Ben Abernathy Joins Spearhead as their Global Packaging R&D Advisor

We are very proud to welcome Ben Abernathy to the Spearhead Group as our Global Packaging R&D Advisor. Based out of the Kentucky Flagship Innovation Center, Ben is strategically positioned to help expand our strategic Physical Brand Enhancement offerings within the bourbon belt and around the world.

Ben has over 17 years of experience in spirits, food, and household consumer packaging innovation and commercialization, working with such companies as Kraft, Cadbury, Clorox and most recently Beam Suntory. Ben has a vast amount of experience in not only package engineering and development, but he also has a natural ability to lead, inspire, and influence a broader team towards achieving overall organizational strategies.

“Having worked with Ben for many years, I knew that he would be a perfect fit for Spearhead as the Global Packaging R&D Advisor role. Ben is an extremely talented individual, able to approach all the technical aspects of a project with an eye on practical real-world application of designs in production, client co-pack/assembly and the final consumer usage. In addition to his technical background, Ben is an all around great person to work with; his straight forward, honest and ethical approach to everything that he does, fits nicely into Spearhead’s core values. We are very proud to call Ben part of our team.” – Robert Catalano, Co-Founder & President, The Spearhead Group, Inc.

With the addition of Ben to the team, Spearhead’s clients will see an increased technical presence on their projects, and our Spearhead Pioneers will also have an additional engineering resource dedicated to product development and production controls.

“I am both excited and honored to join the Spearhead Group. Their innovative and progressive approach to packaging and Physical Brand Enhancement truly inspire me. I look forward to further strengthening Spearhead’s commitment to producing quality products that make a lasting impact on consumers.”- Ben Abernathy, Global Packaging R&D Advisor

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Michael Murphy Joins The Spearhead Group in Singapore

The Spearhead Group is excited to welcome Michael Murphy, as Innovation Advisor to the APAC region. Based in Singapore, Michael will work to expand Spearhead’s offerings of Physical Brand Enhancement throughout Asia and will strengthen the offerings from our Kentucky Flagship.

“After working with Mike in his previous roles at Diageo, we have kept close as both our careers evolved over the years. During that time, I have come to know Mike as an extremely skilled professional, with an eye for detail and a passion for innovation and product development. Mike being based in Singapore is extremely advantageous for our continued global growth. We are proud to have him join our team.” – Robert Catalano, President, The Spearhead Group

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Michael has over 25 years of experience across multiple industries in such areas as product development, brand change and renovation, innovation commercialization, supply chain optimization, team leadership, and key relationship building. Throughout his career, Michael has held numerous critical roles in fortune 500 companies such as Avon, Tiffany & Co and Diageo.

“I am so very humbled to join The Spearhead Group to help increase brand presence through Physical Brand Enhancement here in APAC. I have always focused on consistently adding value through sustainable product innovation, adding clarity to ambiguity and delivering luxury quality. These attributes are engrained in our DNA and I cannot wait to work with the global group of such talented professionals.” – Michael Murphy , APAC Innovation Advisor, The Spearhead Group

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

The Spearhead Group Welcomes Innovation Advisor, Lana Toler

We are excited to introduce Lana Toler as Innovation Advisor to The Spearhead Group. Lana will be based in Louisville, KY, at our Kentucky Flagship location within the office of our Spearhead Pioneer, Acuity Packaging & Logistics. She will be the primary Innovation lead for Spearhead’s Bourbon Belt expansion.

“Having known and worked with Lana for a number of years, Heather and I knew she would be a perfect addition to help lead our Innovation offerings in Louisville, KY. Lana is down to earth, creative, smart, and incredibly knowledgeable on operations and project management. We are lucky to have her onboard and we are looking forward to growing together in the Bourbon Belt and beyond.” – Robert Catalano, President, The Spearhead Group

Lana is a creative and collaborative innovation manager who transforms ideas into consumer-driven experiences on a global scale. Lana has decades of experience, including more than 16 years at Beam Suntory, in various areas of R&D, successfully collaborating with National Accounts, Sales, Technical, Manufacturing, Marketing, and Insight teams. She has been running her own business since the beginning of 2018 consulting with various spirits related businesses and has built teams, developed workspaces, and standardized ways or working.

