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Hard To Put A Label On It

"We didn’t bring this next generation into the business to keep everything the same.”

These words ring true for Yerecic Label, a company that has reinvented what it means to be a family business. Founded in 1969 as A.M. Yerecic Company, it has grown from its humble beginnings of making labels in the garage into a veritable empire. Helping me shed light on this transformation is Kristin Yerecic Scott, Yerecic Label’s Marketing Director, whose pride in her family’s business is evident from the moment we speak.

Kristin Yerecic Scott, Marketing Director, Yerecic Label“The company was started by my grandfather, Art M. Yerecic, Sr., in his family’s home. He was a produce director at a local grocery wholesaler, and he saw a real need for labeling,” Kristin begins, clueing me in to a time when labels were as simple as a 99 cents sticker. “The company really started as a distributor. Art would purchase the labels and distribute them to local supermarkets. From there, it became about acquiring his own machinery and renting his own space.”

In a scant six years, the family had grown beyond its garage manufacturing set-up. In the decade between 1975 and 1985, Yerecic Label had expanded to its own manufacturing facility in Export, Pennsylvania.

For a company to expand in such a way takes dedication and determination, both family traits I can’t help but notice during my conversation with Kristin. She describes her siblings’ accomplishments as though they were her own. Elizabeth Yerecic—Key Account Manager for the Midwest Region—was a double major in Business and Spanish at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined the company in May 2017. Her brother, Josh Yerecic, is the company’s Production Manager and has been with the company for over 15 years. Josh helps to lead the production team and ensures the company’s press schedule goes smoothly in the face of rush orders.

New facility in New Kensington, Pennsylvania

They had dedication, but it also takes a little something else to grow and become an industry leader: ingenuity in the face of change.

Over the years, labeling has changed drastically, growing from simple price labels into cross-merchandising behemoths. Kristin explains to me that this evolution has taught the company about an entirely different consumer than they’d known before.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about the millennial generation, about how millennials don’t know as much about cooking as the generation before them. We found the culinary element is definitely becoming more and more popular, whether we add tips, recipes, or finished dish photos,” Kristin says. “We’ve seen much growth in that over the past five to ten years, and we’re going to continue to see that growth. I think magazine-quality photos have become really popular on packaged produce, because you’re showing consumers how they can use that product in a unique or different way.”

“With our lean manufacturing focus, we felt like we were always just a little bit ahead of our counterparts...”

- Kristin Yerecic Scott, Marketing Director, Yerecic Label

Even though things are changing in a big way, Kristin lets me know that she and her siblings can shoot for the moon—and sometimes a little bit past it. That’s where their father’s—Art Yerecic, Jr.—expertise comes into play, making for a perfect blend of old-school business and forward thinking.

“There are a lot of times where we’ll say things that sound just a little too far ahead,” Kristin tells me with a laugh, “and Art works really well to coach us and guide us. I still remember when I graduated—having a background in strategic communications, PR, and advertising—I tried to tell him that we needed more social media, social media, social media. And then the more I learned about our business and our selling model, it became clear to me that we needed to get the basics down first. We needed a good website; we needed good tangible marketing material. In terms of priority, he did a good job of making me realize that we needed to walk before we could run.”

Domino Digital Press with AB Graphics Finishing unit

Art certainly would know a thing or two about such things, having helped grow the business almost since its inception. He was ten when his father began it, and during high school, he was the company’s first press operator. He became an expert in Yerecic’s original style of flexographic printing, spearheaded the company’s sales efforts, developing its unique go-to-market strategy, and since 1995, Art has been the organization’s fearless leader as Owner and President.

As an industry leader in the label printing space, it seemed natural to Yerecic Label that it would soon turn to digital technology, and many converters to the new tech were wondering why they hadn’t jumped on the train earlier. The company’s reason? A shrewd bit of insight that the digital technology might not yet be advanced enough.

Art Yerecic, Jr. (Left) and Arthur M. Yerecic, Sr. (Right)

“Our mentality on that was to let the first to market figure out the kinks in it, and then we’d adopt it when we felt it met our capabilities. With our lean manufacturing focus, we felt like we were always just a little bit ahead of our counterparts in terms of throughput and waste reduction,” Kristin says.

While the company attended industry events over this past year, it started to see a shift in the technology. Namely: speed. The biggest difference between the digital press and the flexographic is that flexographic printers use plates and cylinders, meaning that the level of investment in tangible materials is much higher. As we’re talking, Kristin brings up a tomato label as an example, pointing out the fact that this kind of label would require eight different printing plates on a flexographic machine, with specific dyes, cylinders, anilox rolls, and other investments for the item to be run on press. They’re a far cry from digital machines, which use the press ink cartridges and only need dyes to cut out the label shape. As more customers wanted to see the live label before it went to market, the digital presses made it easy for the company to be flexible in the work it takes on.

“... magazine-quality photos have become really popular on packaged produce, because you’re showing consumers how they can use that product in a unique or different way.”

“Whether it be for a sales meeting or a tradeshow, our customers wanted to see what the label is going to look like on the package,” Kristin explains. “The other thing we were seeing a lot of was the personalization factor of it. For example, if you have a hundred retail stores and you want to do a thousand labels for each store—with each store’s manager on it—we’re now able to do that type of work efficiently because of our investment in digital printing.”

As the company continues to lead the charge in labeling innovation, I come to wonder what’s next for Yerecic Label. Kristin informs me that the company, on top of plans to purchase more new digital presses, will continue investing in the latest innovations to meet customers’ needs. With digital press and label finishing companies Domino and AB Graphic International already convinced of the magic that is Yerecic Label, the company will work with their trusted partners on the latest technology that adheres to its desire for perfection.

In the meantime, Yerecic Label will do what it does best: stick fast to the produce industry.