Berry finished its fiscal year on Sept. 26 with sales of $3 billion and net profit of $195 million. Overall, the impact of COVID-19 was neutral, Salmon said, with some sectors negatively impacted but others benefiting.
"We were very fortunate to be able to provide PPE [personal protective equipment] around the world, whether it was face masks, whether it was hard-surface disinfectant wipes, whether it was surgical drapes and gowns," Salmon said. "I've seen an amazing amount of creativity, an amazing amount of agility."
Salmon said the ability to grow organically in 2020 puts Berry in a good position for "long-term, predictable and sustainable growth" in the future.
Salmon is confident even as he sees legislative and media attention on plastics and the environment, which is a topic that he covers frequently with financial analysts.
"Listen, it's very clear, there's a great opportunity for us as an organization with our industry partners, to educate, to collaborate, to innovate with our customers to make sure that they understand and do their part, with our support, to make certain that they're engineering products that are more sustainable, that help reduce waste, that lower emissions, increase recyclability. That's a competitive advantage for Berry," Salmon said.
"No doubt about it, plastics has demonstrated its importance in the world economy. What we have to continue to do is work on finding more means to address plastics waste more responsibly. Because what's being lost is that opportunity for a second, third and fourth life" for plastic products.
Salmon highlighted Berry's work with the Alliance to End Plastic Waste and its work with customers to commercialize new packaging, some with chemically recycled resins, others with easier-to-recycle designs.
When it comes to replacing virgin resin with recycled feedstocks, Berry's goal is to find "bona fide, scalable differentiated business models that can be monetized," Salmon said.
While he said Berry and the industry are making progress on plastic waste issues, Salmon added that "it's not just about waste."
"The more difficult problem, in my view, is greenhouse gas emissions," he said. "And there, plastics fare very well."
Salmon has been with Berry since 2007 and just started his fifth year as CEO. During Salmon's tenure, Berry has continued to grow through acquisition. In 2020, the company wrapped up its integration of RPC Group Inc., which at $6.5 billion was its largest deal ever. This year Berry will continue its focus on reducing its debt to four times to adjusted earnings before interest, taxes depreciation and amortization.
"We'll continue to deliver against that commitment to deliver consistent, predictable, organic growth," Salmon said.
Berry is budgeting 2021 capital expenditures of $650 million, a $70 million increase from fiscal 2020, which Salmon said will focus on three megatrends that will drive future growth: e-commerce, health and wellness and food safety.