Word-of-mouth seals deal for Stretch-Tite makers 

Word-of-mouth seals deal for Stretch-Tite makers

SUTTON' It's on the shelf at Price Chopper. Stop & Shop and Shaw's Supermarkets among boxes of Saran Premium. Reynolds Plastic Wrap and Glad Press 'n Seal. A plastic food wrap manufactured in Sutton. Stretch-Tite not only keeps food fresh. according to the company. it protects wool from moths and keeps paintbrushes from drying out. Last year. Stretch-Tite won a Best Manufactured Product award from Start Magazine. a manufacturing trade publication. and another magazine. Cook's Illustrated. called it 'the stickiest of all the wraps tested.' Founded in 1966 by John W. Baldwin. John J. Connor and his brother. the late Thomas Connor. a producer of liquid vinyl resins for commercial customers. Polyvinyl Films Inc. first produced an institutional plastic film used behind supermarket counters to wrap red meat. It was also used by commercial laundries to protect clean clothes. towels and uniforms.
Later. when the plastic wrap was launched for consumer use. Polyvinyl Films sold it to Spag's Supply Inc.. in Shrewsbury. Spag's ordered a couple cases of Stretch-Tite at a time. and customers got hooked. From there. Stretch-Tite grew largely through word-of-mouth advertising. and the product now can be found at more than a dozen chain stores in New England. from Ocean State Job Lot in Rhode Island to Stew Leonard's in Connecticut. including Fry's on the West Coast. It is carried in Demoulas Super Markets 'all 59 stores'and all seven Dave's Marketplace stores in Rhode Island. 'Stretch-Tite is one of the better' plastic wraps based on sales. said Dave's Marketplace Grocery Manager Steve Alfaia. A leader in the plastics manufacturing industry. Polyvinyl Films sells millions of rolls and cutter boxes annually of Stretch-Tite plastic food wrap and Freeze-Tite freezer wrap. The family owned company does not disclose sales. John E. Baldwin. Polyvinyl Films vice president. stands in a small wooden-walled room wearing a blue-striped shirt and khakis. his appearance as neatly packaged as the crisp. bright yellow and blue boxes of Stretch-Tite displayed on the table beside him. Mr. Baldwin is not bothered by the churning sounds of production in the next room. He demonstrates the product by filling a tall glass a quarter full of water. covering the top with a piece of Stretch-Tite and turning it over completely without spilling any water in the process. Mr. Baldwin. who has worked at Polyvinyl Films for eight years. is the grandson of co-founder John W. Baldwin. who is president of Polyvinyl Films. A chemical and plastics engineer. Mr. Baldwin's grandfather largely came up with the technologies used by the company after realizing 'the need for an institutional-quality plastic food wrap available to consumers everywhere.' said his grandson. also works for the company. By the early 1980s. the company's institutional plastic wrap was developed into a consumer product. that people could use to wrap and cover food in the refrigerator and freezer. Polyvinyl Films has 70 full-time employees. including sons and daughters of the founders. who keep the plant running 24 hours a day in three shifts. Some employees have been with the company since its inception. Mr. Baldwin said. Having the right people makes the difference in a company's success. he said. 'Without good employees and team members. you can't do anything.' he said. Among costs the company faces'from overhead to labor to rising transportation and energy costs over the last two years'Polyvinyl Film's biggest expense is the rising cost of raw materials. such as resins and packaging. The company is not really affected by global outsourcing. Mr. Baldwin said. 'We're committed to manufacturing. 'we can do it more efficiently and effectively.' he said. The company operates in a lean environment. Mr. Baldwin said. 'You have to. to be a successful U.S. manufacturer these days. You must always look to improve. streamline and make better.' he said. While the product has changed its packaging from plain white to a yellow and blue container. it's the same formula. Mr. Baldwin said. 'The quality of film has always been premium.' he said. The company is 'always testing and trying to improve.' Polyvinyl Films is able to compete with larger wrap producers. because 'all we do is concentrate on manufacturing premium-quality food wraps. both institutional and retail. We have developed some proprietary technology in manufacturing that gives it better performance characteristics.' The company is also proud of its sturdy corrugated packaging ' the strongest in the industry. according to Mr. Baldwin ' and the value of its product. 'we are not a big company with vast marketing and merchandizing capabilities.' Polyvinyl sells through grocery stores. discount retailers. mass merchandisers. wholesale clubs and on the company's Web site. with the latter channel opened about a year ago. he said. Competition in the supermarket industry is more intense than in many others. said Susan Fournier. associate professor of marketing at Boston University's School of Management. Because of limited shelf space. there are 'only so many products you can put out there.' she said. Aside from coupons and temporary price reductions given by supermarkets. Polyvinyl Films does not advertise. The company relies on 'good old-fashioned customer service.' Mr. Baldwin said. And customers respond. Mr. Baldwin holds up a stamped letter that Rosemary Kaesemeryer from Santa Maria. handwrote to the company. Pulling it out gently so as to preserve the document. as if touched by the words: 'I put four rolls in my basket. got to the checkout stand. I ran back and bought two more rolls.' Ms. Kaesemeryer wrote. Ron Shuster. and his wife Lynn Shuster. a suburb of Milwaukee. said they had been using Stretch-Tite for a year and shared their love of the product with their daughter.' the Shusters said. They said they looked for a brand that had 'a regular. old-fashioned cutter ' not the new style slide cutter.' That's when Mrs. Shuster noticed the box of Stretch-Tite on a shelf at Sendiks. an upscale grocery store where she likes to shop. In an e-mail to the company last Christmas Eve. the Shusters wrote. 'I very seldom take the time to write someone. but 'we're going to tell everyone else we know to find it. and if they can't find it. we're going to help them get it.'


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