Meanwhile, in the No. 1 consumer market in the world, where new launches are allowed an ever-shrinking timeframe, some brands are taking advantage of the benefits offered by U.S.-based suppliers, including speed to market, on-site production, simple communications and support of American manufacturing jobs.
A domestic supply chain can be advantageous to both brands and suppliers.
Sanders Lieber, creative director at Royal Labs, Johns Island, SC, says, “For brands, domestic suppliers are typically easier to do business with. There’s no language barrier, no time change and meeting face-to-face can accomplish more in an afternoon than days of back-and-forth emails. For suppliers, the challenge of producing high-quality goods with short lead times becomes a catalyst for improving capability and efficiency. The big improvements in digital printing over the last few years are an example of this synergy at work.”
At global manufacturer Texen, Pierre-Antoine Henry, senior vice president, business development and full service, says, “Both brands and suppliers benefit from being local. It brings more intimacy not only in the way they interact with each other, but also with the beauty market itself.” He says Texen believes in being close to the brands, their customers. It enables them to understand the end-market in order to provide a service that not only answers current needs but anticipates future ones whether in terms of product, formula or technology. “Being local enables intimacy and reactivity, which we believe are keystones for success in the beauty market,” says Henry.
When it comes to formulations, an American-made distinction can influence shoppers and thus brands.
At Kolmar Laboratories, Inc., Port Jervis, NY, Amy Skellett, marketing and communications manager, says, “We are seeing some new trends emerge in terms of brands wanting to have their products manufactured in the U.S. Consumers are demanding more and more information on the products they purchase.” She explains that from the product’s ingredient list, origin and the manufacturing process to the shipping and storing methods and safety testing, the issue of “safe beauty” is on their minds. “This means brands are tasked to be more transparent across the board on the products they market,” says Skellett. Due to this demand, Skellet says, “Over the past couple of years, brands are increasingly asking for more detailed information on the raw materials used in formulations.”
Brands’ inquiries regarding suppliers often extend to matters beyond the ingredients used in a formulation.
Skellet says brands know consumers are looking to make more “thoughtful” purchases. “Consumers want to know that the products they are purchasing are made ethically and they are looking to support the brands that do so. They are aiming to find out how companies and the suppliers they work with are treating their workers and the environment, and are looking to ensure their purchases will benefit the companies (and communities) they care about.” She says, “Having the ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ claim gives brands and their consumers a level of confidence knowing they are getting a safe, quality product and that they are sending a signal of support to those who are doing things in a ‘thoughtful’ way, as well as supporting their national economy.”
Just as fashion collections target specific times of year, beauty, too, has become seasonal, prompting rapid development to reach the public—and ideally, ahead of the competition. This creates an opportunity for U.S. suppliers to step in and speed up the process.
“We’re seeing a trend similar to ‘fast fashion’ in apparel begin to emerge,” notes Lieber, of Royal Labs. “We call it ‘fast beauty,” he says. Lieber explains that brands need to quickly capitalize on a hot trend, whether it’s an ingredient like coconut oil, or a fad like celebrity lip kits. “This urgency forces brands that would normally buy components or finished products from overseas to buy domestically instead,” he says.
Lieber refers to Deep Steep’s Organic Coconut Oil as an excellent example of collaboration between a brand and its domestic suppliers. The product was developed in response to an opportunity from a major retail partner. The idea was to develop a higher-end, branded alternative to commodity coconut oils, position it for beauty, and stock it in the personal care section. Lieber says, “The project went from concept through final production in eight weeks and would not have been possible without the responsiveness of domestic suppliers who partnered with Deep Steep to meet its timeline.”
Decotech, a U.S.-based bottle decorating supplier located in Englewood, NJ, is responding to their customers’ needs for speed and accessibility, in some cases, enticing them back from overseas supply sources.
Richard Engel, president & COO, Decotech, Inc., says “We are seeing more of our prestige clients bringing their supply chain back onshore, especially from Asia, for various reasons including more consistent quality, better client service and significant lead time reduction.” He says Decotech is now offering lead times as short as one to three weeks on certain pre-qualified items—which is new and exceptionally fast for high-quality made-to-order products like what we produce.”
