The Art and Science of Packaging

Written by Mark Golombek

Packaging is a crucial element of how products are perceived. It is something we commonly take for granted, but there is an art form to packaging…
Bellwyck specializes in unique, turnkey packaging solutions for many industries, including high end cosmetics and fragrance as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare sector. We had the opportunity to speak with President John McVeigh about the company’s stellar reputation and ability to remain humble.

In today’s challenging marketplace everyone is looking for an edge to succeed. Think about how important packaging is to deciding upon a purchase. Top brands understand that two-thirds of consumers try a new product because it catches their eye. Therefore, the packaging is that first impression that can lead to a lifelong devotion. It is also essential to communicating security, safety and the authenticity of a product for a consumer.

Bellwyck started out as two companies, Bellshire and Van Wyck. Both have been around for decades, but in 2007, they merged to become Bellwyck Packaging. Both companies have storied histories and have grown from small businesses into large operations, with seven plants throughout Canada, the U.S., and Europe. It has about 425 employees around the globe, with the majority centred in Canada.

“Currently, we are seeing significant growth in both our divisions. We specialize in two business segments. The first focuses on the pharmaceutical and healthcare packaging space, which includes a Pharma Services division,” says John.

One unique aspect of the Pharma Services division is that Bellwyck manages the lifecycle of packaging for pharmaceutical and healthcare applications. For example, its clinical trials branch provides clinical trial packaging and project management when a client comes up with a new therapy and wants to test its efficacy.

“We manage every aspect of clinical trial packaging, including consulting, project management and reporting. We are able to take organizations through all phases of clinical trials, and upon successful approval of their drug product, can then provide them with the necessary packaging services for a successful commercial launch,” says John.

Bellwyck also has a contract packaging division that provides primary and secondary packaging services such as bottling, blistering and pouching for solid dose products. This enables pharmaceutical companies to outsource a full end to end solution from early stage development to full commercialization.

In addition to the Pharma Services division, Bellwyck provides the pharmaceutical industry a full turnkey solution for all printed components through its Printed Packaging division. “This is what helps to make us one of the premier packaging companies in Canada,” says John.

Bellwyck is one of the most sought after firms in this industry. The company has an in-depth understanding of what it takes to design a folding carton, to build it properly, make it stand out on a shelf, and exceed all compliance, safety and environmental standards.

It is truly one of the few companies that can be part of the total evolution of a pharmaceutical or healthcare product throughout its entire lifecycle.

“Our experience in the full life cycle of a pharmaceutical and healthcare product gives us a unique insight into what our customers require. We understand the stringent controls of clinical trials when a drug is first being tested and apply that same attention to detail and standard operating procedures in all that we do. Through our contract packaging facility, we know firsthand the critical need to optimize a carton design to run efficiently on an automated packaging line as well as the different substrates available to maximize cost efficiency and value. We also learned how to optimize shipments of the finished goods to the retailers as we do this for a number of our customers as well. We are not a box company who imagines what it is like – we live what our clients live every day and this is one of the reasons why the majority of top healthcare and pharma companies choose Bellwyck,” says John.

Recently, Bellwyck has added serialization capabilities to support the global demand for better traceability of the drug supply. Serialization programs support government initiatives for ‘track and trace’ to protect the drug supply chain from counterfeit medicine, or drugs being sold on the grey market. Serialization tracks a product through the entire supply chain using a unique identifying number on every packaging.

“We have invested heavily in our Pharma division, surrounding it with the proper services, standard operating procedures, and innovations which our clients need to drive safety, compliance, as well as being able to stand out on the shelf,” says John. The company is up to any challenge and prides itself on doing that which others cannot.

One of these challenges deals with lead times, especially in the pharmaceutical division which sometimes deals with very short lead times. John tells me that the company’s success with lead times stems from its experiences of being in Canada. It does business around the world and has had to become very efficient and responsive with quick lead times and high quality.

“We had a situation where a client needed something within a two-to-three-day period. This is virtually unheard of in this kind of world, and we were able to turn it around for them in twenty-four hours,” says John.

Bellwyck does not promote this kind of service, as that is not a regular occurrence, but this is an example of how things just get done. Clients know that they can ask for almost anything, and chances, are it will be accomplished. There are some things that the company does that nobody else can within the industry.

This is especially impressive in the pharmaceutical division where it is mandatory to comply with all government regulations. All the SOPs and protocols must be in place, and employees understand the responsibility they have. “The training and protocols we have in place are very strict and embraced by every employee. It is so ingrained in our culture it is just who we are,” says John.

Bellwyck is very proud to have the confidence of most of the top drug companies in the world. This is due in large part because its checks and measures, including the track and trace technology, serialization, braille and other measures that are valued but difficult to find with other companies.

The company’s second area of expertise in Printed Packaging is the premium division. Here it specializes in high-end cosmetics and some of the higher-end confectionary and spirits. These products include anywhere you can imagine seeing a premium folding carton or rigid box.

