HAPPY CO-EXISTENCE

A trio of promises kept helps turn a humble Toronto co-packer into a North American destination for brand owners looking for a winning retail solution
ANDREW JOSEPH, FEATURES EDITOR PHOTOGRAPHY: COLE GARSIDE

Finding out you received a ‘D’ on your high school report card would never be considered anything to be proud of, but for one west-end Toronto company, successfully achieving three D’s means a job well done for both itself and for its customers.


Co-Pak Packaging Corp
., is one of North America’s premier co-packing firms, providing co-packing and display solutions to well-known and well-respected partners throughout Canada and the U.S.—but doing so in a defining manner that seems to separate it from the competition.

Co-Pak Packaging was founded in 1999 by Roy Whiston, a businessman who has led both private and public companies in Canada, but possesses a diverse business skill set that combined with hardwork once led him to build his own 80-foot pirate ship—but rather than plunder the main, he used it to cater to the tourist trade as a popular destination down in South America.


Perhaps preferring to be the captain of his own destiny, Whiston along with business partner Mike Shriqui have created Co-Pak Packaging to be something more than a company that will simply re-package product, instead establishing a business that is not only a preferred destination for customers— many in the Fortune 500 circle—seeking copacking work and more, but as an environment where people enjoy coming in to work.


“Co-Pak is the co-packing, display and supply chain partner of choice to some of Canada’s leading national and multi-national brands,” Co-Pak president Whiston told Canadian Packaging magazine during a recent visit to their spotless 150,000-square-foot facility. “We have developed great partnerships with our customers because we have a 100 per cent commitment to the end result through quality, integrity and teamwork.”


“It’s an end result that focuses on the product’s performance in-store.


“To get to that result, it starts with the first call and involves the gathering of details and a vision of what success needs to look like. For us, success does not simply end with the last delivery of product,” says Whiston, “but rather our job extends out, with the client defining the best solution for the product’s performance in-store.

“It’s my belief that it’s this dedication to the customer and passion for doing the job well, that both drives the Co-Pak team, and separates us from Co-Pak Packaging’s co-owner Mike Shriqui (left) and coowner and President Roy Whiston stand in front of their 150,000-square-foot facility in Toronto’s west-end. others in the industry.” A heady boast indeed, but Whiston and Shriqui not only have the self-confidence to back it up, they possess 50 full-time employees—120 when it gets extra busy—who have bought into the company ethos of ‘quality, integrity and teamwork’.


All for One


“All of us at Co-Pak—and I mean all of us—are committed to rolling up our sleeves and doing whatever is necessary to ensure every job gets done properly and on time,” explains Shriqui, “regardless of the complexity, difficulty or time constraints.”

The co-packing aspect has been the main focus of the company since its inception, performing yeoman’s duty for a vast array of clientele involved in such industries as: pharmaceutical, food & beverage, technology, QSR (quick service restaurants), health and beauty, business supplies and home improvement.

According to Whiston, when the company first started out, it followed the typical co-packer path, simply taking four or five products, placing them in a box and doing it well. “But, we quickly found out that the reason copackers exist is because the customer is stretched— either physically for space, by time constraints, available equipment or shortages of manpower and that they could actually use more help from Co-Pak, than us merely stuffing a box,” Whiston adds.

For Co-Pak Packaging that meant becoming more involved in the full logistics of the co-packing project—and helping them alleviate many of those Two examples of retail-ready displays defined, designed and delivered by Co-Pak Packaging and its d3 concept. nagging details that can quickly derail an otherwise successful project: arranging the delivery of products from various suppliers to then putting it all together, and then arranging warehousing or transportation of the finished product to a distribution center or directly to the retail f loor. “We aim to alleviate many of these potential painpoints,” exclaims Shriqui. “We take the logistics hassle away from our customers so that they can concentrate on their own high-level activities.”


For the Co-Pak Packaging customer, that special logistics aspect could include anything from budgeting to in-store merchandising and how to make everything run like clockwork and become a key part of a customer’s business. Co-Pak Packaging operates in a huge facility,

Workers at Co-Pak Packaging wrap and seal coffee cups and lids for a co-packing promotion for one of its customers utilizing plastic film supplied by long-time supplier Canpaco Inc.