Engel says this type of service is especially critical if a brand has an oversell and needs to replenish quickly. “It also makes a big difference to our clients that they can drive 30 minutes to our facility to approve colors or review quality on-site,” explains Engel. He says things can get done much more quickly both in development and in production with a domestic supply chain.
Nosco, with corporate headquarters in Gurnee, IL, has also seen evidence of the move toward re-shoring. The company is focused on the Personal Care industry’s label, carton and insert needs with the ability to print both digitally and conventionally for any run size.
Craig Curran, vice president of sales and marketing, Nosco, says, “Made in the USA packaging is certainly a trend right now.” According to Curran, “buying abroad for packaging has not worked due to issues with poor quality and lengthy lead times. “Brands are realizing that packaging is still a regional business. It’s so important to them to make sure they are on the shelf with a strong brand image and in a timely fashion, that buying in the USA is now the standard again,” states Curran.
Recently Nosco designed and printed a package for Modere I/D, a skin care brand that boasts “patent-pending ingredients and clinically proven results.” Janine Coppola, vice president, product, for the brand, says, “The unique packaging provides the consumer with a luxurious experience, and was trusted to be made with perfection by U.S. manufacturer Nosco.”
At Kurz, which has manufacturing facilities in Lexington and Charlotte, NC, as well as distribution facilities in NY, CA and Chicago, April Lytle, marketing coordinator, says, “Following many years of global outsourcing of primary and secondary packaging materials in such areas as cosmetics, many brand owners have moved or are moving sourcing back to the U.S., with the ripple effect of spurring demand for packaging components, such as decorative and functional foils, substrates, inks and more.”
Anomatic Corporation says they, too, have seen a significant uptick in customers’ gravitation in this direction, and have responded with a number of innovative ideas.
Reflective of this is New Albany, OH’s, Beauty Park, a supply chain hub for companies in the beauty and personal care industry. The recently developed, 1.4-million-square-foot campus is home to Anomatic’s corporate headquarters and New Albany production facility, as well as to a host of other companies within the supply chain.
Among Anomatic’s innovations are vacuum metallization, a process it says was previously dominated by European and Asian suppliers; and specialties such as hot foil stamping and flexographic offset printing.
“As we continue to grow into new markets, we will continue to look for ways to help our customers realize supply chain efficiencies and, along with them, a stronger bottom line,” says Anomatic president and CEO Scott Rusch.
Quality is of course of utmost concern, and some brands have chosen to move back to the U.S. to assure this, but suppliers who produce for a global market also utilize U.S. manufacturing to support their efforts in multiple regions of the world. Ultimately, wherever their goods are produced, most brands feel compelled to find suppliers that offer a combo of price, quality and service.
Striking a Balance
Denise Greenwell, brand marketing director, consumer packaging division, Berry Plastics Corporation, headquartered in Evansville, IN, comments: “During this political season, it appears that this topic is more front and center than ever, yet the world is a much smaller place then it was 50 years ago. Price, quality, and service will always be at the forefront of the buying cycle. Sourcing globally has become commonplace and just makes good business sense. Technology makes communicating easier and faster in many parts of the world. Consumers want great value in the products they buy, and to remain competitive, some things may need to be sourced outside the U.S.”
Greenwell says the advantages for both brands and suppliers depend upon a variety of factors, such as companies that may be thinking of the country/region regulations and laws that constrain the ability to source internationally. She says, “I think it is important to note that each company is different, and therefore their sourcing and customer values are also different.” Berry, she says, is fortunate to serve all sizes of customers, so they might provide different benefits to each one. “Some smaller customers might find value in packaging made domestically, while larger, multinational CPGs might be looking for manufacturing local to their consumers.”
Over the past decade, a rise in overseas wages has allowed U.S.-based firms to remain competitive, making the option more attractive.
Jack Albanese, director of new business development, at Lombardi Design and Manufacturing, Freeport, NY, agrees that often there’s a balance between what is done overseas or, domestically in the U.S.
He says, “No longer are the days when brands directed work to Asia based on a perception of cost savings. Many of our customers have realized the true cost of doing business overseas.” He explains, “As we know, it’s a lot more than just the piece price. That’s not to say that Asia doesn’t have a place—it certainly does—it’s just that we’re witnessing a balancing of production, which is a good thing for domestic manufacturers.”
