Flexible Packaging Magazine’s first Top Printer of the Year is a start-up company that came to fruition through hard work, networking, long hours, the drive to learn as much about printing as possible, and the goal of making its customers happy.
Popular Ink Corp. is a printer of flexible packaging materials. But if you ask Popular Ink founder and CEO Dru Riess, he would tell you that the company is so much more than that. “What we do here at Popular Ink is about elevating your brand's image and providing a packaging solution that your competitors will envy. We are not just a printer. Although we do place art and flexographic printing techniques onto films, we are so much more than a printer.”
“Within the flexible packaging market, clients, co-packers and the consumer rely on the printer to do so much more. What type of film will give you the ultimate shelf life? What type of film will work on their filling equipment? If the client is leaving one co-packer and going to another who looks out for the client’s interest when it comes to product consistency? Not all packaging solutions are equal and here at Popular Ink, our number one focus is the light, oxygen and moisture properties of the package we are going to print,” explains Riess.
Popular Ink Corp.'s Estimated Sales
2007 - $2.5 million in sales with a loss of $114,000
The Birth of Popular Ink
The history behind Popular Ink is actually quite interesting. Both founders of the company, Riess and his business partner, Ray Salinas, helped to resurrect an old print company that was floundering. “Under the old management and ownership, we were restricted from growing. The owner was broke and did not have the belief to fund any upgrades to equipment. We had $0 in the bank for operating capital and the rebuild was done solely off of being creative and resourceful,” says Riess.
But Riess and Salinas were determined to make their products well and improve upon their technique. “We learned our techniques the grass roots way in a steel barn with one press and countless hours of trial and error. We manufacture our own line of product with external extrusion companies. Our product lines are bought and designed direct, manufactured at a higher quality, and offered to the consumer at a lower price. Our products are an apples to oranges comparison when looking at seal integrity, seal strength, and product resistance,” Riess expands.
“As 24 and 25 year old guys when we started to rebuild the old company, we were limited in so many ways. We started rebuilding this brand with $410,000 of debt on the books. We had no money to purchase raw materials – we had nothing but our own personal credit cards. For years, we factored invoices and took huge risk by borrowing money from individuals at a high interest rate. There were several times we did not collect a paycheck, but always made sure our one or two staff members took home a paycheck,” says Salinas.
“In short both Ray and I consider the 2007 to 2011 timeframe our crash course to getting an MBA from an Ivy League school,” says Riess.
The pair purchased the company on August 11, 2011, and the company became Popular Ink. Riess continues, “It is unbelievable that at the end of 2011 we were still standing, we owned the company now, and we had a real shot of building something special. It truly shows how fast this industry is growing, how much room for competition there is, and how low the barrier to market is for a new face to get into the game.”
Popular Ink Offerings
The company’s capabilities are a mix of well-known brands as well as little-known startups. “We do print for some Fortune 100 brands, while startup companies seem to gravitate toward us, too. We are flexible with minimum order quantities, which startup companies often need, but we have the capacity to grow with startup brands into a mega brand. Our niche really seems to be in the health, beauty, wellness and nutraceutical industry. The multi-level marketing (MLM) channel of business is huge for us, mainly because of our quick turnaround times and responsive production staff. It is our mission to ‘Print Popular Products,’ but aside from that, it is our responsibility that we give the customer’s brand the best opportunity to succeed,” explains Riess.
Riess tells us that the focus was on convenience-sized flexible packaging. “Our purpose and the roots of the company were built around individual serving sachets and packets. Ray and I saw a vision 7 years ago that consumer convenience would be fueling the direction of the packaging industry. From there, we realized while bulk bottles, boxes, rigid containers, etc., will always be around, the need for quick, on-the-go portions were on the rise.”
The company’s custom stick packs are called RipStix film, which offers a clean tear without a tear notch, while still allowing for moisture control. RipStix stick packs can be used for effervescent and specially formulated powders. Gel Packs, individual gel-filled packets, quickly became the company’s growth spot, since 2011. Riess believes the standup pouch format, which is also a package format that the company offers, is the, “next gold mine for our company’s growth plan.”
|Dru Riess, founder and CEO of Popular Ink, says, "Our purpose and the roots of the company were built around individual serving sachets and packets. Company co-founder Ray and I saw a vision 7 years ago that consumer convenience would be fueling the direction of the packaging industry."|
The company creates packaging for dry powder, like taco seasoning pouches, cocoa packets, sugar packets, stick packs, gel packs.
Future Growth for the Company
It is clear that Riess and Salinas have no plans to go anywhere but up. “Every year, we grow from 44 percent to 52 percent. We are currently doing more than $15 million in annual volume with projections of us breaking the $20 million dollar figure by 2016. Every investment we make is done with profits and we still operate today with a JIT [just in time] mentality. We are extremely lean and we run 24 hours a day. We are no longer just one press in a barn. The company has built out a custom space in a huge industrial park on the east side of McKinney, Texas. Inside our walls, we house the ability to print anything from 1-inch wide webs to 32-inch web widths. We utilize environmentally-safe water based inks and adhesives,” says Riess.
The company’s lean operations help to propel the passion from their company into a package. Riess explains, “Once you hear the story and do business with us, you realize that you’re contributing to something unique. We genuinely care about every brand brought into our facility. Every relationship that we have with vendors, clients, etc., is reciprocal. We respect everyone who has helped and continues to help us build this brand.”
“Ray and I are forever indebted to those people that did and did not believe in us. Our lives are forever changed because of the flexible packaging industry and we are passionate about what the future will bring to this brand and the packaging industry.”
“At 24 and 25 years old, [Ray Salinas and I] took on the opportunity to revive a dying print company. We had no experience in the printing industry and knew even less about packaging. With a lot of grit, strategic networking, luck, and the worst economy the United States had ever seen, it is unbelievable to look at where we are today!” says Riess.
Popular Ink Corp.