Petone (Wellington)-based flexible packaging specialist, Gravure Packaging (GPL), has purchased Sydney-based Australian Packaging as part of an ambitious strategy to expand its business on both sides of the Tasman.
GPL Managing Director Greg Chapman says the flexographic printing, solventless lamination and perforation processes offered by Australian Packaging will provide a positive complement to the gravure expertise of his firm and deliver a proven customer base.
“Australian Packaging predominantly produces for the food and FMCG markets, as well as for domestic and international airlines,” says Mr Chapman.
“One of their strongest portfolios is pie wrapping and they make a lot of high-quality laminates for what we call ‘rewind packaging’ for the snack food sector. Their customer base is Australia-wide and stretches into New Caledonia and Fiji, with one of the most recognised brands being Mrs Mac’s.
“The acquisition will provide an opportunity to cross-sell on both sides of the Tasman and it also opens up a new technology for each company.”
Mr Chapman says there are numerous similarities between the two businesses including size, both having been in existence for about 30 years and each coming from a family-owned background.
“The complementary product lines will add a real strength to our overall capabilities.
“We will be retaining the existing staff in Australia and will mirror what we have recently established here in our managerial structure. Peter Barnes will fulfill the role of Production Manager with Vivienne Tasker being the Commercial Manager and my time will be split between the two companies.
“APL’s two Directors -- Ray Cranfield and Dianne Anderson -- will be retained for a period of at least 12 months to ensure a smooth transition in all areas of the business. Once we have bedded in the acquisition, then we can examine the interaction between the two companies from an administrative point of view to see what additional alignments and synergies we can achieve.”
With the Australian enterprise to continue operating under its current trading name, Mr Chapman also moved to provide assurances for the immediate future.
“The previous owners of the business had wanted to retire and, having been approached by a broker on their behalf, we were invited ahead of three other parties to enter the due diligence process.
“I guess our approach is most closely aligned to their hearts. It is what you would call a ‘responsible sale’ -- one where they wanted the future of the business to be secured and the long-term relationships with employees, customers and suppliers maintained.
“Those relationships are of paramount importance to both the new and previous owners of Australian Packaging.”
Mr Chapman says GPL -- a producer of revolutionary packaging that has seen it repeatedly feature as a New Zealand Pride In Print Supreme Award Finalist -- has been eyeing up potential acquisition targets both domestically and abroad for some time.
“Australia has suffered the same thing we have in New Zealand whereby a lot of manufacturing is moving offshore. But there is enormous potential growth in the packaging sector on both sides of the Tasman.
“People will always need to eat, drink and consume products. And consumers are wanting more convenience around their food products -- smaller, individualised portions and very personalised pre-packaged products -- so packaging is going to survive and thrive.”
With one of its former senior executives having recently departed to purchase another business in a different field, Mr Chapman says GPL has undergone a restructure with Grant Amelung becoming Operations Manager and Andrew Young recruited as Commercial Manager.
“Grant was our Technical Manager and will now also manage the operations in the factory. Andrew Young has come from Fairfax where he has run sales and accounting departments over some time, so is well qualified for our next phase.
“Another key aspect of the restructure is that it has freed myself up to address some of the more strategic issues going forward and therefore work more on the business as opposed to in it.”
The firm, whose ownership is shared between Mr Chapman, Paddy Daly and Founder Gunter Amelung, has also revamped its production process as part of a significant growth strategy which has seen it expand from 25 to 35 staff in five years.
“We have restructured the shift arrangements to add hours to our production capacity. We were operating on the basis of 16 hours over five days, but will now be working 20 hours over six days.
“We are going through quite a growth phase here in New Zealand and there are four strategies we are working on. One of them is to grow organically and another is through acquisitions and there are other targets still in the frame.”
Also being served by Sydney-based Sales Rep Mark Gallagher, GPL has recently secured substantial new work across the Tasman.
“We have a relationship with a highly-capable French company Sleever International that sells throughout Australia. A large part of our business is shrink sleeve and that is Sleever International’s expertise, so we are working with them to grow that market and it might create further opportunities for Australian Packaging.”
Additionally, Mr Chapman says GPL is planning further capital investment at its Petone plant which has in part been driven by a new product line that has been developed with a key customer.