New Markets and Machinery Take Center Stage for this Prominent Packaging Company

Kaufman Container
Written by Nate Hendley

Kaufman Container has been a leader in the packaging industry for over 100 years, yet they continue to find new and innovative ways to evolve as a company. They have adopted new markets, invested in new state-of-the-art decorating equipment and have put an emphasis on sustainability. In other words, a lot has changed since Business in Focus last profiled Kaufman Container in 2016.

“We want to be our customer’s partner, not just a vendor. We want to be viewed as an extension of their team that can help with multiple facets of their projects. In addition to exceptional customer service, we can supply their packaging, help design their artwork, handle the decoration, and store their inventory by instituting a just-in-time (JIT) program. We strongly believe our customers appreciate the value-added services Kaufman Container has to offer,” states Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Sara Blankenship.

The firm, which celebrates their 110th anniversary this year, has been successful due to a number of factors including their extensive product offering. Their stocking portfolio alone includes glass and plastic bottles, jars, plastic tubes, dispensing closures and much more. If you are looking to differentiate yourself, Kaufman Container has the ability to provide custom solutions tailored just for you. The company is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio but they also have the ability to operate satellite warehouses throughout the United States to execute their just-in-time programs. Another differentiator for Kaufman Container is the ability to operate satellite warehouses throughout the United States to execute their just-in-time programs.

The company’s move into the rapidly growing cannabis sector is particularly noteworthy. “The legalization of cannabis throughout the United States has created a new market for Kaufman Container. The rise in CBD formulated products has also been a great fit for our packaging services,” says Marketing Communications Specialist, Mark Stanek.

In recent years, Canada and several American states have legalized cannabis sales for medicinal and recreational use. Countless companies have been registered to sell cannabis buds and other THC and CBD-infused products. THC is the main ingredient that gives users the “high” sensation while cannabidiol or CBD has no such effect. CBD has become a popular ingredient in various products including creams and lotions, and edible products such as gummies and capsules. Companies selling such items require packaging, which is where Kaufman Container comes in.

While the cannabis industry is a new and exciting development for Kaufman Container, they primarily focus on their core markets. Of these sectors, Beauty and Personal Care continues to be their top category, followed by Household and Industrial Chemical and Food/Beverage. One of the areas Kaufman is looking to grow in 2020 is the secondary packaging market such as sample containers and single-use pouches. This isn’t an area they have traditionally focused on, but they have partnerships in place to supply these items.

When companies choose to work with Kaufman Container, they are gaining access to over 700 manufacturers’ product lines. With a healthy mix of domestic and international suppliers, Kaufman’s capabilities are endless. All of their vendors were qualified by Kaufman’s audit team prior to doing business with them. “There needs to be a fit regarding the type of packaging they manufacture or a service they provide. We like to see our suppliers launching new and innovative products that we can sell to our customers,” says Purchasing Manager Valarie Kelly. Short lead times, competitive pricing, and stocking programs are also factors that could be an advantage in the marketplace.

All of their suppliers must comply with Kaufman Container’s quality standards. Their quality assurance program includes a two-tier documented system that follows ISO 9000 and GMP Standards. Their processes and policies support plant maintenance, supplier control, traceability, in-process and final inspection, hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP), and preservation. Having these rigorous quality standards helps show that Kaufman Container is doing everything they can to exceed their customers’ expectations.

Similar to their vendor network, most of Kaufman’s customers are based in the United States, although they do have customers in Canada, Australia and other countries around the world. Whether these customers are launching an upscale cosmetic line or a new organic food product, they can all benefit from the company’s diverse product line and stellar customer service.

In addition to supplying the packaging components, Kaufman Container continues to grow their business by providing the decoration. Since 1982, they have operated a state-of-the-art facility capable of screen printing, hot stamping, shrink-sleeve labeling and pressure-sensitive labeling. This past year, the company strengthened their positioning by purchasing a pair of cutting-edge servo-driven machines that have significantly improved their capabilities. The new automatic machine can handle very tight registration and is capable of five-color screen print and one-color hot stamp in-line. “When it comes to choosing a hot stamp, most of our customers are going with a metallic silver or gold foil, but additional colors are also available. In fact, due to the new capabilities, several of our customers have added hot stamping to their existing artwork. The second new machine is a semi-automatic, which is capable of three-color screen print and the ability to label in-line.”

