Most people who shop at the grocery store don't think much about the packaging or label on their favorite foods and household products. Packaging connects us to brands, protects the foods we eat from diseases, extends shelf life, and keeps food cost lower than any place in the world. So, you might be surprised to find out that the flexible packaging industry is a multi-billion-dollar business.

Tucson-based Poly Print is one of the country's more successful flexographic printing and converting operations, supplying more than 30 billion packages and labels annually for major grocery chains and brand owners. Success didn't happen overnight, with the company facing turbulent times more than once over its 29-year history. "This really is a success story, with the first 10 years in business being such a struggle," says Joe Genova, co-owner, vice president, and the son of Ron and Elsie Genova, the company's founders.

ENTREPRENEURIAL STRUGGLES

In 1992, Ron was working for a flexible packaging company in California when an opportunity to purchase a small printing operation in Arizona became available. The flexible packaging industry was growing, and if they could just deliver a quality product, on time, then they could have a thriving business, Genova says.

That's been easier said than done. The company ran into a plethora of common business startup issues, such as unexpected manufacturing problems, not having enough capacity, and managing through an especially difficult 2008 downturn. "We were positioned for explosive growth," says Genova, whose first job was driving the forklift when he was 10. "But that didn't happen." 

SOLID SALES PLAN

In 2013, after struggling through the 2008 great recession, Genova decided it was time to focus on a robust sales plan, something the company lacked. The plan identified new areas for growth, such as labels for bottled water, pet foods, and consumer products like cosmetics, fertilizers, and detergents. Servicing the plan required more than $15 million in new equipment, expansions, and staff, most of whom they trained internally. "Expanding into new markets is unconventional and risky in flexible packaging, but it was part of our growth strategy," Genova says.

Genova's plan has worked wonders, with the company growing by double digits every year since 2014, which is especially impressive in a sector where 3 to 5 percent annual growth is considered aggressive. "We moved out of our comfort zone and diversified the markets we service," Genova says. "The future is to stay the course, grow, invest, and maintain our status as leader in flexible packaging."