Look for more recycled-content products from Tucker Housewares now that trash-bag maker Zeta Consumer Products Corp. is acquiring the Massachusetts-based housewares maker, according to a top official for Zeta. Zeta has pioneered trash bags made of recycled plastic. Its Renew bags were the first with 100 percent recycled content. That gives Zeta, based in Little Falls, N.J., credibility when it comes to recycled content in housewares, according to Zeta President Raj Bal.
In a deal announced Feb. 28, Zeta will buy Tucker from Mobil Chemical Co., a unit of Mobil Corp. Terms were not immediately disclosed.
Mobil paid $185 million for Tucker in 1990. But in 1995, Mobil, a major maker of oil, gas and petrochemicals, including plastic resins, began selling off its noncore businesses.
The biggest deal came last October, when Packaging Corp. of America, a unit of Tenneco Inc., paid $1.27 billion for Mobil's Plastics Division, a major producer of trash bags, food packaging and disposable tableware.
Zeta picked up one former Mobil bag plant, in Washington, N.J.
Much smaller is the sale of Tucker, expected to become final in April. The
broad-line molder of housewares items such as laundry baskets and storage bins runs a headquarters factory in Leominster, Mass., and plants in Arlington, Texas, and Kingman, Ariz.
The deal has significant implications for the plastics housewares industry, currently struggling to satisfy retailers wanting lower prices and exciting new products.
Tucker and Sterilite Corp. are vying for position as the second-largest North American housewares molder that sells through mass retailers, behind Rubbermaid Inc.
Bal said Tucker's sales are between $100 million and $150 million. Sterilite, a closely held company based in Townsend, Mass., claims its sales are more than $100 million.
Facing intense competitive pressures, Tucker has reduced expenses by laying off a third of its work force. Bal said Tucker now has about 600 employees. Zeta employs 500.
``We will continue to find additional savings from increased volumes, improved raw-material purchasing power and more flexibility in our manufacturing and warehousing operations,'' Bal said.
``These efficiencies will allow Tucker to better support its line of entry price-point products,'' he said.
Alfred Teo, chairman of Zeta and its parent, Sigma Plastics Group of Lyndhurst, N.J., said the Tucker acquisition will boost Sigma's plastic resin-buying volume to more than 500 million pounds a year.
Bal said that ``Tucker, in the past year or so, has done a good job in the new product arena.''
In January, at Chicago's International Housewares Show, Tucker brought scents to the market with new storage boxes that hold a small board of cedar and kitchen wastebaskets with a charcoal filter to absorb odors. Last year, Tucker's Storage Locker won a design award from Business Week and the Industrial Designers Society of America.
Bal said Zeta wants Tucker to become a leader in recycled products.
Housewares makers have touted some products as ``green,'' but in the case of actually using recycled plastics, reality has generally not matched the marketing hype.