Denver, Colorado

Owner Bernadette O’Donnell describes a changing environment for the value-added packaging supplier in the wake of COVID-19.

For more than 40 years, Amen Packaging Inc. has been providing containers to the food, cosmetics, chemical and wine and spirits industries.

The catalog today includes glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and cylinders, and specialty accessories like droppers, pumps, sprayers, and faucets.

Photos Jonathan Castner

Founded by Bruce Hunt in 1979, the family owned business today is headed by O’Donnell, his daughter. The name Amen comes from a family friend of Hunt’s original partner — they wanted a name that began with the letter “A” so they would appear near the top of listings in the telephone book.

“In 1979, you had to be first in the phone book,” O’Donnell says. “That was pretty important because that’s how you found people. Amen had good connotations because the family helped settle Colorado.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced Amen Packaging to look for new suppliers and has found that the cost of freight has increased significantly. What used to cost $2,500 now costs $4,000, O’Donnell says.

“We’ve had to allocate product to our customers,” O’Donnell says. “We had to make sure we didn’t run them out of product either. We had a manufacturer that said he would no longer take on new business. If you weren’t buying from him before, you couldn’t buy from him. So if you were new to us, we had to find a new supplier.”

The pandemic also has enabled Amen Packaging to sell products it’s had on its showroom floor for years because its customers couldn’t find the packaging they were accustomed to buying.

“A lot of people in business think there’s the massive warehouse for everything you want or need for everyone in the world and it just keeps coming,” O’Donnell says. “There just isn’t. When someone comes in and buys 30 days worth of bottles in a day, it creates shortages. It’s a mess, and I don’t think people understand that.”

Among Amen Packaging’s clients are vendors at farmers’ markets, who use the company’s products to hold their sauces and jams. While that line of business has slowed slightly because of COVID, Amen Packaging has picked up new clients such as restaurants and bars that are mixing cocktails for takeout.

“We had a gentleman in here yesterday doing a virtual wine tasting, so he was buying a bunch of little bottles,” O’Donnell says.

Challenges: Competing against companies that are much larger than Amen is challenging for the small manufacturer. “Our largest competitor is a multibillion international corporation,” O’Donnell says. “Their buying power is much better. Compared to our competition, we’re small — we’re millions, not billions.”

Opportunities: Expanding Amen’s packaging into different industries is where O’Donnell sees opportunities for the company.

She also sees opportunities to refine some of its processes and systems to gain efficiency. For example customers used to visit Amen’s facility to pick up orders whenever they wanted to. But since the pandemic started, they’ve been asked to schedule appointments, which has made operations more efficient because there are no unscheduled interruptions.

Needs: Amen Packaging wants to be ready for anything. O’Donnell’s strategy is to look further into the future than the company has typically been accustomed to — as much as 180 days, compared with 30 to 40 days previously.

“Being small, we can react and do different things a lot of big corporations can’t,” she says. “We don’t go through layers and layers. We make decisions in my office.”


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