Alpine Packaging innovates

On a recent tour through Alpine Packaging, the smell of bubble gum wafted through the air at the North Versailles, Pennsylvania, facility.
Chase Lehigh, digital specialist, Jan Lehigh, president, and Bob Peretic, print products manager, with Alpine’s digital press and Scubby, the office mascot

Alpine Packaging was producing ‘scratch and sniff’ labels for a line of car air freshers. It’s not just bubblegum scents that it can produce: cherry, strawberry, citrus and jasmine are just some of the scents Alpine has in stock. While brands producing car fresheners love these products, Alpine has also found a new market – cannabis packaging. ‘Cannabis companies like to put the scratch and sniff labels on their packaging so users can get an idea of what the products will taste like,’ says Jan Lehigh. ‘It’s a whole new market for us.’

These scratch and sniff labels are printed flexographically – and slowly. The scented coating can be tricky to work with, so speeds need to be reduced. The scented labels use microencapsulated essential oils that are applied to the paper labels. The oil capsules are mixed with water to form the scented ‘slurry’, which is blended with adhesives for printing and requires special anilox rolls to apply. When the essential oils are scratched it causes the capsules to break open and release the scent.

The scratch and sniff job is just one of the ways that Alpine Packaging has diversified into new markets, as it has many times in the past.

Three generations
Alpine Packaging is a certified Women’s Business Enterprise, run by twin sisters Jan Lehigh and Jill Grunst. The sisters took over the business in 2007, though the family history dates back to 1972 when Jan and Jill’s parents, Bill and Sug Johnson, founded the company.

Jan and Jill have worked in many different areas of the business – they have operated machinery, answered phones in customer service, knocked on doors in sales. Today, Jan is the president and Jill is the company’s chief financial officer, and the pair are ushering in the next generation.

Lehigh says: ‘We’re all about delivering quality and outstanding service. Our philosophy is simple. We just try to take care of our customers, because they’re so valuable to us. Without them, there is no Alpine. And we take care of our 43 employees. We strive to work as a team – from customer service to graphics to production to scheduling. Because we are family owned, we treat our employees like they’re family. They really are.’

Jan’s sons Chase and Chad, the third generation at Alpine Packaging, are working at the business as a digital print specialist and a sales manager.

Alpine manufactures bottle wraps and prime labels for a variety of industries, including Fortune 500 tire companies, as well as craft breweries and craft food and beverage markets. A smaller part of their business is manufacturing gusseted, bottom sealed plain and printed poly bags. Alpine Packaging produces plates in-house with the Cyrel Fast system by DuPont.

The company has 14 flexo presses capable of printing six colors and up to 13in, and in 2016 began digital label production with a Screen UV inkjet press. Digital jobs are finished on a CEI unit.

‘About 20 years ago we started to do prime labels,’ Grunst said. ‘But in the last couple years, the prime label market customers were asking for a little more than what we could offer. We were missing a lot of opportunities because we could not do small runs – the main reasons why we started to look into the digital press.’

Alpine Packaging searched far and wide for the right digital press to add to its fleet. At Labelexpo Americas 2016, the company chose the Screen L350UV inkjet press.

Alpine serves the durable goods markets, so ink durability, lightfastness and a wide ink gamut was important when choosing a digital supplier, as was the ability to print on a wide array of substrates.

‘We’re not just label printers; we are label engineers. We’re working with complex label constructions and vast array of label materials,’ Lehigh said. ‘The Screen press has done really well for us. It’s put us into a lot of new markets and allowed us to do things we were never able to do before – particularly with short runs, and it’s opened the door for serialization, wine bottles with unique codes. The craft breweries and craft food markets are ideal for it.’

Alpine’s focus for the future is in RFID and smart labels. Prototypes of labels with RFID chips were developed and converted for one of the tire companies for tracking tires for a recall, security and inventory control. Additionally, Alpine Packaging is researching equipment to manufacture shrink sleeves for the craft breweries and other customers.

Chelsea McDougall

  • Group managing editor