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Standard-Knapp celebrates 120 years
Eileen Schmidt
Eileen Schmidt

It has been 120 years since the Fred H. Knapp Company got its start in what was then a new industry – manufactured canning for perishable goods. Although the military and some exploratory expeditions had used canned foods since the beginning of the century, the technology was still new to the general population that typically salted meat and canned foods at home. Still, the original operators of Fred H. Knapp were undeterred.  

Recognizing the potential for growth, the Westminster, Maryland, company introduced its gravity labelers at the World's Fair National Convention of Canners in Chicago in 1893, according to current company publicists McNeil, Gray & Rice. Knapp's gravity labelers mechanized the application of labels to cans. Shortly after, in 1895, the Knapp Boxer was introduced as a means for packing the cans into wooden boxes. It was the only machine of its kind for over a decade, according to the publicity firm.

From this early start, Standard-Knapp has grown through continuous expansions and mergers to remain a leader in the packaging industry. The concept of innovation that helped Knapp get its start has continued to drive the firm for its 120 years. Today, the Portland, Conn.-based company manufacturers packaging machinery for a host of industries, including food, beverage, personal care, household chemicals and chemical industries.

In 1932, the Fred H. Knapp Company merged with the Standard-Sealing Equipment Company, a Ridgewood, New Jersey, operation, to form Standard-Knapp. Standard-Sealing was the employee-owned firm of the compression unit manufacturing operation of the former National Binding Company of New York City.

Following this merger, Standard-Knapp became part of Emhart Manufacturing in 1947 and Anderson Brothers Manufacturing Company in 1979. In 1984, the business was purchased by the company's employees.

Standard-Knapp remains employee-owned today, a fact that brings pride to the company and a positive impact to the culture of the business, according to a report by McNeil, Gray & Rice. “The company's employees work together in the occasional lean times to keep the company strong, and, more often, share the rewards of hard work in prosperous times,” the report said.

One of the areas of business growth that has required innovation of the type Standard-Knapp is accustomed to pursuing is the explosion of breweries. The craft beer industry is growing at a rate of more than one new brewery per day, and each has unique packaging needs, according to Standard-Knapp's Mario J. Mazzotta. “From hand-held to automated packaging solutions, Standard-Knapp helps breweries to remain focused on the quality of their products while they grow, increase their offerings, and begin to distribute beer more widely,” wrote Mazzotta, Customer Service Manager – Field Engineering, in a report published on the company website.

He outlined some of the tools Standard-Knapp is currently offering craft breweries, and noted that some have begun to expand into distilling liquors like ryes, bourbons, whiskeys and vodkas.

“For these companies, having invested in flexible packing equipment such as the Standard-Knapp 939 EZ Case Packer pays off even more than it did at the start, as these packers are able to handle many different sizes of bottles,” Mazzotta said. “Even for breweries with no eye towards distilling, it is clear that the craft brewing industry will continue to expand, and that breweries that catch hold within the market have the potential to grow quite a bit from their garage brewing beginnings. As energy continues to grow within the craft brewing industry, so does the demand for flexible, innovative and economical packing solutions tailored directly to craft breweries' needs,” he said.

Throughout today's packaging world, a goal of being more sustainable by using less materials is predominant. Standard-Knapp has responded with innovations like the 298 Tritium Trayshrink Wrapper tray packer that packages unsupported cases and the Pic-N-Place that handles materials so gently bottle-to-bottle protection is unneeded, according to McNeil, Gray & Rice.

Standard-Knapp also maintains the use of tried-and-true machinery like the 930 case packer and its off-shoots. And, the company provides parts and service to a company running a 1930s-era labeler, even though the labeler has not been manufactured in many years, according to the publicity firm.

In fall of 2014, Standard-Knapp announced the installation of a 597 Tritium multi-packer and 296 Continuum tray shrink packers at Chicken of the Sea, allowing that company to multi-pack in-house. “Their equipment met both speed and cost requirements, is built for 24/7 operations and is extremely strong,” said Jim Cox, vice president of operations for Chicken of the Sea, in Standard-Knapp's release.

 “The industry has gone to multi-packs in a big way and we had to find a machine that could provide us what we needed to meet our customers’ needs, including the four-pack that has become popular in grocery stores, as well as six-, 10- and 12-packs,” said Cox, who praised Standard-Knapp's responsiveness and customer-oriented approach to business.

Eileen Schmidt is a freelance writer and journalist based in the Greater Milwaukee area. She has written for print and online publications for the past 12 years. Email or visit to contact Eileen.