SP Fiber Technologies

After being acquired by WestRock Co. this fall, SP Fiber Technologies is now part of a larger group of paper and corrugating packaging producers with vast resources that will help SP Fiber better address customer needs.

The Georgia-based company manufactures containerboard and kraft and bag paper for use by consumers and in corrugated packaging. The acquisition will help fill a niche for WestRock. 

“We are thrilled to have the opportunity to supply the foodservice market with lighter-weight paper for recycled, unbleached bags,” Jim Porter, president of paper solutions at West-Rock, said in a statement about the buyout. “This modern recycled containerboard and kraft paper production provides us with the efficiencies in our mill system that will enable us to more effectively serve our customers.”

SP Fiber’s service model focuses on using the latest information technology and the fastest and widest lightweight packaging machines to support its customers, the company says. The company has developed guidelines to ensure consistent quality in its production by establishing and reviewing objectives, providing excellent service, shipping to each customer’s requirements and striving to improve its paper product.

As part of the $288.5 million purchase price, WestRock acquired both of SP Fiber’s mills, located in Dublin, Ga., and Newberg, Ore. WestRock itself was formed in July from a merger between MeadWestvaco Corp. and Rock-Tenn Co., both producers of recycled paper products. Prior to the SP Fiber buyout, the company boasted $15 billion in annual sales with 42,000 employees at 275 locations in 30 countries. The acquisition of SP Fiber, announced in August and completed in October, is expected to grow WestRock’s North American presence.

In addition to the two mills, WestRock took possession of SP Fiber’s 48 percent stake in Green Power Solutions of Georgia LLC. The company is a renewable energy joint venture that provides electricity to Georgia Power and steam to SP Fiber’s Dublin facility.

“The Dublin and Newberg mills will balance the fiber mix of our mill system and the addition of kraft and bag paper will diversify our product offering,” WestRock CEO Steve Voorhees said in a statement. “We expect to apply our operating capabilities to improve the cost structure of both mills. As a result, our mill system will be better positioned to serve the increasing demand for lighter-weight containerboard and kraft paper.”

Innovative Products

SP Fiber’s history of innovation in developing lightweight paper products is one of the aspects that attracted WestRock to the company. “From the beginning, we embraced the challenge to provide new products that were not readily available in the market,” SP Fiber says.

One of its first products was a type of bag paper made from 100 percent-recycled materials that met the performance standards and ruggedness needed for restaurant carryout bags and grocery sacks. Since then, the company has remained committed to using 100 percent recycled materials in nearly all of its products. Its focus is on expanding creative applications for its ultra-lightweight linerboard products. “We believe our ultra-lightweight papers provide progressive converters new tools for providing the differentiated products their customers are demanding,” SP Fiber says.

many certifications

For the containerboard market, SP Fiber produces light- and medium-weight linerboards as light as 10 pounds per thousand square feet (MSF) and up to 36 pounds per MSF. For the bag and kraft paper markets, grades range from 28 pounds per MSF up to 90 pounds per MSF. SP Fiber’s products are designed to be sustainable and are Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Initiative and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification certified as well.

SP Fiber’s premier product is TechniFlute, an ultra-high-performance corrugating medium containerboard. TechniFlute provides more than twice the strength of conventional corrugating mediums and up to 50 percent more strength than imported birch-based medium, on-corrugator dual-arch medium and off-line laminated medium containerboards. 

To create the product, SP Fiber uses a proprietary induction process to combine two ultra-lightweight base sheets, then introduces the TechniFlute to a heat and flute formation on a corrugator to add strength. The two-stage process removes the speed restrictions associated with most heavyweight and high-strength media, the company says. 

The result is that TechniFlute provides lower on-machine costs compared to other options, with higher run speeds and fiber weight reductions of between 25 and 50 percent. The added strength allows customers to switch from triple-wall to double-wall combinations, according to SP Fiber.

Sustainable Culture

SP Fiber remains committed to its social responsibility and implements policies and procedures aimed at reducing the company’s carbon footprint and minimizing its environmental impact. But the company says its sustainable philosophy extends beyond nature to include its employees. 

“For us, sustainability starts with ensuring the safety of our people and development of a continuous learning culture that inspires individuals to achieve their full potential,” the company says.

SP Fiber’s culture made it a good fit for a fellow recycled paper products producer such as WestRock. “We expect to further improve the service we provide to customers as a result of this transaction,” Porter said. “Both WestRock and SP Fiber have strong track records of product quality and innovation, and we are excited about combining our resources to enhance our offering of paper solutions.” 

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