“I’m incredibly inspired by the creation of The Spearhead Group and the mission to reach consumers using the sensory cues of Physical Brand Enhancement. The company is not only woman-owned, but has a keen sense regarding sustainability as well as team building that make this group stand out. I am humbled by the opportunity to work with such a great team!” – Lana Toler , Innovation Advisor, The Spearhead Group.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Spearhead Adds On-site Quality Advisor to International Quality Team

The Spearhead Group is pleased to announce an additional resource to expand quality offerings to our client partners. Spearhead is unique in the industry as a result of studying not just manufacturing, but assembly and copack of the PBE products we provide to Fortune 500 Spirits and CPG companies. With the addition of Abdulrahman Alrifai to our team in Canada, working inside our clients’ bottling and copacking locations, we will create a data-driven set of quality metrics, and achieve faster and better performance of our products for our clients.

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Abdulrahman Alrifai has over 30 years of industry experience in food manufacturing, consulting, auditing, and guiding worldwide food professionals through safety systems implementation, using different international standards like HACCP, FSMA, ISO 22000, BRC, OHSAS, ISO 9001, and 14001. Abdul is currently a member of the American Society for Quality, ENACTUS, Windsor-ESSEX Food Council and Standard Council of Canada committee. In addition, Abdul is a Certified Lead Assessor for the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) and maintains a CITP designation.

Abdul’s on-site skill set and experience, combined with our Advisory Board Member Tom Harney‘s expertise in Quality and Regulatory Compliance, creates an unmatched service extension to our clients.

“I am looking forward to working closely with Abdul and Tom to implement feedback from the sites where we deliver our goods all the way back to the origination of raw materials, which will create value by improving quality and efficiencies on the production lines here in North America” Vianney Becerril , Product Development Manager, The Spearhead Group.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Launching Spearhead Luxury Packaging (China) Co., Ltd.

Spearhead is once again cornering the space of Physical Brand Enhancements. From sustainable paper packaging with our strategic material supplier, BillerudKorsnäs, to our recent announcement about Spearhead China and Cambodia for reusable textile packaging, we are now proud to introduce our newest addition to the Spearhead family. Spearhead Luxury Packaging is now incorporated in China to supply innovative luxury packaging, with a specific focus on the North American spirits and beauty industries.

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Spearhead Luxury Packaging will focus on creating luxury boxes out of all types of materials, from hand-finished wood to uniquely wrapped paper, textile and leather materials, and including high-end ribbons, magnetic closures, and medallions. Spearhead’s luxury boxes will exceed our client’s expectations by approaching this category like a fine craftsman, taking care of each element from the base materials selection all the way to each piece of hardware. Everything will have the care and attention our clients have come to know from Spearhead.

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With this addition, Spearhead can now design and develop luxury boxes to fit any discerning brand and consumer taste.

“The key in this space is quality, and by that, we mean 100% quality. We think of Luxury Box Packaging like a high-end piece of furniture. This space is all about giving brands prestige on the shelf, and ultimately giving a customer a repeated experience of prestige and luxury when opening and displaying at home.” – Robert Catalano , President & Co-Founder, The Spearhead Group

Spearhead Luxury Packaging will function similarly to the groundbreaking Spearhead Pioneer Program. Only 2 – 3 of the very best manufacturing locations with the best quality or unique innovation have received invitations and accepted to join the program, with additional partners only being accepted on the basis of an application to the program. The partners we have accepted in Asia are proven and reliable, with demonstrated quality systems, ISO9001, SA8000, G7, and Sedex audit/certifications.

Brand innovation is happening at breakneck speed, and to stand out to consumers, you have to be innovative in every aspect of your branding. Spearhead Luxury Packaging has been created to help brand owners create the differentiation that is needed to stand out in such a crowded space.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Announcing Spearhead China & Cambodia for Textile Innovation

The Spearhead Group, Inc. is pleased to announce a new strategic partnership in China and Cambodia focused on high-quality production of textile bags for Physical Brand Enhancement of Spirits, Personal Care, and Food & Beverage brands.

