No Need to Panic over Lead in Grocery Bags

Reusable grocery bags can be imprinted safelyby Larry Triplett

Recently, several grocery store chains, including Publix, Sweetbay, Winn-Dixie, Walmart and Target, reported the existence of varying levels of lead in some reusable grocery bags. A firestorm of news coverage, questions, inquiries and concerns followed that announcement.

We did a little research to separate fact from fiction. According to Specialized Technology Resources (STR), a well-respected, CPSC-authorized testing lab, there are no federal regulatory requirements that apply to bags, unless the item is intended to hold food — then applicable FDA requirements would apply. Reusable grocery bags would not fall under the FDA guidelines—generally these bags are intended primarily to hold pre-packaged food items.

The bags in question are not children’s products, therefore they would not be regulated by the CPSIA and no third-party testing would be required. An over-abundance of caution is once again in play, as the manufacturers of those bags are fully compliant with existing Federal regulations.

An investigative series published in the Tampa Tribune claims its independent testing found lead in several reusable grocery bags sold by five different retailers in Florida. The report has led U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) to call for a federal investigation to determine the scope of the public health risk. “Federal agencies need to put a ban in place for reusable bags that have lead in them,” Schumer said. “Any situation where lead bags are coming into contact with the food being purchased by Americans needs to be immediately investigated and resolved.”

The bags, sold at Winn-Dixie, Publix, Sweetbay, Wal-Mart and Target, contained levels of lead that fall within current government allowances, but are higher than the soon-to-be-enacted federal standard of 100 parts-per-million in paint and children’s products. Although painted illustrations on the bags contain lead in a form that is not easily leached, lab experts say over time toxins can be released as threads wear down and paint flakes off. Also, if the bags were to be thrown away, the lead levels are elevated enough to cause potential hazards in places like landfills, according to guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Typical of recent product recalls, the issue comes not from the base product but from the way in which it is decorated. Due to the very high quantities used by major chains, the bags are generally produced and decorated in China. Though China does produce many (not all) of the bags we sell at APTCO, in almost every instance we print or embroider them in the US. Our factory partners do random safety inspections regularly, and we make these reports available on request. We understand that product safety is the bedrock upon which our products stand.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

7 Answers to get you started on Direct Mail

by Larry Triplett

Q: How do you get a mail list?Use full color to capture reader attention
List brokers are generally considered the most effective sources for vetted mail lists. “Vetted” is a key operative word. There are lots of garbage lists out there. APTCO works directly with some of the best wholesale list brokers.

Q: What should you avoid in your mailing list?
A: Watch out for too few qualified names, which might not yield a single sale from a list of 5,000. Also make sure the timing is right on who is qualified – if you are targeting customers looking for new cars, a list of new car buyers from even a year ago might be too dusty.

Q: What sort of mailer is most effective?
A: The goal is to get the recipient to stop and take a closer look, and hopefully open the mailer. Two of the best ways to do this are by sending “lumpy” packages or envelopes with some kind of promotional product, or adding creativity and color to the envelope itself.

Q: What kind of offer connects with customers?
A: A simple one. Make it easy to understand and compelling, so the customer will be more likely to move on it after receiving the first mailer. The more personally targeted it can be, the better.

Q: How can the mailer be personalized?
A: In addition to variable data fields, which places the recipient’s name and information on the mailer, personal URLs (or “PURLs”) are a growing tactic in direct mailing. These web addresses are tailored to every individual on the mailing list, putting his or her name in the URL you are directing them to and providing them with a “VIP landing page” that can also be customized with exactly what you want them to see.

Q: How can the recipient be called to action?
A: Be sure to include multiple ways to connect with the advertising company, including e-mail, phone, texting, and business reply card. The aim is to make it as easy and natural for recipients to respond as possible.

Q: What is the average sales rate on direct mail?
A: Opinions vary, but most experts agree that a 1% to 3% rate can be expected, though this can increase when combined with other marketing efforts.

There’s no doubt that it’s easy to waste money on direct mail if you don’t know what you’re doing. Yet smart marketers are achieving success even in a tough economy. We can help put you in the success camp. Let’s talk about how.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Now that’s a clever product tie-in!

