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Kwik Lok’s genius survives the test of time

Sometimes you can’t improve on perfection. There is not always a better mousetrap. That appears to be the case with the little plastic doohickey that is used every day in every corner of the world to close bags of fruit and loaves of bread.

The Kwik Lok, as it is called, is the genius of Floyd Paxton, who invented it specifically for apple bags in 1952. At the time, polyethylene bags were being introduced as a packaging alternative to wooden crates. Paxton called on apple packing houses selling a box nailing machine for those crates. It made sense that if the industry was going to shift away from wooden crates, his business of helping to close those boxes was in jeopardy. He started tinkering with a plastic bag closure, came up with the Kwik Lok and formed a business that is now worldwide in scope.

ARC-HD32Adding a label via the Kwik Lok allows for greater communiciation between the producer and the consumer. Here the Kwik Lok label is utilized to feature the grower of the carrots.Bruce Cox, a 13-year veteran with the firm is regional sales director in charge of western United States, western Canada and Latin America. He operates out of the Yakima, WA, headquarters of Kwik Lok Corporation, oversees three regional sales managers and is one of the company’s top sales people. The firm (still owned by the original family) now has manufacturing plants in six locations across the globe and sales teams around the world as well. Cox said the firm has evolved and added products over the years, including a very popular label addition to the Kwik Lok closure. It has also expanded its customer list into other bag closure lines — most notably bakery — and has recently started working closely with a French company to incorporate the Kwik Lok with the elastic band used on many produce items. But the design of the little plastic Kwik Lok is essentially the same as it was when it was invented more than 65 years ago.

Cox said the fresh apple sector remains one of the larger categories utilizing the Kwik Lok bag closure. Other produce commodities in which Kwik Log has a foothold in include citrus, potatoes, onions, carrots and lettuce. In fact, he said, almost any produce item that is bagged includes the Kwik Lok closure method.

“While we have obviously had price increases over the years, it remains a very cost efficient packaging alternative.”

In fact, he said it is more cost efficient than almost any other produce packaging system being utilized, including pouch bags and clamshells.

In recent years, Cox said utilizing the Kwik Lok and its accompanying label, which is often glued on to the plastic closure for both tracking purposes and to communicate with consumers, has gained in popularity. He said this has been fueled by the need for traceability as well as easier printing methods. Often the Kwik Lok and the label includes date, time and source of the bagged product. Both ink jet and laser printers have been utilized to create the communication. Cox said the advancement in laser printing techniques has given that option a boost in recent times, noting that these laser printers can last seven to 10 years and don’t have the need for ink replacement as they use an etching technology to create the desired message.

Cox said the company has been gaining momentum in recent years, especially since the hiring of longtime consultant John Rothenbueler as president and chief executive officer several years ago, replacing Jerre Paxton, who died in January of 2015. Paxton was the second generation in the family to lead the firm. Under Rothenbueler, Kwik Lok went through a major remodeling of its corporate headquarters in 2015 and continues to look outward for new opportunities. An initiative to increase sales to Mexico and South America has followed as well as the collaboration with ARC, the French company. Cox explained that ARC has incorporated the Kwik Lok labeling equipment into its own elastic banding machine so that these elastic bands on produce can include the Kwik Lok label for traceability and communication. As such, Kwik Lok has signed on as the North American sales representative for the ARC equipment. He said initial efforts are being focused in Canada and the United States, but there are future plans to expand into Mexico and further south.

Thomas Sheffield, vice president of sales and marketing for Kwik Lok, reiterated that the two firms do not have a partnership but rather “are working together to grow the North America business. We are offering both the Kwik Lok semi and fully automatic binding lines.”

These units, which will be introduced to the U.S. market at the United Fresh Show in Chicago in June, are going to have the Kwik Lok logo and serial numbers, and will be supported by Kwik Lok technicians out of the Yakima, WA, facility.

Many different products utilize the binding technology and are ripe for this innovation, including asparagus, green onions, carrots, leeks, flowers, celery, and herbs.

Cox added that Kwik Lok is also working on several other forward-thinking initiatives that should yield results sometime in 2018.