ORLANDO, FLA. (April 4, 7:45 p.m. ET) — When Simple Wave LLC decided to reshore production of its CaliBowls back to the U.S. from Asia, it tapped into a swelling marketing angle.
“American is becoming more and more aware of things that are made in the USA,” said Jeff Bollengier, co-founder and president of the Hayward, Calif.-based company.
Since announcing that production of the recycled polypropylene bowls would move to Jatco Inc. in Union City, Calif., in late 2011, the company has been able to tap into an interest by retailers to stock more American-made products. The injection molded CaliBowl, with its sculptured undercut to help eliminate spills, will go into JC Penny stores nationwide for sale later this year, and other major retailers are in talks to stock it.
But the move made sense from the start in pure business sense, Bollingier said, and that's the move that is paying off in the long run.
“It gives us the ability to do so many more things when I can just head down the road and pick up something or try out new packaging,” he said.
At NPE 2012, the company received the U.S. Department of Commerce's Export Achievement Center during a ceremony on April 3. It was also taking the opportunity walk the show floor with Jatco's Eric Appelblom, vice president of sales, to check out potential new materials and processes for the CaliBowl and other future products.
Simple Wave has also been exporting from California since shifting production to the U.S. Its CaliBowls are going to Canada and Singapore now, with distribution launching to other countries. Bollengier said the company had distributors who only wanted a U.S. made product. Those distributors were located across the globe. They also had Chinese customers who wanted a “Made in the U.S.A.” product.
CaliBowl had been struggling with its supply chain in China.
Bollengier said it was a natural evolution for the company to bring the manufacturing back to the United States. They had distributors who only wanted a U.S. made product. Those distributors were located across the globe. They even had Chinese customers who wanted a “Made in the U.S.A.” product.
Bollengier and co-founder Richard Stump said that they saw opportunities for producing the bowl in the U.S. It also fit Bollengier and Stump's personal desires to work with someone close to home.
“We can create a lot of jobs for a lot of people,” Bollengier said.
“We're able to innovate easier (with local production),” Stump said.
When they were ready, they went to Jatco. The injection molder also has operations in China and South Carolina.
“We spent about four hours just looking at the numbers, and once we could see we were close, the decision was made on the spot,” Appelblom said.
Being “on the spot” has also led to other benefits.
When Simple Wave wanted to develop new packaging, Jatco could develop a prototype and samples in everyone's hands within a week. Working from Asia, Appleblom said, that process could take a month.
Bollengier and Stump can also respond almost immediately if there are any problems with shipping, compared to seeing an entire cargo container of damaged goods when it is shipped in bulk from Asia.
When the company received an order from California retailer Beverages & More on March 1, it was able to ship and deliver new bowls on March 8.
And Simple Wave is not the only company that has been following the trade route back home.
“I used to get a call once a quarter (about re-shoring),” Appleblom said. “Now I get one once a week. Some people are coming back. It's not a question of if they will, it's a question of when.”
Plastics News staff reporter Angie DeRosa contributed to this story.