As the COVID-19 Crisis swept across our nation, more and more people have become concerned about where the products they use daily are manufactured. They want items made in the USA.
My business is advertising, marketing, and promotions. For the past few months, I have received a call almost every day for promotional items made in the USA. Often some request, “I want everything made here, not just the finished product!”
But there is a lot of confusion about how products are made and how much of a product comes from the USA.
But what does Made in the USA really mean?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Made in the USA” means that “all or virtually all” products have been made in America. All significant parts, processing, and labor that go into the effect must be of U.S. origin.
How Is The Product Made?
While this blog post is written primarily about promotional items, it applies to just about any product. From electronics to food, the process is about the same.
So what goes into your product, and where does it come from?
Manufacturing Generally Involves Three Areas
Nearly all products have three components. These include such things as the raw material, the manufacturing, and the finishing of the product. Any, or all of these functions, can be completed almost anywhere in the world.
1. The raw material
While the USA has an abundance of raw materials, some things just aren’t available here. Most raw rubber comes from out of the states. While cotton is grown in the USA, it is exported generally to make shirts and other clothing and brought back to the USA. Some of our food supply, such as coffee, comes from other countries.
Plastic products can be made in the USA, but often it is more economical to export petroleum to other countries to make the plastic, which is then imported back into the USA.
2. The Actual Manufacturing
Most promotional items (along with electronics and other consumable items) are made overseas. It is cheaper, even with the cost of transportation.
I remember years ago when I got a quote from my advertising agency to print a newspaper insert. We could get a million printed flyers from China for almost 30 percent less than what we paid in the states – even with the shipping by boat. And paper is heavy (We ultimately did not go overseas because of the time frame for transportation).
There are various reasons for this, but mostly it is because labor is so much less expensive in other countries.
Once a week, I get calls for made in USA silicone bracelets. The cost for USA made for 500 is just under a dollar. From China, the same bracelets can be under 20 cents — delivered to your door. It’s hard for USA manufacturers to compete with that.
3. The Finished Product
While it is generally less expensive for larger qualities of a product to be manufactured entirely overseas, sometimes a blank product is purchased overseas, and the imprinting, or decorating, is done here. This is often done on bags and plastic items. A short run of 100 to 500 can be done quickly here, and since a lot of the cost is in manufacturing, the final price can be reasonable.
But Is It Made in the USA?
According to the FTC definition above, if the product is imprinted here, it is not made in the USA. Yet, many of the suppliers in the industry list their product as Made in the USA when they are imported and decorated here.
I am frustrated with that, too.
To get a product that is truly Made in the USA, you have to have all three — the raw product — the manufacturing and the finishing done here in the USA.
So, How Do You Know If It Is Made In The USA?
Unfortunately, you have to ask. And you have to be specific. You should ask, “Is this product 100 percent made in the USA?”
For some products, it is almost impossible to find a supplier that meets those requirements. However, over the last several years, many of the suppliers in the industry are offering at least some of their products as completely USA made.
Expect to Pay More
If you want a USA-made product, you generally will have to pay a premium. It is just an economic fact.
Made In The USA Promotional Products
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