A Beginners’ Guide.
Whatever format of packaging component you are looking for; printed or unprinted, cartons, bottles, flexibles or rigid plastics etc, finding the right supplier isn’t always easy. Whether you are working in an expanding start-up or an established business, here are some tips to help you find the right packaging supplier;
Making a Start
Before talking to anyone it is a good idea to have an idea of volumes i.e. how many units of packaging you will require a year in thousands. This could filter out a lot of potential suppliers – some have high minimum order quantities, others will specialise in smaller quantities. If your requirement is for anything under 1000 units, it will almost always be cheaper to go for ‘off the shelf’ options. It is also a good idea to be clear at this stage what requirements the packaging may need to conform to in addition to standard packaging regulations – e.g. BRC accreditation if you are in the food industry.
Creating a Short-list
Searching on Google will return more than enough candidates, but how do you identify who is most suitable for you? The most reliable way is to ask someone for a recommendation (us Packaging Professionals are good for that!). The next best thing is to check out online directories from the relevant trade associations – The British Plastics Federation or British Glass for example in the UK. If you don’t need to find someone straight away, packaging trade shows are a good idea, like Packaging Innovations in the UK. Visiting a trade show is a really good opportunity to talk to a lot of suppliers in one day. Be aware though that many suppliers choose not to exhibit so you could miss out if you rely on trade shows alone.
Narrowing it down
Once you’ve got your short-list, it’s time to contact the potential suppliers for an initial telephone discussion. You’ll find out quickly if they are a suitable fit. If so, the next stage is to invite two or three to provide a quote and to arrange to meet up for a face to face discussion.
At this stage it is tempting to go with whoever provides the cheapest quote. Beware – this could end up being a false economy without considering the following;
Sales managers will almost always bring a set of example packaging for you to look at to see the quality of their products. It is essential to handle the samples to get a feel for the substrate as well as checking print quality. As part of the development/quotation process they will provide mock-ups (usually unprinted) to your specification.
Lead Times and Stock Holding
Can you accommodate the longer lead times associated with sourcing from continental Europe or the Far East? If a fast response is required, it may be worth sourcing from within your country even if the unit price is higher. If space is at a premium on your site, ask if they are able to hold stock on your behalf in their warehouse. This could be a useful service, especially if included in the price.
Are they easy to contact to place an order? If there is an issue with quality how quickly can they be on site to address it? Do they offer technical support for line trials or training for your colleagues on the packaging materials used? How fast can they turn around development samples? Fast responses to all of these are vital in an FMCG environment.
What do they offer in terms of special finishes and materials? e.g. foil-blocking and bio-based substrates. Do they offer any other value-added services? You might not need these now, but it could be useful to be able to offer these to your brand manager/ customers in the future.
Innovation and Development
What creative solutions can they offer? Ask to see previous projects. Do they keep on top of developments in their industry? Are they able to offer cost-saving ideas or more sustainable packaging solutions? What are their development facilities like? Again, these are useful for your supplier to have within their capabilities before you need them (who know what the next consumer trend will be?)
Once you’ve met with your potential suppliers and asked the questions above, you’ll have a good idea which companies you want to work with. A small trial order will confirm their credentials and hopefully be the start of a wonderful business relationship!
If you need help to find a packaging supplier, contact me to find out how I can help or call me on 07826 791 045.
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