In a business environment filled with concern over a softening economy, Snapware Corp. claims to be doing well and proving the significance of being a solid made-in-the-USA brand.
The privately held, Mira Loma, Calif.-based company unveiled new products at the International Home & Housewares Show, held March 16-18 in Chicago. The injection molder claims it has seen 50 percent annual sales growth in three consecutive years, and now plans to expand domestically.
Growth comes from new products, said John Lown, Snapware's chief executive officer.
``We launch at least one new complete product line every year.''
The company is constantly improving its unique design, featuring snap-lock lids and a modular structure. Lown said the in-house design team leverages the expertise of third-party industrial design firms and keeps the clean, contemporary style consistent while striving for functional innovations.
``It's not just styling. Our products combine functionality and form,'' he said.
That's one of the many benefits of keeping production in the United States. Lown said the company's investment on design is paying off, because the products are patented and well-protected.
``It is very important to keep manufacturing in the U.S.,'' Lown said. ``Consumers like to buy U.S.-made products, especially for food storage.''
Lown said U.S. consumers now have less confidence in imports in terms of quality and safety.
Snapware runs 35 injection presses from 200-720 metric tons in clamping force. An employer of about 250 people, the firm has 185,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 300,000 square feet for distribution.
The factory is highly automated and efficient, Lown said: ``We have robots on every machine.''
To better meet the rising demand, the company is adding a manufacturing site in the Midwest. Snapware is ``looking at different locations'' in a number of states, he said.
Adding a factory in the Midwest is a strategy to strengthen Snapware's nationwide logistics.
``We'll be closer to the customers, be able to ship products to the East Coast faster and save on the freight,'' Lown said.
The expansion may seem a bold move, given the softening of consumer spending. But Lown is very optimistic about the storage-product market, saying the business is ``recession-proof.''
``When people are not buying homes or cars, they'll have more money for better storage. Some family will move, and they need to organize,'' he said.
The 14-year-old company supplies all major retailers that carry plastic storage products in five major categories - food, household, crafts, pet food, seasonal and storage.
Despite his rosy outlook on market demand, Lown hopes resin prices stabilize or, even better, go down. If the raw materials keep the upward pricing trend, ``we'll have to increase our prices to offset the energy and resin costs,'' he said.
The firm's overseas competition, mainly from Asia, also is facing higher resin and freight costs. Snapware is working to improve the efficiency of its material use by recycling its scrap, Lown said.
The company uses PP primarily, which accounts for 90 percent of its total resin consumption. Some products are made of polycarbonate and PET.
Snapware expects to hit $60 million in sales in 2008, with exports representing about 20 percent of that total, mainly to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan and Europe.
The company introduced these products at the housewares show:
* Smart Store: a line of heavy-duty modular storage containers that are designed for standard shelf depths. The containers, with a 10-year warranty, are made from high-impact PP with a newly developed additive that the firm said will ``significantly enhance durability.''
* The Cookie & Cupcake Carrier: a neatly designed carrier featuring two interlocking trays, each having a removable and reversible insert. Multiple carriers can snap together. The carrier is made of PP and dishwasher-safe.
* GlassLock: made of tempered-glass with airtight PP lids that feature a silicone gasket and four-latch design.