What’s New


What’s New

Packaging Innovation

Packaging Suppliers Are the Innovators

Recently, I was in a restaurant, famous for crabs and casual dining. It was an average crab house but their presentation of food was memorable. The french fries were in miniature deep fryer baskets. The crab cakes were served in crab shell shaped dishes. Everyone at the table took pictures of the food. Their containers created a buzz and made the visit memorable. It was a topic of conversation when others asked what we thought of the experience.

It benefits a company to come across with a presentation that is seen as clever or creative.  It shows thought about the customer experience.  In this visual and social media world, people want to see something different.

coffee canA recent article in Packaging World Magazine entitled Cracking Open Packaging Innovation, stated that most packaging innovation comes from the packaging suppliers.  “With probable bias, I’ve learned over the years that Consumer Packaged Goods innovations often originate at the packaging supplier. CPG brands have serious struggles innovating. If they change up their product, it’s no longer the same product. Change Heineken’s formula, and it’s no longer Heineken. Since CPGs can’t necessarily change the product, their packaging is prime for makeover after makeover. When brands don’t have a stream of new packaging ideas coming their way, they start to beat down on price. And you can’t blame them; if they can’t implement fresh ideas, they’ll spend their time pounding on costs. Feed them great ideas, and you’ll get to drive that part of the discussion,” writes 

“Some of the best examples of packaging innovation are those that address unarticulated consumer needs by offering greater functionality and enjoyment of existing products.” 

Packaging mittens in a coffee can, with a graphic showing mittens holding a coffee mug, could be just different enough to prompt a purchase. The marriage of two ordinary, existing products create this packaging innovation. Independent Can has partnered with our customers in developing creative packaging solutions for nearly 90 years.

Independent Can Company Headquarters SQF2 Certified

Independent Can is pleased to announce the operation of its second SQF2 certified facility by The Safe Quality Food Institute.  The Belcamp, Maryland headquarters and main manufacturing facility received its certification on July 27th, 2018. The Vandalia, Ohio facility was certified earlier this year.

The SQFI verifies that our systems have been properly validated and demonstrate continuous monitoring procedures. SQF is globally recognized by retailers and foodservice providers. SQF benefits extend to our customers that are pursuing their own certification.

Level 2 SQF Certification, known as the “Certified HACCP-Based Food Safety Plan”, incorporates all of the Level 1 requirements, including Good Manufacturing and Distribution Practices as well as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points risk assessment and implementation. SQF Certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  It guarantees a higher level of trust and acceptance in our global marketplace.

In 2018, Independent Can is on track to meet its goal of SQF2 Certification for all facilities in which food-contact packaging is manufactured, including our Fort Madison, IA facility. For decades, Independent Can, through its own best practices, has met the high standards for food-contact packaging including food-safe materials, inks and coatings, as well as safe handling practices.  This Certification will provide us with additional documentation of our efforts for the assurance of our customers.

View Certificate



Plastic and Steel in the News

Enough Plastic Bashing?

Almost weekly, there is a new story about plastic pollution.  Most recently, we have read about the war on plastic straws. Enough plastic bashing, right?  

Since plastic first became part of the American landscape, people have valued it for its light weight durability and affordability.  It still has its place.  Temporary or secondary plastic packaging may have one additional life after recycling before its final destination – the landfill or the ocean.

Being a manufacturer of 100% recyclable steel packaging, we thought we knew all of the facts about competitive packaging such as glass, paper and plastic.  Just this week, CBS News featured a report called Piling Up; Drowning in a Sea of Plastic, regarding the current crisis in plastic recycling. The plastic industry is working to make plastics more recyclable or biodegradable but public education and access to commercial recycling facilities for the new plastics may take many years.

Here is what we learned:

  1. US recycling centers will only process plastics with few contaminants.
  2. Contaminated plastic (labeled or containing foreign materials) was purchased by China but as of January, 2018, the Chinese government stopped taking it
  3. Small US recycling centers are closing due to slowing down their production and increasing processing to remove contaminants.

Many US companies are touting their conversion from other packaging to plastic as a sustainability move.  There are so many factors considered when claiming to be “green”, that a company can convert to a plastic or combination plastic item and claim a carbon footprint reduction. This is due to shipping material that is lighter in weight.  That doesn’t mean less plastics in oceans and landfills.  Watch the CBS report and learn more.

plastic pollution
Although steel has been in the news because of tariffs recently imposed, it is a great value in all categories. Steel is promotional, collectible, recyclable, reusable and biodegradable.


