From where I stand, the length of 50 years is a daunting stretch of road, a limitless highway in which the final destination is uncertain. For some companies, though, the destination has always been there, albeit in the guise of something much more concrete. In this industry, it’s all about building a lasting monument, a testament to a company’s quicksilver business decisions as it stares down a seemingly never-ending highway. And those decisions are the foundational stones. They are the enduring produce minds necessary to shape businesses into lasting endeavors, ones that have anticipated the changes par for the course in the produce and retail industries, and executed them with aplomb.
Each industry has its monuments. The tech giant hubs of Facebook and Apple, the glittering score boards of Wall Street, even the single-level storefronts of mom-and-pop restaurants—all three stand equidistant on the boundless road to success. Along the way, however, your eyes cannot help but rest on the monuments within the produce industry. These structures, impossible to glance over, are made so by the people who construct them.
For Yerecic Label and its team, it took the image of a monument and repurposed it for the future. The company knew it could build off of the formative grounds of the past, laying each decade as another pillar on which to erect a structure built to last. The first stone was laid in the garage of Art M. Yerecic, Sr., who did not yet know he was setting the foundation of a company that would seek out the future just as it upheld the standards of an industry’s past. For his vision of innovating produce packaging came with a constant hunger for ingenuity, one passed down to incoming generations.
A member of that next generation fit to lead Yerecic Label into its next era of growth is none other than Marketing Director Kristin Yerecic Scott, who joined the company in 2014. She saw the rapid groundwork of expansion, witnessing the key movements of new machinery, new processes, and new facilities. But with five decades behind Yerecic Label, and its eyes already locked on the horizon, I asked Kristin how this inventive company continues to surprise both itself and the industry—and make monumental changes.
Kristin Yerecic Scott: The biggest key to Yerecic Label’s success is our valued team members. Without their dedication, we would not be where we are today. They have embraced the next generation of Yerecic Label to help us understand the vast array of knowledge they’ve collected over the years. They also provide guidance toward becoming the best possible leaders we can be in our respective areas.
One step we have taken in the past year is the introduction of our three Cross-Functional Teams (CFT), each led by a member of the next generation. My sister, Elizabeth Yerecic, a Key Account Manager, leads the Product Development team, which looks at new products, new markets, and testing processes. My brother, Josh Yerecic, our Production Manager, leads the Order Fulfillment team, as they look to break barriers in our processes from orders in-hand through shipping out our door. I lead the Pre-Order team, starting with our marketing initiatives through receiving an order.
KYS: Yerecic Label is an avid enthusiast of lean manufacturing, with continuous improvement always being at the forefront of our minds. For years, our team members have contributed wonderful ideas to streamline our processes and better serve our valued customers. We know we make great strides in internal improvement with this type of business philosophy, but we’ve recognized recently that we struggle with the continuous aspect of it. The CFTs solve this issue as they meet for one hour each week to focus on the top barriers our teams face.
Each CFT is composed of eight to 10 team members who work in different positions across Yerecic Label. The cross-functionality of the team members provides unique insights to each project that someone in the trenches of the day-to-day position may not have thought of before. We strongly believe that the best ideas come from our team members, which is another way the CFTs align with our long-term business goals.
As part of our lean manufacturing journey, we have always used a variety of visual metrics throughout the facility to measure ourselves. Each CFT has their own set of standard metrics that we review each week to determine the impact our projects have on our organization. This helps us analyze our short-term growth toward our long-term goals.
KYS: Sustainability is such an important topic for shoppers and businesses, and has been a focus for Yerecic Label for almost ten years. Yerecic Label started our sustainability journey in 2011 and, at the time, 99 percent of our internal waste was going to landfills. By 2018, 99.6 percent of our internal waste was being recycled or sent to a waste-to-energy program. Sustainability is a huge passion for our team, and we wanted to find a way to create an impact outside our four walls.
For years, Europe has been way ahead of the United States in recycling-friendly and sustainable material offerings, but this has changed in the last year or two. Yerecic Label is working closely with our suppliers to offer a variety of recycling-friendly label options through our SustainLabel! line. We look forward to continuing to add to this line with additional sustainable products in the future!
KYS: When Elizabeth, our Key Account Manager and Product Development Cross Functional Team Lead, toured rPlanet Earth, she came back with a wealth of information on how labels can negatively impact the recycling supply chain. There are a couple of major ways that labels contaminate rPET flake; ink migration can discolor the rPET flake, and labels can leave behind residual adhesive that also contaminates it.
Yerecic Label and rPlanet Earth worked together to create a video that showcases some of these challenges. Our goal is to help stimulate industry-wide change. Yerecic Label is continually contributing to these projects within our label industry organization, TLMI, as well as throughout the fresh food community, like the Plight of Plastics panel at Southeast Produce Council’s (SEPC) Southern Exposure 2020. We also became members of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR) in 2019 to continue to build on our knowledge of how labeling impacts food packaging recycling specifically.
KYS: The only thing constant in business is change, and I know the Yerecic Label team is always hungry for knowledge and innovation. I am most excited to work with our industry partners to help understand their challenges and, in turn, work hand-in-hand with the Yerecic Label team to exceed expectations in delivering solutions!
Both Kristin and Yerecic Label have opened my eyes to the ingenuity possible when staring into the future and daring it to stare back. In making a monument that stands the test of time, the solutions provider infused the legacy of forward thinking with the multigenerational power of family.