A New York merchant bank plans to expand thermoformer Associated Packaging Enterprises Inc. of Jupiter, Fla.
Castle Harlan Inc. will stimulate internal growth and look at acquisition opportunities for the food-packaging producer, according to Marcel Fournier, a managing partner for Castle Harlan.
The investment company bought a majority interest in Associated for undisclosed terms in mid-December, Fournier said in a telephone interview. Associated management continues to own the rest of the business.
Associated operates two thermoforming plants that mainly serve the frozen-food industry, including such major players as Nestle Frozen Foods, ConAgra Frozen Foods, Celentano and Luigino's Inc. Its plants in Waynesville, N.C., and Kitchener, Ontario, churn out annual sales of about $80 million. It opened the Waynesville plant in late 1996 after converting a former Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse into production space.
Associated Chief Executive Officer Charles Buff and other officials were unavailable for comment.
Fournier said Associated's dual-ovenable food trays made of crystalline PET are displacing other frozen-food packaging materials such as paperboard and aluminum. As well, demand for frozen foods as a category is growing. The growth potential attracted Castle Harlan Inc., which invested in Associated through its Castle Harlan Partners III LP business unit. Funds were obtained through senior and subordinated debt arranged by Barclays Bank and Credit Agricole Indosuez.
Associated is Castle Harlan's second investment in the plastics industry. It formed injection mold maker StackTech Systems Inc. in October 1998 by merging Tradesco Mold Ltd. of Toronto and Fairway Molds Inc. of Los Angeles.
Castle Harlan Partners III has $630 million in funds, of which about 55 percent are committed.