As the world’s largest consumer of packaging materials, Santa Claus LLC (North Pole) knows a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t in printed, converted packaging. Despite the last-minute holiday rush, I reached company president Kris Kringle, who generously spent some time by satellite phone with The Converting Curmudgeon.
CC: What trends do you see in Christmas-present packaging and gift-wrapping materials?
KK: For centuries, of course, it was paper and only paper. But lately, we’re starting to order millions of printed polyethylene bags. A lot of those are coextruded, multilayer types for added strength. Kristina [Mrs. Claus] even suggested that I trade in the old cloth bag I use for deliveries for one of these stretchable-plastic bags. I think she’s just tired of sewing it back together every Dec. 26th.
CC: Has the sustainability concept affected your business?
KK: Of course. There’s the pro-paper vs. the pro-plastic arguments, and we are down-gauging our paperboard and film structures for source reduction. But, I’m seriously thinking about returning to the time when we just put the bare toys into “stockings hung by the chimney with care.” That would certainly save on materials costs. As they say, less is more.
CC: That would also pretty much kill any future business
for packaging converters with you, though, wouldn’t it?
KK: But not for label converters. Each and every toy still needs a gift tag. In fact, I’m especially grateful to the world’s labelmakers (and that good boy Stanton Avery) for inventions such as pressure-sensitive tags. Our insurance costs went through the roof years ago from elves getting carpal tunnel syndrome by hand-tying all those old-fashioned stringed tags to the toys.
CC: Have printed electronics impacted your operations yet?
KK: We long since switched over completely to active RFID-tagging of everything in the warehouse. And I mean item-level, not just the pallet loads, otherwise how can you properly track the exact order for each specific child. I’m proud to say we did it all years before Walmart.
CC: Lastly, any advice for converters thinking about doing business with Santa Claus LLC?
KK: We’ll always be “the world’s greatest packager.” Bring us new ideas, new concepts, new samples. We’re making toys for about four billion boys and girls annually; we don’t have time to figure out the packaging materials, too. Oh, and a cut-rate price wouldn’t hurt either…after all, it’s for the children.
Photo credit: Rankin / Bass