In April I attended a new industry event, ProFood Tech, that hosted the official launch of the HPP Council, formed to promote networking among professionals involved in high-pressure processing. That was where I chatted with the principals of Merrimack Valley Plastics, LLC (Methuen, MA), regarding the company’s expertise within the fast-growing HPP bottle market. In this exclusive Q&A, MVP president John Panagiotakos provides answers to a wide range of questions about the company’s bottles and HPP as well as his view on industry opportunities, pain points and “wild card” factors. This article launches a regular profile in PlasticsToday spotlighting diverse companies producing plastics packaging.
How would you describe MVP in 2-3 sentences?
Panagiotakos: MVP is a packaging company that prides itself on providing solution based packaging. Our commitment is to offer the easiest path and the best value for customers looking to get into PET packaging. Simple, Effective, Responsive is how we like to approach our day to day business.
What makes MVP unique?
Panagiotakos: Knowledge based solutions – speed to market – attainable minimum entry levels for custom packaging as well as stocking programs of hundreds of containers strategically located throughout the US. We partner with’ like minded’ companies that appreciate the customer relationship and deliver on that commitment. Our fast-paced bottle design to commercialization, averaging 4-6 weeks for custom container, provides a distinct advantage for our customers that is second to none in the industry. Finally the single tier bag and Silgan 38DBJ programs that we pioneered for the PET business have created a unique business model that continues to grow at very rapid rates year over year.
What are your key product and geographic markets?
Panagiotakos: High pressure processed (HPP) cold pressed juices, in-store juicing programs, dairy-based products and marinades are focus areas for MVP. We serve the entire U.S. and Canadian market with strategically located manufacturing and distribution partners.
Tell us more about the HPP market.
Panagiotakos: HPP continues to expand in many beverage categories—we are constantly challenged with developing new packaging designs. Keeping up with all the possible products that are moving towards HPP has been exciting for our brand. We have made it our business to understand all the attributes that can effect package integrity whether it is bottle design, resin distribution throughout the package, how the containers are handled at the HPP provider, how the ingredients going into the package will respond based on their make-up. Once we have a clear picture we can make a recommendation from our current and growing portfolio of more than 60 different containers.
What are your best growth opportunities?
Panagiotakos: Our market growth has been driven our ability to respond to the voice of the customer and anticipate their needs. We have invested in developing families of products for our customers to select and make it easy for them to gain access through our stocking program. Our on-time delivery with minimum lead time and flexibility to meet increasing demands has been a key component to our success. The best opportunities for us to sustain our growth is to keep listening and evolving with the customer/market as we recognize an impending demand and to be in position to capitalize. We will also be looking to take this model to the hot-fill PET bottle category – providing unique designs and families at entry levels that will allow the smaller companies access and the mid to large companies the scale they need to introduce new products with minimal entry cost to market.
Your biggest pain point is…
Panagiotakos: Assuring we have capacity at our partners manufacturing sites to keep up with the growth is always a concern. However, we have developed short-term and long-term plans for growth that we believe will serve us and our customers very well over the next three to five years.
What’s a "wild card factor" in the market?
Panagiotakos: The only headwind we see on the horizon is on the regulatory side on HPP beverages – we continue to be active in trying to gain insight to whether there will be any requirement that will impact packaging. We have already worked with Health Canada to understand their requirements for chemical migration in HPP; the intensive testing that confirmed that our packages were compliant to their rigid standards.
What’s your newest product?
Panagiotakos: Recently we rolled out a full line of 2-, 3- and 4-ounce energy shots for HPP with several different sizes round and square in 26mm, 28mm and 38mm neck finishes (shown). This is a fast-growing segment with a variety of choices again at very low minimum order requirements. They are tested and proven in HPP.
What’s your latest production investment?
Panagiotakos: We have three manufacturing investments underway:
1. We have invested in a significant number of molds on current bottle designs to increase cavitation on existing manufacturing systems to open up space and increase manufacturing at a production rate of 50% and more.
2. We have added additional single-tier bagging at several manufacturing sites which again expands capacity and flexibility on our unique “ready to use,” environmentally preferred pack-out option.
3. We have started ordering all new mold sets with additional neck finish options and will be adding to most existing molds the capability to run multiple neck finishes across many containers—this will help with aligning the closure design with customers’ filling/capping operations.
Panagiotakos: We are actively engaged with testing and validating bottles and caps through HPP to offer more science around the packaging we recommend to our customers. We continue to enhance our manufacturing partner relationships and develop better solutions for our customers. Expanding our social media presence and intelligence—we have committed to exploring the different outlets as a tool to communicate new and exciting products introduced by MVP.
Panagiotakos: We are a relatively young company entering our 6th year, however collectively we have decades of experience within our organization in filling, capping, conveying and ingredients that allow MVP to be more than just a package provider. Our team provides practical knowledge and solutions based on experience that assures we are supplying the right package for the application. Our growing customer base and customer retention is an acknowledgement that we are on the right track.
For more information, visit www.mvp-plastics.com