Universal Packaging is making a big impression on bottle designs around the world while creating jobs in Vernon.
Using environmentally friendly processes, and state-of–the-art printing techniques, Universal has grown from a small family-owned business to a global exporter of custom bottles with unique designs screen-printed on them.
“Clearly Canadian was the company that really got us going,” said Steve Pelkey, president of Universal Packaging. “We did a lot of stuff for Coca-Cola and Budweiser too. And with that foundation, we were able to create screen printing for the wine industry in North America.”
Universal uses a process called applied ceramic labels (ACL); a form of screen printing that creates a very durable and unique look on bottles. The benefits over paper labels, that can be torn off or peeled, is the design can wrap around the entire bottle, and use the glass itself as a design element.
“The ACL burner is 120 feet long and 10 feet wide, and is the most durable labeling in the world. We’re starting to use organic ink to decorate the bottles, which allows us to really push the vibrant colours on the bottles.”
Universal was founded in 1985 as a screen printing business that happened to be located near a glass plant and started out with four or five staff. It has since grown to 65 people and employs a full range of services, including a skilled design team to offer expert advice on what would make clients’ bottles look their best.
“We also make custom bottles for some of our clients, primarily for spirits” said Pelkey. “We have custom-made bottles manufactured in Asia, and source others from around the world. About 75% of our business is exported to the US, with a large portion going to South America. We’re also working on a deal to ship to Australia.”
Environmental stewardship and sustainability is a big part of Universal’s business plan too. Drawing inspiration from the stunning lakes, animal life, and amazing climate in the Okanagan Valley, they work with their suppliers, customers and employees to keep their products as environmentally responsible as possible.
That natural beauty is what led to Pelkey joining Universal nine years ago, after he left the Okanagan Brewery. “I wanted to stay in Vernon. This is a wonderful place to raise a family, and the economy is really starting to take off here. It is a fantastic option to working in the Lower Mainland.”