Future nostalgia – growing together with the honey bear

Retal PA is the first US facility for multinational plastic packaging producer Retal Industries, with a further 12 factories across Europe all focused on developing and manufacturing preforms, closures and films. Based in Donora, the 11-line production site is efficiently managed by a dedicated team of industry experts, with considerable investment in technology and equipment supporting them to provide solutions for many leading mineral water, carbonated beverage and food brands. 

Retal has been proud to include CSI in its roster of valued clients during the last three years, helping to bring its much-loved honey bear packaging for honey to breakfast tables across the US. Founded in 1991 in Hillsboro, Kansas as a custom plastic bottle moulding company, CSI has multiple US locations, including New Castle, PA, with the mission to provide ‘packaging solutions that bring your passion to life’. In January 2024, CSI announced the acquisition of Apex Plastics in Brookfield, MO, and shared its new name for the family of companies, FirmaPak. Both long-term privately owned, both dedicated to plastic packaging excellence, and both proudly operating in Pennsylvania, Retal and FirmaPak value the partnership they have grown together.

A packaging partnership 

FirmaPak chose to work with Retal as a supplier for a range of PET preforms thanks to meeting their three key deciding factors. Brent Driggers, President at CSI and Chief Operating Officer at FirmaPak explains, “We look for quality, reliability and price. We need a high-quality preform with low defect rates, a partner who will be available to us and who can consistently meet our needs, and competitive and transparent pricing.” In addition, FirmaPak knew that a packaging partner must be able to grow with them as their business scaled, with the flexibility that required. Driggers adds, “Throughout our partnership with Retal, the team – whether operations, sales, production planning, or the CEO, have been available and responsive. We’ve developed a regular meeting cadence to discuss any open projects and our volume needs, both short- and long-term, which has further increased the consistency of on-time, quality orders.”

Retal PA CEO Darius Janulionis recognized that FirmaPak has found a happy home with Retal, with the Donora facility grabbing every opportunity to utilise the company’s investment in the most modern equipment to produce up to 2.5bn preforms each year. Janulionis says, “We have a real partnership with FirmaPak. We know we have the quality focus, the capability and the capacity to deliver what they want, when they want it, all while meeting sustainability targets.”

And what about the famous honey bear bottles? Driggers explains, “We were founded in 1991 next door to a honey packer. We started producing the honey bear bottles as customers wanted an alternative to glass bottles, and it has consistently remained one of our top-selling items. The Honey Bear is a source of connection, one that evokes nostalgia, emotion, and shared memories. As we bring students through our plant, we love watching their eyes light up as they see the bottle they’ve grown up with come to life!”

Valuing heritage

The Retal team understands the deep connection that FirmaPak, its customers and consumers have with this cute and functional little bear (and not so little – the range goes up to the big 48oz Papa Bear!). Production manager Matt Durka explains, “To repeatedly and reliably produce preforms for the iconic Honey Bear shape, we are consistent with quality checks, keeping the moulds clean, following our SOPs [Standard Operating Practices], as we do with all our customers. I always say, if you take care of your moulds, they’ll make great preforms for you! I also know that our regular meeting help to keep everything on track; we produce eight different preform sizes for FirmaPak, with just two moulds, so there’s a lot of planning, changes…it’s how we’ve been able to create solutions based on the volumes required.”

Sustainability is integrated into the decision-making process too, with Retal delivering responsible performance throughout their production, from the arrive-by-train raw materials into one of their nine silos to the energy efficient equipment and deep understanding of lightweighting and progressive European packaging legislation. This is appreciated by FirmaPak too, as Driggers adds, “Our partnership with Retal has improved our ability to meet our customer commitments by helping us to supply a high quality, consistent bottle. Retal has improved our ability to serve our customers well. We’ve been producing most of our preforms with 25% PCR for over 15 years, and after we partnered with Retal, the team proactively introduced us to a new PCR that maintains our high-quality standard, while providing more clarity in the preform. The Retal team and our internal team did extensive testing, and the conclusion was clear: this was a superior performing PCR that would be better for our customers. This type of partnership allows us to continue to provide our customers with the best solutions available as the industry changes and makes Retal an incredibly valuable partner.”

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