SUGAR LAND, TEXAS (Sept. 20, 11:40 a.m. ET) — Advance Polybag Inc.’s entry into flexible packaging, Accredo Packaging Inc., began production in 2009, running two nine-layer blown film lines at a 200,000-square-foot plant — and already, the company is building an addition in Sugar Land.

Officials broke ground late last year on a 175,000-square-foot expansion and it should be completed next year, said Rex Varn, executive vice president for Advance Polybag and Accredo Packaging.

Accredo makes blown film and does printing, laminating and conversion — with an emphasis on sustainable products and manufacturing.

Varn said expansion was in the plans from the beginning.

“We’re a full-service converting, fully integrated operation, and so the fact is that we aim to be a major key player in the flexible packaging converting industry,” Varn said. “So it was the plan that we would continue to build and grow our business. That building goes hand in hand with the vision of expansion in mind.”

Overall, Advance Polybag has sales of $260 million, according to Plastics News and industry estimates. That makes it No. 26 in the Plastics News ranking of film and sheet makers, published in this issue.

The company does not break out sales for Accredo, but the Sugar Land operation marks a major diversification for API, known for its T-shirt bags. Accredo focuses on barrier-layer packaging, standup pouches, roll stock, wicketed bags and bundling film for consumer products.

API is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The family-owned company was founded by Hank Nguyen, who is chairman and CEO, and his brother Chinh Nguyen, the president and chief operating officer.

The first of five API factories was established in New Orleans in 1986. From that modest beginning, API has grown into the second-largest supplier of polyethylene T-shirt grocery bags.

“Throughout our 25 years of operation, we have developed strong relationships with our customers and embraced the loyalty and commitment of dedicated associates,” Hank Nguyen said.

For a flexible packaging startup, Accredo started out with a bang: two nine-layer Windmöller & Hölscher Varex blown film lines. Since then the company has added three-layer equipment. Officials are not releasing the total number of blown film lines at Sugar Land. “We’ve more than doubled our extrusion capacity,” Varn said.

All the blown film lines and flexographic printing presses are from W&H.

Malcolm Cohn, sustainability director, said the owners invested in state-of-the-art machinery. “They’re really reaching out to be a very major player in the United States in high-barrier flexible packaging. They want to give us the tools to compete at that level,” he said.

The plant employs about 150.

Green operations, printing expertise

Cohn said the Nguyen’s built sustainability into Accredo from the time API announced plans to build the plant in 2007.

“We support the initiatives of recover, reuse, reduce and recycle with our customers through a variety of programs,” Chinh Nguyen said.

Officials say Accredo is the first flexible packaging plant in the United States granted silver certification under the LEED rating system — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. LEED promotes sustainable site development and material selection, water conservation, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality.

Also, 100 percent of the energy the factory consumes comes from wind power, much of it from wind farms in west Texas. “The production processes are designed to eliminate waste, while minimizing carbon footprint,” Cohn said.

Accredo extends sustainability to printing — an area of specialty that uses a proprietary ink delivery system developed in-house. The firm has three 10-color W&H printing presses: two Novoflex lines and a new Vistaflex line, installed at the start of this year.

The company prints exclusively using expanded color gamut printing, never using “spot” color printing, which uses specific-color inks. Instead, Accredo uses only process inks to build the colors for each graphic image. Cohn said expanded color gamut printing allows for fast job changes, and reduces waste because the ink stations don’t have to be cleaned. That means there is less wasted ink and a major reduction of solvents, with enhanced color and quality accuracy.

“We feel that the market is changing in that direction. Someday, all flexible printing will be done this way,” Cohn said.

Accredo has made a major push into the fast-growing market for pouches, including developments in compostable pouches. Cohn said the company has applied for patents on compostable zipper pouches and pouches with spouts, where even the zipper and spout are compostable.

He said Accredo uses biofilms, but declined to disclose the material. The company partnered with other firms to develop the compostable zipper and spout.

Accredo has made a zippered, gusseted standup pouch that is made from certified compostable components, which the company believes is the first such package.

“As technology is improving and more products become available, we want to stay ahead of the curve,” Cohn said. “We do consider ourselves as one of the leaders in sustainable packaging, and so as new materials become available, we investigate them.”

Accredo uses Totani pouch-making machines.

Pouches offer makers of consumer products and foods several advantages, including eye-catching graphics that stand out on store shelves, he said.

Eye on Sustainability
Flexible packaging converter, Accredo Packaging, Inc. has been up and running for just over a year, but is already an industry leader recognized for its comprehensive focus on sustainability. The 200,000 sq ft., state-of-the-art Sugar Land, TX plant was designed and built to meet LEED® Silver certification standards, and utilizes 100% wind-generated electrical power, with a focus on eliminating waste while minimizing its carbon footprint.

Accredo Executive Vice President, Rex Varn, says their commitment to producing sustainable flexible packaging solutions, primarily targeting the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) segment, is supported by a sizable R&D budget. Adds Malcolm Cohn, Director of Sustainability, “we’re researching compostable and recyclable solutions, but we also want to find new ways to produce conventional polymeric packaging in a more sustainable way. Reducing waste, using less resources and increasing productivity equates to better sustainability.”

Some of the company’s biggest breakthroughs to date are in the area of stand-up and flat bottom pouches, as well as wicketed bags. Accredo was the first to produce a zippered stand-up pouch made entirely from certified compostable components, providing a major area of growth for Accredo. Utilizing the most efficient machinery is part of Accredo’s equation for sustainability. The facility houses 3-layer and 9-layer VAREX blown film lines as well as 10-color NOVOFLEX presses from W&H, with more equipment scheduled for installation.