Kasie Fairbarn graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in packaging science. She previously was a packaging engineer at Unilever, "doing a lot of Minitab and functional testing to qualify new resins or requalify tools after a mold refurbishment or qualify a new bottle design for a product launch."
"The complexity of the inputs needed to create a new bottle design was intense, and I loved it," Fairbarn said. "How could a plastic bottle be this complicated? But it was. It was here I began to truly appreciate the role plastics play in our lives and the challenge of creating something that is manufacturable yet sustainable while still being aesthetically pleasing."
She is now a global account manager for Addison, Ill.-based Paxxus Inc., a flexible packaging supplier in the health care market. She handles global sales, key account relationship management, contract management, Northwest territory expansion, flexible packaging education, sustainability research and strategic planning.
Fairbarn said career highlights include leading packaging for "nostalgic brands like Pond's, Caress, Suave, Simple and St. Ives" and "being one of the few key members involved in the launch of sustainably focused brands like Love, Beauty & Planet and ApotheCare Essentials to mass market." She added working with top medical device manufacturers and developing user-friendly and sustainable packaging as a highlight.
"Professionally, my greatest achievement has been advocating for improved relationships between customers and suppliers," she said. "Having sat on both sides of the table, I know how important this is and how quickly things can go downhill if the partnership is not continually nurtured."
Fairbarn said the mold she is breaking is what it looks like to be a technical sales professional.
"I want women in the industry and packaging engineers in general to know that a career in sales is possible," she said, "and that your skills are of incredible value to organizations who are trying to break through to new customers."
Fairbarn was nominated by Jonathan Quinn, director of market development and sustainable flexible packaging for Pregis.
Q: What's an accomplishment of yours that most people don't know about, either for work or in your personal life?
Fairbarn: In 2013, I was inducted into the Rochester Institute of Technology's Sports Hall of Fame for ice hockey. I was eight months pregnant at the ceremony and no [one] believed that I was the hockey inductee.
Q: What associations do you belong to or actively participate in?
Fairbarn: I am proud to be involved with the Flexible Packaging Association, specifically their Emerging Leadership Council, which was formed in 2020 and is dedicated to establishing a network of future leaders to drive issues and opportunities which will have a long-term impact on the advancement of the U.S. flexible packaging industry. Also, I'm excited to be working with some wonderful people on the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council, where I represent Paxxus.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Fairbarn: What surprises me the most about the plastics industry is how much everyone in it rallies together around a common cause. And that cause is how can we all collectively continue to leverage plastic and plastics innovation for the betterment of society and the world. No one wants plastics to do harm, but we need plastic. Especially in my industry, the health care industry. These plastics are being used as sterile barrier systems and are contributing to positive patient outcomes. We can't go backwards.