Headquartered in Atlanta, Graphic Packaging International is a global producer of paperboard and packaging solutions. The company’s 2014 sales were $4.2 billion, and it has approximately 12,500 employees worldwide with operations in 15 countries.
“We have a long and proud history, with various mergers and acquisitions resulting in our current structure,” says Mike Farrell, vice president of the recycled mill division at Graphic Packaging International.
Many milestones over the last decade-plus have helped to make Graphic Packaging International what it is today. In 2003, Graphic Packaging Corp. and Riverwood International merged, adding a consumer products segment and doubling the number of customers and employees.
In 2006, Field Container and Smurfit-Stone merged to form Altivity Packaging LLC. Two years later, Graphic Packaging Corp. and Altivity Packaging LLC combined to form Graphic Packaging International. “This enhanced our position in the European beverage packaging market and extended our customer reach,” Farrell says.
The organization made a series of acquisitions between 2011 and 2015. Acquiring Sierra Pacific Packaging, Mid-America Packaging and Delta Natural Kraft expanded the company’s flexible packaging business and added a craft beer segment to its portfolio.
The acquisition of Contego and A&R Carton in 2013 allowed Graphic Packaging International to expand its presence with customers in the consumer food segment in Europe. Acquiring The Benson Group in 2015 added the U.K.’s leading printed folding carton supplier, which produces packaging product for both the food retail and healthcare industries. Bringing in the paperboard and folding carton assets of Cascades’ Norampac Division extended the company’s reach into the Canadian marketplace, while acquiring Rose City Printing and Packaging improved the company’s position on the West Coast of the United States.
“Our strength lies in an integrated business model and supply chain excellence, from fiber supply through paperboard production, carton converting, and ultimately, packaging solutions for our customers,” Farrell says. “Innovation is our competitive advantage.”
Graphic Packaging International’s customers include many of the food and beverage brands consumers would find in grocery stores, club stores, hypermarkets or other retailers. “If you look at your shopping cart at checkout, roughly 40 percent of the products you’ll purchase are in our folding cartons,” Farrell says.
Graphic Packaging International produces packaging for items such as dry foods like cereal, baked goods and pastas; frozen foods; convenience foods such as microwaveable items; and household products such as fragrances and personal care. Its beverage cartons and multi-packs are used for carbonated and non-carbonated beverages, as well as in the beer industry.
“We also service many of the fast-food and quick-service restaurants,” Farrell says. “From regional brands to global brands, our customers cover the range.”
As a trusted name in the industry, many of Graphic Packaging International’s customers come to the company seeking solutions for their most challenging packaging concerns. Graphic Packaging International’s approach to innovation, its talented employees and market successes are what keep the company growing in its target markets.
“A great asset for us is our resources, especially our talented workforce,” Farrell says. “We provide all the resources needed to successfully help our customers commercialize their products from producing the paperboard to design and all the way through to carton converting.”
Another important quality that Graphic Packaging International possesses is its integrated supply chain. Because the company is involved in every step of the carton converting process and create the machinery to accompany those cartons, it can serve as a reliable single source to its customers.
The company has made a number of key investments in itself in recent years that are essential to its strategic plans. Graphic Packaging International is focused on what it calls a “pure-play” global transformation. The company divested its labels and multi-wall bag businesses in the recent past, and its growth strategy revolves around paperboard and folding carton converting.
“Sustainability is a primary driver in our business, and one great example is the recent investment into a biomass boiler at the Macon, Ga. mill,” Farrell explains. “Using scrap wood chips for energy has significantly reduced our costs and traditional energy use.”
One of the biggest trends that Graphic Packaging International has noticed globally is consumers seeking products with benefits such as convenience and healthy options. It is no secret that the natural and organic market has taken off widely. In addition, there is also an interest in green and clean packaging solutions. Graphic Packaging International believes paperboard packaging fits in with this trend quite nicely because it is made from renewable resources, unlike other packaging material types.
“Our microwave cooking solutions not only protect frozen foods in the freezer case but they also provide quality and convenient cooking results for today’s busy consumers,” Farrell says. “Virtually all of our paperboard packaging is recyclable. That means one of our paperboard beer cases or frozen pizza boxes could be recycled for use in a cereal box or baking goods carton in the future.”
Graphic Packaging International’s focus for 2015 is on increasing its portfolio of paperboard packaging and aligning it with consumer needs. This will enable the company to better service its customers.
In addition, certain segments of the traditional consumer packaging market – such as the cereal, dry foods, frozen pizza and carbonated soft drink segments – are in slight decline. At the same time, beer – particularly craft beer – and club store items are increasing in demand.
“Our innovations in microwave, beverage, and ready-to-eat markets are one way we offset challenges in other segments,” Farrell says.