TURNERS FALLS, Mass.—The new company that recently bought out Sugarhill Containers is promising to dramatically speed up lead times for sugarmakers to get delivery of plastic molded jugs with custom printing.
“We’re working very hard to aggressively address the backlog,” said Sean R. Fallmann, President and CEO of Atlanta-based Altium Packaging, which in August bought out Plastic Industries, the parent company of Sugarhill.
Fallmann told The Maple News on Tuesday that his company hopes to return to an eight to 12 week lead time for sugarmakers to place an order and receive delivery of screen printed jugs, a longtime favorite container for producers.
"That is our goal and we want to get back to that as quickly as possible," Fallmann said.
Altium is also pledging to continue and even expand its capacity for manufacturing the revolutionary XL coated jugs, which prevents syrup color degradation by using polyvinylidene chloride copolymer to reduce oxygen permeation through the container.
"We are committed to the XL coating and are looking at how we can make coated bottles more widely available," said Robert Chalmers, Altium's Product Manager.
Frustrations in getting container orders in a timely fashion have been the talk of the industry for the past two years, with some sugarmakers claiming upwards of an 18 month turnaround time to get their syrup jugs.
Fallmann said the primary problem in fulfilling orders is staffing shortages at the Sugarhill plant in tiny Turners Falls, Massachusetts, population 4,400.
He said Altium has already hired nearly one dozen new workers in the past two weeks and will be holding job fairs and offering increased wages to attract more workers to the facility.
Fallmann pledged that the company will remain committed to the screen printed, custom designed containers and they will continue to be available to sugarmakers
"We're all about growth," he told The Maple News on Tuesday. "We believe in the decorated bottles."
He said it will take some time for the company to catch up with the backlog. Even with the increased staffing, there is a lag time to get employees trained and skilled on some "pretty technical equipment," he said.
The company has 77 plastic blow-molding facilities in the U.S. and Canada and said other plants may be utilized to make syrup jugs in the future.
Altium makes a wide-array of plastic containers including milk jugs, pill bottles and the French's mustard containers, among hundreds of others.
Thomas Spink, the industry point-man for Sugarhill and a familiar face at maple trade shows and conferences, told The Maple News the company manufactures upwards of 30 million syrup containers per year.
He said roughly 10 to 15 percent of that production is the artfully-designed custom screen printed bottles that allow sugarmakers to market their own proprietary sugarhouse brand.