This month's Best Practices has it all: a small, multigenerational family business that made a big invention to improve a feature we all know — the viewstripe on a container — then throw in a colorful history that began in the pickle business.
Viewstripes have been around a long time on blow molded containers for everything from motor oil to laundry detergents and household cleaners. The idea is simple: You look at the stripe and see how much is left.
But the people at Kessler Containers Ltd. in St. Louis wanted to create a better viewstripe. Normally, you have to hold a high density polyethylene container at just the right angle to see the stripe. Kessler has developed and patented the Tri-Vu, a transparent viewstripe that protrudes outward, three-dimensionally, so you can see it from almost every direction.
Tri-Vu is integral in the extrusion blow molded bottle from a single parison, just like a traditional viewstripe.
"It's easier to see. It provides retail visibility for your product," said Daniel Kessler, regional sales manager.
Kessler Containers' U.S. patent was approved in late 2018, after a three-year process. Daniel Kessler said a two-cavity mold is completed and on its way to the company. Officials hope to begin production in August, he said.
Interviewed July 11, Kessler said the blow molder is still actively looking for customers interested in the Tri-Vu. But being able to mold actual bottles with the 3D stripe will help generate buzz.
"We're hoping to implement it in more molds, obviously," Daniel Kessler said.
Kessler Containers employs 85 people and runs 28 shuttle extrusion blow molding machines, including Rocheleau, Fischer and Hayssen presses.
The viewstripe is one of those products we take for granted. But Tri-Vu shows how even a commonplace product can be improved — and how often innovation comes from family-owned companies.
It's also a story of perseverance.
"We had a project that was running for the first time, and getting the viewstripe dialed in was proving difficult. It would be either too large or too small," Daniel Kessler said.
Then an employee brought a test bottle into the office with the viewstripe wrapped around half of the bottle. "This gave us the idea to do something different," Kessler said. They kept playing around with the stripe, eventually hitting on the idea that became the Tri-Vu.
"That sparked the idea for a small, inexpensive change that could be utilized to help sell the product. It's exactly the kind of innovation we are continually working towards," he said. "It took the design team about a week to figure out what we were trying to accomplish. After plenty of experimenting, we developed the Tri-Vu."
Kessler Container's roots began in pickles. Daniel's great grandfather, Benjamin Berger, was a pickle maker by trade. He sold Berger's Pickles and retired, but he found out that he needed an activity to keep him occupied. In 1972, he went into the distribution of glass bottles until he was approached by a friend who was going to make plant fertilizer. The friend talked him into starting Plastic Bottle Co. to make plastic containers for the plant care industry. He ran the company until 1977, when it was destroyed in a fire.
Daniel's father, Robert Kessler, started Kessler Containers that same year, in a garage that was on the property, to serve customers of Plastic Bottle Co. His uncle Charles joined the company in the early 1980s, and the two men have worked together ever since, building Kessler Containers from a local company to a regional one and now into a custom blow molder that serves national accounts.
Daniel Kessler joined the company in 2009.
Kessler said the company plans to manufacture bottles with the Tri-Vu feature. If there is an account the company can't fulfill, Kessler Containers will partner with other manufacturers that have more production capability, he said.
The Best Practices message is clear: Innovation can come from any size of company. The main ingredients are dogged tenacity and the desire to take a chance and spend money on development, and of course on patent lawyers. It's always impressive when small companies, like Kessler Containers, invent something new.
That's how the products we use every day came about — including, in the future, a new viewstripe that's easy to see.