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HPPA Industry News

  • 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.”
  • 28 Mar 2022 11:45 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    It’s possible to have a 45-minute conversation with Proforma (PPAI 196835, D13) Chief Executive Officer Vera Muzzillo and Chief Marketing Officer Billie Jo Mathusek that never gets around to the business of promotional products.

    They’re happy to go much deeper, focusing instead on the meaning and purpose behind the company, and their goal for it to create positive change in the world.The Ohio-based distributor’s give-back initiatives include a recently announced collaboration with an organization working to empower women in Uganda with the means and training to be self-sufficient.

    It’s a cause with meaning for both women, who have their share of experience navigating historically male-dominated fields. Muzzillo started her career over three decades ago at a bank just two years after women were officially allowed to enter the bank’s boardroom, and then went on to work in Detroit’s auto industry Man or woman in business, there are decisions to be made. There are problems to solve. There are future dynamics the entire company will want to stay ahead of.

    But to hear Muzzillo tell it, while these decisions are important, they are not the most important.

    “We’re just a small cog on this earth,” Muzzillo says.

    The Proforma CEO further explains that business ownership is one of the biggest dreams in America, and Proforma enables that dream for its distributors. But, she says, that extends to making the world a better place. “When you die, you don’t take anything with you,” Muzzillo says of business leadership. “You’re just a steward.”

    And so, Profroma has donated to Threads of Hope, a non-profit dedicated to ending the cycle of poverty in developing countries. The organization creates an 18-month program that provides women across Uganda with sewing machines and the education to open their own businesses. It’s not the only charitable organization they have worked with recently. Some of Proforma’s hands-on partnerships have included Children Across Borders and Joshua House to aid underprivileged children and LAMPLighters to support homeless communities in Tampa.

    But the company doesn’t see these organizations as just the recipients of one-time donations or seasonal fundraisers. It was Mathusek who found Threads of Hope through a local association she participates in near Milwaukee, where she is based. As she learned more about programs that bring educators to poverty-stricken countries, she brought the idea to Proforma, knowing the company had the power and drive to assist. It’s something that she says Muzzillo encourages in all employees. “She keeps it wide open for anybody in relation to finding their niche, finding their place, to donate on Proforma’s behalf,” Mathusek says.

    The women say the culture at Proforma, doesn’t just encourage deciding who the company can help, it encourages the extra step: How can it help, and why is the company suited to help? Mathusek, inspired by the women Threads of Hope empowers, immediately made those connections in her head.

    “Giving finances to buy equipment and new sewing machines is just the first step,” Mathusek says of what a donation can accomplish, before thinking aloud about the possibilities beyond that. “These women produce product, you know?We in the promotional products world could utilize this opportunity to even go a little bit further and purchase or do something where we can market their products.”

    That kind of forward thinking beyond gestures is a quality that Muzzillo and Mathusek share, one that is an asset to their company, but also a necessity to their success. Both occupy high-level company-defining positions at Proforma, something that is, unfortunately, not yet the norm for women in just about any industry. Muzzillo understands that the basic gestures toward helping women are certainly welcome, but it takes critically thinking through the problems, big and small, sudden or accumulative, that women face to really create an environment where they can thrive in the workplace.

    The Proforma CEO had a potentially surprising response when asked about what companies can do to improve workplace environments for women: Implementing generous paternal leave.

    “I think women are very much called upon to shoulder a lot of additional responsibilities,” Muzzillo says.“Whether It’s responsibilities bridging the gap between home and work, sometimes they have to multitask more.They feel a little bit more guilt, in terms of letting go of some of the responsibilities at home.”

    All of what Muzzillo gets into when it comes to these topic has crossed her mind before. And yet it’s never rehearsed. The things that she wants Proforma to stand for involve issues that are arguably much more complicated than what the company excels at from a business standpoint. It’s a good thing that she’s thinking about them, because everything trickles down from there.

    “I can tell you this,” she says.“Our employees know at Proforma that Proforma is a company that's about things that are bigger than ourselves.”

  • 28 Mar 2022 11:45 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    This week, SAGE, the Addison, Texas-based provider of information, marketing and business management solutions to the promotional products industry and PPAI’s technology partner, is hosting its annual users conference. A virtual event for the second year in a row, the two-day SAGE Conference kicked off on March 23 and offers an extensive lineup of live and on-demand sessions that explore business trends and best practices, making the most of SAGE’s tools and applications, and the unique needs of the Canadian promo market.

    The first day of the SAGE Conference began with an update on the promotional products industry featuring David Natinsky, MAS, president of SAGE; Dale Denham, MAS+, president and CEO of PPAI; and Jonathan Strauss, president and CEO of Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC). The conversation was moderated by Ryan Hanchey, MAS, director of distributor sales at SAGE.

    Hanchey got the ball rolling with a question on what the three organizations—SAGE, PPAI and PPPC—were focusing on. Natinsky highlighted efforts to bring all modules and functionality of SAGE’s Total Access to all of the platforms industry members use, and to grow and add more value to distributors’ websites. Strauss emphasized the partnership between PPPC, PPAI and SAGE, and his organization’s advocacy for its members and recognizing the unique aspects of the promo community in Canada.

    Denham shared five areas of concentration for PPAI—deliver good member value, running a financially stable organization, elevating the corporate social responsibility (CSR) conversation in the promo industry, leading its digital transformation and the Promotional Products Work initiative.

    The panel also shared what they saw as some of the big, overarching challenges facing the industry. These included macroeconomic challenges like inflation and the supply chain, building communication between distributors and suppliers, and the evolution of work-from-home and hybrid business models.

    “I think that everything that has allowed the industry to survive and thrive will help it move forward,” Strauss said. “This means having good technology and working harder. There’s a lot of good products in the market, but you need to have the right technology to take advantage of them. Next to people, technology is the biggest expense among promo businesses. It should be. If it’s not your second or third largest expense, you need to look at that.”

