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Thinking Inside the Box


For nearly every manufacturer and retailer, image is everything. From the moment they walk into a store, customers experience a dizzying rainbow of consumer goods, neatly stacked and arranged to maximize its multicolored splendor. When people hear a brand name like Cheerios or Hamburger Helper, they usually don’t think of the actual food product: they picture the color of the box it came in or the mascot that promotes it. Boxes are a vital part of selling consumer goods because they don’t simply contain the product– they represent it.

Despite its importance, most people take product packaging for granted. They throw it away once it has outlived its usefulness, never once thinking about where it came from or where it’s going. In reality, there is a complex process to making these boxes.

Chances are that when Grundy County residents open a box of cereal, that box came from Altivity Packaging in Morris. The company was formed in 2006 when Smurfit Stone Container Corporation’s Consumer Packaging business merged with Field Container Company, L.P. The name Altivity is a combination of the words altitude and action words like activity, creativity and flexibility. Altivity is a representation of the company’s desire to reach new heights by utilizing those action words on a day-to-day basis. In its brief existence, Altivity has already made Forbes magazine’s 2006 Largest Private Companies list.

All the box material Altivity uses is made from recycled paper pressed in their internal mills from other states, according to Al Saberniak, Service Manager at the Morris plant. The box material is clay-coated on one side (the outside of the box), which helps the material better absorb ink. The cardboard is cut from the rolls into large sheets in order to print en masse.

Altivity packages are printed using lithography, a special chemical process designed for printing on smooth surfaces. The company receives a design from client companies as a digital file, which is then chemically etched into a printing plate. The plate is then coated with six-color inks and transferred onto the cardboard.


From there, the cardboard sheets are moved to the cutting department, where they are cut and indented precisely so they are ready to be constructed and filled. Finally, they are sent to the finishing department, where they are glued and packaged for shipping. The finished boxes are sent back to the clients, who then fill and distribute them.

The combined plants of Altivity Packaging produce packages of all shapes, sizes and materials, for companies of every stripe. However, Al Saberniak notes that the Morris plant primarily does traditional boxes, with major clients including General Mills and Betty Crocker. While these boxes tend to be fairly standard, Saberniak has overseen some out-of-the-ordinary jobs, including making a window for cds and printing scratch and sniff boxes, which involved adding special elements to the ink.

The packaging industry is a stable industry that shows no signs of slipping. As long as there are products to be placed on the shelves, there will be a need for packaging. Cardboard boxes specifically are stable, rigid and resealable, important factors for everyday consumers. They are also a renewable resource — the boxes are recyclable, as well as the metal plates used to print them. Even in the face of progressive packaging technology, cardboard boxes seem assured a foothold in the market. Radio Frequency IDs, also known as radio bar codes, are small electronic antennae that are attached to packages that allow them to be scanned more easily. Someday, these antennae may be tiny enough to mix with the actual ink and print on the boxes.

The tremendous thought and effort put into packaging may seemingly go unnoticed by the average person, despite the deep impression they make on the consumer subconscious. However, every manufacturer and retailer openly appreciates the eye-catching product protectors produced everyday by companies like Altivity Packaging.

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