Bemis Manufacturing Co. is rolling into groceries.
The injection molder headquartered in Sheboygan Falls, Wis., developed a proprietary line of all-plastic shopping carts, now seeing commercial use at major retailers including Whole Foods and Wisconsin grocery chain Festival Foods.
Known for its plastic toilet seats and health care products, the company launched its Bemis Retail Solutions division in 2012 to develop and sell a new line of all-polymer shopping carts in the same vein as carts it had provided to Target Corp. department stores.
“Visually we wanted to make sure it was not going to be something that anyone would confuse with a Target cart, keep their brand identity strong,” said Jon Bemis, general manager of Bemis Retail Solutions. “But the other thing is, we had obviously learned some things about field
durability and weathering and load, and all those things from our experience with Target, and we sought to try to make the best mouse trap. We really tried to make it the finest cart that you could obtain.”
Most carts you’ll see at the grocery store are made with a plastic basket over a metal frame, which can rust and bend from impact, resulting in wobbling wheels. The plastic cart frame is designed to eliminate those weaknesses and provide a better customer experience, Bemis said.
“A highly ductile material that doesn’t rust, that was sort of the advantage over the all-metal carts,” Bemis said. “Because of the combination of stiffness and ductility of polymer, we were able to sort of keep the cart running smooth and even, regardless of impacts that it might see.”
The carts Bemis created — a full-size version and a double-decker “convenience cart” — use a blend of nylons in the frame, including BASF’s Ultramid. Bemis blends materials from multiple sources, including post-consumer and post-industrial sources, and is continuously working to improve those blends, Bemis said. High density polyethylene from Dow and polycarbonate from Sabic were used in the basket and handle, respectively. Tooling for the carts came from Triangle Tool Corp., CDM Tool & Manufacturing Inc. and MSI Mold Builders Inc.
The Bemis carts cost more upfront than metal-and-plastic hybrid carts, but the company claims lower maintenance and replacement costs and a better customer experience more than make up the value. Carts come with designed-in features like bag hooks, a floral arrangement holder and an electronic device holder large enough to hold an iPad.
The company sold about 5,000 carts last year and expects to nearly double that this year, Bemis said. The Bemis Retail Solutions team is next considering an expansion to mid-sized carts or other metal-to-plastic conversions within the retail space.
Bemis manufactures the carts at its recently expanded Sheboygan Falls facility. Two new Milacron presses — a 2,300-ton two-barrel press and a 1,500-ton three-barrel press — were purchased for the operation.