Poly Print is a Tucson, Arizona-based flexographic printer, laminator, and pouch converter. This description may sound mundane—but it’s anything but that. In fact, Poly Print and the entire flexographic printing and flexible packaging industry are essential to keeping our modern world running safely.
“It’s one of these industries that flies under the radar and goes unseen,” says Owner Joe Genova. “But when you look around in your grocery store, or your convenience store, it’s all around you. Flexible packaging is everywhere.”
A whopping seventy percent of the flexible packaging market is used for food products, Genova explains, while the remainder is used for consumer products such as laundry detergent, industrial and medical applications. “So it really is all around you, but no one really knows about the industry.”
Though often unrecognized, flexible packaging is vital to the food chain and distribution. “We’re really an integral part of the food supply chain; food manufacturers could not deliver food to the stores, and ultimately the consumers, without packaging. If that wasn’t significant enough, packaging’s number one priority is to protect the product inside and keep our food safe, which makes our industry essential. Imagine if all our food was exposed before it was bought, and not just at the store, but all the way through the distribution line. [Imagine] the foodborne diseases and illnesses that would come with that. You’d have a lot of sick people around. So, number one, packaging protects the product that’s in there.”
Flexible packaging also allows consumers to know exactly what they are purchasing. “We see this in the ingredients printed on the package or the nutrition facts,” says Genova. “Many brands are even taking it a step further with printed QR codes which, when scanned, will elaborate on the origin of each ingredient. So there’s transparency that’s created through printing.”
In addition, flexible packaging is key to keeping the price of food down. “It allows us to distribute food products all over the country at a fraction of the cost,” Genova says. “So when you think about how important [a role] packaging plays in just our food cost, it is really remarkable.” In fact, flexible packaging, along with advanced logistics, is why the average cost of food in America is roughly 15 percent of a family’s household income. Comparatively, in other countries, food costs can be as high as 60 to 70 percent of the household budget.
Inc. Magazine recognized Poly Print’s critical role by putting the company on its Best in Business 2021 list for the food and beverage category, a coveted honor shared by only 196 of the most inspiring companies in America. That same year, Poly Print also made the Inc. 5000, which recognizes the fastest growing companies in the United States. While appreciative of earning a spot on the 5,000, the Best in Business title “actually is a lot more significant to us than even making the Inc. 5000 list,” Genova says. “That recognition has nothing to do with your growth, or your revenue, or your profits—none of that. It only has to do with what your impact is on society and the human race… It is humbling and creates a strong feeling of responsibility that not just Poly Print but flexible packaging is recognized as an industry that has the biggest impacts on humanity.”
Poly Print earned the recognition as “Best in Business” during the pandemic, when it was named an essential business necessary to keep food on American tables. Genova remembers that, during that stressful time, the federal government emphasized that the nation “cannot shut down the food supply chain and all the companies that support food supply. That’s just not an option.” The declaration made a strong impact on the entire company.
Employees all stepped up to keep supplying essential packaging to the food supply chain. Despite the risks, “our people came to work,” Genova recalls. “Our team worked long hours but we made it happen and we delivered to our customers, who ultimately delivered to stores and to the consumers.”
In addition, flexible packaging is environmentally friendly. “Flexible packaging is the sustainable option,” Genova explains. “Before printing on plastics, paper was the packaging of choice. Public perception turned negative when the narrative to print on paper meant cutting down trees. In addition, paper weighs more, yielding fewer packages. The solution was plastic films, which are predominantly used today in food packaging applications. There is an array of benefits when using plastics in packaging. Some benefits includes that it is a source reduction when compared to packaging formats, which is not only sustainable but reduces packaging weight, reducing cost and storage as well as transport size. In addition, it has the lowest tare weight ratio of any packaging, is responsible for reducing food waste, and extends the shelf life of many products, which ultimately reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”
Rigid containers, aluminum cans, and corrugated are other forms packaging and are more costly and less sustainable for the environment. Flexible packaging is the sustainable option comparatively. The developments in packaging technology are only getting better as there are now recyclable, compostable and post-consumer recycled options available. “These are all things that contribute to this circular economy that’s really important to people nowadays,” says Genova.
Poly Print is a family business, established by the Genova family in 1992. Joe was brought up in the business from an early age. “I was 10 years old when I got involved,” he remembers. “I grew up in the business, learning it, and had two really good teachers, which were my father and my mother.” Ron, Joe’s father, had extensive background in the industry, while Elsie brought her experience in administration, compliance, and finance, along with many other skills, to the table. “She is the backbone of the company and a really instrumental part to the success of the company,” says Genova.
One aspect that sets the company apart is a commitment to keeping promises. “We’re very focused on on-time deliveries, which is a really element of our industry, of most industries,” Genova says. This attitude extends to include a focus on customer satisfaction overall. Out of seven specific priorities outlined by the company, “most of those are around customer service—providing extraordinary customer service as well as providing on-time delivery.”
The team goes the extra mile to ensure that whatever product a customer needs is always on hand. “We maintain a significant amount of inventory on the floor, which is not very common to do because it’s expensive and requires a lot of warehouse capacity to do it,” Genova explains. But it is another one of the key reasons that the team is able to deliver on their promises.
Poly Print maintains a focus on food safety and upholding the best manufacturing practices. The company has been SQF certified for both food safety and quality since 2014. Prior to that, it held a superior rating from AIB starting in 2006, and its facility is registered with the FDA. The company upholds the highest printing standards and is certified by GMI, Graphics Measures International, which is recognized by many brand owners as the most rigorous printing standard to achieve and maintain.
This level of commitment continues to earn recognition and Poly Print has just received another award, this time acknowledging the company’s importance within the State of Arizona. The Arizona Manufacturers Council (AMC) and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce named Poly Print Small Manufacturer of the Year at the 2022 Manufacturer of the Year Awards in October.
When considering the future, it is clear that the flexographic printing and flexible packaging industry will continue to play a key role in the food supply chain. “There is no doubt that this industry will continue to grow and ultimately become the packaging format of choice for brand owners,” Genova says. “As a whole, our demand here is higher than it’s ever been.”
The team is eager to keep going in the same direction they have been headed within this growing industry—a direction that has earned numerous awards and brought continued growth. “We plan to continue to grow, expand our footprint and continue to be the leader in flexographic printing and flexible packaging, and to continue to provide jobs to our community and be a good business within our community. We don’t plan to stop anytime soon; we will continue to innovate, invest in our business, and provide value to our customers.”