As a result of the ongoing and growing demand for luxury packaging that is both affordable and sustainable, Spearhead has entered into a strategic agreement with a high-quality manufacturing group with production locations both in China and Cambodia. These facilities employ over 700 people, in modern and scalable facilities. Most importantly, the China and Cambodia teams are quality minded and entrepreneurial, seamlessly matching the culture and value proposition championed by Spearhead.

“Spearhead’s focus on sustainability led us to add textile bag packaging as one of our strongest product offerings to date, as these products are reused by customers and generally do not go to landfill. In addition, they continually reinforce branding and provide great value to our clients and their customers.” – Heather Fritzsche, CEO, The Spearhead Group

Textile offerings include natural and synthetic fabrics, and various decorating elements including screen or digital printing, patches, labels, thermal sublimation, heat transfer, hot stamping, and embroidery. These factory locations fit easily into Spearhead’s ethos of innovation and sustainability; manufacturing has many automated processes to maintain the highest level of quality and repeatable specifications.

Spearhead China and Cambodia will join forces with the Spearhead Innovation Center in China. With the Innovation Center’s focus on new materials and products, and the sewing and textile processes at both manufacturing locations, we are able to offer a single supply chain for combining materials and innovative production.

“I am excited to work with brands to develop their textile packaging supply chain – Especially ones that involve innovation, automation, and bottling lines!” – Vianney Becerril, Product Development Manager, The Spearhead Group

The Spearhead Group is thrilled to offer real transparency and cost-effectiveness to our clients; by developing supply innovation as one group, Spearhead offers streamlined development, communication, and execution.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Q&A with Spearhead Advisory Board Member Ray DeCarlo

We recently sat down with newly-appointed Spearhead Advisory Board Member Ray DeCarlo; what follows are his thoughts on the packaging industry over the last 35 years, his experience working with The Spearhead Group and several Pioneers.

Q: How has your career led you to this point? 

A: I’ve been in high-end value-added packaging since 1983, beginning with the folding carton side of the business which has been my primary focus over the last 35 years. I began my career working for a company that was and still is considered one of the leading folding carton suppliers in the industry. I’ve had the opportunity to work with a few different companies over that period of time, always with the same focus; high-value, innovative packaging. That is what I’ve always valued, companies who can set themselves apart from everyone else. I’ve worked primarily with folding cartons, rigid boxes and thermoforming over the course of my career.

Q: Throughout your 35-year career, are there any highlights you’d like to share? 

A: Something that I was always quite proud of occurred early on in my sales career. I was selling folding cartons and was assigned to a territory with 8 million in revenue. I was able to grow the sales to 14 million by the end of my second year which accounted for nearly 60% of the sales volume for the entire company which had 5 salespeople during that time.

Another memory comes from my time handling a major rigid box account. At the time I took over, the client split business 60/40 between myself and competitor with the competitor enjoying the majority of business. This had been the split for many years and the company I was representing was never able to get more than 40% of that account. After a year the client split the business 60/40 but I was able to become the primary vendor which at the time everyone told me it ‘would never happen,’ but it did.

Q: What are some specific areas that you’re focusing on with The Spearhead Group?

A: I’m their packaging consultant and a member of the Advisory Board. I’m working with the Spearhead Team to identify and develop packaging suppliers and new innovative materials and processes. Our goal is to partner with companies that are leaders in their field bringing imagination and innovation to the market. I’ve always enjoyed ‘thinking outside of the box’ and trying to come up with alternative methods and options on how to do things with different materials and processes. Spearhead is focused on innovation and bringing Physical Brand Enhancements™ to every aspect of the program. For me, that would be packaging and materials.

Q: What was your personal experience working with Robert and Heather before joining the Spearhead Group? 

A: I worked with Heather and Robert some years before they started Spearhead. For a guy like me, who has been in the industry for a long time I have always valued people who are open and innovative in their thinking. Working with Spearhead is breath of fresh air. They are very much into innovation and bringing value to their clients and not offering the same old procedures, processes, and products.