    Hanchey prompted the panelists on what they saw as the most interesting trends for 2022-2023.

    “Everyone’s really excited to get back together,” Natinsky said. “We saw it at Expo, we’ve seen it internally. People want to get out, see each other and engage with each other. We’ve seen it on the regional side and at trade shows. I think that’s going to continue to grow. It’s somewhat getting back to normal.”

    Strauss pointed to the growing importance of brands in the promotional products industry, both adopted by it or created within it, and said that he expects them to remain part of the conversation going forward. Building on what had been said earlier in the conversation, Denham said that it’s the increased investment in technology, from both firms large and small, and in both dollars and time, and the growing adoption of CSR initiatives, particularly among the industry’s larger companies.

    Denham also proposed a terminology update: “We’ve steered away from ‘swag,’ over the years due to what it connotates. But I’ve noticed a new one lately, ‘merch.’ I’m completely OK with it. I think it’s good for our industry. ‘Merch’ elevates promotional products in people’s minds.”

    Looking ahead, all three panelists emphasized the path back to “normal.” Be it face-to-face meetings, in-person events and reconnecting with peers and colleagues, normal brings a lot of value to their organizations. Strauss shared a caveat, “The challenge for us is not just how do we go back to normal, but to not only go back to normal. We don’t want to just get stuck there. How do we build on the past but not forget the world has changed?”

    Following up, Denham noted, “We heard over and over, ‘best Expo ever,’ after The PPAI Expo in January. There were fewer people there but better conversations. One of our challenges as it grows back is how do we keep that vibe.”

    Also part of the conversation: the supply chain and growing a business today. The outlook on the supply chain crisis was generally positive, as some of the systemic issues constraining it have been resolved, but it could have lingering effects on the industry, with Natinsky suggesting that suppliers may have to pair down their catalogs some and focus on their most meaningful or best-selling products. “They’re going to focus on their best few hundred products instead of thousands.”

    Wednesday’s live sessions also included a discussion on driving traffic to websites, case studies on CSR, and a panel conversation on company stores. SAGE CEO Eric Natinsky shared what was new at SAGE and spoke about some of the company’s key initiatives, including enhancing the client digital experience, the scope and quality of data, and analytics and business intelligence, and reducing friction at checkout. Natinsky’s session also updated the audience on what was new with SAGE Mobile 11, SAGE Chat, SAGE Community and the company’s other products.

    The SAGE Conference’s Thursday schedule includes sessions presented by Cliff Quicksell, MAS+; Taylor Borst, director of marketing, events and public relations at American Solutions for Business; and other industry experts.

  • 23 Mar 2022 11:39 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Supplier Hirsch Gift in Houston has brought on Amanda Delaney as its new marketing manager. Delaney, a 20-year industry veteran, started her career on the distributor side of the business before jumping to the supplier side in 2009.

  • 23 Mar 2022 11:36 AM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    HanesBrands Inc. has been recognized as one of the 2022 World’s Most Ethical Companies for the second year in a row by Ethisphere, an organization that defines and measures corporate ethical standards, recognizes companies that excel and promotes best practices in corporate ethics. Winston-Salem, North Carolina-based HanesBrands, which participates in the promotional products industry as suppliers Hanes/Champion/ComfortWash and Alternative Apparel.

    • Now in its 16th year, Ethisphere’s evaluation methodology covers five weighted categories including governance, leadership and reputation, ethics and compliance program, ethical culture, trust, and environmental and social impact.
    • HanesBrands is among the 135 companies spanning 22 countries and representing 45 industries to receive this year’s recognition.

    What They Say: “At HanesBrands, doing what’s right is one of our global values,” says Steve Bratspies, CEO of HanesBrands. “We are committed to taking bold actions that make a positive difference in our communities, and we are proud to be recognized by the Ethisphere Institute as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for the second year in a row. This recognition is the result of the hard work and dedication of the 59,000 HBI associates who are committed to making the world a more comfortable place for everybody.”

    Ethisphere CEO, Timothy Erblich says, “Today, business leaders face their greatest mandate yet to be ethical, accountable and trusted to drive positive change. We continue to be inspired by the World’s Most Ethical Companies honorees and their dedication to integrity, sustainability, governance and community. Congratulations to HanesBrands for earning the World’s Most Ethical Companies designation.”

    Background: HaneBrands’ Full Potential growth plan, launched in 2021, includes a commitment to building a more sustainable business as well as investment in the company’s associates. HanesBrands reports that it is monitoring its progress against aggressive 2030 global sustainability goals that include a commitment to science-based environmental targets, addressing the use of plastics and raw materials, and improving the lives of at least 10 million people by 2030 through diversity and inclusion initiatives, health and wellness programs, improved workplace quality, and philanthropic efforts that improve local communities.

  • 22 Mar 2022 9:02 PM | Cassondra Franze (Administrator)

    Vantage Apparel is sponsoring the Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweeps for 2022. The company has been a site sponsor for the bi-annual event since its first involvement in 2019 and will now become a state sponsor as of this year.

    The next sweep will take place Saturday April 9th, 2022, at more than 60 locations along the New Jersey coastline. Vantage employees, along with their friends and family members, will be volunteering at one of the Monmouth County locations to remove trash and debris.

    Along with volunteering, Vantage also annually donates a portion of sales from its Earthwise Collection to Clean Ocean Action. This is done through their partnership with 1% for the Planet, a global movement inspiring businesses and individuals to support environmental solutions through annual memberships and everyday actions. Vantage chose Clean Ocean Action as their 1% partner for their dedication to change, as well as their locality which allows employees to regularly volunteer with them.
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