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Catapult launches print forward

The Catapult team includes Lewis, Ashley and Mark Cook

Humor me for a second. Sit back and imagine if you started your company from scratch. What equipment would you chose? What markets would to cater to? What would you do differently with a blank slate? How would it compare to your current set-up?

That’s exactly what’s happening at Catapult Print, a new label start-up, where founder and CEO Mark Cook is building his dream company in a 56,000 sq ft central Florida playground.

Cook pairs the latest advancements in print technology and equipment with an ‘all-under-one-roof’ business model, which together he believes will raise the bar on label standards and has the potential to ‘revolutionize’ the US print industry. 

History

Cook launched Catapult Print in Orlando in April 2018 on his own and without a single customer. ‘When we had the idea to start a print business, it didn’t simply come from nowhere,’ he says. ‘We saw an opportunity to help brands, retailers and manufacturers bring to life those incredible designs to communicate with their customers and to improve their shopping experience be it in a bricks and mortar store or online.’

Catapult caters to the fast-moving commercial goods market and offers pressure-sensitive, linerless and wraparound labels as well as flexible packaging. 

Cook and the Catapult team – which also includes sons Ashley and Lewis, who serve as commercial director and VP of sales, respectively – have set out to be the dynamic new player in the US label market. 

Rapid turnaround times, quality labels and competitive prices are the hallmarks of a business strategy that Cook describes as ‘redefining print.’ Maximum efficiency, innovation, superior customer service and investments in the latest technology is how they’ll get there.

‘When we looked at the market, we thought there is an opportunity here to do something unique and different and stand out from the crowd,’ Cook says. ‘We know it’s a competitive marketplace. So, from the very start we’ve had a customer focus, and concentrated on quality, service, lead times.

After the first six months, Catapult reached $3.5m USD in sales, and after the close of its first year, they’re forecasting sales of around $8.5m USD.

‘We’re the new kids on the block, so we have to work incredibly hard to land that initial job,’ Cook says. ‘Once that is out the door and the client can actually see the quality of the finish and have experienced our responsiveness, we win more work; which is testament not only to our model but our commitment to our customers.’

Twenty-five years in print
Cook, a British expat, spent 25 years at Paragon Print and Packaging, a UK print provider that he helped grow from $2.5m USD in sales to a $250m USD business. At Paragon, Cook started packing boxes, he worked as a rewinder, a press operator and eventually a salesman. Later, he became a shareholder. 

He sold his stake in that business in 2014 when he became a partner at Equator, a packaging design agency with clients in the UK, European and US markets. 

At Equator, Cook and both his sons worked with some of the biggest brand names in retail, including Sam’s Club, Save-Mart, SEG, Aldi and Kraft. The Cooks helped grow the international packaging design agency to $37m USD.

‘I’ve seen what a good company looks like and I’ve seen how success is achieved,’ Cook continues. ‘I think having a customer focus and a never-say-never mentality is what keeps us on our toes each day. When you lose sight of that and the focus shifts to profits and EBITDAR, you’ve completely lost sight of the customer. That’s not who we are or where we want to be.’

A background with the UK packaging market and working with top international brands has given Catapult a unique perspective. They understand the fast-moving commercial goods market and Cook says the focus on response times is becoming even more vital as retailers and brands compete to bring products to market faster in order to drive loyalty and increase sales. 

‘We have a vision to create a unique, customer-focused business that will force change across the US print industry. Our team is aligned with this vision and will go out of their way to understand and deliver on our clients’ needs. We understand the pace of the FMCG market, as well as its specific demands. It’s called “fast-moving” for a reason, and so as a business, our service has to be equally agile and responsive to match the requirements of our customers.’

Technology
Twin 17.75 inch Nilpeter FA presses are at the heart of Catapult’s operation. Cook tells a great story about when he first looked at Nilpeter presses. He had just visited the press manufacturer’s Cincinnati, Ohio, showroom and had brought some brochures back to Chicago where he was visiting Lewis and Lewis’ new baby daughter.

He laughs as he recalls the story, saying: ‘Oh isn’t she beautiful? She’s so beautiful, isn’t she? Really a thing of beauty.’ Then Cook turns around to face his family, who realized he wasn’t cooing over the new baby, but was admiring the Nilpeter brochures. 

‘I’d fallen in love with it,’ he says, adding that the child is, in fact, quite beautiful. ‘Buying this press was the best decision we’ve made. These are the Rolls-Royces of the label world. They’re unbelievable.’

Catapult installed two 8-color machines to run low-migration UV inks from INX. Catapult prints pressure-sensitive, wraparound and linerless labels (see boxout) as well as flexible packaging for food, beverage, automotive, health and beauty and household markets. 

There is space to grow within the Orlando facility, and the goal is 10 more presses in Orlando and future plans for regional hubs in Pennsylvania, Washington and Texas. 

Cook also enthuses over Catapult’s investment in Hamillroad Software’s Bellissima Digitally Modulated Screening, for high-quality graphics. He describes it as ‘seeing the difference between standard definition and HD TV, it’s really incredible. Clients are guaranteed the crispest imaging achievable anywhere on the market today, delivering impressive packaging that catches eyes and wins customer loyalty.’

Last year Bellissima won a World Label Award for Innovation and FTA’s Technical Innovation Award for outstanding innovation. Catapult is the only printer in the US currently using the technology. 

Catapult also has invested in a host of other technologies including Esko’s XPS Crystal CDI and Web Center, advanced photopolymer plate technology from MacDermid, as well as patented GTT anilox from Apex, automatic ink mixing from INX, an anilox cleaning system from FlexoMaid and Labeltraxx MIS system. Companies like UPM Raflatac and Avery Dennison have also been instrumental in the company’s early success, Cook says. 

‘Our commitment to innovation runs throughout our entire product offering, something that sets us apart from the competition,’ Cook says. ‘Our family of technologies has been invested in with the customer in mind, to drive efficiencies and enable us to deliver at higher speed and lower cost than other vendors without ever compromising on quality.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chelsea McDougall is North America editor for Labels & Labeling.

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