Richard Szoradi, Vice President of Supply Chain & Operations, challenges customers to design complex artwork, because he is confident in their printing capabilities. While most of Kaufman’s competitors require two separate machines to complete a decorating job like this, Kaufman Container only requires one machine. This allows them to offer very competitive pricing, reduced tooling costs and low minimum order quantities. It is an excellent opportunity for companies to redesign their artwork to stand out in the marketplace.

In addition to the new equipment, Kaufman Container has been putting a greater emphasis on sustainability. This ecological approach is exemplified by Kaufman’s digital presence as a top provider of eco-friendly packaging materials.

“Many of our customers and prospects are looking to become more sustainable as a company. They turn to Kaufman Container to help guide them on what type of packaging makes sense for their brand,” states Sales Manager, Ted Koelsch. Kaufman has supplied various types of sustainable packaging including aluminum cans, tubes and containers derived from sugarcane, plastic containers comprised of PCR (post-consumer resin) and many other eco-friendly options. Even the shrink bands they offer are fully biodegradable and compostable.

Amyris Clean Beauty’s baby and mommy line is a perfect example of how Kaufman Container helped launch a new product line using sustainable packaging. “The customer was intrigued by our sugarcane resin as it aligned perfectly with one of their main ingredients, Squalane, which is also derived from renewable sugarcane.” The entire line consists of over 16 different components and has been a massive success.

Kaufman prides itself on having a customer-first focus and loves to assist customers that are interested in creating a custom mold. They work together closely throughout the entire process to help design and develop the new package. In addition to partnering with trusted manufacturers, they also have strong relationships with outside design firms to ensure the customer’s vision is realized.

This approach is neatly encapsulated by the company slogan: “One More Thing.” This refers to the fact that Kaufman is always willing to take extra steps to assist their customers. This attitude has helped the company thrive since it was founded in 1910 by Eliezer Kaufman. At first, the company’s business model was washing used glass containers and reselling them to consumers. When ownership was sold to the Seid family the focus of the company expanded to what it is today. The Seids still own and operate Kaufman Container and the business is guided under leadership from President, Ken Slater and Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Sara Blankenship. Sara, who is the daughter of Owner & CEO Roger Seid, is the third generation of the Seid family who has held a prominent role within the company.

“Our secret is our dedicated staff and quite simply, the fact that we treat people right. This includes our customers, suppliers, and employees. We value all of our relationships and strive to maintain long-term partnerships. Our best assets are our people and the passion they have for packaging and their desire to grow our customers’ business,” states Blankenship.

The company currently has over 100 full-time employees and can have anywhere from ten to twenty temps that come in to help when business spikes. When looking to add new team members, Kaufman Container looks for candidates to have a team-first mindset and a positive attitude.

To this day, Kaufman Container remains a private and family-owned company. The culture is structured this way and all of their employees are considered part of the family. The average length of service at Kaufman is fifteen years, with thirty-six employees with twenty or more years of service. This gives them a tremendous amount of expertise in the packaging and decorating business, which sets the company up for success.

One of the reasons Kaufman Container has such long-tenured employees is they truly care about their staff. All full-time employees have access to outstanding benefits such as medical, dental and life insurance, short and long-term disability plans and a generous 401(k) plan. They also encourage their employees to further their education by offering a tuition reimbursement program. In 2019, Kaufman Container implemented some newer programs such as “summer hours” and a weekly “bring your dog to work day”. These benefits keep their employees engaged and have helped ensure a loyal workforce.

Fittingly, this family-owned business is involved in several community and charitable endeavors. They instituted a ‘Kaufman Cares’ program where employees have the opportunity to contribute to a great group of charities. They also participate quarterly in volunteer charity events such as the Cleveland Food Bank and the Kids’ Book Bank.

Online promotion remains an important element of Kaufman Container’s marketing strategy. In addition to a monthly email campaign, they are active on numerous social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram and plan to enhance their YouTube presence this year.

Like all businesses, Kaufman Container faces challenges in the marketplace. Their customers have an abundance of packaging companies to choose from, which is why Kaufman works hard every day to earn their business. They continue to reinvent themselves by searching for new products and services to offer and always put the customer first. An extensive product line, a phenomenal decorating facility and a dedicated staff are a few reasons why Kaufman Container is set up for success.



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