Dispensing products company AptarGroup Inc. is positioning itself for an increase in business due to the Zika virus, the mosquito-borne illness that can have a devastating impact on pregnant woman and their unborn children.
Joe Heinlein, vice president of North America supply chain at the Crystal Lake, Ill.-based company agreed to answer questions via an email interview discussing company efforts to help combat Zika.
But first, a little background:
Zika is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Aedes species mosquitos, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms can include fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes that can last up to a week. People rarely die from the virus. But pregnant women who are infected risk having their children develop serious birth defects, including microcephaly, where a baby's head and brain are much smaller than typical, according to CDC.
The World Health Organization also reports that Zika also can cause Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare but serious neurological disorder that could lead to paralysis and death.
This fear of potential birth defects has received widespread attention in recent months, including debate about whether athletes should travel to Brazil for the upcoming Olympics.
Q: Describe how Aptar is helping combat the Zika virus.
Heinlein: Aptar provides dispensing systems such as aerosol valves and accessories for insecticides and spray valves, pumps and closures for insect repellants.
We focus on providing convenience for consumers through our innovative technologies such as our fine-mist pump that allows you to spray insect repellant while holding the pack upside down, and our bag-on-valve spray technology, which also offers the same 360 degree spray capability. Our dispensing systems are featured on brands such as Off! by SC Johnson, Cutter and Repel by Spectrum Brands and Avon's Skin So Soft.
Q: How has the spread of the disease impacted the company's production, facilities and manpower levels, and at what locations?
Heinlein: We are currently producing dispensing solutions for insecticide products at our facilities in the U.S. and Brazil. Our manufacturing teams and facilities are flexible and can adapt to influxes in demand, similar to when a customer promotes a product via a special launch. We work closely with our customers to understand market demands and to meet their production schedules … whether they need product locally or globally.
Q: How long do you expect the increase in demand to last and why?
Heinlein: Right now it is too early to tell, but we are closely monitoring information about the Zika virus. Aptar is a market-focused company and we are actively communicating with our customers in order to stay informed [to] meet their dispensing needs.
Q: People may not necessarily think of Aptar right away when it comes to this type of application due to your standing in the beauty and home category. Can you speak to that?
Heinlein: Aptar is an expert in dispensing technology, serving eight different end markets. We are a leader in the personal care and beauty markets but we are also a leader in many other markets, including the pharmaceutical, food and beverage markets.
Aptar's home care team is focused on providing dispensing solutions for the fight against the Zika virus, while also leveraging many of these same dispensing technologies in newer market fields such as laundry care, dish care and pet care. Our global, cross market expertise enables us to uniquely leverage consumer understanding and dispensing technology innovation to meet existing and emerging customer needs.
Q: What kind of planning has gone into ramping up to help out? How have you coordinated with your customers to ramp up efforts?
Heinlein: We have been monitoring the Zika virus for several months now and we are in frequent communication with our customers. At this time, we are not seeing a tremendous ramp up in production, but we are positioned to support our customers should the need arise.
We have are very familiar with this process as we have supported our customers with closures and pumps for hand sanitizers and lotions when different flu epidemics have broken out in previous years.
Q: Anything else you want to add?
Heinlein: We are working closely with our customers to provide the best dispensing solutions for insect repellants, which can provide protection against the Zika virus. We are pleased to provide dispensing technologies that make it easier for people to protect themselves, and their families, and we will continue to support this global effort.