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Steven Maxim

Steven Maxim
12 May 2022

Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?

Nowadays we use grip seal bags or Zip-lock bags for many different applications from keeping our liquids in one place through customs before a flight, to helping our food last longer and keeping the fixings safe in the latest flatpack furniture purchase.

However they weren’t always available for use and the story of how they came to be is fascinating!

Borge Madsen

The Danish Inventer from Copenhagen

The press to close zipper bags, grip seal bags or minigrip bags, we know today evolved from inventor Borge Madsen’s attempt to create a new clothing zipper in the early 1950’s. Instead of teeth like we see on pants zippers, Madsen’s design used interlocking plastic tracks and a slider tab. These zippers (pictured in Madsen’s original patent) were innovative but impractical for clothing.

Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?
Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?

New Owner

The Ausnit family; Romanian born Americans.

As Borge Madsden didn’t know what to do with his new invention he sold it to these brothers, Max and Edgar Ausnit. Max and Austin were Romanian born  American business men who, with their son Steven Ausnit, created a company named ‘Flexigrip’ manufacturing plastic zippers.

Earlier it had a piece of plastic which had to be slid from one end to the other to seal the package. These zippers were used to seal record labels to provide some sort of protection cover.

It was only once the Ausnit’s purchased Madsen’s patent that the zipper began to get traction as a consumer item. They  began to sell the zippers applied to flat vinyl pencil cases and loose leaf binder inserts. While these products were a far cry from the zip lock pouches and other resealable bags we see in grocery stores, they were the early beginnings of these items.

Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?
Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?

Early Struggles

Educating People on How To Use This New Invention!

It may be hard to believe for those of us who grew up using zipper bags, but these items were so novel at their introduction that people did not know how to open them. In fact, Steven Ausnit, the pioneer of Ziploc® brand bags, recalled the struggle in introducing this product during a speech he gave at Marquette Business school. He recounted a time in the early 1960s when his company had just persuaded Columbia Records to package albums in the zippered bags, but during the final meeting, the executive from Columbia Records called in his assistant, handed her the bag and told her to open it. At which point, she tore the zipper right off the bag.

What was so frustrating was, how easy, how simply, how deliciously successfully a bag could be zipped closed one time…yet moments later, sealing the same bag was like trying to tie your laces with ski gloves on!

Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?
Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?

Mass Production

Taking Grip Seal Bag Production To A New Level!

During the 1960s Flexigrip began to move away from slider-style zippers following Steven Ausnit’s development of a press to close zipper. Not only was this new style more convenient to use, it also reduced material and production costs

Reclosable zipper bags had gained interest but they were still expensive and complicated to make, mainly due to the fact that the zippers had to be heat sealed to the bags, which added time and cost.

This changed when Steven Ausnit learned of a Japanese company, Seisan Nippon Sha, that had incorporated a zipper right into the bag. This cut production costs in half. In 1961, Flexigrip negotiated with Seisan to gain exclusive selling rights in the United States and created a new company called Minigrip to market this format.

Minigrip primarily sold to industrial markets until 1964 when they were approached by Dow Chemical for exclusive rights in the supermarket industry. Dow’s polyethylene resin bags were ideal for Minigrip’s reclosable plastic zippers. After several years of negotiation, the Ziploc® bag was introduced to the consumer market.

Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?
Grip Seal Bags – Where Do They Come From?

Household Commodity

Everyone Knows What A Grip Seal Bag Is Now!

The high cost of production coupled with challenges in understanding how to open the bag had stalled popularity, but by 1973 ziplock bags were becoming a household staple. Dow Chemical had vastly improved the production process and lowered costs, and consumers had caught on. The Ziploc® bag dominated flexible packaging production and continues to do so today.

The Ziploc® brand is now owned by S.C. Johnson, producers of household brands including Glade®, Pledge®, Windex®, and Raid®. While S. C. Johnson’s Ziploc® brand produces reclosable polyethylene bags for consumers, ITW Corporation’s Zippak brand produces plastic zippers for industrial markets. In fact, the Ziploc® Brand does not produce industrial zippers for application to high-barrier materials and multi-layer films.

Maxpack has a large range of grip seal bags available from stock for industrial use in standard thickness, heavy duty thickness and with a write on panel, see here.

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