Keeping Things Corrugated

A look at the FGS carton plant

Gregor Shanks joined the FGS team in 2014. As sales manager of the Carton Plant for the past nine years, he’s built a tight team of packaging experts. The hard work has paid off — last year, the plant produced 1.6 billion square feet of corrugated boxes alone, shipping those boxes to a wide range of clients from California to Chile.

Quality packaging has always been a top priority at FGS. After all, when FGS formed in 1907, the company’s first task was to produce wooden slats for Sunkist’s shipping crates. As the company grew, so did its mission — as well as its packaging processes. Wooden boxes were eventually replaced by corrugated fiberboard containers, which have become the modern-day standard in the produce industry. And if you ask Shanks, nobody does corrugated containers better than FGS.

“We do big numbers for a plant with only three machines and a corrugator,” he says. “It’s world-class-level.”

Corrugated fiberboard containers have been in use for 140 years, meaning they’re roughly the same age as FGS itself. Don’t confuse corrugated boxes for cardboard boxes, though. As Shanks explains, there’s a crucial difference that makes corrugated the superior option for shipping fruit, produce, and other easily-bruised cargo.

“If you look at corrugated, it has a flute in between two sheets of paper, and that flute gives us the name ‘corrugated,'” he says. “Picture a corrugated roof, like you’d see on a barn.”

Cardboard, on the other hand, is smooth and flat, without the adjoining flute that connects one piece to another. “A common use of cardboard would be milk cartons,” Shanks adds. “If you look at a milk carton, it don’t have any fluting. That’s the primary difference in the produce industry, because you have to use corrugated packing in order to get the strength you need. Those flutes create a column that gives us the top-to-bottom compression strength.”

Several years ago, FGS spent $45 million upgrading its Carton Plant. Those improvements have allowed the plant to continue assisting Sunkist while also thriving in the open market. “Last year, we sold $90 million of open-market business, so we’ve had amazing growth in a short amount of time,” Shanks says. He also adds that the vast majority of clients tend to maintain long-term relationships with the carton plant, which speaks volume about the plant’s dependability. “We live for repeat clients,” he states. “I would say our top 20 accounts, representing 80% of our business, are repeat customers. We actually look for customers that are loyal and share the same philosophy as we do.”

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