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HPPA Industry News

  • 20 Apr 2022 12:01 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    As the industry leader for environmental and social responsibility, Polyconcept North America (PCNA) has established an unwavering commitment to creating positive change. Today, the company is excited to introduce the next big step in that commitment: ProudPath™.

    ProudPath™ is a new platform that will empower distributors seeking to meet their customers’ environmental and social responsibility objectives, not only with an industry-best assortment of products and retail brands, but also the expertise they need to educate and sell, as end-user demographics create a long-term shift in the promotional products market.

    “The focus on environmental and social responsibility is changing how we all do business. We’re proud to continue leading that change,” says Neil Ringel, PCNA CEO. “Just as our assortment of sustainable and socially responsible gift solutions has grown during the past several years, so has our ability to make a difference through partnerships with nonprofits and forward-thinking retail brands. ProudPath™ represents the next big step in our commitment to the planet, its people and our distributor partners.”

    The ProudPath™ platform is designed for distributors to use as their own. With a broad assortment that’s easy to navigate and sales tools to educate and share ideas – including a new eCatalog – they’ll be equipped to establish themselves as leaders for environmental and social responsibility in the promotional products marketplace.

    In creating gifts people can feel good about, distributors can help their customers make an impact in a variety of ways, whether it’s retail brands that give back to great causes, supporting small businesses or

    eco-friendly products. PCNA will continue its work with 1% For the Planet – a partnership that began in 2019 – donating one percent of eco-product sales to environmental nonprofits Well Aware and One Tree Planted.

    Sustainability is a key component of every decision PCNA makes, Ringel says. The supplier uses UPS® carbon neutral shipping to deliver orders and has earned Forest Stewardship Council® Chain-Of-Custody certification for U.S. facilities in Pittsburgh, Miami, and Charlotte, ensuring that FSC®-certified products are from responsibly managed forests. Moving forward, PCNA will partner only with retail brands that share its commitment to environmental and social responsibility. By 2025, the supplier is aiming for a 50% reduction in carbon emissions and 100% supply chain transparency.

    While PCNA continues to strengthen its commitment to environmental and social responsibility, Ringel believes now is the time for an industry-wide transformation.

    “The world is changing, and it’s time for our industry to do the same,” Ringel says. “This is an opportunity for everyone to reimagine what they’re doing today and make a commitment to do better for tomorrow. Collectively, we’ll shape a future that will make us all proud.”

  • 17 Apr 2022 9:21 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Sterling, Illinois-headquartered distributor HALO has announced executive management alignment changes and additions to focus on key areas for the company.

    The Moves: Paul Bellantone has been named senior vice president of customer experience; Dawn Olds, MAS, was named senior vice president of industry relations and DEI; and Cathie Hernandez has come onboard as senior vice president of drop ship operations.

    What They’re Saying: “Paul and Dawn are excellent examples of how industry veterans help HALO continue to be a destination of choice for account executives and customers,” says Marc Simon, HALO CEO. “Cathie is the latest executive we have attracted from outside the industry to provide depth and experience to support future growth—enhancing the selling experience for our valued sales team and providing innovative solutions for HALO clients.”

    Full Disclosure: Bellantone joined HALO in 2021 after two decades with PPAI, including serving for 10 years as the Association’s president and CEO. Olds is currently the chair of the PPAI Board of Directors.


    • Bellantone joined HALO one year ago as senior vice president of sales for the Western U.S., a newly created role at the company. In his new position as senior vice president of customer experience, he will report directly to Simon and be responsible for developing strategies to address the growing needs of HALO’s global client base. Bellantone says the new role will focus on driving end-to-end customer experience. “My passion will be to see that buyers and account executives continue to benefit from unparalleled HALO opportunities and experiences,” he says.

