We’ve always been taught that it’s what’s on the inside that truly counts, but Pak-Sher knows that what’s outside can be just as important. As one of the leading manufacturers of plastic bags used in the foodservice and grocery industries, Pak-Sher understands the specific needs of its customers and uses that information more thoroughly than any of its competitors.

Since 1973, Pak-Sher has been producing polyethylene bags for grocery stores, eventually branching out to restaurants and other foodservice applications. Vice President of Product Development Terry Gebhardt says the company was the first in the United States to offer flip-top deli bags as an alternative to butcher paper, and was the first in the country to utilize high-density polyethylene blown film extruders in its manufacturing process. The company continues to be an innovator to this day, he says, as it develops compostable products to meet the growing demand for environmentally sustainable packaging.

The ability to develop cus­tom products for its clients and res­pond quickly to their requests has earned Pak-Sher solid relationships with some of the biggest names in foodservice. For example, President Don James says Pak-Sher has supplied KFC for more than 15 years. “One of the things we’re most proud of is the long-term relationships we have with many of our clients,” James says.

Customer-Driven Philosophy

The key to developing those long-term relationships lies in Pak-Sher’s philo­sophy, which James says is customer-driven, not product-driven. Where­as some manufacturers will develop a product on their own and then try to sell it to their customers, Pak-Sher starts with assessing customers’ needs and then developing a product to suit them. “We’re not out there developing products and trying to drive those to the marketplace,” James says.

For example, the company is in the midst of creating training tools for sales reps to help them assess how custo­mers actually use Pak-Sher’s products and find ways to improve products based on that information. James says the focus is on keeping the customer’s needs in mind and making it easy for customers to understand the products. “A lot of foodservice companies don’t have engineers on staff, so seeing engineer drawings of our products does mean a whole lot to them,” he says.

One example is the work Pak-Sher did with Major League Baseball’s Seattle Mariners to develop a line of custom trash bags that are compostable. Marketing Manager Michele Talucci says the company’s work with the team allowed the Mariners to get closer to its goal of recycling all of the waste generated at Safeco Field.

Once Pak-Sher understands what cus­tomers need, it brings those products to them quickly with the help of its state-of-the-art, 125,000-square-foot manu­facturing facility.

Gebhardt says Pak-Sher’s manufacturing process has been optimized in recent years to bring products to clients faster and more efficiently. “Pak-Sher is definitely taking lean manufacturing to heart,” he says. “We do look at ways to utilize new technologies to [streamline our processes].”

James says the company has worked to shorten lead times by linking production steps to create a consistent flow of work through the facility. For example, the company has invested in equipment that can print and shape bags in one process, as opposed to printing bags and then running them through a separate machine to shape them.

“We have put our money where our mouth is,” James says.

Green Initiative

As with the trash bags it developed for the Seattle Mariners, Pak-Sher is leading the way in creating compostable bags that can be used for trash as well as carry-out bags and food preparation products. Gebhardt says there is more interest in compostable products than in products with recycled content.

One challenge is helping customers understand what type of sustainable products makes sense for them. “A large part of our role is educating our customers and educating consumers,” he explains.

Through the company’s education efforts and its devotion to being a customer-centered manufacturer, James says he’s confident Pak-Sher will continue to be a major presence in the industry for years to come. “We are the premier printer of bags for the foodservice industry,” he says.