Updated June 20: For Pregis LLC, the acquisition of Free-Flow Packaging International Inc. is the realization of a long-term goal.
Pregis President and CEO Kevin Baudhuin explained he has been interested in the technology and innovation of the Fremont, Calif.-based company for several years.
“Free-Flow is a legendary company,” Baudhuin said. “It has been around for 50-plus years and really has been a leader with the air pillow technology.” Free-Flow is also known as FP International.
Free-Flow, like Pregis, makes machinery and consumables to create air pillow cushioning for the protection and shipment of goods. And that's a good business to be in these days.
Along with the technology and innovation that Free-Flow brings to Pregis, Baudhuin was attracted by the company's workforce and what he described as “a tremendous European footprint.”
Pregis already does business in Europe, but only with its paper-based packaging protection products. The addition of Free-Flow brings three European sites that center around its air cushion products and associated inflator machines.
Free-Flow has locations in Hopkinsville, Ky., and Thornton, Ill., in the United States. Its international sites are in Heerlen, Netherlands; Villiers-le-Bel, France; and Herbrechtingen, Germany.
The increasing popularity of electronic commerce is the main driver behind the acquisition, which is expected to close in the coming weeks, the CEO said.
Free-Flow's Mini Pak'R machine is an innovation in the industry and especially attractive to Pregis, Baudhuin said.
The acquired company also has air pillow patterns, which are protected by patents, that will complement existing offerings from Pregis, company spokeswoman Dache Davidson said.
“This is the sixth acquisition that we've done in the last three years under the four years of Olympus ownership. And they are all related to growth and providing new solutions to the customer,” Baudhuin said. Private equity firm Olympus Partners purchased Pregis in 2014.
Free-Flow got its start five decades ago by finding a use for discarded paper straw ends. The company also has been known for its figure-eight-shaped loose fill packaging, but Baudhuin said there is not much left of that business these days.
Free-Flow was founded in 1967 by Arthur Graham. A year later the company developed the figure-eight cushioning products, using what it called “a unique, new extrusion process.”
The deal with Pregis “will enable us to continue FP's 50-year commitment to innovation and outstanding customer service,” Free-Flow President Joe Nezwek said in a news release. “As one company, we can accelerate our efforts to meet the evolving needs of our customers.”