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Pak-Sher Takes the Packaging Industry by Storm by Rachel Stallard

Pak-Sher has had innovative packaging solutions in the bag for the last 40 years at their plant in Kilgore, Texas. According to Paul Gage, president and CEO, the employees are a major part of that success.     

“The workforce here is very loyal. The seniority and tenure of our average employee is off the map. I’ve never seen anything like this. People don’t leave Pak-Sher,” he said. “It’s a great culture. It’s a good workforce. People want to do what’s right and that has helped us a lot.”

The company covers North America with its food service flexible packaging products, and the work is done in East Texas by a team of 150. Gage estimates an additional 66 people will be added to the payroll over the next three to five years. 

“Pak-Sher has always been an innovator in the (plastics) industry. That’s really how Pak-Sher came to be in food service,” said Michele Talucci, marketing director. “What makes us who we are (are) the unique items that we sell and have developed to solve unusual problems for people. We’ve got all kinds of stuff in our catalogs that nobody else sells, for just that reason. We’re that unique, value-add, niche player.”

In particular, they credit their technical vice president with “a brilliant packaging mind. He comes up with all kinds of unique things that solve problems for our customers in the marketplace.”

One of those examples is the creation of a 100 percent post-consumer recycled material bakery/deli sheet destined to take the packaging industry by storm. The Envirosheets™ are made from used plastic milk jugs and meet all the FDA guidelines for direct food contact. 

“It’s the only product of its kind in the world,” Gage said. The sheet will allow supermarkets, delis, bakeries and convenience stores to have a green product that will help them achieve their sustainability goals and improve their bottom line.

Launched in May 2013, the Envirosheets™ are already turning heads, garnering Pak-Sher an invitation to this year’s Wal-Mart Sustainability Expo, where they were applauded for their “out of the box thinking when it came to finding sustainable solutions,” Gage said. “Wal-Mart has significantly advanced the sustainable packaging agenda in this country. They have come up with a sustainability index for their buyers which help guide (their) packaging decisions. One of the key criteria for the index is ‘recycled content;’ we were very happy to hear that.” Gage said.

“This is a platform for future development,” he added. “It’s all about recycling for us. It’s about making products out of recycled materials; that’s a big part of our future. We’ve identified ourselves and we know we’re leaders in that whole segment. Big consumer product companies are starting to take note. We’re getting a lot of attention because of it.”

Pak-Sher may be spreading its green message globally, but recycling efforts really do start at home. In addition to employing a strong workforce, the company also enjoys a symbiotic partnership with the community when it comes to bagging for the cycle. Pak-Sher is now in its third year of collecting plastic Bags Of Bags (BoBs) from local school children. They melt down the returned bags to pellets in order to produce specially designed black shopping bags for use by the town’s merchants. 

“That whole program took us to another level as far as bringing in recycled material from the outside,” Talucci said. “I think that is one of the programs that really propelled us to look for more and more capabilities for recycling.”

Gage agreed. “We see recycling as an economically-viable solution,” he said. “I think we’re on the verge of a very significant increase in awareness on the VALUE of these resources as a recycled product; not only the finished product, but the material itself. We want to continue to try and build value through recycling and that starts locally because logistics really are a huge part of recycling.”

Pak-Sher also hopes to use location to its advantage as the plastics industry grows. Kilgore is strategically located to reach almost 24 million people within four hours or less.

“A lot of our raw materials are manufactured on the Gulf Coast,” Gage said. “This is really important for the plastics business. The state and this area are in a great position to compete in the plastics universe. Natural gas had driven that, and it has completely changed our competitive position worldwide from a petrochemicals perspective.”

“A lot of good things come from being close to your markets and close to your customers and we’re building on that,” Gage said. “I believe Kilgore could be a model for the state of Texas, as far as recycling.”

Talucci also praises Kilgore’s positive business environment for encouraging Pak-Sher’s continued success.  “This is a very unique community in that respect,” she said. “I’ve never been in a place like this. Everybody knows each other and supports each other; and is very helpful to the business. We’ve gotten visibility that we would not have gotten otherwise because of it.”

“When we use the black bags to present our programs, and show we can provide a closed loop to recycling — that’s not just staying here. We’re taking what this community is doing and sending it outward,” Talucci said. “It’s been a wonderful partnership and we have definitely benefited.” 

About Pak-Sher:  Pak-Sher (paksher.com) has been an innovator in the design and manufacture of carryout and kitchen prep flexible packaging for the food service industry since the early 1970's. Pak-Sher invented many of the packaging products used throughout the restaurant, deli and grocery industry today including the Flip Top deli bag and Pop-up Quicksheets® currently used by tens of thousands of grocery stores, convenience stores and restaurants nationwide. Pak-Sher also designed the easy on-off food handling Sher-Mitt® which has been recommended by local health departments to minimize potential cross-contamination in kitchens. Today, Pak-Sher has taken the lead in sustainability, developing both high content PCR products and fully compostable products, continuing to innovate with new sustainable resin alternatives, and working with local schools to collect and recycle plastic grocery bags.

 

 
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