Is it becoming more of a priority?
“For our customers,” says Albanese, “regionalization has become a stronger driver. With much of product filling occurring in North America, that’s an advantage for companies long established here, like Lombardi.”
Albanese points to the Ed Hardy Skull and Roses EDT as an example of Lombardi’s U.S.-based capabilities—and global reach. At the conceptual stage, Lombardi designed and presented a 3D printed model of the cap & bottle as one of the early concepts being considered. Albanese says, “Our concept was immediately chosen and needed to be tooled quickly in order to meet the challenging timeline, which placed filling in New Jersey weeks later. We actually built the cap molds at our toolmaker in China and shipped them to our Long Island headquarters in time for our local production. This program demonstrated how we could impact development positively, resulting in the successful production launch locally in the U.S.”
Similar to Lombardi and other suppliers interviewed for this article, Parkway Plastics is conveniently located to serve large East Coast beauty brands, and says this proximity lends to cost-saving benefits as well as easy availability.
Linda Thell, head of marketing, Parkway Plastics, says their Piscataway, NJ, facility provides the option for local brands to pick up their orders in person to reduce shipping costs.
Thell says, “With many trying to cut corners in today’s marketplace, we, as a U.S. manufacturer, have the responsibility to offer packaging solutions that are competitive with overseas manufacturers and suppliers. Trends that have been emerging seem like a quite natural response to China’s mass production and export of packaging jars and supplies.” She observes, “One obvious trend is that U.S. brands now demand high quality and flexibility, good lead times and competitive pricing from domestic manufacturers.”
Again, it depends on determining the best supply chain for the market served. Thell says it depends on your brand’s market; where you fill; and how important a U.S. customer service is to you when sourcing packaging. “If your brand markets in the U.S., fills domestically, and values both quality and support, then Made in the USA packaging is essential,” says Thell. “But, if you fill your product in India and market in France, then it might not matter that much.”
One of Parkway’s customers, Stirling Soap Co., a U.S. brand that specializes in shaving soaps,” specifically chose domestically sourced packaging, and is even willing to pay more for what the company feels are strong benefits.
Rod Roderick, Stirling’s owner, says, “We chose a U.S.-based packaging company first and foremost because we are a U.S.-based company, ourselves. I would like to keep as much of my money here domestically to help support other U.S. industries and jobs, much in the same way that I hope U.S. based customers will do the same for me and my employees with their money.”
He knows he could likely find a cheaper alternative on the international market, but says past experience has taught him that the results can be hit or miss, and for a small company, the misses are devastating to the bottom line. “With Parkway,” says Stirling, “I have zero doubt as to the quality of the product I will be receiving when I place an order. Also, since they are a U.S.-based company, I can pick up my phone and speak directly to someone in the U.S. who fully understands my needs as a business owner.”
A number of global suppliers are offering U.S. brands more accessibility by opening or acquiring local facilities.
Texen Products acquired Wayne-NJ-based Topline Products last year in order to solidify its presence in the U.S. market and increase its availability to domestic brand manufacturers.
Henry, of Texen, notes three trends that have been fueling the need for brands to source locally in the U.S. He says the first is an ever-increasing need for product quality and reliability, full control over the supply chain and the origins of the products, whether packaging or formula. The second one is a fundamental shift in the dynamics of the Beauty market, with end-customers looking for more personalization, innovation and continuous product renewal from the brands. This, he says, requires shorter time to market and a deep understanding of the local needs and wants.” The third trend, according to Henry, is that manufacturing is also coming back to the U.S from a cost- driven perspective. He explains, “The U.S. has strongly gained in competitiveness over the last few years due to their higher productivity, and strong wage increases in emerging countries.”
Sourcing locally is not a new phenomenon, but suppliers need to offer more than just location.
According to Henry, “Sourcing locally is something that has always been preferable for brands, if they can find the right balance between quality, time to market, cost and companies that are not just suppliers, but bring real added value as strategic partners in the conception and development of the products.”
