Packaging company finds cartons a natural choice
Jenni Spinner, Senior Editor -- Packaging Digest, 10/1/2012 12:35:00 PM
California Natural Products is a privately held company, founded by owner Pat Mitchell in 1980. It started out as a product development company, moved into manufacturing of organic rice syrup, then created a recipe for rice milk. Then, in 1996, it used the rice milk formula to move into Tetra Pak cartons. Over the course of the next two decades, California Natural Products evolved into a world class contract manufacturing business for non-dairy, low-acid aseptic products, all of which are packaged in Tetra Pak packages.
The company is headquartered in Lathrop, CA, running a 300,000-sq-ft, state-of-the-art natural foods facility. It is situated on the site once occupied by the farm that Mitchell's grandfather built back in 1942, where he specialized in growing honeydews and other types of melons. In 1980, the former farm served as the birthplace of California Natural Products.
Today, the company serves more than 75 clients packaging a range of aseptic products, including rice milk, soy milk, UHT milk, wine, soups, nutritional beverages, coconut waters and several other products. The company runs a total of 13 packaging lines. Packages offered include:
• 1,000 mL Tetra Brik Aseptic
• 1,000 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic
• 750 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic
• 500 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic
• 330 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic
• 250 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic
• 1.5 L Tetra Gemina Aseptic
In addition, California Natural Products recently acquired a Tetra Recart filling line. The retorted carton system will enable the company to capture business for clients looking to package particulated products, such as soups, pasta sauces and prepared meals. The yet-to-be installed packaging line is scheduled to begin commercial packaging production in July 2013.
California Natural Products specializes in products it says improve the wellness of consumers. Its stated mission is to improve the health of consumers with better-tasting, nourishing and convenient foods at a good value, without taking measures that may compromise quality or harm the environment. The team at
California Natural Products works to encourage the public to eat healthfully through providing organic and natural ingredients with good nutrition.
The company's goal to ply the public with a wealth of natural, healthful food and beverage options matches up with another goal: maximizing environmental sustainability. In August 2011, the company issued its first Corporate Social Responsibility Report, in which it outlined its efforts to implement business practices that benefit the environment, community and consumers. In addition to implementing eco-friendly and responsible programs, such as improving water use at its facilities and reducing waste, the company uses Tetra Pak containers, which can be recycled and weigh less than many other packaging formats.
J. Michael Kirk joined California Natural Products in 2009, serving in the role of svp of business development
When he joined the company, he brought with him a deep familiarity with Tetra Pak's packaging philosophy and product offerings.
"I worked with Tetra Pak for 15 years, starting in Canada, then in Panama, then in a Tetra Pak product company called Tetra Rex, then back into Tetra Pak in various locations in the U.S.," Kirk says. "Therefore, I have a good understanding of our customers, our competitors, Tetra Pak and the aseptic packaging industry."
California Natural Products itself has a 16-year-long history of working with Tetra Pak, and the company is constantly incorporating new packaging and components into its operation. Among the recently added packaging shapes and sizes: the 330-mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic package, with a DreamCap closure.
"The DreamCap opening is a more consumerfriendly opening, which makes it easy to drink from the package, and still gives the consumer the option to reclose the package and throw it in a gym bag for later consumption," Kirk says.
California Natural Products has worked closely with clients and Tetra Pak in generating, developing and incorporating new packaging ideas and solutions. The roster of recent partnership projects includes developing the 1.5 L Tetra Gemina Aseptic package for the North American market. This new package offers a gable-top appearance, which helps products in the cartons fit in nicely with other conventional cartons in refrigerated dairy cases, but it also has the advantage of being able to be shipped and stored in ambient temperatures.
California Natural Products also packages a significant number of wines; it is the only manufacturer of wines in a Tetra Pak package in the U.S. The company's proximity to California wine country gives it a unique advantage in doing businesses with premium wineries. It also enables the company to attain organically grown, locally sourced grapes and keep in line with its sustainability goals.
"We've seen quite a large percentage growth in the last 12 to 24 months," Kirk says. "Ours is a unique story-being this close to the raw materials (the grapes) enables us to do business with all the big and small wine companies in the area."
Kirk says that significant among current wine trends is that high-end producers are increasingly joining their affordable-level producer counterparts and putting their premium products in alternative packaging, like a 3-L bag-in-box.
The challenge in that plan is that companies charging around $25 for a bag-in-box of wine have to compete on the shelf with previously established products that tend to offer a much lower price tag. For that reason, various wine companies working with California Natural Products have decided to launch some of their wines in "testers" using 500 mL Tetra Prisma Aseptic cartons. One happy result of that effort: Consumers are clamoring for more of the conveniently-sized portable cartons.
Cream of the crop
California Natural Products also recently jumped into offering dairy products. One of the company's goals is to explore the possibility of exporting milk to the booming Chinese market and creating its own brand of different milk products.
"It's been a breakout year, and we're enjoying great growth with dairy," Kirk says. "We're doing organic milk, conventional milk and nutritional beverages for both branded products and the private-label industry. We are also just starting to gain a direct relationship with most of the major retailers. Because we produce such a broad range of products, we're launching numerous aseptic projects, as well as long-term projects with Tetra Recart packaging."
To help streamline current operations and future Tetra Recart business, California Natural Products is building an automated warehouse across the street from its manufacturing plant, through its sister company, Power Automation Systems. It will open its doors in 2013.
"The exciting thing about that is, the whole automation process-moving away from forklift trucks and drivers and labor-intensive work to fully automated plants-enables us to drive towards our low-cost producer strategy," Kirk says.
Power Automation Systems grew out of a desire for automated material handling solutions that could keep up with the growing demand and the hectic pace. Owner Mitchell was looking for a warehouse operation system that was less costly, more productive, environmentally sustainable and less of a drain on resources. The PowerStor cart-based automated storage and retrieval system reportedly facilitates high throughput of large quantities of multiple size loads in small or odd-shaped facilities. It also reportedly costs less to purchase and operate than comparable systems and can handle up to 400 pallets per hour per module.
More information is available:
California Natural Products, 209-858-2525. www.cnp.com
Power Automation Systems, 209-249-1616. www.powerautomationsystems.com
Tetra Pak, 847-955-6000. www.tetrapak.com
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