What’s the best promotional product to drive home the theme of a marketing campaign or event? It’s a never-ending question. The marketing idea is always more important than the product, but when the two resonate together, marketing magic begins. So here’s one that really caught our eye.

Eraser-shaped USB Drive

The message is painful but pertinent

The Alzheimer’s Association of New Zealand distributed custom USB Thumb Drives in the shape of pencil erasers to deliver their important message: “Alzheimer’s erasers your memories. Save them.” This tragic disease is characterized by severe memory loss, so the handy USB drives , also known as memory sticks, serve as a reminder. At the same time, they provide a means to save “memories”, whether they be in the form of letters, documents, music, or photos.

The promotion was designed to inspire people to learn more about Alzheimer’s. The flip side of the drives includes the association web site, filled with useful information, and ways for people to help out in the battle for a cure.

By the way, that’s an actual functional eraser! There’s no limit to the custom shapes that are possible with imprinted flash drives. We can help you develop one for your campaign, whether it’s a totally custom job like this one, or one of the hundreds of standard styles and unusual shapes. Check out for ideas.

Posted in Marketing, Product ideas | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Did McDonald’s Go Too Far With the Recall?

McDonald's recalled Shrek glassesCompanies who use promotional products as part of their marketing campaigns took notice a couple of weeks ago when 12 million Shrek-branded drinking glasses were recalled by McDonald’s. The paint used to decorate the outside of the glasses was found to contain cadmium, a heavy metal which is known to be a carcinogen when ingested in large doses. The Consumer Product Safety Commission CPSC) has established 75 parts per million as the allowable upper threshold for cadmium. These glasses were well below that level, yet they were recalled as a precaution. Both McDonald’s and the CPSC stated that they posed no danger to children.

The CPSC is known to be working on a revision to the cadmium standard, and the new regulations are expected to be more stringent. McDonald’s chose to take the high road and avoid any public relations questions, which could have resulted once the trace levels of cadmium became public. This was an expensive decision for the golden arches folks as well as their supplier who manufactured the glasses in New York state.

This is the second time this year that cadmium in children’s products has made the news. Earlier, there were recalls of children’s jewelry from retail stores – most notably, WalMart. But those cases were very different. The levels of of cadmium in the jewelry was measured to be as high as 91% – more than 10,000 times the federal limit. All of those items were made in China, which has seen more than it’s share of safety-related issues in recent years. In contrast, CPSC spokesman Scott Wolfson stated “What’s so important is for parents to understand the difference. Children are not at an acute risk; the glasses are not toxic.”

So why was McDonald’s so cautious? Perhaps because of concern about what lies ahead in cadmium regulation. Along with the review in progress at the federal level, 2 states have already passed new cadmium limits, and more may follow soon. Safety is always a paramount issue for consumer-based companies, but even more so when an affected product is part of a marketing campaign. A reputation for safety doesn’t come easily, though it can be lost easily. Tell us what you think.

Posted in Marketing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What’s up with cotton?

Two things are up with cotton – sales and prices! Organic cotton emerged as a leader within the cotton segment when a green image is important. Sales of organic cotton increased 35% last year, in keeping with a decade-long trend.  Retail giants like Walmart and Nike are leading the charge, but corporate apparel makers such as Anvil Knitwear are high on the growth list as well. “As corporations lay out sustainability philosophies, they realize they need to market and put their messages on environmentally friendly product,” says Anthony Corsano, Anvil president.

We may see some changes based on recent developments in cotton prices. Since 2006 there have been gradual increases, but 2010 has been a different story.

  • Cotton prices are up 55% from last year.
  • Fuel, transportation, and labor costs continue to rise.
  • Demand for cotton has increased globally.

Cotton prices have increased 55% in the past yearThese factors have increased costs for everyone in the apparel industry:

  • Mills have increased their prices to apparel distributors.
  • Mills are offering fewer special discounts on styles.

A little extra planning can help. If environmental impact is important in your clothing selection, consider bamboo. Fabrics made from bamboo are incredibly soft, breathable, and comfortable. For special occasions such as trade shows, check with us about closeout specials. Though supplies are limited, there are some great deals available when a mill decides to close out a style. These cover the full range of fabrics, cotton included. If environmental issues don’t impact your corporate apparel program, there are many polyester blends that are budget-friendly, as well as being top performance fabrics.

Posted in Product ideas | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment