High Notes of 2021

by Kimberly Young

2021 was a rollercoaster for us all. We have all struggled with labor and supply chain shortages, and the lingering effects of COVID 19, but we are here to focus on the high notes. At Inland, there are many things to celebrate as the year ends. We have invested in new equipment and facilities and have given and received many awards. We have also grown closer to our community, even if it meant being six feet apart. We also attended and presented at many shows like Sweets and Snacks, Craft Brewers Conference, and Pack Expo. At these shows we saw new and interesting trends, many of which will carry into 2022. Let’s rewind… 

2021 Investments and Accomplishments 

Earlier this year, Inland introduced a new facility located at 627 Breezy Point Road, La Crosse, WI. This Breezy Point facility is 40,000 square feet and houses a brand-new Koenig and Bauer offset printing press along with two rotary die cutters, and other finishing equipment. Even during a hard year, we were able to get our new facility up and running. These investments were part of Inland’s $13+ million investment plan for 2021. 

In August, Inland hosted our Annual Supplier Summit where we got together with our suppliers to celebrate a proud year of work, despite many challenges, and to keep up to date on what’s happening in our supply chain. During this event, our suppliers voted in Inland’s very own (and first ever!)  Inpack Awards! We were happy to distribute awards to products by Four Blue Palms, Identipak, Gehl, Waiakea, and many others. Inland was also proud to accept some awards this year. Inland was awarded Berry Global’s Supplier of the Year Award. Berry’s B.E.S.T. (Berry Exceptional Supplier Team) program evaluates and grows their BEST suppliers.  The program was built to communicate to their suppliers what is important to Berry Global and evaluate how their suppliers perform over time as they stack up against their competitors. Overall, Inland proudly accepted 14 awards in 2021. 

We Got Out into Our Communities 

Inland sure was happy to have some local in-person events in 2021! We were able to get out into our communities, host and attend events, and do what we love to do… give! Together with our suppliers, Inland was able to give a $2,500 gift to the Great Rivers United Way during our Supplier Summit making Inland one of the largest donors for the United Way campaign since we started donating in 1969. Back in June, Inland attended Deke Slayton Airfest where we partnered with the Coulee Recovery Center and VA to donate 40 tickets to the Veterans and their families. During Oktoberfest, Inland participated in the Annual Torchlight Parade and we, for the first time ever, made our very own Inland float (check out a photo here)! More recently, Inland volunteered at the beautiful Riverside Rotary Lights by collecting donations, directing traffic, and helping everyone enjoy the lights safely. All the donations from the Rotary Lights were given to the local Salvation Army. Even though the times are tough, Inland is always happy to get out into the community to try and make a difference.  

Interesting Times Brought Interesting Trends 

Throughout the year, Inland attended many shows where we learned about current and upcoming trends. At the Sweets and Snacks show, we noticed many ‘Better for You’ trends reaching the surface in the candy industry. Many candy brands have found a way to make their products healthier by incorporating CBD, minimizing sugar content, and using organic ingredients. Speaking of CBD, after a stressful year, there was a desire for a feeling of relaxation. As a result, there was a large uptake in hemp-based products in many different industries. For example, the pet industry and health and beauty industries have introduced products like hemp dog treats and hemp infused lotions and cleansers.  

Inland also attended this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, where we held a panel discussion giving attendees the opportunity to pick our experts brains on all things beer labels! At this conference, we met many new friends within the beer industry and visited with many old friends we didn’t have the chance to see in 2020. We also attended Pack Expo where we learned about the latest innovations and solutions within the packaging industry regarding many new ways to incorporate creativity and sustainability. With consumers still having a close eye on sustainable packaging, Inland’s innovation team is constantly coming up with new ways to fit our customers’ sustainability initiatives. 

Looking forward, we will be seeing many of these trends in the new year, as well as some new. According to Whole Foods Market, we will see new ways to produce products including ‘ultraurban farming’ and ‘reduceatarianism’ along with new trending flavors like hibiscus and yuzu, a citrus that is mainly produced in China, Japan, and South Korea. Whole Foods Market also predicts greater interest in things like health and wellness, premium breakfast options, and coffee flavors. 

With the year coming to a close, we want to thank our employees, customers, suppliers, and community for keeping a positive attitude and great effort through a year with many obstacles. We are looking forward to the new year!