    • Olds, a 33-year HALO veteran, previously served as the distributor’s senior vice president of operations. In her new role at HALO, Olds will be accountable for translating her knowledge and relationships into strategies to improve its prominence externally and deliver value for its account executives, and lead the business initiatives to advance HALO’s diversity, equity and inclusion strategy. She will report to Jim Stutz, HALO executive vice president of sales and business development.

    • Hernandez will report to HALO Chief Operating Officer Kevin Pollack. She comes to the company from Equifax, a multi-billion-dollar leader in the workforce solution, data, and technology market. Hernandez will be responsible for continuing the HALO’s forward focus on all aspects of order management, including order processing, customer service and billing.
  • 17 Apr 2022 7:14 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Proforma, the $500 million technology and business success leader, hosted its largest Million Dollar Club trip at the luxurious Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Hotel.More than 250 Owners joined over 50 Supplier Partners to celebrate more than $1 Billion in collective sales and recognize 90 new and next level Members of the Million Dollar Club. These next levels accomplishments include induction into the Multi-Million, Five Million, Ten Million, and Twenty-Five Million Dollar Clubs. 

    “Our Owner network works hard all year to make it to the Million Dollar Club trip,” said Proforma V.P. of Sales, Greg Armstrong. “My favorite part of these days together is hearing Owner success stories that detail their unique journeys to this coveted recognition.” 

    The industry’s leading Supplier Partners in attendance were also recognized during the award ceremony for their exclusive partnerships with Proforma. 

    “It is amazing to witness the invaluable networking of our Owners and Suppliers, first-hand,” explained Proforma CEO, Vera Muzzillo. “This idea exchange among the best of the best continues to propel our owners to their next levels of success.” 

    During the event, Supplier Partners and Owners engaged in receptions, offsite adventures, golf, hospitality suites, meet-and-greet meals, and other events to network and develop valuable, lasting relationships.

  • 15 Apr 2022 3:46 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Gemline has released its 2021 annual Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Report. The Lawrence, Massachusetts-based supplier’s CSR efforts are focused on making a positive impact on society through environmental stewardship; charitable giving; diversity, equity and inclusion leadership; and ethical business practices.

    Environmental Stewardship:

    In 2021, Gemline undertook multiple initiatives to reduce its impact on the planet:

    • Gemline’s headquarters is a zero-landfill facility.
    • Also at its headquarters, Gemline has installed a 1,736-panel solar power system that, when it becomes operational by early Summer 2022, is expected to reduce energy consumption by approximately 43%.
    • The company has joined the UPS Carbon Neutral Program, designed to offset C02 associated with its shipments.
    • Gemline has expanded its already robust and line of eco-friendly products.

    Gemline has also become a certified member of the Sustainable Business Leader Program through the Sustainable Business Leadership Network of Massachusetts (SBN). The SBN is committed to raising the bar for business practices that are local, green and fair, and is part of the American Sustainable Business Network, a nationwide organization that is committed to building a stakeholder-driven sustainable economy.

    Charitable Giving:

    • In 2021, Gemline donated more than $575,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions to a range of charitable organizations that support communities through health and wellness programs, education and leadership activities, with a focus on Lawrence, one of the most impoverished cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
    • Gemline’s brand partners, including MiiR, CORKCICLE, Soapbox, Moleskine and W&P all contributed funds to charitable efforts as well.

    Looking Ahead:

    • Gemline is undertaking several sustainable initiatives intended to come to fruition in 2022.
    • The company is reducing the use of PVC in its products, as part of its commitment to the elimination of PVC from the entire Gemline product line by 2025.
    • Gemline is slated to decrease packaging waste by 50% by the end of the year.
    • Gemline recently partnered with EcoVadis, a globally recognized sustainability ratings provider, to benchmark its current sustainability practices and environmental impact, increase sustainability performance and identify future improvement opportunities across the company and supply chain.
    • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) has been a key focus of Gemline’s for a long time. In 2022, it is strengthening its DEI commitment by engaging a DEI training firm to provide extensive training for all Gemline employees, focusing on DEI awareness, inclusion and relationship building, all meant to further enhance Gemline’s culture.

