CHICAGO—Keter Group Ltd. continues its march from a regional, Israeli firm to a global player.
Keter, a 49-year-old consumer products company based in Herzelia, Israel, was little known outside the Middle East until 15 years ago. But Keter now is the largest resin furniture maker in the world, with plans to grow even larger, Keter President Sami Sagol said in an Aug. 11 interview at the National Hardware Show in Chicago.
In addition to three ``revolutionary'' new products and about 60 ``regular'' new products, Sagol indicated Keter is ready to add more U.S. production sites to its holdings through acquisition.
He would not provide details about the planned purchase, except to say Keter has signed a letter of intent. The only thing delaying official announcement of the deal, other Keter officials said, is completion of due diligence, and environmental studies of the site or sites involved.
``The booming market in the U.S. helped our business,'' Sagol said. ``Resin furniture is not high-growth, but it is still a good market to be in if you have the local structure of a lean company.''
Because plastics consumer products generally are bulky and difficult to ship in their finished form, Keter is concentrating on making its products near their final markets, Sagol said.
Keter first expanded into the United States when it purchased U.S. Leisure of Carmel, Ind. Keter also recently bought the Stanley, N.C., resin furniture plant of U.S. Industries.
That purchase represented a ``full circle'' for Keter, Sagol said.
When Keter officials toured their newly acquired property, they found some of their own molds. That's because the Stanley plant's ownership lineage traces back to Rubbermaid Inc., a company Keter worked with during the early days of resin furniture in the mid-1980s, according to Sagol.
On the product side, Keter showed a modular garden shed Sagol said could be expanded into a ``garden warehouse.'' The system uses standardized wall panels that snap into a series of brackets.
Keter developed what it calls special injection molding techniques and resin formulations to produce panels flexible enough to snap easily into place, but rigid enough to form a functional wall, Sagol said.
Another new product Keter showed is made of plastic, but doesn't look like it. Keter's Artisan line of outdoor furniture has the feel — and heft — of cast aluminum. A blend of fillers and a near-engineering-grade resin help give the furniture its unusual blend of qualities, said Sender Tal, vice president of marketing and sales.
The product gives all the advantages of cast-aluminum furniture, but at a tenth of the cost, Sagol added. The Artisan line still is in the prototype stage.
The third ``revolutionary'' new product is Keter's modular garden decoration system. Injection molded trellises, planters and decorative fences can be assembled quickly and without tools.
Keter Group is a privately held company with about 1,000 employees, 750-800 of whom are in Israel, Sagol said.
In addition to its U.S. and Israeli operations, the firm has divisions in England, Germany and the Netherlands.