, Editor, Flexible Packaging Magazine.
Now, let’s get into the questions.
Questions to Ask When Hiring a Flexible Packaging Company
1. What are your product offerings and capabilities?
When you’re partnering with a packaging supplier, you want to ensure they can meet all of your needs — especially if you have a variety of products. Be sure to get a comprehensive list of the company’s capabilities, the benefits they offer, the physical products they can create, and the solutions they provide. This includes everything from the actual package shape, to the materials (films and structures) they use, to the maximum/minimum size of packaging they offer, to the variety of colors they use in their printing.
We’ll get into more specific questions below, but getting a big picture view of a packaging company’s capabilities is a good place to start the conversation.
2. What is the typical turnaround time?
This may seem like an obvious one, but turnaround times can vary anywhere from 10 days to 6-12 weeks, depending on which company you hire. Knowing the typical turnaround time allows you to know how long it will take to receive new orders, as well as updated orders if you want to make any changes to your design.
One thing to keep in mind: unlike traditional printing, digital printing allows you to print to demand and make last-minute changes. Add a new ingredient to your recipe? Receive a new certification? Change logo design? By partnering with a company that uses digital printing methods, you can make these changes while avoiding the excess fees and unusable inventory. Digital printing also makes for a much quicker turnaround. Companies like ePac can ship client’s packaging within 10 business days for roll stock orders once artwork is approved.
3. What are your order minimums?
Ideally, a company will have a low minimum order, especially important for small to medium-sized companies who cannot afford to have a lot of money tied up in inventory. Gone are the days when your only option is to order large amounts of inventory. When you find the right partner, that is. Always ask what the minimum order requirements are, and see if that makes sense for you.
Depending on the packaging company, minimum orders may be higher than what you need, especially if you’re running a small or medium-sized business. Knowing how much you’re required to order is a great deciding factor, especially if you’re seeking a company that offers low minimum orders.
Many of the small and medium-sized companies that we partner with cannot afford to have a ton of money tied up in inventory, making low minimum orders a must. Low minimum orders also allow for much quicker turnaround time.
A good supply partner will work with you on developing the shortest lead times with manageable order quantities.
4. What types of CPGs are you most experienced working with?
This goes without saying, but be sure that the company has ample experience in the market and industry you’re in. Ask for examples of other brands similar to yours to see and feel what the packaging company can do. Don’t be shy when asking for examples of past and current client work — a good packaging company will want to show off their great work.
It’s also helpful for the company to have experience in a variety of other markets. This gives the team more knowledge into package form and function for various segments, how these may perform well in your specific market, and gives you access to a larger knowledge base within the company, should you ever expand into other markets.
5. What are your customer service practices?
Great packaging is a given, but finding a company that offers stellar customer service is a MUST.
By asking this question, you can find a supplier that’s interested in offering you a partnership, not just viewing you as merely another job. Ideally, you find a company that will guide you through the ordering and purchasing process, while also working to create a sustainable and lasting relationship.
6. What kind of film do you use?
Choosing a company that offers a film that is best for your product is a huge deciding factor. Be sure the company offers high-quality films that will uphold the integrity of the product inside. Ask if they offer food-grade films that block light, oxygen and other gases. Do they offer premium grade films like PET, Metallized PET, PE, and BOPP? Do they offer high barrier films, laminates, and recyclable films? Lastly, do they recommend a film structure based on the product being packaged? Finding a company that can offer you guidance, especially if you’re packaging a new product, is a huge advantage.
7. Do you use digital printing or traditional printing methods?
Chances are, you’ll find this out in conversation, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. In the fast-paced world we live in, digital printing has its benefits.
Digital printing eliminates many of the steps required in the conventional printing process, making it faster and more efficient. Not only that, but true high definition graphics quality exceeds that of conventional/traditional printing methods, and is capable of matching existing product lines. Variable data and graphics also provide the opportunity to customize packaging in a more creative way not possible with traditional printing methods.
While traditional printing has a place, fully understanding the benefits of digital printing will help to guide you in your search for a packaging partner.
8. What size businesses can you accommodate?
This is a biggie, especially if you’re looking for orders on either end of the spectrum: short run or long run (or, maybe both). Be sure the company is comfortable working with your size business and isn’t interested in only big brands. Ask for examples of their customers to see what other types of businesses the company is working with.
9. Do you ship my finished packaging to co-packers or do I do that?
As a business owner/operator, saving time = saving money. Look for a partner that will deliver your packaging straight to the co-packer to save you time.
10. What packaging features do you offer?
If you want your package to stand out on the shelf, then be sure you ask about the different features offered. Here are some additional questions to guide the conversation around features:
- Do you offer transparent packaging or the ability to add a window to the package?
- What type of hang holes do you offer?
- What type of pouches do you offer? Stand up pouches? Lay flat pouches?
- How can I be sure the colors will match our brand colors?
- Do you offer puncture-resistant plastic? What different levels of thickness do you offer?
- What kind of touch and feel can you add to the packaging? Matte? Soft touch? Gloss? Metalized finishes?
Once you’ve had a chance to talk with each flexible packaging company and ask your (expert level, if we do say so ourselves) questions, you have a choice to make.
If you’re still unsure, or if you’re even ready to move forward, then we recommend requesting a quote. This will also give you another opportunity to speak with someone on the packaging team and the quote will be another factor in your decision making.
Once you’ve hired your packaging partner, you can get back to doing what you do best: running your business.
We understand how hiring a flexible packaging supplier can be an equally exciting and challenging experience. Finding the right partner for your business is key, to not only finding a trusted addition to your team but also to support you in your overall business growth.
For any business to succeed, it’s important to choose a supplier that can deliver quality packaging on time and to spec, so that you can get back to running your business.
At ePac, we’re committed to serving our customers, one flexible package at a time. In fact, we like to say that we take the complexity out of flexible packaging.
If you’d like to put this list of questions to practice, contact us today. We’d love to see how we can best support your brand.