FlexPack VOICE® routinely hosts a question-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this issue, we interview David Love, Printpack’s senior vice president of marketing and research and development. Love is a member of the executive committee of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), as well.
Printpack, which is based in Atlanta, is a privately held flexible packaging company founded in 1956 by Love’s father, the late J. Erskine Love, Jr. The company still is fully owned by the Love family, with David Love’s brother, Jimmy Love, serving as president and CEO.
“I am one of six in my generation, and my brother, Jimmy, and I are directly involved in running the business,” David Love says.
He has held various roles throughout his career, which has spanned more than 25 years. “Packaging is definitely in my blood, being part of the founding family of Printpack,” Love says. “I worked several summer jobs in high school with Printpack, which gave me an early understanding of what it was that we actually do.”
After college, he first worked in the financial services industry. “I then decided I wanted to work for a company that actually made something,” Love says. “I’m proud to work for a company that enhances people’s lives every day.”
FlexPack VOICE®: What do you see as the major challenges facing the industry in 2023, globally and/or domestically?
David Love: Inflationary pressures continue to be an issue, from rising labor rates to energy and transportation costs. I would also say skilled labor is and will be an issue not just for our industry but for manufacturing companies in the U.S. Despite advances in equipment technology over the years, good, stable talent is still critical, and the companies that can track and retain the best talent will be the most successful.
FPV: Sustainability often comes up when answering that question, so what is the industry doing well and where does it need to do better in this area? What about your company?
DL: I believe that defining the end goal will be most important for our industry and others like it. Is it recyclable? Is it renewable? Or is it the lowest carbon footprint? Our industry has been under pressure to develop better end-of-life solutions, driven mainly by concerns about plastic polluting the oceans. That being said, flexible packaging is not what is polluting the oceans, but the pressures from various NGOs (non-governmental organizations) focused on ocean pollution have given our industry a bad name. We, as an industry, need to continue to provide a unified message about the benefits of flexible packaging and how we are also adapting to be even more environmentally friendly for the future.
FPV: Issues with supply chains and raw materials are sometimes brought up, too. Thoughts on those concerns?
DL: We live in a global economy, and any attempts by our government to squash global competition are not good for the industry. If there are no options to source key raw materials here in the U.S. that can compete with the quality and total value of other parts of the world, then we need to have the ability to buy overseas without government intervention. Otherwise, overseas competition will have a competitive advantage that will be difficult to overcome.
FPV: Generally, how do you see government regulations as they pertain to the industry? What should change? What would you like to see from federal spending on infrastructure when it comes to recycling?
DL: Waste management is a major infrastructure issue in our country, and it likely won’t change much with how cheap it is to dump waste into landfills. Higher tipping fees will help drive other end-use markets for materials that today are easy to dump in landfills. Significant investment in automation to sort materials is needed, as we cannot rely on the typical American consumer to do all the sorting for the current infrastructure. That has not worked for things that are easily recycled like PET bottles, paperboard, and aluminum cans, so how can we expect that to work for flexible packaging?
FPV: What is your company doing to encourage recruitment and retention? Anything along these lines involving diversity and inclusion efforts?
DL: Having a diverse workforce makes us better, and we have been more intentional about getting a more diverse pool of candidates when looking to fill an opening. That being said, if people don’t feel included in the company, they will disengage and eventually leave. Companies need to focus on how to bring employees together to be successful.
FPV: What would you tell someone who is thinking about a career in the industry if they were to ask for your advice?
DL: It is rewarding to be able to see the impact of our products on our customers’ brands, which gives us purpose. If someone does not feel purpose in that, then I would suggest they look for other areas where they have passion for what they do.
FPV: Is there a particular experience that stands out in your career, good or bad or both?
DL: I relocated my family when they were young to manage a small converter that we acquired. At the time, I was not sure if I was ready for it, but this opportunity gave me the chance to learn valuable leadership and communication skills that have benefited me throughout my career.
FPV: Did you have a mentor when you started out?
DL: I did not have a formal mentor in my earlier years, but I did lean on my older siblings for support and advice. Today, the younger generations in our workforce like to have associates they can confide in who are not in their chain of command, so we work with associates and provide mentoring opportunities as part of our associate value proposition.
FPV: Any other thoughts?
DL: I feel privileged to serve on the executive committee for FPA. While we have our industry challenges, I believe we have much to be proud of for what we do for our customers—and ultimately consumers—every day.