Q: How do your strengths and experience fit in with the current advisory board? 

A: My background is in engineering. I always enjoy learning as much as I can about the various processes and materials. I’ve made a point to do that over my 35 years in this industry. In addition to being a sales representative, I have always considered myself a consultive salesperson. Someone that my clients can brainstorm with about what I think the best way to proceed with a project would be and what other options might be available to save money or other creative ideas. With Heather and Robert, they are allowing me to do just that. To bring my background, expertise and my contacts together. The running joke is I either know a guy or know a guy who knows a guy who can get the answer. It’s a great feeling when people look at you and say; we have a challenge or problem, let’s reach out to Ray for the answer.

Q: What interests you most about the opportunity with Spearhead?

A: The opportunity to get into a meeting and be extremely creative and innovative. To be able to bring new ideas, materials, and processes to Spearhead which they can then present to their clients. Spearhead is structured in a way that allows someone like myself to have significant input in the day to day projects being worked on. Heather and Robert truly value my input, ideas, and opinions.

Q: What has changed the most in the Packaging industry over the last 35 years?

A: From a sales perspective, so much of what was done in the ‘old days’ was on a face-to-face and relationship basis. That’s not what the industry is today. Everyone is driven by information accessed on a computer. I’ve always valued the collective brainstorming sessions and sharing ideas that you get from face-to-face meetings, but sometimes that’s not possible.

When I first started in the packaging industry it was the infancy of UV printing. The UV process has changed everything up until this point. What we’ve seen over the last 35 years in the printing world are faster presses, faster make-ready times, and superior color control systems. The process has evolved and improved dramatically from what it was. It has become a shorter-run quicker-turn market.

The digital press is in the early stages of development, but it is going to have a greater impact on the industry in the future. The advent of some of the higher-speed 28-40 format presses that are coming into the marketplace with UV coating capability will lend itself more effectively to larger-run folding carton jobs.

Q: You recently visited Curtis Packaging to see their new press, can you recall what stood out about that press to you?

A: It’s a 28-40 KBA press, 16 unit (11 printing units, 5 coating units) press. It’s incredible how quickly you could make-ready jobs. The color control is extremely impressive. In my 35 years, I’ve never seen a press with this capability. It can handle somewhere from 15-18 thousand pieces per hour.

Regarding my relationship with Curtis; I’ve worked with and competed against them for years and have always respected and valued their capabilities. Being able to now work with companies that I’m confident in and fit the culture that Spearhead is developing is important; Curtis was one of my top choices from the start.

Q: How do you think the Pioneer program is propelling Spearhead forward?

A: One of the important aspects of the Pioneer Program is identifying companies that are high-quality who will work with Spearhead and their clients to collaborate in order to give the clients what they need and expect. The companies we’ve brought in do just that. I think people will look at our Pioneer teams including companies like Curtis and Greener Planet/TPC Printing & Packaging and realize we’ve compiled the best of the best in our industry. There is no aspect of packaging that we will not look at or evaluate if we think it will bring value to our clients.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Ray DeCarlo Joins The Spearhead Group Advisory Board

The Spearhead Group is proud to announce that Ray DeCarlo has accepted a seat on our Advisory Board.

As a Spearhead Advisory Board Member, Ray will continue to focus on leading our domestic packaging vision. Ray has over 35 years of experience in high-end value-added packaging sales, with extensive experience in paperboard and plastic folding carton sales, thermoforming and rigid boxes. Ray has leveraged his relationships and knowledge of converting capabilities and trends to guide his clients on how best to achieve their graphical and functional targets. He maintains an active involvement in various industry organizations including, CIBS (Cosmetic Industry Buyers and Suppliers) and The NJPEC (New Jersey Packaging Executives Club).

“Ray has proven himself to be an integral part of the development of The Spearhead Groups’ domestic packaging. Over the past year, we have seen how Ray’s experience is in complete alignment with Spearheads vision. As our business continues to grow, we are proud to have Ray in an impactful role as an Advisory Board Member.” –  Heather Fritzsche, CEO, The Spearhead Group, Inc.

