Alpha Packaging: Proud of its Past, but Looking Forward to its Future
Dave Spence, president and CEO, Alpha Packaging, St. Louis, MO, does not have a typical success story to tell. His is filled with as many peaks as valleys, and getting to the top took a lot of determination and a commitment to “doing the right thing” both in business and in life.
His story, and subsequently Alpha’s story, began with a family business that took a turn for the worst in the early to mid-1980s. As Mr. Spence realized the business would not survive these turbulent times, it became his mission to make the most out of a bad situation. That’s when he decided, at the ripe old age of 26, to purchase a company called Alpha Con Plastics in 1985.
Alpha Con was a very small company at the time, only pulling in annual sales of about $500,000 and producing only about 35,000 bottles per day. Mr. Spence wanted to change that but he knew it would not be easy. A few painful decisions later, Alpha decided it would focus only on manufacturing bottles for the pharmaceutical, nutritional supplement and personal care markets.
Looking back on his 21-year history with the company, Mr. Spence realizes just how far he and Alpha have come. “We have gone from producing 35,000 bottles per day to nearly two million,” he said, adding, “And there are days when we bill in one day what the company made in its whole first year of business.”
Over the years, the company has become very proficient in the manufacture of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottles. But from the outset, Mr. Spence knew he needed to provide more choices for his customers to choose from in order to stay competitive. “We realized when we came into the nutritional supplement business that we needed to provide more op-tions. We needed more sizes and colors in order to offer customers some differentiation,” he said. “We spent over $2.5 million to make that happen and it was well worth it. This truly turned out to be the best decision we ever made.”
The company’s 210,000 square-foot headquarters in St. Louis houses state-of-the-art injection blow molding equipment for both PET and HDPE bottles and jars. The company also has plants in Brooklyn, NY, and Salt Lake City, UT, which serve small to large domestic and overseas clients. Currently, Alpha manufactures about 800 stock items, not including the wide variety of colors and custom tooling capabilities it has for over 150 products.
Most recently, Alpha acquired Yorkbridge Packaging Northeast, a plastic bottle manufacturer located in Bethlehem, PA. The purchase, which closed in late December last year, represents Alpha’s second acquisition in the Northeastern U.S. in less than five years. Alpha ended 2005 with $50 million in sales; combined 2005 sales for Alpha and Yorkbridge exceeded $60 million. With the Yorkbridge purchase, the company acquired a highly efficient plant housing 10 PET injection stretch blow molding machines. Currently, Yorkbridge has 65,000 square feet devoted to manufacturing, but Alpha plans to double the size of the plant in the near future to increase capacity.
Quality is always a top priority for the company. Its manufacturing process integrates the finest FDA-approved raw materials with state-of-the-art equipment and stringent quality control procedures at every station on the line. Furthermore, all manufacturing and warehousing is conducted in a sealed, clean, controlled environment.
Discussing the state of packaging in the nutritional supplement market today, Mr. Spence said there is a lot of work to be done. “I think the nutritional supplement business could take some lessons from the HBA (health and beauty aid) category, which places a lot of emphasis on packaging,” he said. “To have a great product is simply not enough anymore. Companies need attractive packaging that goes beyond the white bottle, which is typical of many dietary supplement products today. A cheap bottle just does not jump off the shelf and say ‘buy me.’” —R.W.
1555 Page Industrial Boulevard
St. Louis, MO 63132
Telephone: 314-427-4300; 800-421-4772 Fax: 314-427-5445