Ellsworth Ice Cream Co. has a heritage as charming as its Saratoga Springs, N.Y., surroundings. But even a pastoral ice cream company needs to keep up with the times, especially when its products now are distributed up and down the East Coast.
Ellsworth for years packaged its stick novelty items in traditional paper wrappers. "There is growing sentiment in the frozen dessert market that film is superior to paper in terms of appearance, production efficiency and moisture resistance," says Tabor Ellsworth, president of the company that bears his name. "Our customers were basically demanding a switch to film."
Oriented polypropylene film is easy to peel open and doesn't stick to ice cream bars or water ice products like paper can, says Tabor Ellsworth.
Brothers Ralph and Floyd Ellsworth founded their ice cream company in 1933, selling five-gallon cans of ice cream and hand dipped, chocolate-coated ice cream bars to groceries and drug stores in the Saratoga Springs area. Today, the company's lone plant produces tractor-trailer loads of novelty ice cream and water ice products earmarked for distributors and direct-sale customers from Maine to Florida.
Early in 2003, Ellsworth chose oriented polypropylene (OPP) film from ExxonMobil Chemical. "We chose to partner with ExxonMobil Chemical because the company understands the industry and makes films specifically for the ice cream market," says Ellsworth.
After consulting with ExxonMobil, Ellsworth chose to run Oppalyte 278 WOS-2 on its four stick novelty packaging machines. A one-side treated, one-side sealable, white opaque film, it provides desired stiffness, a low and consistent coefficient of friction for excellent slip characteristics, and a broad seal range for use on multi-lane equipment.
Ellsworth Ice Cream does the bulk of its business in private label, supplying grocery stores with ice cream novelty items in multipacks. These customers appreciate the ease with which film tears and the added moisture barrier film provides.
"The Oppalyte film is very easy to peel and it doesn't stick to ice cream bars or water ice products like paper can," says Ellsworth. "Our private label customers appreciate and expect their vendors to supply products that come in easy-to-use packaging. You don't want packaging that detracts from the consumer's enjoyment."
According to Ellsworth, customer response to the switch affirms his reasoning for going with film. "Replacing our paper wrapper with film has been very well received by our customers," he says. "The private label market is extremely competitive, and we're always seeking a way to separate ourselves from the competition. Our image is enhanced as a quality supplier that's committed to improving products and process. The film sets us apart from the competition, which is hard to do today."
While Ellsworth's decision to replace paper with film appealed to private label customers, it also helped the company pursue an equally lucrative market: single-serve novelties.
The single-serve frozen novelty market continues to grow, primarily due to the strength of sales at convenience stores, kiosks, vending machines, stadiums and amusement parks ,- impulse markets where consumers seek an on-the-go treat. In these outlets, both stick and non-stick frozen novelties compete with snack food and confectionary items that have long been packaged in film with eye-grabbing graphics.
Two years ago, Ellsworth recognized the opportunity the single-serve market presented and invested in new filling equipment to extend its ice cream line. Initial results were mixed, with potential customers showing interest in the Ellsworth products but ultimately not buying.
"When we first made the move into the single-serve market, we were competitive on price and product, but no one wanted to do business with us because we still wrapped our products in paper," recalls Ellsworth.
Armed with a new film wrapper, the Ellsworth line of single-serve novelties experienced significant success selling into the institutional market ,- schools and nursing homes for example ,- and small to mid-sized convenience stores.
"We're trying to break into this market and we're having good success competing with national brands," says Ellsworth. "The competition was in film, so we needed to be in it too. The film helped us capitalize on an opportunity that we knew was there."
In addition to improved looks, feel and moisture protection, Oppalyte 278 WOS-2 also delivers machining advantages over paper. OPP film is water-resistant and less prone to moisture damage than paper, reducing downtime and waste on packaging lines.
"By switching to film, we reduced breakage in our wrapping equipment by 66 percent," says Ellsworth. "At the end of the day, that translates into more product in the freezer and on the trucks to our customers. We're experiencing a significant return on investment from our decision to go with film packaging."
For more information, see315-966-1000.www.oppfilms.com or call