Tariffs on Steel:

I want to begin my comments on the tariffs that the United States Commerce Department have imposed to let every reader know that I am passionate about this topic and have a strong personal and a professional opinion.

Over the years technology and communications have moved global and at this point we have no chance to slow down this process. Those that try to change the path towards globalization are fighting the tide, wind and weather, which is an impossible task.

As a country we may have negotiated poor deals with many other countries, and I believe that most people would agree with this. It is easy to understand that any agreement made between any two parties need to be revised, over time, due to unexpected consequences as a result of changes in technology, demographics and economic dynamics.

Tariffs on imported Steel- I want to be clear. I am specifically interested in Tinplate. Tinplate is very thin gauge flat rolled steel with an electro coated surface of tin. Tinplate was developed as a corrosion resistant surface for cans used for the preservation of food products.

Steel is 100% recyclable and can be used in any steel application without losing its strength or characteristics.

Today the can industry has evolved in many directions:

  • Beer & Beverage Cans- Almost all containers for these products are made from aluminum
  • General Line Cans- (Paints, Chemical, Aerosol) These cans are mostly made from tinplate with surface coatings and printed surfaces
  • Sanitary Cans- {fruit and many vegetables (corn, peas, soups etc.)} These cans are made from Tinplate and a steel called TFS (tin free steel).
  • Specialty Cans- (popcorn, candy, coffee, tea, cosmetics etc.) Nearly 100% of these cans are made with tinplate.

General Line and Sanitary cans use tinplate because it is required for the long term protection and security of the products packaged. There is no better package to secure these products than steel.

  • Plastics are making inroads although this generally is a price driven issue and not the long term security of the product packaged.
  • Plastics ultimately end up in landfills or the oceans posing environmental problems.

Specialty Cans- It is truly hard to define a specialty can other than it is a can that the largest can makers tend to no longer want to manufacture. The reason that the large can companies do not want to make them is that the volume or market demand is small requiring short runs and many changeovers.


Tinplate Steel

Tinplate Globally: Steel companies around the world make tinplate. Tinplate as a product line is only about 3% of global steel production. No integrated steel company has tinplate as their primary product nor could they survive producing only tinplate.

  • In the United States, currently, as a country we only produce approximately 57% of the tinplate required by all can makers in the USA.
    • If all can companies in the USA bought from domestic steel companies and they had the capacity to produce the quality, coil sizes needed and could deliver on time, this would only add about 2% to the primary steel production.

Would Independent Can Company like to buy 100% domestic Tinplate? The answer is absolutely YES.

  • Why don’t we buy 100% domestic?
    • Up until about 2007 we bought 90% domestic- why did we go overseas?
      • We buy on the following basis:
        • Quality- We need steel that performs through our processes as well as the surface appearance.
        • Service- We need to have delivery of ordered steel to arrive on time, as promised by our suppliers
        • Price- We need globally competitive raw materials to compete in a global market place
      • Domestic Steel supply:
        • Quality: Due to lack of investment the US steel companies have not kept up with the demands of the latest equipment requirements for steel performance: coil width, temper control, surface quality
        • Service: on time delivery: 2016 18% on time, 2017 12% on time and 2018 year to date 18% on time
        • Price: We have been able to purchase from Europe at a slight price advantage with steel arriving on time and the quality has been near perfection.

Independent Can has submitted about 40 requests for exemptions for the tin plate we need to manage our business. As of the writing of this article we have no disposition for or against these exemption requests.

  • The USA steel producers need 1-2 years to upgrade their facilities to be competitive and this is information from our domestic suppliers.
    • We have asked our domestic steel suppliers to support a 2 year exemption while they prepare to be competitive so we do not lose domestic users of tin cans. Once we lose a customer to overseas production, they may never come back and that may result in a permanent loss of jobs. The steel companies have refused to support any exemption. Very short term thinking.
    • We have joined forces with CMI (Can Manufacturer Institute) and are participating in many organized lobbying efforts as well as individual outreach to local governmental officials who have been very supportive.

As a specialty can maker we are proud that we have been able to thrive in a very competitive market place. Many of our competitors have closed their plants and have moved to the importation of tins. We remain focused on Made in the USA solutions as being demanded by many of our year round customers that are supportive of investment. We have great employees that are both talented and skilled. We have invested in the finest equipment that will allow us to meet our customers’ needs and demands for quality containers at globally competitive prices.

We thank our customers for their loyalty and their understanding in these trying times. Please call and ask questions.