    In Their Words:

    “We strongly believe Gemline has a long-term ongoing responsibility to our community and the environment. We will continue to build on our corporate social responsibility efforts, seek out opportunities to lead by example and raise the bar in everything we do,” says Jonathan Isaacson, CEO of Gemline.

  • 15 Apr 2022 3:44 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Planning for the future is a component to any success in business, but it’s just as important for any corporate social responsibility initiative. One-off philanthropic efforts can make a difference, but just like with business, plans and goals create accountability, guiding principles, and most importantly, results.

    In 2020, Koozie Group established the framework for Keep It. Give It., the Tampa, Florida-based supplier’s multifaceted initiative to create positive, lasting change for the people within the company and the world outside of it. There’s plenty to admire about Keep It. Give It., but perhaps its most valuable asset is its lack of ambiguity. There are goals and there is a timeline to accomplish those goals; Koozie Group is currently in the second year of a three-year plan for Keep It. Give It, and over the course of the spring has released information on the progress from its inaugural year in 2021.

    “I have a 10-year-old, Trey,” says CEO David Klatt. “And I feel strongly about building a better future for the next generation. Our CSR lets me rest easier at night knowing I’m doing my part to make a positive impact on our employees, communities, and industry.”Keep It. Give It. is broken into four subsections with specific goals and motivations. Those categories include fostering diversity and inclusion, giving back to employees and the community, safety and social responsibility, and environmental stewardship. The aims of each were put together by a cross-function steering committee throughout the organization. “We first surveyed our employees about what was important to them; then, we established our four key pillars from there,” says Chief Revenue Officer Melissa Ralston. The foundation of Keep It. Give It had to come from within, but it couldn’t come from just one part of the company.

    “The original task force involved members from legal, supply chain, safety, operations, marketing, human resources, finance—really all departments were represented,” Ralston says.

    What came out of those surveys was a combination of goals and ideas. Some of those pillars are more goal-oriented than others. Fostering diversity and inclusion is something that can be quantified in some ways and is more about awareness and education in others. But that doesn’t mean actions can’t be taken. In 2021, for example, Koozie Group launched its first ever speaker series.

    “A lot of our inspiration comes from what is going on around the country and the world at the time,” says Francine Dupuis, Chief Legal Officer and Chief Human Resource Officer. “Unfortunately, there have been many events that have sparked diversity and inclusion conversations. Since this is close to our backyard in Clearwater [Florida], and we have many employees who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, it was important for me to have Neema Bahrami speak to our workforce as a survivor of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting and an international speaker in support of the LGBTQ+ community.”

    Giving back to employees and communities is probably the most straightforward of Keep It. Give It.’s four tenets, but it still requires commitment, and Koozie Group met the challenge in 2021. According to its annual report, the supplier donated more than $250,000 to over 100 non-profits. It donated 100 laptops to A New Direction for Women and Men, Inc, a residential facility for drug and alcohol recovery, supported college scholarships through the Promotional Products Education Foundation, and provided 300 backpacks dilled with school supplies to the United Way and 200 backpacks to employees’ families.

    “Giving is really part of our culture of doing what we say we’re going to do and doing it the right way,” Ralston says. According to her, giving regularly can be its own kind of investment. “While nearly every consumer today expects a company to practice CSR, it’s not why we do it. We do, however, expect the investment to pay off not only with happier employees but also with increased sales.”

    Environmental stewardship is arguably the most urgent of Keep It. Give It.’s four cornerstones. Various climate reports have stressed the need for immediate climate action in order to protect the planet and slow the increase of natural disasters. The vast majority of this falls on corporations, and the promotional products industry knows that sustainability is no longer an optional part of doing business.

