Alpha Con Plastics was founded in 1969. The modern-day Alpha began to take shape in 1985, when Dave Spence acquired the company. The 25-year-old entrepreneur, thanks to an SBA loan, was ready to start a new era in the company, and changed the name to Alpha Plastics.
Producing blow molded wheels for barbecue pits, gym rings for outdoor swing sets, and about 35,000 bottles per day, Dave soon started replacing worn out machines and hit the road in search of new business. The gym ring and BBQ wheels eventually disappeared as Alpha became solely in the bottle business; selling bottles and jars to Northwestern Bottle (now TricorBraun), Riekes Container (now Berlin), Package Supply and Equipment, Smith Container (now TricorBraun), Consolidated Glass, Calpac Container and Empire Bottle.
In 1989, we bought our first injection blow molding machine. Alpha also bought Techniprint, a St. Louis bottle decorating company. We felt as if we were sitting on top of the world – injection blow molding, extrusion blow molding and decoration capabilities. However, despite raising exposure, the acquisitions were not as ideal as imagined. Alpha dropped the decoration business in 1991 and refocused on our bottle making strengths.
In 1992, Alpha moved to a more modern building that facilitated our growth in the pharmaceutical and vitamin business. By encouraging plant tours, Alpha gained a needed boost in credibility. Around the same time, a large competitor shut down its St. Louis blow molding operation, enabling Alpha to hire many people with industry experience and desirable technical capabilities.
By 1994, we were struggling with growing pains and getting dragged down by the commodity side of our business. While we had been emotionally attached to some of our business, an objective operations team led us to part with about 30% of our business. While the short-term effects were tough, our decision to focus on markets that required higher quality and faster production rates helped shape the direction for our future.
In 1997, Alpha bought two Aoki stretch blow molding machines and ten molds to get into the PET vitamin packer market. These acquisitions helped gain serious looks from larger companies on new pieces of business, and represented the single most important move the company had made. Packaging for nutritional supplements represents about 45% of Alpha’s current portfolio, and PET is the dominant material we utilize.
After deciding that our St. Louis facility was too small, Alpha relocated to our current headquarters, a factory that we renovated and expanded to a 211,000 square-foot factory and warehouse. It is considered by many to be the best in the industry. At the same time as the move, we learned that and HDPE blow molder in the Northeastern US was for sale and acquired those operations in December 2001. Sales skyrocketed during this time period, jumping from $18 million in 2000 to $37 million in 2003. The New York plant further legitimized Alpha in the industry as more than just a Midwest supplier. In just six months, Alpha took the New York plant (which resembled a young Alpha) from losing money to making a profit by adding higher speed machinery and changing the product mix. In August of 2004, Alpha opened a factory in Salt Lake City, putting us in every region of the country, and giving us better access to the significant nutritional market on the West Coast.
That was just the beginning of a 5-year period of rapid expansion for Alpha. From 2004 to 2010, Alpha Packaging grew considerably, both through strategic acquisitions and through internal reinvestments that generated organic growth opportunities. Our expansion into new areas of the country enabled us to establish a truly national presence in personal care packaging, and our acquisition of Technigraph Corporation added high-quality decorating services to our portfolio. Highlights of our rapid growth include:
2005 – Purchased Yorkbridge Packaging Northeast in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and moved our New York operations to Bethlehem. Our Bethlehem facility now runs both HDPE and PET product lines for nutritional supplements, gummies, and personal care products. It is home to our “cell” of EBM and IBM molding machines that make our 14-item line of HDPE Pharma Line Packers.
2007 – Purchased Quality Container in Ypsilanti, Michigan and opened new 120,000 square-foot plant in Jacksonville, Florida to bring our total number of bottle manufacturing plants to five. Also in 2007, Alpha achieved $100 million in sales for the first time and won Supplier of the Year Awards from the nation’s two largest distributors and the National Association of Container Distributors.
2008 – Acquired Technigraph Corporation (Winona, Minnesota) to bring additional services to customers that require multi-color, high-speed, tightly-registered screen printing, pressure sensitive labeling and other demanding decorating processes.
2009 – Despite the turbulent economy, and two large customers who each faced issues with the FDA, Alpha’s unit sales in 2009 were unchanged from 2008’s record sales, and the year ended strong for Alpha. Continued reinvestment in new tools and machines for all of Alpha’s plants enabled us to emerge from the economic downturn with substantial momentum – and new capacity for 2010.
2010 – Early in the year, Alpha purchased the assets of European blow molder SmartPET and opened a new manufacturing facility in Roosendaal, The Netherlands, to serve the PET packer and OTC liquid pharmaceutical markets in Europe. In the fall of 2010, we received a substantial equity investment from Irving Place Capital, which enabled us to make our largest acquisition to date: Progressive Plastics of Cleveland, Ohio. This acquisition brought nearly 300,000 square feet of manufacturing and warehouse space, 33 blow molding machines, and 4 container decorating lines to Alpha, and a total sales capacity in excess of $200 million.
2011 – Alpha expanded into Western Canada with the acquisition of Vanga Plastic Products in British Columbia. Vanga’s product line was complementary to our US-based nutritional packer lines, and also brought some attractive custom projects, primarily through distributor partners.
2018 – Capitalizing on the strength of our European location, we acquired another PET blow molding facility and ultimately combined operations under one roof. Our plant in Etten-Leur, Netherlands serves the nutritional supplement, personal care, niche food and OTC pharma markets.
Any conversation about Alpha’s history would not be complete without a discussion of sustainable packaging. For more than 15 years, Alpha has worked with customers to use more sustainable materials such as post-consumer resins and bioresins. We also embark on source reduction initiatives, and have light-weighted our bottles and jars by as much as 28% for some projects. We’ve served as an R&D partner to universities, private companies and inventors who all seek the develop packaging that is kind to the Earth.
Alpha is always looking for ways to help our customers receive more value from their packaging purchases. We work closely with distributors to ensure that our bottles and jars conform to your standards for labeling and shipping, and our regional manufacturing helps minimize lead times and shipping costs for customers across the globe.
Alpha is more than bottles. Alpha is determination, following dreams, keeping your humility and sense of humor. Alpha is a tribute to hard work, friendship, sacrifice and fear of failure. Without loyal customers and suppliers, and support from family and friends, our story would not have happened.