Gussets Lead to Growth

A paperboard envelope that expands to hold thick, bulky items delivers double-digit growth for Calumet Carton.

The CEO of Calumet Carton Co., Al Inwood, cites the “need for expansion” as a catalyst behind his company's development of a gusseted paperboard envelope that can expand to accommodate bulky and hard-to-package items.

True to its name, the “Expand-A-Mailer” has opened up a range of new markets for the 70-year-old converter of envelopes, cartons, and corrugated packaging as the product has averaged an impressive 60% annual growth rate since it was introduced in 1998.

“The idea came along because there was a need for expansion,” Inwood says, both literally and figuratively. “Our regular Stayflats mailer, which is our stock-in-trade that we started with years ago, is just a flat, two-dimensional envelope. It has some expansion capabilities, but if we get something thick, it's going to bulge. The gusseted features on each side of the Expand-A-Mailer allow it to handle something that's thick on one end, like a spiral-bound book.”

The Midwest converter markets the unique envelope as “the industry's first postal billboard,” because it can showcase key images, logos, or messages directly on the envelope, while expanding up to 1 in. to protect the contents against tears, wrinkles, and crumples. The Expand-A-Mailer is offset printed on a 38×50-in., six-color KBA Planeta press at 133 lpi and converted on five International folder/gluers with special attachments to create the gusseted folds on kraft from Beloit Box Board.

Marketing Appeal
The Expand-A-Mailer initially became popular five years ago with software developers needing a package that offered a professional look while delivering awkwardly shaped items like spiral-bound instruction manuals. The product is sold through distributors for end uses including food, compact discs, electronics, pharmaceuticals and personal care, fasteners, hardware, retail point-of-purchase, and parts.

According to Inwood, the Expand-A-Mailer creates a new category of postal mailer by allowing offset-quality printing in custom colors, sizes, and images across 100% of the mailing surface, while ensuring adequate space and protection for enclosed materials with a proprietary gusset technology. This allows oversized mail items to arrive with full marketing appeal, says Inwood, and eliminates the need for heavier chipboard or corrugated stiffeners, which add weight and cost to shipping.

Inwood notes that, on average, less than 1% of direct mail pieces draw a response, and that small percentage usually is considered a success. He suggests the Expand-A-Mailer receives greater attention, and therefore a higher response, because of its unique appearance and product protection characteristics.

“For oversized mailings that can't be ignored, the ‘postal billboard’ concept makes sense,” says Inwood. “It looks and feels different and transforms the typically unused envelope space into a cost-effective medium to attract attention, sell, or communicate. It's penny-wise and pound-foolish to hone sales, marketing, or communications tools only to have them delivered in a generic, unprotective wrapper.”

Expand-A-Mailers are available in relatively small orders; unprinted mailers are available in white 0.020-in. recycled boxboard from Rock-Tenn in stock sizes of 12 × 9 in. and 10 × 7 in.

In addition to Expand-A-Mailer, the company's primary product line includes folding cartons, corrugated and kraft packages, and Stayflats mailers like the ones used by the US Postal Service for delivering priority mail. The company also developed a proprietary “Micro-Corr” line of small-fluted cartons with offset litho-printed graphics at 133 lpi and, reportedly, the strength to carry items as heavy as bowling balls. Its latest innovation is a mailing piece specially designed for the US Postal Service for first-class delivery and signature confirmation.

Calumet's 140,000-sq-ft headquarters/converting facility houses a range of equipment for printing and converting paper, paperboard, and corrugated. In addition to the KBA press, Calumet operates a 28×40.5-in., five-color offset press and a 20×24-in., two-color offset press from other manufacturers. Bobst supplies most of the die-cutters, including two SP 130-ER models and one SP 102-E model. Platemaking equipment is supplied by Krause and Agfa, and the company operates Kodak, HP, and Agfa proofing systems.

Converter Info
Calumet Carton Co.

16920 State St.
South Holland, IL, USA 60473

Supplier Info
KBA North America, Sheetfed Div.

International/Western Slope Industries

Beloit Box Board Co.

Rock-Tenn Co.

Krause CTP Ltd.

Bobst Group

Kodak Polychrome Graphics


Agfa Corp.

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