Sonoco Products Co. is delving deeper into flexible and forming packaging films through the purchase of Clear Lam Packaging Inc.
A $170 million, all-cash deal for Clear Lam follows Sonoco's purchase of thermoformer Peninsula Packaging Co. LLC for $230 million in February.
For Hartsville, S.C.-based Sonoco, the move brings locations in Elk Grove Village, Ill., and Nanjing, China, and nearly 400 additional employees.
Sonoco sees Clear Lam as a “technology leader” in flexible and forming films and will help Sonoco to expand offerings “serving the fast-growing perimeter of grocery and retail food stores.”
Sonoco spokesman Brian Risinger sees the Clear Lam acquisition helping in two ways.
“The acquisition of Clear Lam adds capabilities for us, the ability to internalize this capability from a manufacturing standpoint of more complex films and internalizing those costs,” he said.
Sonoco does make film on what Risinger described as a limited basis, but Clear Lam brings “complex, multilayer” production. “And that's not a capability we had.”
Sonoco's current film-making capabilities center around its thermoforming business and includes multilayer and barrier capabilities, but not to the extent that Clear Lam will bring.
“The second thing is just the nature of their portfolio. We acquired Peninsula back in the spring and we are really focused on getting more into the perimeter of the store. Much of Clear Lam's portfolio is also in fresh perishables,” Risinger said.
“I would say those are the two driving factors. There's a technical capability and then there's a portfolio that's a good complement for us that, again, allows us to expand our footprint at retail,” he said.
“We've been pretty transparent and clear about making strategic acquisitions that add a capability that we don't have and then, perhaps, open up a market for us that we're not operating in.
“At a macro level, we are trying to pivot our business and have a greater share of it be in consumer packaging. And then within the consumer packaging segment ... the perimeter of the store, that's where the growth is. A large part of our portfolio really had been in the center, in more processed foods,” Risinger said.
With two deals already under its belt this year, Sonoco expects to continue seeking out expansion opportunities in this market segment.
“We're actively looking, especially in flexibles and in rigid plastics, for opportunities to expand our portfolio into more fresh [foods],” Risinger said.
Sales at Clear Lam are expected to be about $140 million this year, and the deal is expected to close in the third quarter.
“The addition of Clear Lam will significantly expand our Flexible Packaging and Thermoforming Plastics operations as we will be able to develop, produce and convert high barrier flexible and forming film structures to package fresh and prepared food products purchased in the growing store perimeter,” Sonoco CEO Jack Sanders said in a statement.
“Innovation has always been a driving force within Clear Lam and Sonoco, and it will continue to be a foundation for future growth,” said James Sanfilippo, president of the family-held Clear Lam, in a statement.
Clear Lam ranked 45th in Plastics News' ranking of North American film and sheet companies published last fall. The company had nine lines in North America when the ranking was published.
Clear Lam markets include condiments, dairy, meats, cheese, produce, confection, fresh and prepared foods, nuts and snacks, food service and personal care, Sonoco said.
The acquisiton will complement the Peninsula Packaging thermoforming operations by providing barrier flexible film lidding that extends shelf life and is resealable to create what Sanders called “a complete packaging solution to our fresh fruit and vegetable customers.”