    Keep It. Give It. has put Koozie Group on the right track. “Our focus in 2021 was to gain [Forest Stewardship Council] and [Sustainable Forestry initiative] certification in our Sleepy Eye, Red Wing, and Clearwater facilities, and we achieved that,” Klatt says.

    Klatt also says that in 2022 Koozie Group will measure the company’s greenhouse gas emissions in order to set targets for reducing those emissions over the following years. “This goal will touch almost every area of our business, including manufacturing and overall supply chain, transportation, and packaging.”

    Koozie Group also took an important step forward in safety and social responsibility by becoming affiliated with the Fair Labor Association.

    “The Fair Labor Association aligns with our commitment to improving working conditions and protecting workers’ rights,” says Sandeep Jain, Vice President of Vendor Relations, Sourcing, and Compliance. “It also takes into account social and environmental considerations when managing relationships with vendors. It is difficult for suppliers to be good employers if their buyers are not committed to responsible purchasing practices.”

    Above and beyond OSHA requirements, the company conducts weekly audits to drive safety observations and find indicators for injury prevention.

    Employees across the organization helped create the foundation for Keep It. Give It, and Koozie Group’s three-year plan is well underway. But three years comes and goes, so what will the future look like for Koozie Group’s CSR program?

    The company doesn’t want to get away from the employee engagement that helped set the program’s standard, so it has created the Employee Experience & Communications Specialist position and have tapped Trisha Joyce, who has employee engagement experience at Under Armour and Carr Properties, for the role.

    “At Koozie Group our tagline is ‘Keep the good going,’ and I hope to do just that with our Keep it. Give it. initiatives,” says Joyce. “The KIGI program has a great foundation, and I hope to help highlight our accomplishments across our various departments as we continue to work toward our 2024 goals.”

  • 8 Apr 2022 4:54 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    In the year leading up to the soft launch of SugarSpot, the new candy brand by HPG under its Batch & Bodega line, there were some days that were just better to be in the company’s Northern California office than others. Those were the taste-testing days.

    When HPG decided it was going to venture into candy as a promotional product, quality mattered, and that meant sourcing from the best. You’ll get a lot of different answers when you’re asking about the best possible candy makers, and the only way to know for sure is to try it for yourself.

    “Every so often, when we would all be in the office, we’d be like,‘OK, it’s candy sampling day,’” says Campbell Davis, Brand Manager for SugarSpot and all things food at HPG.“We would open up all of the samples that we would have available, and just tell the 10 or 15 people who were in the office, like, ‘OK, try this.’”

    It wasn’t just a product team that got in on the action;a photographer, a vice president of marketing, a creative director. “We used their taste buds to help us make some of those decisions,” Davis says.

    That process helped the team narrow down 23 varied and mouth-watering flavors, from Champagne Gummy Drops to Mom’s Sugar Cookie Bites and Summer Watermelon Wedges. The branding of the candies lies in the packaging; company logos are placed on jars of candies packaged in HPG’s Minnesota facilities, and SugarSpot will complete orders as small as 25. That way, when sourcing their candy, the candy makers can focus on what they do best: sending over something delicious.

    Different flavors of candies come from different sources, and some are small-batch providers or mom-and-pops. The people who make SugarSpot’s Almond Apple Pie Bites have been refining that product for 40 years. Some of the companies they source from have been in the candy business for a century.

    Batch & Bodega is HPG’s initial foray into food, launching in 2020. According to Davis, the idea of SugarSpot was conceived almost immediately upon the launch of Batch & Bodega. “So, we've been working on this project behind the scenes for 18 months,” Davis says.

    SugarSpot will be available for companies looking for tasty branding this Summer, but the soft launch at The 2022 PPAI Expo in January was a big hit. Unsure of what the attendance might be, Davis says the team brought more candy than they thought they would need, but that they were “absolutely mobbed by the end of the second day.”

