Exal Corporation partners with CPG companies - such as AB InBev and Unilever - and combines the group's alliances with its reputation for innovation, customisation and sustainability to help brands stand out in a competitive market. Michael Mapes, CEO, and Dirk de Vos, vice-president of sales and marketing, outline what the company can offer multinational brands and their environmentally conscious consumers.
Exal Corporation was founded in 1993 in Youngstown, Ohio, US, and is a pioneer in the aluminium packaging industry. Powered by technical innovation and a relentless pursuit of what is possible, Exal grew from a small start-up to a global industry leader. With a history of creating the next big thing in packaging - including the aluminium beverage bottle - Exal has positioned itself as the company to help CPG businesses transform packaging into a marketing tool. The group's continual reinvestment in its business has led to state-of-the-art operations being launched in Argentina and Brazil, as well as a joint venture in India called Casablanca Industries.
Since its launch, Exal has been a partner to countless multinational CPG brands and leading beverage companies. Exciting opportunities continue to take those brands to the next level, especially when it comes to appealing to today's consumer and partnering with industries that have not traditionally considered aluminium to be a packaging solution.
"We are especially excited about opportunities where aluminium bottle packaging hasn't been as widely used," comments Michael Mapes, CEO. "We know that aluminium protects the integrity of a product better, brings forward design capabilities that some manufacturers may not have today and delivers the 100% recyclability component of aluminium to consumers."
Aluminium is at the root of what gets results for Exal's customers. In addition to its protective and recycling qualities, the material is malleable, enabling custom shaping that really grabs a consumer's attention. "Aluminium shows off products in a premium way," continues Mapes. "It allows shaping but also makes use of tactile finishes such as frosting, texturising and other decorative options. This ultimately makes products in our packaging visually appealing and attention-grabbing."
As global competition increases and product offerings change, the challenge for consumer brands is clearly visible on supermarket shelves. "That is where differentiation is critical," says Dirk de Vos, vice-president of sales and marketing. "User experience is incredibly important in driving repeat purchases for brands that consumers interact with on a daily basis. Packaging is a major differentiator of that experience, in addition to being what draws a consumer into initially considering a product in the store."
Several factors have led to a shift in the kind of challenges CPG brands face: digital media, globalisation and sustainability. "Consumers are bombarded with choices and are taking in new information at an increasing rate through digital media," explains De Vos. "Brands have to cut through the clutter and begin a relationship with the consumer in creative ways."
Exal is uniquely positioned to promote innovative designs, shapes and finishes that elevate brands by delivering distinctive comsumption experiences. The custom structure and shape is especially important for brand recognition, and is something in which Exal has a track record. "We have been a pioneer in delivering custom shapes since the early 90s," states De Vos.
"A beverage marketer challenged us to create a container for their product that looked like a baseball bat. While the technology wasn't as advanced at the time, we were able to deliver a solution for that customer."
Since that request, Exal's unique shaping and graphics capabilities have evolved, and have concurrently become an industry expectation of CPG brands for driving recognition and increasing sales.
One such example is Uptime Energy Drinks. "Uptime is in a very competitive category," says De Vos. "By understanding the market and our potential in designing a unique aluminium bottle that stands out, and with a goal to disrupt the market, we worked with Uptime to create a bottle in minimalist black for regular drinks and white bottles for sugar-free products, which really drove results. It was embraced by customers and is growing by triple digits through reaching consumers who are newer to the energy drink market, including women and millennials."
As well as producing a premium aluminium packaging solution, the company's work for Uptime shows that Exal partners closely with clients to help them achieve the brand recognition that delivers sales results. To aid its partners in these efforts, Exal launched a new website that makes it easier to find packaging solutions that make a product deliver a unique consumption experience.
"Exal has a strong tradition of collaborating with clients to define marketing challenges, and working with them to develop innovative and customised solutions," explains De Vos. "We highlight some of these innovations on Exal's website with case studies that tell the story of finding new ways to bring a product to market, which engages a wider audience to try products in our aluminium containers."
As a strategic partner, Exal follows a process to create premium aluminium packaging for its collaborators that expresses the brand's identity in new and exciting ways. From insights gained through consumer research, Exal works with its clients to develop a custom solution through designs, shapes and finishes that not only get a product noticed, but also provide a different brand experience. This is all while research and development works on new alloys that reduce the weight and optimise the recyclability of Exal's bottles, so brands can use these claims for their consumer campaigns.
Exal pays attention to industry trends and finds new ways to partner with CPGs; one recent example concerns buying locally. "We understand a consumer's desire to trust products that are sourced and made near home," says De Vos. "These products don't have the same volume as those that are mass produced, so they need to work with partners, like Exal, to meet the needs of more niche, personalised and custom brands. And consumers enjoy products that deliver an upgraded experience."
By combining its efficient process, high-quality brands and Exal's drive, the company delivers top-of-the-line packaging to its partners, making the group stand out from the competition. Exal becomes the partner of choice because of its strategy and broad range of capabilities.
"Exal never rests when it comes to finding solutions that drive sales for its clients," states Mapes. "We are working on designing the next generation in packaging as we build iconic and premium brands."