Using film from Canpaco, an Orion palletwrapper quickly wraps a skid of Sapporo beer. 
with 50,000 square feet devoted to production and assembly, and the bulk of the remainder earmarked for warehousing. “Being involved in supply chain management is something we are quite proud off,” suggests Whiston, “but in order to solve the challenges of the customer, we need to provide a wide range of services, be f lexible in the depth of the services provided, and then do it all well. Even once the co-packing is complete, Co-Pak isn’t necessarily done in its role, as it also provides access to ambient or refrigerated warehousing, storing finished goods until it is required somewhere else. Shriqui explains that “Co-Pak’s adaptive supply chain solutions are always based on thinking that best blends its experience, insights and capabilities with our partners’ supply chain infrastructure.


“We work within the customer’s system, which 
is what makes a successful program or campaign.” The latest initiative from Co-Pak Packaging that further separates it from the competition is its new d3 business unit, dedicated to providing product display solutions.


“Although we had been doing it for years and only officially came up with a unique brand name and identity for it earlier this year, we have been performing d3 duty a long time, and we do it well,” explains Whiston, noting that “there is a huge jump in complexity from putting things in boxes to providing effective product display solutions.”


According to Whiston, almost from the beginning, the company became involved in design when customers began asking for advice on packaging and display details. 
And, whether accidentally or on purpose, Co-Pak Packaging seemed to have within its own coffers a plethora of people with great design skills and instore merchandising knowledge, relates Whiston, “and soon enough we began to sit at a different table with our customers, and began to really develop packaging and display options with them.”


Cost Factor

Feedback provided on packaging with the intent of making the co-packing process more efficient has not just led to packaging savings for its customers, but also co-packing efficiencies that netted lower revenues for Co-Pak Packaging. “We’re okay with this,” admits Whiston. “We want to build long-term partnerships with our customers. As a partner, we want to look for ways to increase their retail presence, their shopper connections and ultimately their ROI (return on investment); to add an overall business value and ot just deliver a one-off display program or promotional package.” Co-Pack Packaging is now bringing thought leadership into the equation, says Whiston, whereby d3 will custom ‘define’, ‘design’ and ‘deliver’—the 3 d’s—any type of retail product display to effectively showcase products. “With d3, we give our partners’ products the competitive edge to win at retail by driving sales growth through strong shopper connections,” notes Shriqui. The d3 team seeks to collaborate with its partners, with one eye on providing innovative display solutions and the other eye on product business results.


Shriqui says they source, measure and discover retail insights from across all retail channels— insights on both retailers and shoppers across Canada and the U.S., that will help its partners better sell their products and win at retail.

The journey to the retail f loor is rife with details, and having a team with years of experience has been key to Co-Pak by knowing:

    • how displays actually get shipped or delivered;
    • how they get set-up in-store;
    • where displays can go in-store;
    • how they are merchandised;
    • how different retailer’s shoppers actually shop their stores—being aware of their shopping purpose, preferences, restrictions, opportunities, etc.


“We know that when it comes right down to it, in-store product displays have only a split-second to present a captivating proposition along with their products to convert a shopper to a purchaser,” relates Shriqui. 
“It’s why we start our process with the end-result in mind—preparing products for display, with display designs that deliver ROI to our partners.” Because a d3 solution always begins with a thorough needs-assessment, defining—the first d— the product and its role fully and early on helps d3 be the best possible advocates for the product and the partner.


“Simply put, time spent defining the task can head-off surprises and lead to stronger retail success,” mentions Whiston. 
With regards to design of the display, the second of the three d’s, the key thought taken into every job is that the design must translate into success not just at retail, but all the way to the retail f loor where product and display meets the shopper.


Says Shriqui: “Thanks to a strong foundation of understanding via define, we are able to design practical real-world solutions that relate to strength, stability, durability, ease of transport, assembly and then blend in impactful consumer relevant creative. 
“When we design-in intelligent solutions, we design-out the headaches.”


