Bottled Up

A family-owned promotional drinkware company maintains its focus

ETS Express founder Ely Eyal’s story is the epitome of the American Dream. The ceramics engineer moved from Israel to the U.S. to make a life for his family, and he soon recognized the promotional products industry as a place where he could apply his knowledge and reap the benefits. Together with his children, Taly and Sharon, Ely has grown ETS Express into a leading manufacturer of high-quality drinkware.

Based in Oxnard, California, ETS’s products span a broad range of drinkware categories—aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, ceramic and glass—and all reflect a commitment to cutting-edge quality and fashion-forward design ke m Two years ago, ETS added a second location in Concord, North Carolina, and today employs more than 500 people. We spoke with Vice President of Sales Brandon Bell to learn more about the company’s secrets to success.

Two years ago, ETS added a second location in Concord, North Carolina, and today employs more than 500 people.
We spoke with Vice President of Sales Brandon Bell to learn more about the company’s secrets to success.

Marque Asks

An interview with VP of Sales Brandon Bell of ETS Express 

What makes ETS unique in the marketplace and as a company?

The thing that I really enjoy is that this company has been around for 32 years and it’s still family-owned, as it has been since its inception. Ely and his kids have fostered it from the ground up, and they’re still heavily involved.

You’ve resisted the industry trend to expand into other product categories (wearables, pens and so forth). Explain how this benefits ETS, and your customers.

From start to finish, all we’ve done is drinkware. The [Eyal] family felt strongly that we needed to be the very best in this field, to show our customers we’re doing something different. Unique designs, unique imprinting capabilities — by being selective with our focus, we can provide a creative approach and a superior product.

You offer a ton of really great stock designs. Where do your designers look for inspiration?

Our team of designers, that’s all they do every day: come up with different looks, different shapes and profiles that we can play with. Design is very much in Sharon’s wheelhouse; he and his wife are involved with high-end fashion, so they bring that sensibility of what’s appealing to the consumer’s eye, and what else is taking place outside of our industry.

How do those designs become finished products?

Oftentimes a CAD drawing will look good on screen but isn’t pleasing to the hand when you actually feel it. We have three 3D printers that we use to bring designs to life, right in our shop, with working lids, swivels and hinges that we can actually manipulate. It lets us see what’s working and what’s not. Companies that outsource their models overseas work with hand molds, so there’s a lot of slow back-and-forth. Our process allows us to bring products to market much faster.

What’s your strategy for growing within the premium promotional branding field?

We rely heavily on promotional distributors to help us get out into the market. They’re well-attuned to a variety of businesses, anywhere from small real estate agencies to Fortune 100 companies. We also attend trade shows where we can showcase our products and build new relationships with distributors.

Describe how your company works with clients to ensure everyone is happy with the final product.

We have a lot of customer partners we’ll meet with to show them concepts and ideas, and we incorporate their feedback on what customers are looking for. We rely on them heavily for price points as well. Because they’re talking to the decision-makers, we value their feedback to where they feel comfortable saying, yes, we’ll pay that.

What trends are you seeing in the drinkware industry?

Within the last five or seven years, we’ve seen a huge increase in how much people are willing to pay for drinkware. More consumers are willing to invest in quality, in vacuum-insulated technology, things like that. People are becoming more health conscious about hydration. Water bottles and mugs are becoming much more of an everyday accessory — beyond just the gym or hiking — and people have multiple favorites. Say, one water bottle for taking to the mall, one for working out, one to keep at the office. That’s a great thing, not only for us, but also for the brands we create products for.

It’s increased exposure for them.

Exactly. It’s not embarrassing to carry the same mug every day, whereas it would be with a shirt or a hat. It’s really drawn attention to what we do — our clients can get their name out there in terms of product recognition in a way that other promotional items might not.

What’s next for your products?

Design is really continuing to ride the wave of vacuum-insulation. Consumer willingness to pay more for drinkware gives us more room to play. That makes it fun to come up with new substrates and components. We don’t see the trend changing as far as what consumers are demanding from a function standpoint. But in terms of trends, colors change, designs change. That’s always evolving.