We are working hard to get the message out: (Please see the video interviews)

Voice of American – Impact of Steel Tariffs




Independent Can Wins IMDA Award of Excellence

Independent Can Company Captures Print Excellence Awards

custom tin signsIndependent Can Company was again recognized for excellence in print quality by the International Metal Decorator’s Association (IMDA).  The award was presented to Independent Can Company at their annual conference held this May.  Each year the IMDA conducts a quality contest with entries from around the world, to recognize the skillful achievements of metal lithographers.  Independent Can Company, for many consecutive years, has won the prestigious “Award of Excellence” and “Best of Category” in Specialty Packaging, as well as Signs and Displays.

The “Award of Excellence” was in the Miscellaneous category for Signs and Displays for the printing of the “Great Retrievers” metal sign, by Ducks Unlimited, produced for Desperate Enterprises.

Over the past decade Independent Can has invested heavily in the latest printing equipment specifically designed for high definition printing on metal.  The company has two strategically located metal decorating facilities and technical experts to direct these highly specialized print operations.  “No specialty packaging company in North America can match our quality or capacity in metal lithography,” said President and CEO, Rick Huether.

Independent Can Operating SQF2 Certified Plant

Independent Can is pleased to announce that its Vandalia, Ohio facility has now been SQF2 certified by The Safe Quality Food Institute. The SQFI verifies that our systems have been properly validated and demonstrate continuous monitoring procedures. SQF is globally recognized by retailers and foodservice providers. SQF benefits extend to our customers that are pursuing their own certification.

Level 2 SQF Certification, known as the “Certified HACCP-Based Food Safety Plan”, incorporates all of the Level 1 requirements, including Good Manufacturing and Distribution Practices as well as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points risk assessment and implementation. SQF Certification is recognized by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI).  It guarantees a higher level of trust and acceptance in our global marketplace.

In 2018, Independent Can is pursuing SQF2 Certification for all facilities in which food-contact packaging is manufactured. That will be followed by our Conneaut facility in early 2019.  For decades, Independent Can, through its own best practices, has met the high standards for food-contact packaging including food-safe materials, inks and coatings, as well as safe handling practices.  This Certification will provide us with additional documentation of our efforts for the assurance of our customers.

Plastic Pollution is a Global Problem – Think Tin!

Plastic Last Forever – Tin Recycles Infinitely

Koh Kong, Cambodia – January 3, 2017: Floating garbage in the sea on the waterfront of the Koh Kong city.

The image above is not all that uncommon – plastic pollution. As a matter of fact, there is an island of floating plastic named Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) that is approximately 600,000 square miles according to a recent study.  It is 3 times the size of the State of Texas.  Read more

Plastic, if recyclable at all, is down-cycled, with its second life being the last before the landfill.  Every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still here in some form or another. Although the plastic industry is working hard on bio-plastics and bio-polymers, they cannot be combined with curb-side recycling and they contaminate the existing plastic recycling stream.  There are not enough commercial facilities nor is there consumer education. While everyone is familiar with #1, #2 and #5, what do you do with a #7?  Plastic can only broadly claim an extended life cycle and reduction in fossil fuels due to their light weight.

Steel, on the other hand, can be recycled, time and time again, to make new steel for reuse without loss of quality.  Steel is also biodegradable.  It separates from the waste stream by a magnet. Cans made from steel never have to end up in the ocean or landfill.

There is more to the sustainability story of the steel can.  It extends our food harvest time and keeps food fresh and free of contaminants for a year without refrigeration. Canned food, coffee, nuts and other items are packed at the peak of freshness so they also is packed at their nutrient peaks. Making food portable and in a container that is heat and fracture resistant has helped to feed people throughout the world!  Choose tin!

 Nostalgic Tin Cans

Collectible Tin CansEverything Old is New Again

So many new package designs are reaching back to previous eras to create a nostalgic or vintage look.  Real vintage tins can bring a hefty price but people and businesses love them for their homes and establishments. Collectible package with a nostalgic image is appealing to all ages. Our CEO likes to call this trend “contemporary nostalgia”.

Recently, Virginia Diner teamed up with Curtis Publishing and offered their peanuts in a tin decorated with Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post artwork, featuring among others Rockwell’s famous “Runaway” and “Soda Jerk” images. In 2017, The Virginia Diner partnered with the Norman Rockwell Family Agency in honoring our American heroes. They sponsored Fisher House Foundation and donated 10% of the sales of their Americana Snack Mix.

