The 2021 Top 25 converters list isn’t so much defined by mergers and acquisitions as it is by persevering and working toward the greater good during trying global times.
Repurposing packaging lines to create PPE for front line workers. Doubling down on sustainability. And yes, there were still some mergers and acquisitions in 2020 that helped shape the future landscape of the packaging industry.
But there was one common denominator that influenced the activities of many of the top 25 converters in calendar year 2020 — and it’s the same common denominator that influenced many of our lives: the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s what likely helped prevent more of the transformative packaging mergers and acquisitions from taking place in 2020 compared to what we’ve seen in the past.
Flexible Packaging is back once again with its Top 25 Converters in North America feature, based off of revenue from calendar year 2020. As always, this data has been gathered from multiple sources, including direct reporting, annual reports, SEC documents, media reports and miscellaneous other sources. In some cases — especially for private companies — it was necessary to make estimates based on available data.
Let’s dig in to what North America’s leading flexible packaging converters were up to in calendar year 2020.
Coming Together For The Greater Good
Since March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic turned America upside down, we heard countless stories about how manufacturing facilities from various industries shifted gears to meet the demand for ventilators, PPE and other equipment for the front lines.
The packaging industry certainly did its share to help save lives and keep doctors and nurses safe too.
Novolex, for example, retooled its manufacturing lines in April 2020 to produce up to 25,000 face shields and 100,000 medical gowns per week, compressing what would normally have been a six to eight-month product development process into just three weeks.
“We’ve leveraged all of the company’s manufacturing ingenuity to pivot from manufacturing to-go containers to producing medical supplies,” Galen Killam, a Novolex engineering manager, says in a press release. “We’re using facilities originally designed to produce food packaging such as tortilla bags to make protective gowns, and we’re adapting muffin containers, reusable cutlery, and plates to create face shields.”
Novolex was honored with a 2020 Manufacturing Excellence Award for Innovation from the Association of Washington Business for its efforts in October 2020.
Winpak is another converter that stepped up when it mattered most. Responding to a call to action from the Canadian government, Winkpak revamped its manufacturing lines to begin producing 10,000 face shields per week for Canadian healthcare workers. Months later in December 2020, Winkpak again stepped up to collaborate with other companies on vaccine distribution.
Sustainable Packaging Continues Full Steam Ahead
Sustainability and recyclable packaging have been buzzwords in the industry for many years now — and we’re beginning to see the payoff for the investments that packaging converters have made in some really unique formats. Even amid a pandemic, the industry was not without innovation in sustainability.
Take Sonoco, for instance. The converter introduced its EnviroFlex portfolio of flexible packaging solutions in the fall of 2019 and really saw this line take off in 2020. EnviroFlex PE is a mono-material recyclable package that has been pre-approved for in-store drop-off systems. It’s available as pre-made pouches and roll stock.
Berry Global is another converter that continues to make strides in sustainability. A year after making a five-year, $1.5 billion investment as a founding member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, the converter continues to work with brands to achieve mutual sustainability goals. For example, in September 2020, Berry partnered with Conagra Brands on a new package design for its Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa line, moving from cylindrical canisters to a recyclable cube.
According to Berry, the new design reduces the package's carbon footprint by 98 metric tons each year due to less energy required to manufacture and transport the material. The new shape also allows Conagra to better utilize space in transit, saving more than 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel annually from fewer truck loads transporting plastic tubs.
We’ll close out this section with another converter that has become known for advancing sustainable packaging formats: ProAmpac. In 2020, the converter debuted its recyclable paper-touch flexible packaging, which combines sustainability and brand appeal. It also partnered with Metropolitan Tea to create packaging made of 100% compostable materials.
Mergers And Acquisitions
Though M&A activity has bounced back in 2021, 2020 was a rather quiet year on this front — and for obvious reasons. However, there are still a few that bear mentioning. For instance, Novolex continued its run of acquisitions with the purchase of Brookshire, Texas-based B&G Bag Company.
Another notable acquisition was C-P Flexible Packaging’s purchase of Genpak Flexible.
“This strategic acquisition provides our customers with a wider array of innovative flexible packaging options than ever before,” C-P Flexible Packaging’s Mike Hoffman says in a press release. “Our two companies’ cultures are similar, with a laser-like focus on customers and continuous innovation.
Though not North American-related, St. Johns Packaging acquired an Amcor Flexibles division that serves the U.K. bakery market.