About Spearhead’s Advisory Board

From the inception of The Spearhead Group, the two founders recognized the value of building a strong and highly experienced team. This is demonstrated in everything that they do and everyone they interact with, from the assembly of the Spearhead Pioneer Program to technical advisors, outside counsel, accounting firms, bankers and yes, an Advisory Board.

“One person alone cannot have the amount of skill and experience we need to take on our vision to create and expand the market for Physical Brand Enhancement. Spearhead was born out of an entrepreneurial spirit, and it is that spirit that needs a team of experienced and innovative experts to grow. We cannot be prouder of the team we have assembled for our Advisory Board.” – Robert Catalano ,President, The Spearhead Group

Ray DeCarlo will be joining the ranks of the following Advisory Board Members;

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Try Topping This – Over-caps Bring Limited Edition Mania to Brands

Whether you have a new or an existing brand, creating and keeping the excitement around your product is an ongoing challenge. Customers are more demanding than ever, wanting a unique experience with each purchase, and the competition always seems to be jumping one step ahead, creating an environment where brand marketers must remain on their toes to keep connected with the next trend opportunity.

Imagine your customer walks into the store and sees their favorite brand with a beautiful Limited Edition cap, highlighting their city or creating a more giftable holiday feel… chances are they are not only just buying one, but another for a friend or family.

We also look at the idea of functionality into the collectability as well. Some of the concepts developed by Bill Hutto Design (images shown) have built-in measuring cups for perfect drink mixes, flash drives hidden into the cap and even smartphone holders.

“Working closely with our Spearhead Pioneers, we are able to help brands capture unique moments in the customer’s realm, whether it be national, local, a brand anniversary or a holiday. In collaboration with our engineers, we can create a Limited Edition over-cap, that will draw attention to your brand and develop a collectors mentality around the primary package.” – Robert Catalano, President, The Spearhead Group

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

New Product Launch: Spearhead Proudly Creates EVAP, the First Ever Personalized E-Commerce VAP For the Spirits Industry

What if all the hassle of developing, forecasting, co-packing and distributing of Spirits Value Added Packaging (VAP) were a thing of the past? What if you could track a VAP ROI and obtain unique consumer data, all while standing out as an industry leader and exceeding your consumer’s expectations? What if your loyal customers could receive a VAP with their name on it?

With EVAP, Spearhead has created an entirely new platform for how consumers get their seasonal spirit gift sets. By using an E-commerce model, the old VAP days of extremely long planning lead-times, complex co-packing, challenging forecasting, and lack of ROI data are replaced with speed, agility, higher returns, and better customer experience.

“According to recent Epsilon research, 80 percent of consumers are more likely to do business with a company if it offers a personalized experience.” – Adage. In the spirits industry, personalization has lagged behind due to the regulatory landscape of the industry, but EVAP solves this problem.

“In my over 25 year career in the spirits industry, I have seen almost no change in the delivery medium for VAPs. In fact, retail stores can hardly keep up with the increased demand for shelf space, making it hard for any one brand to stand out. To solve this problem and bring VAP into the 21st century, we are introducing EVAP™, created and developed exclusively by Spearhead.” – Robert Catalano, Co-founder & President, The Spearhead Group

Yes, change is good.

If you believe EVAP™ could be of interest to your spirits brand, then please contact us to learn more.

 

About Spearhead

With more than 45 years of collective experience designing and delivering memorable Physical Brand Enhancements that make a lasting impact, we understand the importance of a customer’s connection to a particular brand.

Companies choose The Spearhead Group because they know we are invested in all aspects of the process. We bring a unique and personable approach to each and every brand we represent and work towards ensuring ROI on PBE activities.

Welcome to The Spearhead Group Blog

The Spearhead Group provides Physical Brand Enhancements to clients in the spirits, beauty and personal care industries. Headquartered in Yardley, PA midway between New York City and Philadelphia, The Spearhead Group offers companies a modern, full-service, consultative approach from concept to reality.

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