This packaging manufacturer uses food science and starch technology to develop a biodegradable packing peanut.
As applications for the 2009 Inc. 500 | 5000 arrive, we thought it would be worthwhile to shine a spotlight on some of the companies that are vying to appear on our ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. (For more information and to apply, go to http://www.inc5000apply.com.) One that caught our eye was Golden Valley, Minnesota-based StarchTech.
With the environment at the forefront of everyone's mind, it's not unusual to feel guilty when you receive a package filled with packing peanuts or Styrofoam. Packaging manufacturer StarchTech hopes to replace those packaging staples with more environmentally and economically-friendly technology.
StarchTech was founded in 1996 by CEO and owner Ed Boehmer, a food scientist dedicated to the development of biodegradable starch products. He helped develop an early version of the biodegradable starch-based packing peanut, but wanted to improve upon the messy, inconsistent, low-quality product, says Pech.
The company sells a new and improved product made from industrial-grade starch resin, a mixture of wheat, corn and potato by-products. StarchTech sells its packing products only within a five-state radius, but exports the resin and machinery used to make the packing materials nationally and internationally. The materials dissolve in water for easy disposal after use.
Denise Pech, director of marketing for StarchTech, enjoys the testimonials she receives about the packing products: "My favorites are the brides. They always say that they get a ton of packages and hate the bulky paper and bags of peanuts because they don't know what to do with it all. Now, they're so happy to get their packages packed in something they can throw in the sink and run hot water on, and it's gone."
"The machine used to make the packaging has been around for decades in the food industry—it's the same machine that makes Cheetos and cheese puffs," adds Pech. "We just use it for a different application."
In addition to its unique technology, says Pech, StarchTech's real secret to success is the creativity of its staff. "We're all about efficiency and ingenuity here. These guys put together more with duct tape and elbow grease than anyone I know," she says. "The challenge of taking a product and finding out how to make it more environmentally and economically-friendly is a real rush."