The last, but certainly not least important ‘d’ in d3 is ‘deliver’, which means presenting f lawless execution, attention to details, 
hands-on management and on-time delivery, everything that Shriqui says Co-Pak had already been passionate about. 


“The result is a competitive edge for our customer to win within their retail environment by driving sales growth through strong shopper connections,” he says adding that from concepts Trays of beer packed for a special promotion by Co-Pak Packaging are sealed with plastic film from Canpaco before passing through a heat tunnel to create a sealed tray-pack.


Co-Pak Packaging uses a Videojet 1210 inkjet coder to apply lot code data to the outside walls of corrugated trays. through to performance at retail, d3 understands that success ultimately means product sales for their customers—it must deliver an acceptable ROI. Along with the keen thoughtful thorough process that helps avoid problems before they can crop up, Co-Pak still has to do the production line work, and although much of the work is labor intensive, top of the line equipment is required to do the job.

During the visit to the Co-Pak Packaging facility, Canadian Packaging observed a few examples of machinery:

    • Videojet 1210 — applies lot code data to trays of product;
    • Orion palletwrapper;
    • Wepackit carton erector/sealer/encoder;
    • RBS sleeve wrapper;
    • ARPAC shrink wrapper;
    • CHEP pallets


While Co-Pak’s in-house equipment is nothing to sneeze at, Whiston says any shortcomings are made up by its long friendship with Canpaco Inc. 
Headquartered in Woodbridge immediately north of Toronto, with an office in St. Laurent, Que. near Montreal, Canpaco is a supplier of any type of packaging, packaging equipment, or packaging-related material, for sale, lease or rent, all the while supplying packaging solutions that work. According to Canpaco president Robert Appel, “We assist Co-Pak Packaging with equipment rentals and will suggest ways to help with any difficult projects.”


Quick Response

Whiston, however, says this relationship goes beyond that: “Our service necessitates that we be quick and agile, and as such we need partners who can support us by reacting the same way. “Canpaco has consistently delivered for us, with Robert Appel loyal to us, and us to them—we believe in loyalty—in relationships and partnerships.”


As well, Canpaco also supplies various films for packaging and shrinkwrapping, including a high performance, biodegradable OXO-Biodegradable pallet wrap, that helps comply with Co-Pack’s insistence of working as green as possible. 
According to Appel, the pallet wrap manufactured by IPG (Intertape Polymer Group) reduces the amount of plastic being added to landfills.


“The OXO-Biodegradable pal let wrap—with its green tinge—is 100 per cent recyclable, and since it has the ability to quickly biodegrade into carbon once in soil, it does not contaminate the recycling stream,” explains Appel. 
Co-Pak’s Shriqui acknowledges that keeping on top of the company’s commitment to sustainability is paramount, and that it fully recycles all paper, corrugate and plastic materials.


Within the co-packing industry, there is a lot of competition, but for Co-Pak, the key has been to not be a factory, but rather to look after the customer first. 
Co-Pak believes that being an active problem-solver and co-operative right-hand resource partner will foster loyalty and win out long-term with their customers.


“It might seem hokey, but that’s how we have been running our business since the beginning,” explains Shriqui. “And although we have grown, we still maintain that our customers know we aren’t a faceless entity.” 
In fact, Whiston takes things a bit further, suggesting: “Co-Pak as a name doesn’t properly define what we do anymore—but d3 does.”


According to Co-Pak Packaging, d3 is likened to a highly committed and intelligent friend, providing an empathetic and creative approach to bettering the life, brands and products of its customers. 


“This is, in essence, d3’s unique proposition,” explains Whiston. 
“It’s a business concept that is unique to the industry, unique to our partners— but it’s not something unique to us. “It’s a methodology of what we believe is right, and is how we conduct ourselves and what we expect of those who make up our team. “It is,” sums up Whiston, “who we are, and how we go about our business day in and day out. “We’re committed to doing things properly for our partners to help them be successful.”