As a “fairly large company with a small company feel,” Whitlock Packaging remains dedicated to the needs of its customers, explains Mike Guidry, vice president of business development. Whitlock Packagiing has 900 employees and more than 1,000 when it uses temporary labor, but the management team still knows the local people and everyone works together to serve customers. Management understands that advanced technology is important, but its people create the value. This helps drive a culture where quality is paramount and service is constant.
“Because of our size, we are one of the largest hot-fill copackers in the country,” Guidry says. “On some lines, we produce 50,000 cases each day. We have the capabilities to produce large volumes very rapidly and customers appreciate that. But we still act like a small company – customers can come right to the decision makers when they need something.”
Based in Tulsa, Okla., Whitlock Packaging has three facilities – one at its headquarters and in New Jersey and Florida – where it specializes in hot-fill copacking of beverages. The company also has cold-fill lines for energy drinks, juice box lines and gallon jug lines. In New Jersey and Florida, it has 64-ounce hot fill lines. The business dates back to 1980 when Jerry Whitlock, along with other investors, acquired a small, one-line canning operation. By 1987, Whitlock had acquired all of the operation’s shares and began expanding to what the company is today.
“Recently, we’ve enhanced our plastic bottle capabilities with new sizes and shapes, we added shrink labels because of growing demand and we’ve enhanced our juice box capabilities,” Guidry says. “We’re also doing more of premium versions of what we do now. About 60 percent of our operation covers ready-to-drink teas and juices, but we’ve improved our capabilities so we can do more premium versions of what we already do.”
Flexibility and Agility
Consumers are “trading up” to more premium products, Guidry explains, noting they want “better ingredients, higher juice content and more exotic ingredients” in their beverages. It goes without saying, he adds, that quality is important in the premium market, but quality is paramount to Whitlock Packaging, regardless of the market it serves. The company employs HACCP, GNP, USDA, organic, kosher, allergens and security compliance procedures, as well as practices in document control, traceability, analytical techniques, pest control, sanitation, ingredient and packaging inspection, audits and several other support programs.
“Quality is every day, but our customers have fluctuating demand and we help them meet those fluctuations as often as possible,” Guidry says. “That is where our value lies. You have to have quality just to be in this game, and we meet the highest standards of the Global Food Initiative. All of our facilities are SQF3 certified, which is the highest rating there is.”
Whitlock Packaging takes pride in its flexibility and agility, which it combines with a comprehensive capability list to best serve its customers. The company produces teas, diet teas and other diet drinks, juice drinks, nectars, waters, water beverages, energy drinks, isotonics, sports drinks, smoothies, organic beverages, kosher beverages and functional beverages, all of which are blended in house. Some of Whitlock Packaging’s capabilities include producing more than 400 product and package combinations; performing quick changeovers; possessing extensive aseptic, PET, cans and glass capabilities; and having shrink, full wrap, neckband and spot packaging labelers.
Additionally, Whitlock Packaging is dedicated to ensuring its customers will receive:
- 100 percent first-time quality on products;
- 100 percent on-time and complete order fulfillment;
- Aggressive support for each brand holder to ensure competitive and fair costs on all products;
- Strategic product innovation services during project start-up of new brands.
“We believe we will gain growth from all of our various initiatives,” Guidry says. “We plan to grow our volume, as well as grow our customer base.”