Watch how it call comes together at the Virginia Diner. The peanuts are baked fresh right in the restaurant!

The Importance of Digital Printing in Package Design Testing

Often, a brand will introduce a new package design and their sales will increase. The redesign makes they product look as if it has improved or is more attention-getting.  There are also times when a package design can alienate a loyal customer because the brand identity has become synonymous with the product. How can companies avoid the risks without missing opportunities to increase sales?  Digital printing is the answer.

Online marketers need to select the right key words in order to rank in digital advertising.  Using a number of different key words and text ads to see which perform better, is key to spending your budget efficiently while learning of the best way to get your customer’s attention.  If buyers had the opportunity to introduce several new package designs into the marketplace at the same time, it would be easier to gauge customer impact.   Digital printing allows for smaller minimums and speed to market.  If an item is taking off, reruns can be done quickly while the decision to introduce the new packaging on a larger scale is in the works.

Brand Packaging Magazine recently wrote about this topic. “A product packaging is essentially the “face” of the product, it’s critical to test the packaging with consumers before the product launch to ensure it fits with their needs and aspirations.” Read the full article.

A limited edition would also be a great test, while at the same time, a promotional opportunity. Hoopers Island Oyster Company used a digitally printed decorative pail as a Limited Edition Heritage Tin to promote their delectable oysters. Ask your sales representative about our new digital capabilities.

What’s New at Independent Can – Fall 2017

September 2017

2017 is flying by. As we enter September we are now in the busiest time of the year for decorative tins both promotional and gift and I can assure you that we have been preparing for this busy season since January of this year.

What’s going on?

  • Decorative tins: This is a very seasonal business.
    • Lithography is working very long hours to make sure that we are able to meet the expectations of our customers.
    • 3 of our manufacturing plants produce decorative tins (Belcamp, MD, Vandalia, OH and Ft Madison, IA) and they are all working long hours and weekends to fulfill the orders that are on the books
    • It appears that the retail markets are working later this year then we have experienced in the past consequently we are required to produce orders with shorter lead times.
    • The good news is that we have added more lines in all 3 plants for flexibility and on two lines; we have doubled our through put (units per hour). These investments are a direct result of the acquisition of the Ball Corp plant in Baltimore, MD.
  • Industrial tins: This is a very level business throughout the year.
    • 2017 has been a good year as the economy has been strong and the products that we supply to these markets are absolutely tied to how strong business is in America, Canada and Mexico.
    • The acquisition of the Ball Corp Plant in Baltimore has also added significant capacity and new capabilities for our open top Hermetic tins.
  • 2 Piece Drawn tins: This is very level business throughout the year.
    • This has been an outstanding year for 2 piece seamless tins. Combining the capabilities in our “new” Baltimore and our Belcamp plants has permitted significant efficiency and growth opportunities.seamless tins

The biggest challenge today:

As we all have heard on the news and read in the papers manufacturing is coming back strong in the United States. Manufacturing in the USA can be competitive globally:

  • Quality: Through our Quality Assurance program we are working through Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), documentation and specification design to provide the finest cans available globally.
  • Environmentally responsible: The tins we make are all made with first class steel which is infinitely recyclable.
  • Safe Food Quality (SQF): We are committed to achieving the SQF II certification in all of our plants that produce tins for food. Vandalia, OH will be first and then Belcamp, MD.
  • Training: The Manufacturing sector in the USA is so strong that finding good mechanics, electricians, machinists ETC. is a real struggle. We are working on training for nearly every skilled position to develop the next generation of can makers.
  • Real time electronic systems: In my What’s New posted in May 2017, I mentioned that we are installing a computer system that will ultimately provide real time data from order entry through accounts payable. The update is as follows:
  • We have now installed the system in two manufacturing plants with a 3rd going live November 1, 2017.
  • The entire system will be fully installed by May 2018.
  • With the complexity of business today and the need for real time information we believe this is an investment that will allow our customers the transparency and flow of information required: Bar coding, bin locations, inventory release at the dock when shipped, traceability, etc.I want to thank all of our customers for their loyalty and support as without customers we do not have a business. We now have nearly 400 employees that are fully committed to manufacturing the finest specialty can made in the world.As the President and CEO of our family business I would like to say we are perfect in everything we do although this would not be true. I can say we are working very hard to professionalize all aspects of the company and are installing the skills training and automated systems to provide the resources and data we need to meet and or exceed our customer’s expectations. We are a sales and customer driven company- who happens to be a manufacturer.

Thank you again for your support.

Richard Huether
President and CEO