“This is where we play! We have an unparalleled array of finishes, and no one in the industry has the number of different finishes that we possess in-house that can be produced,” says John.

Bellwyck has everything from finishes that create a raindrop effect to a bunny train for a high-end Easter chocolate to a ‘smart click’ box, which is a carton with a type of closure that ‘clicks’ closed as if by a magnet. In one case, a customer that wanted something called flocking – a soft velvet-like finish – on a carton. It is very difficult to accomplish, but this is one of the few companies in North America that can pull it off.

“From our finishes and structural design, it really is unparalleled in the industry. Most clients come in with a design and say, ‘We need you to do this as no one else seems to know how to.’ They come to us, and we always figure out a way to help them in doing something that is really unique and stands out on the shelf,” says John.

Bellwyck has a full-time staff member whose focus is on innovation catering to the industry by constantly seeking out the latest ideas and he is supported by an entire creative team.

The creative, pre-press, and structural design team have people with over twenty years of experience in the industry. They bring in a host of different backgrounds and experiences, and when a client comes out with an idea, they are ready for it. They can reach back to similar projects from the past and update it or add a twist. “We have the ability to make people say, ‘Wow! That is truly amazing!’” says John.

An example of the company’s innovative prowess is when a major indie cosmetic brand asked the top premium printed packaging companies to come up with a unique packaging concept for the launch of their new brand. Six premium packaging companies all submitted their concepts and they were all intermixed in the middle of a table. The brand owner proceeded to choose carton after carton off the table of the Bellwyck concepts – and Bellwyck won the business. “Our creative and structural design team are truly amazing at what they do,” says John.

Among its portfolio of services and products is Bellwyck’s work with horticultural packaging as well. In the horticultural world with big box stores selling plants, flowers, and other associated products, growers are trying to find ways to differentiate themselves. Everyone is selling the same flower, but why would one be more desirable than any other?

“We have been able to design some high-end carrier packaging, so you can actually get a four-pack or a six-pack of flowers. We also design it so that your brand or some of the traits that you want to be put into the marketplace are there,” says John.

Bellwyck has come up with a new water-resist package material for plants. Since stores that carry plants need to water them frequently, a cardboard box will begin to disintegrate after two or three watering’s.

This board whisks the water away so that plants can remain completely healthy during their time on the shelf. It also makes the product stand out, and people are more apt to buy six flowers that are conveniently packaged than finding a carrier for individually potted plants.

The company takes sustainability very seriously. It cares about the well-being of its people, the communities it serves and the environment. For the environment, it uses Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) approved board.

“We have an in-house recycling program that we’ve designed. We have a team of people who focus on that through our in-house recycling program and our sustainable packaging initiatives. We have reduced, by eighty percent, the waste materials going to landfills over the last eight years. This is a significant improvement for the environment,” says John.

A main goal at Bellwyck is to continually strive to better serve the environment and the communities with which it works. In its most recent project, it installed LED lighting throughout all its plants. This ends up saving over 25,000 trees per year due to the energy savings being created.

As to the future of technology and innovation, John says that it depends on where everyone is driving at any given moment in time. It could be about packaging more smartly or helping customers to develop some sort of smart packaging solution to authenticate a product.

“It tells the consumer that it is legitimate. We have several solutions that will allow consumers and/or the stores themselves to authenticate that none of the product has been stolen or copied with reprinting. This happens a lot, especially in the cosmetics space,” says John.

This is a huge issue, and Bellwyck has upcoming several solutions to deal effectively with it. These may involve consumers using smartphones to interact with the package they acquire. “This is the future, and we’ve got some exciting initiatives coming out in the next six months which will highlight some of these issues,” says John.

Despite the obvious market growth and success, Bellwyck remains modest. John says it starts with the company’s roots. “Part of our original growth began with a small cosmetic brand and only three or four people sitting in the owner’s office, trying to figure out how to launch their brand. They have now gone on to become a very large $2 billion cosmetic brand – one of the top brands in the world – and we learned early on that you must take care of the customer first and always. We live that every day,” says John.

He goes on to say that he sees this industry is divided into three different camps. One is a very small operator with an owner-operator mentality where they will do whatever it takes to keep customers and make them happy. However, they often times are not large enough to scale for larger accounts.

Then there are the big conglomerates, accumulating companies as they go. What John sees in the marketplace is a bit of a shift as many people are starting to complain how they feel like small fish in these large corporate ponds and that there are three to four layers of people to get through before decisions can be made.

“We feel that we are in this sweet spot where we are large enough to scale, but still small enough to care. I may be the president, but most of our accounts have my e-mail, and a lot of them have my mobile number. If a client ever wanted to pick up the phone and talk to me, they can. Or they can talk to the CFO, our designer, our mechanical engineer – anyone and everyone is available to help our clients succeed,” says John.



Recycled Rubber and Plastic Bottles

Read Our Current Issue


Daisy Chains and Golden Gates

April 2024

The World in a Grain of Sand

March 2024

Harvesting the Sun

February 2024

More Past Editions

Featured Articles