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Alliance Rubber: holding the world together for 95 years

Using bands cut from inner tubes, the Alliance Rubber Co. founder began the company’s journey by banding newspapers that were thrown on lawns in Akron, OH, in 1923.

Today, with rubber bands being its signature product, the firm operates across many industries dedicated to “Holding Your World Together,” which is the company’s tagline. It has operated in the agriculture sector with both rubber bands and ProTape being utilized most often, but the company has a plethora of products, numbering more than 2,200.

AssortmentPROTAPEandPLU Alliance Rubber is headquartered in Hot Springs AR, with its agricultural warehouse situated in Salinas, CA. Joan Dennis, director of sales and marketing, said agriculture is an important industry for the company and as such, participation in the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit is an annual event. The firm’s strategy for the convention is much like any other company operating in the produce space.

“It’s our opportunity to meet face-to-face with our customers in one place and stress upon them that we talk their language and we know their business,” she said.

Whether you are selling produce or the rubber bands that hold it together, Dennis said it is a relationship business and making connections and reconnections every year is vitally important. She said the Alliance Rubber team also uses the opportunity to walk the floor, check out the trends and the competition and see what issues the industry has that the company can address. Longtime employee Vickie Linder is the agricultural market manager and has been serving the produce industry for about three decades. Dennis said Alliance Rubber was the first to imprint rubber bands with brand names, PLU numbers and the country of origin. “We like to be first,” she said. “That’s high on our agenda.”

In 1996, the firm introduced the use of ProTape as a solution for some produce items. It is approved for food use by the Food and Drug Administration as food compliant and is a handy way to tag produce with a UPC barcode. Dennis said that is a tricky maneuver for an elastic rubber band as the elasticity creates a problem with the scanning of the barcode.

But the elasticity, in fact, is one of the major selling points for the use of rubber bands with items such as asparagus, green onions, broccoli and leeks, a growth item in the ag sector for Alliance Rubber. As produce ages, it loses water and shrinks in size. A rubber band, with its elasticity, is the perfect item, Dennis said, to follow the contour of the product and keep it looking fresh.

While rubber bands are still viable and form the core of the ag business, Dennis said the company is constantly involved in research and development to find new products to solve new problems. She said much research is being done to utilize silicon, but it is still an expensive product.

Alliance Rubber touts its All-American roots and manufacturing footprint, but it also competes on the global stage with significant sales around the world. In fact, for the first time ever the company will participate in Germany’s Fruit Logistica in February to help expand its own footprint in the international ag business.

Even as it grows and expands, Dennis said the cornerstone of the firm is that it is still a family-owned business with the third-generation now in charge. It has come a long way since founder William Spencer banded that first newspaper, but it still sees a bright future ahead.