Speed to market often relies on a supplier’s flexibility in meeting customers’ needs.
Jeff Molchan, sales director, Cultech, a subsidiary of Autajon, based in the U.S. in South Plainfield, NJ, says speed to market has become a critical business driver for brands. He explains, “Shrinking development and product cycles are placing a premium on efficient graphic and structural design collaborations.” In addition, Molchan says, “Nimble supply chains have become the ‘holy grail’ for brands.”
Eagle Systems, a family owned company with a manufacturing facility in Ocean, NJ, specializes in hot and cold foil enhancement equipment. Ellen Manning, vice president of marketing for the supplier, says they have seen many brand designers looking to create more excitement in their packaging by using cold foil as an enhancement. In addition to cost-saving and creative advantages made possible with the process, Eagle has also brought to market the ability to apply cold foil on uncoated stock. “This,” says Manning, “has broadened the use of cold foil in packaging across the board.”
Eagle has also brought to market the ability to apply cold foil on uncoated stock. Manning says: “This is especially beneficial for the cosmetics, fragrance and personal care industry. We have found that with new products coming to the marketplace daily, everyone is trying to capture more eye-catching shelf presence and cold foil is giving them that advantage.”
Advanced technology also adds to the Made in the USA benefits offered by CTL Packaging USA. Leonard Zuk, business development manager, says their clients rely on their unique technology as well as supply chain advantages such as reduced lead times and lower order quantities, “which are more difficult to achieve through more conventional manufacturing approaches.” He says, “By providing ready solutions to these and additional client challenges, CTL USA is strategically positioned with premium domestic benefits.”
According to CTL’s marketing manager Ines Vieira, additional advantages are savings on taxes and quotes that can occur when producing overseas, and increased emphasis on decoration options. She says that by working closely, it’s also easier to establish a closer relationship and understanding of overall brand strategy.
CTL Packaging USA introduced CTL EStube [EasySupply tube], which it describes as “the ultimate in plastic squeeze tube packaging.” The supplier says this technology provides brands, packaging and contract manufacturers with a state-of-the-art option for premium look and performance—100% polypropylene tube packaging.
Zuk says CTL EStube technology further provides unique supply chain and related advantages, “enabling our clients to greatly reduce lead times and reduce packaging inventories, allowing more control and development options. Adding new designs, products and line extensions becomes easier and requires less planning.”
The Rush for Shelf Presence
As noted, a domestic supply chain is becoming more of a priority for brands eager to get SKUs on shelf quickly and efficiently.
Lieber, of, Royal Labs, says, “As Food, Drug & Mass retailers continue to curate their shelves, creating more opportunity for new ‘hot’ products, the brands behind them are under increasing pressure to develop and deliver trend-driven collections outside of the regular review and reset calendars.” He says, “ A normal development and production timeline of 16 months is increasingly becoming 16 weeks. This is forcing brands to engage domestic suppliers, with their shorter lead times, where in the past they might have gone overseas.”
CTL’s Zuk agrees. “There is a definite focus on sourcing goods and services from partner/suppliers with U.S. capabilities. This is primarily due to the need for faster and shorter lead times, along with higher overall quality in all respects…from concept to solution. Brands are looking to shorten their planning and cycled times, meaning more efficient and effective service and production execution from all partner/suppliers. In addition, brands are looking to expand offerings with line extensions, all with increased speed to market.”
Also, of utmost importance, according to Zuk: “We should take into account that for a brand to be able to put ‘Made in USA’ on its packaging, not only does the product need to be made in the USA, but also the packaging.”
Lytle from Kurz, says automation has also helped with productivity and the attractiveness of on-shore production.
The trend toward customization of packaging and products adds to the allure of domestically sourced ingredients and packaging.
Joe M. Brodner, president, Olcott Plastics, says, “Everybody is looking for short lead times with some sort of customization, be it printing or labeling or a special color. We are able to offer this to them and give them what they want instead of settling for what is their standard package.” He says they also save the cost and lead time of shipping the long distance and provide the advantage of easy communication.
