For Great American Packaging (GAP), it all started in the garage of CEO Greg Gurewitz in 1966. Back then, 55 years ago, the company converted flexible film into square bottom bags for tropical fish.
In 1980, the company purchased its first extruder. Seven years later, it purchased a 4-color, flexographic printing press, expanding offerings to its clients. GAP became a three-phase production facility operating 24/7 and expanded into an ever-widening range of industries, including consumer products and retail food, medical, industrial and more. Several investments and new buildings later, it landed in its current location in the heart of Vernon, CA.
In 2011, President Bruce Carter joined the team and took the company to new heights, advancing GAP with new technology and verve, which increased profits and widened infrastructure, according to Beth Smith, director of marketing and projects at GAP. In 2019, the company purchased its EVO XD 8-color flexographic press from Koenig & Bauer. It added two high-speed wicketers in 2019 and 2020, and is planning additional enhancements in extrusion in 2021.
“We excel at servicing clients who need the extra attention, service, focus and quality,” comments Smith.
Since the addition of the Koenig & Bauer press in 2019, flexographically printed revenue has increased by almost 30 percent, and in 2021, the company expects revenue from printed products to reach more than half its total revenue.
“As we have grown, the core family values and entrepreneurial spirit have remained at the center of our story and success,” says Gurewitz.
The company understands that no two customers are alike, and takes the time to appreciate each one’s specific needs and applications. “By developing strong relationships with our customers and providing responsive, timely service, they can count on us to help them succeed in ways that other packaging companies can’t or won’t,” notes Smith.
The company’s five key initiatives backed by all team members are:
- Produce consistently high-quality products
- Provide exceptional, “white glove” service
- Prioritize speed to market
- Offer unique product solutions for niche markets
- Be on the forefront of sustainability
GAP understands the quality and design of packaging is the first impression consumers will have of a product. “Our exceptional print quality is impactful, representative of the brand, and attracts the attention of customers at point-of-purchase,” says Smith.
The company works hard to effectively convert digital art to a printable product, and ensure its customers understand how to thoroughly inspect digital proofs.
“It is critical that the proofs are carefully scrutinized to assure that the job is printed right the first time even if it is inadvertently approved with errors,” notes Carter, who adds that short-run jobs are a challenge from an efficiency perspective. “We tackle the challenges by implementing lean principles to significantly speed up our changeovers.”
Important factors the company looks for in modern day presses include reliability, quality and consistency of product, ease of use, state-of-the-art technology and real-time technical support. Advances in screening and plating technologies affect print quality because state-of-the-art plates provide higher densities, full tonal range, expanded gamut, superb ink laydown, smooth solids and clean type, explains Smith.
In addition, advances in consumables have made an impact. “Doctor blades and end seals play a critical role in keeping the press running efficiently and effectively with less downtime,” comments Carter.
The company ensures print quality with:
- A stringent art approval process
- Working with an award-winning plate maker
- Offering customer press checks
- A central impression (CI) press that allows for excellent registration
- Film-surface treating to improve ink adhesion
- Optical error detection
- Automated viscosity control, washup and impression setting
- Servo control
- Automatic splicing and tension control
Overall, the market is going to shorter runs, says Carter. “We have tremendous growth opportunities as more and more products continue to move to flexible packaging.”
Like other companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an effect on business, as demand for retail grocery products, PPE, home improvement and e-commerce accelerated the demand for flexographically printed products. There were shifts in buying power from food service, entertainment and leisure to necessities including grocery and all retail food, medical and basic health care (like toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies).
“Demand for retail printed products both in store and online remains high. We anticipate this demand to continue in the foreseeable future,” says Smith. “As vaccines roll out, we expect to see a return for demand in food service, entertainment and leisure.”
Sustainability is a top focus for GAP in 2021, and the company says there’s a significant opportunity in this area for flexible packaging.
“We are developing a new line of compostable products including monolayer and multilayer options with plans to officially launch the product line in late spring,” comments Smith. “All classic films produced by GAP are 100 percent recyclable.”
In addition, the company recycles 100 percent of its plastic industrial waste, maintains compliance with storm water regulatory programs, and continually challenges its teams to meet a goal of zero waste across the entire facility.
“Sustainability is becoming more and more important in the minds of consumers. The challenge is to find the balance between the consumers’ desire for sustainability and their resistance to pay a premium for it,” notes Smith.
The company believes that outstanding customer service is not just a claim—and aims to go above and beyond to deliver it.
“We are confident in our position in the marketplace and look forward to continued growth over the years,” says Gurewitz. “Family operations have to remain nimble and be as flexible as possible in order to compete.”
Shortly after installing the Koenig & Bauer press in 2019, Great American Packaging created a promotional bag to highlight its new capabilities. The company worked with Koenig & Bauer to learn about the nuances of the press and how to capitalize on the new technologies—to exactly match its logo and properly control the registration, for example.
“We worked with our expert prepress plate making company Trisoft Graphics in Costa Mesa, CA to assure optimum print quality, proper ink laydown and achieve vibrant, natural-looking graphics,” notes Smith. “In the end, we were able to produce an image that truly popped.”
Inks: CAI Inc
Substrate: The monolayer polyethylene film was blown in house.