Disruption isn’t everything, despite the fact that ePac Flexibles is really stirring up the flexible packaging market. Nevertheless, it is more about closing a gap in the market and not about destroying or replacing an entire market. However, the ePac case is an example of a successful transformation from mass circulation to smaller units and to productions that do credit to the topic of mass customization.
Hobeica explained how the sustainability approach can also be applied to digitally printed flexible packaging and how the manufacturing models of the traditional flexible packaging industry are being transformed. This is because ePac enables small and medium-sized companies to establish and expand competitive brands for healthy food. However, let’s take a look at the still young history of the company.
Packaging Trends + Digital Printing = ePac
The history of ePac began in 2013, when the three eventual founders, Jack Knott, Carl Joachim and Virag Patel, recognized the need for shorter lead times and lower minimum order quantities for flexible packaging. However, flexible packaging printers in the U.S. were unable to meet this need because they had expanded their capacity with new equipment to reduce unit prices and meet the demand for long runs. At the same time, minimum order quantities were increased while lead times remained at 6 to 8 weeks.
A situation and gap in the market that was crying out for a new business model. Especially since Knott, Joachim and Patel were convinced that technological innovations such as digital printing had the potential to break new ground in the packaging market as well. In 2014, the HP Indigo 20000, the model for flexible packaging, was currently in beta testing. This was a perfect fit with ePac’s business model, which from the outset aimed to stir up the conventional flexible packaging market.
The ePac business model was to focus entirely on digital printing, offering competitive prices for short to medium runs and a delivery time of 10 to 15 business days – significantly shorter delivery times than conventional packaging printing. With a production platform optimized for customer service, ePac offers customer-specific prints with variable data so that customers can print as needed and avoid storage and administration costs. Incidentally, the company’s expansion plans for 2020 include the deployment of 52 HP Indigo 20000 presses by the end of the year.
In 2015 ePac was founded and in April 2016 the first location in the USA was opened. Within a few months, demand for ePac’s services grew. It did not take long before additional printing press capacity was installed, and the US expansion began with additional production sites. Today ePac works with brands of all sizes at 13 locations in the USA and one each in Canada, Great Britain and Indonesia.
“Since the opening of the first production facility, our mission has been clear: we want to help small brands achieve a large market presence and contribute to the creation of a more sustainable economy,” said Hobeika.
In doing so, ePac offers a more sustainable supply chain, limited editions and variable graphics for flexible packaging such as stand-up pouches, flat pouches and rollstock. Using new digital printing and software technology, ePac offers customers a smart way to have individually printed flexible packaging produced. The digitally printed packaging in small or medium runs is intended to enable distinction on the shelf through the automatic creation of different designs based on core patterns.