As a U.S. custom manufacturer, Kolmar’s Skellett says, in addition to ease of communication, convenience and speed to market, a great advantage for brands is the company’s robust, on-site regulatory department. “This area of our business is a huge point of difference in relation to our competitors here in the U.S. and overseas and is crucial in being able to provide brands with the information needed to support their ‘Made in the U.S.A.’ claim and in helping them to navigate their specific brand requirements both domestically and abroad,” says Skellett.
In the Beauty Genes
A number of cosmetics packaging companies, including several already mentioned in this article, such as Kolmar and Olcott, have a deep relationship with the USA, having started operations here long ago.
Mitchell Kaneff, Arkay’s third-generation CEO, says Arkay’s history is deeply ingrained with a respect—and affinity—for this country. First-generation founder, Max Kaneff, came to America from Ukraine, and started Arkay over 94 years ago in New York City. According to Mitchell Kaneff, his grandfather’s core ideology of pride in country hasn’t altered since: “Arkay continues to affirm and endorse a Made in the USA culture to this day, and establishing our state of the art facility in Roanoke, VA, exemplifies that spirit.”
According to the third generation CEO, “There are tremendous advantages: cost, access, shipping, timeline, tax benefits, general supply chain benefits, etc. Also the utter quality of Arkay’s work reflects a vigilant on-site workforce and employees who oversee every step of the process because it’s all done stateside. Essentially, Arkay believes in the quality of American craftsmanship.”
Arkay recently acquired the Supergoop! business when they were looking for a U.S. supplier.
Supergoop! founder & CEO, Holly Thaggard, says, “We moved our production to the U.S. to have a better handle on quality. It is important to the Supergoop! brand that our colors are perfect and our project deadlines are met to deliver on our retail and merchandising promises.”
Laura Carey, director of sales, Arkay, describes the successful outcome: “Supergoop! made the decision to improve their shelf appeal when their carton business was moved to the U.S. A navigational color palette was developed, specific to their product formulas. Dual coatings of soft touch and gloss combined with the embossed logo, and color bands were added to the design. A select few SKUs also included hot stamping—all with beautiful results.”
Neenah Packaging is also U.S. born and raised, founded in Neenah, WI, in 1873. Mark Sng, director of marketing, Neenah Packaging, says that140-plus years later, “that rich heritage comes into play in every single thing we do.” In addition to the Made in USA customer benefit and reduced shipping costs, their customers’ environmental footprint and impact are reduced. And the ability to partner with multiple U.S. suppliers on the same project in the States “generally makes communication easier. Nothing gets lost in the translation,” says Sng.
Indie Lee, CEO, founder, indielee.com, a prestige beauty brand that markets all-natural products in luxe retailers like ABC Home, Anthropologie and Saks 5th Avenue, chose to partner with Neenah for a variety of reasons.
Lee explains: “There are many reasons why we manufacture our products in the USA. As an American company, we are proud to support the U.S. economy. We love knowing that the work we do provides domestic jobs, helping communities and families thrive.
We are thrilled to see that American Made is also important to many of our retailers. Several even use that as a criterion for the brands they carry. One of Indie Lee & Co’s core values is to create and support community. Producing and supporting the Made in the USA movement is one of the ways we stay true to that,” says Lee.
Like Neenah’s Sng, Thell, from Parkway Plastics, another third-generation supplier, also speaks of lowering the carbon footprint.
She says, “A U.S. based manufacturing production is important because it’s something that has built our country. We do not want it to leave our country. We are a USA-based family business, and we’re not planning on changing that after three generations. We are environmentally conscious and we believe in regeneration, by re-using, re-grinding and re-cycling material.”
“As a plastic manufacturer,” says Thell, “we participate in The New Constellation Energy’s Energy Market Load Response and we know that we need to look at the well-being of the planet instead of short-term profit.”
Customers and Culture
Many domestic suppliers interviewed for this article stressed the advantages of not only being close to their customers, but also to the markets they serve.
At Cultech, Molchan says, “Developing and nurturing customer intimacy demands being local. Being based in the New York Metro area allows us to personally serve the heart of the beauty industry in real time. We also utilize Visualizer, a 3D software tool that accelerates the developmental process on a virtual basis.”
