At a time when competition is heating up, Ironclad Inc. is gaining industry recognition for its reusable containers for trash bags. In March, Ironclad began packaging its premium line of trash bags in kitchen utility containers. A consumer buying Ironclad's kitchen and yard Strap Bags gets, at no additional cost, a dishwasher- and microwave-safe container for freezer, refrigerator or pantry storage.
Ironclad manufactures two sizes of the patented containers for about the cost of previously outsourced paperboard packaging and printing.
On Aug. 9, as part of an environmental achievement awards program, the National Retail Hardware Association and the Home Center Institute presented its 1996 award of excellence for packaging design to Ironclad for the container line. Do-It-Yourself Retailing magazine gave a 1995 retailers' choice award to an earlier version of the container.
Ironclad extrudes linear low density polyethylene trash bags and injection molds the transparent polypropylene containers at its largest plant in Shreveport, La., and also extrudes bags at a facility in Tustin, Calif.
Ironclad, which is incorporated in California, acquired the Tustin plant and warehouse in 1984, when Chairman John C. Marrelli founded the company with two old extruders.
Experiments led to stronger bags and increased market penetration. In 1988 Ironclad built the Shreveport facility, where some administrative and financial functions are located. President Michael Rodolakis is Ironclad's top film official.
Needing more room, Ironclad moved sales and marketing functions in October 1995 to leased office space in Carlsbad, Calif.
Ironclad markets bags with its trade name primarily through drugstore chains, mass merchandisers and warehouse clubs. The company also makes bags with a Kirkland Signature label for PriceCostco Co. Currently, Ironclad is making a concerted effort to penetrate grocery store shelves that two competitors dominate.
The $1.3 billion trash bag industry includes, ahead of Ironclad, the Glad line from First Brands Corp. of Danbury, Conn., and the Hefty brand from Tenneco Inc.'s packaging division in Evanston, Ill. Mobil Corp. sold the Hefty business to Tenneco last year.
Soon, North American Plastics Corp. will make private-label trash bags in its Aurora, Ill., plant for Rubbermaid's home products division.
At trade shows, Ironclad uses a ``torture machine,'' drop-testing its bags containing 50 pounds of nails. The demonstrations show how Ironclad bags fare better in tear-and-puncture tests than competitors' bags.
``We can give ours two or three jolts,'' Desko said. ``The others can't take it.''
Privately held Ironclad employs more than 400, manufactures more than 60 million bags monthly and, according to a Plastics News estimate, had 1995 sales of $80 million. The firm withheld data on sales, production lines, plant sizes and resin throughput.
Ironclad consumer trash bags come in five sizes: the 13-gallon version with a thickness of 0.74 mil; 30- and 33-gallon, 0.85 mil; 39-gallon, 0.95 mil; and 18-gallon for trash compactors, 2 mils.
In addition, commercial products includes a 10-gallon bag for janitorial wastebaskets at 0.34 mil; a 45-gallon heavy-duty contractor bag, 1.5 mils; and a 55-gallon refuse drum liner, 1.2 mils.