CHICAGO - Farberware Inc., better known for its stainless steel pots and pans, has licensed a Texas injection molding company, Frye International Corp., to mold plastics food storage products and other housewares items under the Farberware name. Frye International and Farberware had separate booths at the International Housewares Show, held Jan. 14-17.
Bud Frye, president of Frye International in Longview, Texas, said the company has eight injection molding machines with clamping forces of 200-700 tons.
Frye founded the plastics company in 1980, at first purely as a custom molder. About five years later the company began custom molding for a San Francisco housewares firm, LaMarle Inc.
Frye said LaMarle was formed in 1983 when Tupperware's patent ran out on the ``burp'' seal for food containers.
LaMarle patented its own feature: a molded-in series of dates with a pointer on the lid to automatically date the food.
Frye said the LaMarle founders sourced molds andmolding from Taiwan, and ran into quality problems. They sold the firm to an Australian investor group that used good-quality molds from its home country. Frye met the Australians at the 1985 Housewares Show, and his Texas company began molding for them the following year.
But in 1987 resin prices shot up and the LaMarle owners did not change their price, dramatically shrinking their profit margins, according to Frye.
``We were the largest single creditor because we did all the work,'' he said. At a meeting of creditors, Frye proposed that Frye International take over the business and, to pay back the other creditors, pay them a royalty as they sold the housewares products. The other creditors accepted that idea in 1988.
The move was successful, and in 1991 Frye International purchased the housewares company and product line.
Frye said LaMarle products were high quality, but the brand name was not well-known. Then, New York-based Farberware arrived with good name recognition and distribution in department stores, catalog showrooms and gourmet retailers. Far-berware licensed its name to Frye in January 1993.
Frye said the plastic housewares currently are not sold to mass retailers.
The Farberware-brand products include containers to hold coffee and food, and colorful drink pitchers and polystyrene tumblers. At the Chicago exposition, Frye International showed a new polypropylene product that holds a bagel safely for slicing. Another product is designed for the home breadmaking market: an all-in-one bread canister, slicing guide, flour canister and set of measuring spoons.
John Leighton, Farberware's general manager of special markets, said the Farberware reputation will help the plastic products. ``The line is making headway in the crowded plastic storage container category because retailers know the products are high quality and consumers trust the Farberware name.''
Frye International continues to do custom molding, contract work and overflow molding for other processors.
``Our custom base has diminished quite a bit, but we are still in that business and pursuing that business,'' Frye said.
Employment at Frye International fluctuates between 40 and 100 people, depending on demand. The privately owned firm does not release sales figures.