After spending a better part of a decade trying to crack into Mexico, St. Johns Packaging Ltd. now finds itself with two sites.
The recent purchase of Plásticos Uribe SA de CV of Tlaquepaque, Mexico, a suburb of Guadalajara, Mexico, not only gives St. Johns additional flexible packaging manufacturing capacity, but also creates a foundation for additional growth, St. Johns President Marc Leclair said in an interview with Plastics News.
St. Johns has a plant in Greensboro, N.C., but has been running at less than full capacity there due to labor shortages, Leclair explained. Bringing in another location in Mexico also will help provide finished goods to the U.S. market.
"We've been, whew, probably for the past 10 years looking to make an acquisition in Mexico. Over the years, we had visited pretty much all of the companies we had on our target list," Leclair said. "We had almost given up making an acquisition in Mexico. In fact, we had decided two years ago to give up on the acquisition and just started up a greenfield."
That facility in León, Guanajuato, is about two hours from Plásticos Uribe.
"It was after actually having given up, after starting up the greenfield , several people in Mexico knew that we had been looking to make an acquisition and they had found out that this family, the Uribe family, was open to selling their business. Basically that's how it happened," Leclair explained.
The Leon facility makes bags from film manufactured by the company in Canada and the United States. Plásticos Uribe has the ability to extrude film up to five layers along with printing operations. St. Johns will now be able to start supplying film from Plásticos Uribe to the Leon location, cutting transportation time and expenses.
"We plan on increasing their extrusion and printing capacity. I guess what would be new would be bring in bag making," Leclair said. "We'll be adding bag-making machinery as fast as possible at that plant."
Leclair sees Mexico having the potential to become the company's largest manufacturing base over time. "Right now, it's the smallest," he said. "We think if everything goes well, Mexico will probably be our biggest."
"It looks like we have the platforms to be able to do what we want to do. But again, you have to execute," the president said about the facilities in Mexico.
St. Johns, based in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, also has locations in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Vietnam and China.
Plásticos Uribe has about 100 employees, and the company's president sees that number potentially increasing by another 50 over the next two to three years. The company's other location in Mexico has about 50 to 60 workers.
The company's Ilkeston, England, location, which specializes in printing and wicket bag manufacturing for the bakery market, was purchased from Amcor Flexibles UK Ltd. in June 2020. Leclair sees the potential to expand into Continental Europe in the years ahead. St. Johns, founded in 1954, is in the third generation of Leclair family control. The firm has about 900 employees, products include wicket bags, pouches and roll stock.
Plásticos Uribe was founded in 1979. Markets served include food, water and ice, personal care, household, retail, medical, and stowage and pallets.