Insulated Totes, Pouches and Carriers



The year was 1975, anno Domini.  

A young John Carmichael Senior struck out into the wilderness of American entrepreneurship after a successful corporate run with Ekco Products Company, first driving a display van across the United States and then rising through the ranks to become a regional sales manager.

John Carmichael Senior enjoyed product development above all else and wanted to have more freedom to work with his customers and jointly develop packaging solutions to meet their needs. In his new enterprise, Hammett Packaging Incorporated, John Senior sold packaging materials and equipment to bakeries, restaurants, delis, and institutional food servers like schools and prisons.

In the late Spring of 1978 one of John Senior’s school food service customers called him with an urgent request – she had agreed to supply meals for every Summer park and recreation program from Berkeley to Gilroy, California, but had no way to keep her food hot or cold.

She challenged John Senior to come up with something to transport her hot and cold meals in a big hurry. Until that time, John Senior’s experience was exclusively in packaging materials and equipment, not in insulated transport. He knew of nothing on the market that would meet this customer’s needs, so he contacted various people he knew and partnered with a small company that had a diverse background in fabricating sporting goods, especially in the backpacking and camping area.

In great haste and total experimentation, they gathered together 10 to 14 separate component parts and fabricated the first rudimentary carrier.

The prototype was chocolate brown. It felt good, it looked good, and seemed to meet the need. So John Senior and his collaborator took the custom sizes in hand, made some adjustments, and set about to fulfill the first order of 100 units.

The Summer meal programs were starting the next Monday, so they worked like Santa’s Elves until midnight on the Sunday night before and loaded up the company van with the new product.

They drove through the night and delivered them just in time for the day’s meals to be packed and delivered. The customer was thrilled, and a new product line was born, The Hammett Thermal Transport.

By 1980, the Hammett Thermal Transport became an established offering of Hammett Packaging, and John Senior was making them for a wide array of customers who needed to keep hot food hot and cold food cold. However, the company had a special relationship with school food service operations and Meals on Wheels providers – those who prepare and provide meals to seniors and others who cannot leave their homes easily.

The school districts and the Meals on Wheels providers employed the Hammett Thermal Transports in heavy daily use, exposing them to sometimes extreme temperatures and rugged delivery schedules. They held up well; so well, in fact, that John Senior would get calls 10 or 15 or more years after the sale from a new director of operations who wondered if Hammett was still making those great bags. It was, of course, and Hammett maintained its reputation as a supplier of high-quality insulated carriers for years to come.

A funny thing began to happen at industrial trade shows. Members of the industry trade groups began to ask if they could buy the insulated carriers for personal use. They would pick them up, handle them, and ask if they could take one home from the show. This would perplex the Hammett sales staff since the Hammett Thermal Transports were industrial strength carriers for industrial customers. But they had a look, a feel – they were a pleasure to handle and were even stylish, industrial chic.

John Carmichael Junior, who had not been involved in the family business, was drawn closer to it when his mother, a co-owner of the business, took ill and eventually passed away in 2011. John Jr. had long noticed that individual people had an attraction to the Thermal Transports and often remarked on them, praising their structure, design and functionality. He suggested to John Senior that the products could be offered in various colors for the industrial customers: red for hot, blue for cold, etc. After the colors were introduced, individual people were even more interested in owning a Hammett product for personal use. Father and son decided it was time to give the people what they want.

Working with their affiliated master seamstresses and designers, the Carmichael’s fashioned the consumer totes, pouches and carriers you now see pictured here, constructed with the same rugged, fortitude and functional quality industry loves, but modified and scaled for individual use and enjoyment.

The Carmichael’s believe that American manufacturing and design is not dead. In fact, it is in a period of renewal. The J. Carmichael insulated totes, pouches and carriers are high quality, carefully rendered goods made for people who appreciate quality, functionality and design.