    It was a prime example of why the product isn’t particularly difficult to market. If a product tastes good, then sampling is the most effective advertising you can come up with. With SugarSpot’s sampling policy, customers give them a shipping number and receive five taster packets for free. They can simply request more after that, if they need a second opinion, or a second taste. It’s a similar policy as to what HPG might do for, say, pens, except they likely get a few more second and third requests to try out SugarSpot.

    “People love candy,” Davis says.

    It took nearly two years of the not-so-grueling process of taste-tasting to determine where to source candy from, and now SugarSpot is ready to provide whatever clients need. “The great thing about candy is it literally works for any industry, for any application, from a trade show to a super special gift basket,” Davis says. “You can use it to say ‘thank you’ or to say ‘hello.’”

    Davis points out that quality is still a reflection of a brand. No customer wants their name on something that someone is going to politely spit into a napkin 30 seconds later. SugarSpot was HPG’s effort to strike the balance of creative flavors and excellent quality. Did it accomplish the goal? Davis couldn’t help herself in her affirmative.

    “I think we hit that sweet spot.”

  • 6 Apr 2022 3:05 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Joseph Phillip Angello (Coco), 89, of Addison, TX passed away on March 12th in Dallas County.

    A Celebration of Life will be held at Merit Memorial 12801 N Stemmons Fwy, 801, Farmers Branch, Tx, 75234 on May 14th, 2022 at 1;00 PM. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes will be spread at sea by his children at a future date.

    Joe was born in LaSalle, IL to Anton and Josephine on February 23rd, 1933. He went to Oglesby High and graduated in 1952. He then joined the Armed Services, where he achieved the rank of Sergeant. Upon return, he took a job in the factory of a local watch and clock manufacturer, Westclox, in Lasalle, IL. His personality and charisma quickly led him to his true calling, sales. He retired as Director of Sales and Marketing in 1982. Joe went on to start several successful companies in various fields ranging from children’s hair care to restaurants and food service. His most recent venture, Angello and Associates, continues under the direction of his daughters, Lisa and Gina. He was recognized throughout his career for success and achievement and will be remembered by the many people he helped in their careers.

    Joe was an avid outdoorsman, and one of his favorite ways to spend time was at the ranch. Aptly named, “Ridicule Ranch” is a rural piece of Texas that he shared with friends and family, where he was possibly the most relaxed. Evenings by the fire and countless tales and stories were the routine. He was an avid gardener and spent hours tending to his yard and garden. His biggest claim to fame was his annual turkey fry which landed him a spot in the Dallas Morning News. However, his passion was time with his family.

    Joe is survi,ved by his former spouse, Sharon Badenoch, with whom he had four children: Lori Nietschmann and her husband, Scott, Jeffrey Angello and wife, Mercy, Lisa Angello, and Gina Priest and former husband, John. He is also survived by his brother, Tony, and sister, Joann. His grandchildren, which were his biggest joy, Jeffrey Nietschmann and his wife Nicol, Jillian Nietschmann, Joe Angello, Nina Angello, Sophia Priest, Baylee Priest and his step grandchildren, John and Brian Priest. He also has three great grandchildren, Julia Nietschmann, Amelia Nietschmann, and Beau Nietschmann. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Anton and Josephine, his brother Joe, and his sisters, Nina and Maryanne.

    While he left no specific directive, donations and remembrances can be directed to the T. Boone Pickens Faith Hospice center in Dallas, TX who helped care for him in his final days.

    Joe (Coco) was truly a larger-than-life personality who will be missed by all who knew him or had the opportunity to spend time with him. We feel blessed with the time we shared.  

    For detailed information please go to www.meritmemorial.com

  • 6 Apr 2022 7:52 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    S&S Activewear announced today that it has acquired Pompano Beach, Florida-based supplier TSF Sportswear.

