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Leading the way in business and giving

Philanthropic pledge reflects role CALS played in business success

periodiCALS, Vol. 7, Issue 2, 2017

Marco Barbier B.S. ’82, B.A. ’83, left, and Hector Echaniz ’82, M.S. ’84 at their manufacturing facility in Leominster, Mass. Photo by Kevin Harkins.

Marco Barbier and Hector Echaniz met as freshmen at Cornell in 1978. Almost 40 years later, the pair are business partners, leaders in the packaging industry and innovators in philanthropic giving.

Barbier B.S. ’82, B.A. ’83 and Echaniz ’82, M.S. ’84 are managing partners of Easypak LLC, a privately held company based in Leominster, Mass. 

Since founding their company in 2004, Barbier and Echaniz have collaborated on several projects with the Cornell Food Venture Center (FVC), which has been helping entrepreneurs bring their products to market since 1988.

In addition to providing technological help to Easypak, the FVC has enabled beneficial business connections. Notably, they introduced the company to executives at Wegmans, the Northeastern supermarket juggernaut.  

To show their gratitude to Cornell, and to help future scientists and entrepreneurs, Echaniz and Barbier have pledged a recurring gift to CALS: 20 percent of their gross profits from sales to Wegmans will be donated to the dean’s discretionary fund. The unique gift mechanism was designed to reflect the value of Cornell’s role in Easypak’s success. 

“I hope this model—of a collaboration between academia and industry, with a percentage of the profit funneled back to the academic institution—can be a model for other companies or even other institutions,” Barbier said. “It’s a win-win-win for everybody.”

Olga Padilla-Zakour, chair of the Department of Food Science and director of the FVC praised Barbier and Echaniz’s ability to find innovative solutions—in their business and in this distinctive gift model. 

“Easypak’s commitment and generosity to support CALS programs through this new giving model is groundbreaking; they are leading the path for new opportunities and meaningful engagements between companies and the college,” Padilla-Zakour said. “This funding allows CALS to support impactful research and extension projects to improve food systems, and to provide training to students in novel technologies.”

At Easypak, Barbier and Echaniz have focused on technological innovation; their company was among the first to develop packaging that can be made of up to 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.

“Initially we were using only virgin petrochemical materials. Then we introduced EcoPak, which is 50 percent recycled material, and we continued to evolve from there,” Barbier said. “We invested a lot of money and technology to be able to achieve a very high-quality product with 100 percent recycled materials.”

This fall, the company expects to launch another major project they are developing in collaboration with the FVC. This project aims to increase the shelf life of packaged foods, without changing the food’s quality and properties and without using preservatives.

“Cornell has an incredible food science department,” Barbier said. “Between Cornell’s know-how in food and our know-how in packaging, we have enjoyed a profitable collaboration.”

Easypak’s Cornell connections also include Kathryn Kiplinger ‘79, M.P.S. ‘86, founding shareholder and board director, and Barbier’s wife, Anita ’83, and two children: Stefano ’17, M. Eng. ’18, and Olivia ’19.