Packing fun into functionality

With an aim to be the most exciting plastics company in Australasia, renowned for exceptional innovation that transforms its customers’ businesses, Alto focuses on inspriring excellence through unique packaging.

NZ’s largest rigid plastic packaging company, Alto was formed eight years ago, though it existed before that as PDL Plastics. Today, the company has eight dedicated plants in NZ, which specialise in extrusion and thermoforming, blow moulding and injection moulding.

Together with a dedicated sales team in Australia, Alto employs over eight hundred people, manufacturing packaging largely for the FMCG market, while also supplying key industrial and technical markets.

The company has a strong focusand successful record of designing and developing innovative packaging for the food and beverage sector, while responding to market demands for quality, competitively priced, and modern packaging.

For Alto sales and marketing manager, Chris Botha, the key to the company’s success lies in creating “appealing packaging that sells. How-ever, on top of that, manufacturers are also looking for flexibility from their packaging partner.”

Alto works to incorporate these demands into their processes through its ideas generation R&D technology and innovation centre.

“Generally we’ll get a concept, and then we’ll put three or four different ideas on the table. Some are kind of ‘out there’, and mainly it’s just a matter of creating those ideas and allowing the client to review them,” explained Botha.

“For example, we put a concept forward to a major retailer, for a new salad pack, with a handle feature on it – something that’s never been seen before in that particular segment. It was completely differentiated from others on the market, which are just your normal, standard, square, or rectangular salad packs.

“For us, it’s about designing and being creative with the designs. Rather than just rehashing things that have been created in the past, it’s trying to be exciting.

“Packaging can be quite bland, and it really can’t afford to be, because in many cases it is the packaging that promotes the product. If you’ve got a nice, attractive looking pack, it sells. The appeal factor is big, and it’s really just about being creative,” he said.

At last year’s New Zealand Plastics Industry Design Awards, Alto took out an overwhelming number of categories, winning two gold, three silver and two bronze medals. The National Biennial Design Awards are NZ Plastic Industry’s opportunity to display the best of design, tool making and production techniques for the development of new and exciting plastic products by NZ companies.

“I believe our success has been largely driven by our company vision and focus,” said Botha. “We aspire to be the most exciting plastics business in Australasia, aiming to transform our clients’ business through a unique approach. This sums up who Alto is.

“We are all about energy and transforming that creative energy into fantastic packaging for our clients.

“We have a creative design team in NZ that make it their focus to deliver remarkable packaging, and an obsessed manufacturing team that is always looking at ways to improve performance,” Botha explained.

“Our in-house product and tool design team are critical to Alto, and enable us to offer customers a fully integrated product development, tooling manufacture and production service. We are one of the few companies in Australasia to be able to offer this full service, linking in well with our customer NPD process.”

One of the key services that Alto prides itself on is its dedication to customer relations.

“We get totally involved with our customers to understand their needs. It’s all about making our clients happy and successful. If our clients are happy and successful then so are we. It can’t get simpler than that.”

Amongst Alto’s winning entries in the Design Awards were the Meadow Fresh 1kg Yoghurt Tub, designed for Goodman Fielder, and the Eternal Water Range, a distinctive and stylised bottle range, designed for the export market for Paeroa.

In addition to designing creative, individual solutions for customers, Alto also offers mainstream innovations in standard product lines, such as the Plix brand of porous food trays, which eliminate the need for a soaker pad in meat and poultry packaging.

Using proven technology and a completely new compound, Alto developed, tested and marketed the cost competitive one-piece format tray for the Australasian market. The elimination of the need for an absorbent soaker pad, saves time and labour in the butcher department, and removes the risk of cross contamination through accidental use of the soaker pad.

For Botha, the Alto difference comes down to the little things. “It’s about our approach, our attitude. It’s engaging with our customers, listening, and not forcing anything on them. It’s also allowing for the creativity that comes with that early engagement.

“We don’t just want to be another typical packaging company. There are lots of other companies that make the same stuff we make, but the difference is that we try and be a bit more creative. We’re very service orientated, responsive, and innovative. And we’re constantly putting new stuff on the table, while not being arrogant about what we do.

“Whereas some suppliers can be inflexible about their products, saying ‘that’s all we’ve got and you can take it or leave it’, we take a different approach. We say ‘if that doesn’t suit you, we’re prepared to work with you to come up with the ultimate pack you’re looking for’,” said Botha.

Really, who said packaging wasn’t fun?

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