    Reasoning: For S&S, the acquisition gives the Bolingbrook, Illinois-headquartered company greater access to markets in the southern U.S., while TSF’s customers benefit from S&S’s brand offerings and deep inventory of products in its nationwide network. TSF has operations and warehouses in Florida, Puerto Rico, Alabama and Texas.

    What They’re Saying: “We’re very pleased to have TSF join the S&S family. There’s a great fit between our two businesses. TSF brings some amazing talent as part of this new partnership, and we are confident the acquisition will add a great deal of value to TSF’s loyal customer base,” says S&S CEO Jim Shannon.

    “By bringing TSF’s operations into S&S, we are solidifying our leading position in the apparel distribution market,” says S&S President Frank Meyers.

    “Joining forces with S&S gives us access to new technologies and resources, and a greater depth of inventory and brands. It’s a very mutually beneficial agreement, and we look forward to our new partnership,” says John Feinberg, owner and president of TSF Sportswear.

    Important To Note:

    What’s Next: S&S plans to retain TSF’s south Florida and Puerto Rico locations, and expand their inventory and SKU selection. TSF also has a facility in Arlington, Texas, which will be folded into S&S’s Fort Worth location. Merging the Texas operations gives TSF’s southern and western customers access to an additional 375,000 sq. ft. of inventory and brands.

  • 31 Mar 2022 1:01 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Jack Nadel International, headquartered in Los Angeles and with offices around the world, has rebranded as, simply, Nadel .

    The Reasoning: The distributor points to its evolution from a promotional marketing company to a complete, in-house agency of talent and brand promotion for the name change and rebranding.

    What They’re Saying: “The world is changing and we’re positioned not only to stay ahead but truly bend the industry into what is has always needed to become,” says Debbie Abergel, Nadel’s chief strategy officer . “Our elevated brand, new headquarters and positioning is just the beginning of our vision.”

    • Since its founding in 1953, along with branded merchandise, Nadel has expanded into custom product development, digital storefronts, fulfillment, global distribution and more.
    • Its client roster includes household names such as Meta, Netflix and Tesla.
    • The company’s rebranding includes a redesigned website and refreshed social media branding.

    How It Came Together: Nadel partnered with Ludlow Kingsley, a boutique branding agency also based in Los Angeles, for this project. The company says that it sought to balance its industry position with a refined and re-energized look to stand out in an increasingly competitive field.

    “The space of branded merchandise stands at a crossroads; our eyes are focused on a future that meets our internal beliefs and pushes past boundaries. ‘Made with Nadel’ never held more promise than it does at this moment,” Abergel says.

  • 28 Mar 2022 1:57 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    AAkron (PPAI 111082, S10) announced Monday that it has acquired The Allen Company (PPAI 113879, S5) in a move that brings the AllenColorcraft drinkware, hydration and beverageware products to AAkron.

    The Acquisition: 
    The move will go into effect immediately, and the Akron, New York-based supplier will begin the process of offering AllenColorcraft products.

    • Allen Colorcraft will put a short pause on accepting orders on Tuesday, March 29 and will ship all open orders the following week.
    • AllenColorcraft products will then become available to order through AAkron as early as April 4 and will resume shipping from AAkron’s facilities April 11.

    More Context:
    The Allen Company, specializing mainly in drinkware and related products, was founded in 1959. The AllenColorcraft drinkware line joins the wide-ranging products already offered by AAkron, from magnets and cups to yo-yos and fly swatters.  

    • AAkron says that it now will be “able to offer the industry’s largest selection of Retail Drinkware brands.”
    • The two companies combine for 120 years in operation.

    What They’re Saying:
    “Anytime an organization can add talent to its team, then it’s a good move,” AAkron Line CEO and co-owner Devin Piscitelli says. “AAkron is also able to add trending products for gift-giving, personalization and recognition programs.”

    The company also says, “AAkron will be expanding upon its already extensive line of made-in-theUSA products, which is already the largest in the industry. Great timing with the global supply chain being in the trouble that it’s currently in.”
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