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Coffee firm finds solution at PACK EXPO

Specialty coffee retailer scales up to boost production and expand distribution with a much more efficient band sealer found at PACK EXPO International 2014.

According to the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), the 28 million small businesses in America account for 54 percent of all U.S. sales. More and more, these small businesses are competing with larger companies. In order to keep up with big businesses, small and medium-sized manufacturers are upgrading their equipment to fill larger-volume orders from major distributors.

However, the journey to the right equipment is not always easy. Many small manufacturers do not have the depth of resources and expertise to determine which processing and packaging technologies will help them achieve their new production goals. That is where suppliers can help. Coffee Express Co., a specialty coffee processor and retailer, utilized PACK EXPO International 2014 as its first step towards finding the right supplier partner.

Launched in 1975 and located in Plymouth, MI, Coffee Express Co. roasts whole bean coffee products in addition to offering a wide range of syrups, smoothie mixes, and chocolates that enhance the coffee experience. The company sources its beans and ingredients from small farmers around the world, including Indonesia, Asia, and Africa as well as North, South, and Central America. Coffee Express Co. differentiates its brands by experimenting with new and unique roasting styles from these regions. The firm has always distributed its products to coffee houses, restaurants, and retailers around Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana. However, the company recently rode the wave of consumer demand for specialty and niche coffee products toward a path to faster growth.

With an expanding consumer base following behind them, the eight-person team at Coffee Express Co. set their sights on grocery stores as a distribution channel. But they knew they would need faster, more efficient equipment to fulfill the larger orders necessary to stock retail shelves. Unsure of which solution would propel the small operation forward, Charles Sarin, the Packaging and Beverage Manager at Coffee Express Co., decided to attend PACK EXPO International in 2014 to get the lay of the land.

“We came to PACK EXPO not necessarily knowing what we needed, but the incredible amount of technology at the show pointed us in the direction of growing our business and finding solutions,” says Sarin.

In order to expand their distribution from small coffee houses to large grocery stores, Coffee Express Co. needed to replace its 30-plus year-old sealer, a machine that would not accommodate the production volumes and speeds necessary for growth. Coffee Express Co. also had to keep its operations agile, so flexibility would be a key attribute for success. Finally, any new solution had to be user-friendly so that each member could quickly overcome any learning curves to properly operate the machinery. After combing the isles of PACK EXPO, Sarin knew that what they needed was a new band sealer equipped with a vacuum and gas flush (VGF) system.

Plexpack Corp. (www.plexpack.com), one of the foremost producers of packaging machinery on a global scale, prioritized development of a VGF design that would allow small to medium businesses like Coffee Express Co. to operate at a faster and more efficient rate, allowing small companies to boost production at a comfortable level. A year prior, Plexpack’s band sealer shown at PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013 caught Sarin’s eye. But it wasn’t until PACK EXPO International 2014, with the addition of the VGF system, that Sarin knew that the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF was his company’s solution.

“I didn’t know that I was looking for a new band sealer until I saw what Plexpack has to offer. As someone who was not formally trained in packaging, this kind of equipment grabbed my attention because of its unique features,” Sarin says. “Once I saw it in action with the VGF system, I knew that this was something my team could get excited about, too.”

In order to meet a variety of industry needs, Plexpack’s band sealer offers a faster production time in vacuuming, flushing, and sealing bags. At an average rate of 15 bags/min, the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF was significantly faster than the equipment previously used by the team at Coffee Express Co.

However, it was not the speed that convinced Tom Isaia, the owner of Coffee Express Co., to pull the trigger on their new project: it was the band sealer’s VGF system and modular interface. The Emplex MPS 7500-VGF is equipped to handle an optional bag-top trimmer, emboss coder, dry ink printer, or ink-jet printer. These features allow for an all-in-one production line, which greatly improved efficiency.

"With Plexpack’s design, Coffee Express Co. could accessorize their machine to better fit specific needs,” says David McGurk, Plexpack’s Director of Sales. The easily removable parts are optimal for keeping a clean production facility. It allows employees to clean thoroughly and ensure a top-of-the-line product.”

Not only could Coffee Express Co. vacuum and seal more bags per minute, but the customizable equipment allowed for the whole Coffee Express Co. team to operate the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF.

“With the new equipment, we are able to vacuum and seal 15 bags running the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF slowly, allowing us to fill more bags and readying our company for big retailers,” says Sarin.

Additionally, the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF has the capacity to vacuum, flush, and seal a variety of bags that suit Coffee Express’s offerings. This particular sealer is capable of sealing bags up to 12 mil in thickness at its maximum production rate and is equipped to handle an assortment of weight. These features allowed Coffee Express Co. to efficiently switch between runs of whole bean and ground coffee.

After in-facility testing, Coffee Express Co. and Plexpack continue to work together as the coffee manufacturer grows and its needs evolve with an expanded roster of both single- and multi-unit grocery customers.

“It’s important for small businesses to show their strength and be able to support large customers – and that isn’t always an easy task with a small, sometimes inexperienced staff,” says Sarin. “PACK EXPO allows for people who work at small businesses, who do not always have professional packaging training, to learn everything they need to know about packaging at the show.”

This year’s PACK EXPO International 2016 and the co-located Pharma EXPO, taking place at Chicago’s McCormick Place Nov. 6-9, will enable small- and medium-sized manufacturers to find the solutions that allow them to grow. As for the team at Coffee Express Co., to stay ahead of the demands made by their large retail customers, they’ve already made plans to attend PACK EXPO International 2016.

Plexpack (Booth #2878) will also be present. Attendees can catch the Emplex MPS 7500-VGF at the company’s booth as well as other top-of-the-line packaging equipment.

PACK EXPO International and the co-located Pharma EXPO present attendees with technologies for the entire processing and packaging supply chain. Each show offers can’t-miss educational programming and networking opportunities for the food, baking and snack, confectionery, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and biotech industries served by PACK EXPO.

To learn more and to register for PACK EXPO visit www.packexpointernational.com

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