Joe Cicci, president, Color Optics a division of Phoenix Color, located in Rockaway, NJ, says, “Being local to our customer base allows our customers to be conveniently involved in the manufacturing process. Our ability to manufacture our products in the U.S. also removes the barriers of time zone differences and shipping challenges for our customers, making the entire process a smoother and more accessible one.”
At Lombardi, Albanese says the company’s U.S.-based development and manufacturing and their niche of local, technical service “allows us to maneuver quickly, making contributions at the earliest stages of development. This has a major impact on the successful launch of tooling and production. Our goal is to ultimately deliver on time with high quality parts; it’s our strength,” says Albanese.
Supporting the domestic manufacturing work force also plays a role among U.S. based suppliers.
“As a global company based in the U.S.,” Berry’s Greenwell says, “We believe it’s important to recognize and serve the communities we live and work in around the country. We’re involved in many community organizations and initiatives that support our employees and their families.”
Tarantino, of Paris Art Label, adds: “Growing the work force in the country we live in is very important to the economy. More jobs equal more spending which helps the entire economy.”
CTL’s Zuk, agrees: “We should not overlook the renewed emphasis on domestic sourcing as a result of a renewed sense of investing and growing the U.S. economy for the future.”
The Future of a Domestic Supply Chain
With cost- and time-saving benefits leading the way, industry experts think the movement toward manufacturing close to market will continue. There are other factors as well.
Thell, of Parkway Plastics, notes the transparency that’s possible with a domestic supply chain. “We are seeing that buyers want to source U.S. where they can,” she says. “Buying U.S. means you know where your product is coming from and how it is made. High-quality standards mean less headaches and frustrations down the line. The more brands value communication and quality, the more important ‘sourcing U.S.’ becomes.”
And let’s not forget the ever-increasing influence of the Millennials.
Lytle, at Kurz, notes: “The rising generation seems to have more of a focus on craftsmanship than before. They’re looking at labels, and researching and developing loyalties to brands that have more investment not only in them, but also in their country. They really do want to see Made in the USA on labels again.”
Before there was a United States…there was Caswell-Massey. Originally known as Dr. Hunter’s Apothecary, the luxury personal care product company claims to be the nation’s oldest perfumer, dating back to 1752 when Dr. William Hunter opened his apothecary in Newport, RI. It adopted its present name in 1876. The majority of sales are in the USA, with a small portion exported.
According to Bonnie Shiloff, director product development, “All formulations are produced in the USA, as is the majority of our packaging.”
Shiloff says, “Being an American original, we maintain our company tradition to source and produce product in the USA. Advantages are we are in complete control of the quality of the product we sell and we maintain our brand integrity. Consumers can feel pride in purchasing an excellent, high-quality American-made product.”
Mary Kay Inc. is continuing its Made in America commitment, announcing the upcoming construction of its $100 million manufacturing and research and development facility in Lewisville, TX. Mary Kay was founded in Dallas and now distributes to 35 markets around the world.
“This state-of-the-art facility is being specifically designed and built to meet not only today’s, but tomorrow’s, challenges to ensure the future of Mary Kay in an ever-growing and changing global marketplace. I am extremely proud of our commitment to Texas and to remain competitive with ‘Made in America’,” said Thomas Cho, chief supply chain officer for Mary Kay Inc. “We are very excited about our innovative vision for Mary Kay’s new U.S.-based global manufacturing and research and development facility.”
In 1868, J.R. Watkins loaded up his horse-drawn wagon and began the long journey to sell his homemade health and beauty wares. Over the years, J.R. Watkins delivered much-needed, all-natural cure-alls to hardy folk enduring the frontier lifestyle. It has been a family-owned business based in Winona, MN since its founding. A household name in the U.S., the brand’s international customer base has grown, too, through export demand.
Inspired by designs of the past, a vintage feel connects customers to the long-standing tradition of using a J.R. Watkins product, just as generations before them. Materials are environmentally friendly and minimal to avoid waste. The packaging of this product also includes the “Trial-Mark,” which was America’s first money-back guarantee in 1869. Customers who use the natural products and stay above the mark can get a full refund.
As part of a commitment to responsible business practices, products are formulated and packed in the USA, following FTC green guides, without testing on animals and fully disclosing all ingredients.