Easy to do business with

When CBJ first interviewed Labelad, a label and packaging company in Markham, Ont. in 2008, the company was operating soundly and showing great progress.

Today, CBJ takes a look at the company’s outstanding growth with insight from Vice-President and General Manager Joe Campbell, who, along with new President Owen Duckman and Vice-President of Finance Ziggy Krupa has helped lead the company towards its new vision of being a total packaging solutions provider—and from the looks of things, the company is in an even better position now than it has ever been before. 

CBJ: There is a lot to talk about since we last spoke, including Labelad’s changed relationship with Sandylion Stickers. Where does Sandylion fit into the corporate structure now? 

Joe Campbell: A lot has changed since 2008. The biggest change that has been made since I joined the company in 2007 is that Labelad’s shareholders completely divested of the Sandylion brand in June 2010.

CBJ: What led the company to this decision, when Sandylion is such a well-recognized product?

JC: Although the two companies are somewhat related, Sandylion being a sticker manufacturer purchaser and Labelad producing labels, they are two very different companies with different operating dynamics and cultures.

When you are trying to grow two companies that are very different, it comes down to capital allocation and management focus. For the business, it came down to where to spend capital and there wouldn’t have been synergies or benefits in many cases where allotting capital was concerned.

In the end it was difficult to give both businesses the capital and management focus they needed, and Sandylion was constantly under threat of lower cost products coming from other markets—not to mention that younger girls today, the target market for stickers have a broader range of activity and entertainment options may not want to play or collect stickers as much as in the past.

Essentially, capital investment and management focus for continued growth in our top target markets: health and beauty, household products, pharmaceuticals, and nutraceuticals, and food and beverage, are not areas with synergy to Sandylion.

CBJ: So the Labelad vision has changed?

JC: Labelad’s vision is to be total packaging solution providers for our customers. When the shareholders divested Labelad’s sister company, Sandylion, we re-evaluated the company, and painted a vision of growth—there were so many opportunities.

Firstly, there is lots of equity in the brand—Labelad was founded in 1976 by the Waldman family and had an outstanding reputation for quality and innovation. We wanted to capitalize on those advantages in the marketplace, because customers are always looking for new ways to package their products.

One of the biggest ways customers are looking to change is to make packaging more sustainable. A walk up and down the aisles of grocery stores, and you will see a growing number of stand up pouches for products, which are more sustainable than ten years ago when you would see more boxes, plastic bottles or glass. 

Labelad’s vision essentially changed from striving to be the best label company to the best total packaging company.

CBJ: How has this affected your customer relationships?

JC: We want customers to involve us when they’re developing an idea. We’ll start with their ideas around the packaging and bring them the products.

We talk a lot about brand guardianship. If customers change formats and they’re not with a [packaging] company who truly adopts the brand guardianship philosophy, they can’t trust that company with their brand. We truly believe in a brand guardianship philosophy. And the benefit to us not being the largest packaging company is that we can work with the customer from day 1, and we play in a market that the big guys can’t touch. We’re fast and flexible.

CBJ: Can you talk about your approach to sustainability?

JC: We offer more green solutions than the marketplace wants right now, but things are progressing. Our target customer base is just coming out of a recession and doesn’t want to pay more than they already are—even what they’re paying today is increasing. When we talk to them about “going greener” they look at the price and think “I can’t afford it right now.” But we will get there—we’re okay for now, but we know at some point the status quo will not be acceptable.

We’ve broken down our green strategies into three areas: products and materials, logistics, and lean manufacturing. Those are the things we can control. No. 1 is product. We are always working with customers and suppliers to use the most cost-effective, green product. The second area we’re always working on is the design of the package, and how it relates to the supply chain. If we can move more product on a truck and use less energy, that is a step.

Thirdly we are utilizing lean manufacturing as much as possible. However, we don’t get out of control with lean manufacturing—if you get addicted to driving out costs you can start internalizing and lose sight of the bigger picture. You start concentrating on how external factors could change and not paying attention to what you can do.

We try to bring people in, designers that understand the process and create something that the customers really like.

CBJ: How have all these changes affected your corporate culture?

JC: We are doing the same amount of product today with 92 employees compared with about 140 the last time we spoke to CBJ. We are leaner and more efficient, more productive.

CBJ: What is the outlook for Labelad?

JC: We pride ourselves on being a company that is truly “easy to do business with.” We want to have raving fans for customers and win more business just by default.

We will continue to focus our business in North America. We see that there is a market and lots of room for growth. We will continue to grow the business and implement RFiD technology into everyday packaging—we are well positioned to be a leader in that field.

In two years, we have really become the total packaging solutions provider.