Fitzgerald, Georgia and Glendale, Arizona
Eco-friendly firelogs and firestarters
"I have an alternative energy background," McRoy says of the inspiration behind the eco-friendly firelog manufacturer. "I had a pretty good understanding of it and the direction that the world was going back then towards green products. I was introduced to the [concept] of a firelog, and I thought maybe I could do something with it."
A business plan soon followed along with "talking to suppliers and retailers to see if there was an interest," McRoy continues. "Then I decided to drum up some investment, and in 2004, we launched the company [in Georgia]."
Since then, Enviro-Log has grown to become the largest recycler of waxed corrugated cardboard boxes -- also known as WOCC -- in North America and the third-largest producer of manufactured firelogs in the nation. The company's 110,000-square-foot headquarters in Fitzgerald, Georgia, has primarily served retail partners on the East Coast. A new 76,156-square-foot facility in Glendale, Arizona, which began manufacturing firelogs in late October, will serve retail partners on the West Coast.
McRoy says Enviro-Log chose Glendale for its new facility for several reasons. "One was freight," he explains. "There are only a few choices on the West Coast for freight, so it was a driving factor. Most of our retail partners have distribution in Southern California, so we have to have easy access. We also use a drying process, so we wanted to be further north. We did some competitive analysis and found out the west side of Arizona was an extremely attractive freight area, had plenty of workforce, and there were a handful of facilities available at the time we committed to going forward."
Enviro-Log's business model is a circular one. The company takes in waxed corrugated cardboard boxes from recyclers, retail partners, and produce processors, ensuring the boxes -- which aren't otherwise recyclable -- don't end up in landfills. The boxes go through a proprietary process to become manufactured firelogs. The firelogs are then distributed back to the retail partners -- including Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, and Whole Foods in the U.S. and Canada -- who sell them to consumers. To date, Enviro-Log has worked with more than 100 partners throughout North America.
McRoy estimates that the combined manufacturing capabilities of both Enviro-Log facilities is a minimum of eight to 10 million firelogs annually. He says the company is investing in new technology for its Arizona location -- including automated equipment for cutting and packaging -- that it plans to eventually implement in Georgia as well. "There's some additional downstream capital investment planned for Arizona in the next 24 months that will further expand its speed and operations," he adds.
Challenges: "Getting good employees," McRoy says. "Also getting suppliers to deliver on time, and just being ready for the 2023 season. You never know what a season is going to bring. We have to be able to react to situations quickly through our customer support and our supply strategy."
Opportunities: Though McRoy describes the company's experience during the COVID-19 pandemic as "organized chaos," he says Enviro-Log benefited from an increased demand for fire products while people were forced to stay home. Sales have continued to rise since then, and the arrival of winter has "sales through the roof again."
Enviro-Log's firelogs and firestarters can be used safely in both indoor and outdoor fireplaces, wood stoves, and firepits. They burn cleaner than wood -- emitting 50 percent less greenhouse gasses, 30 percent less particulates, and 80 percent less carbon dioxide -- while providing 50 percent more heat per pound than wood.
McRoy adds that Enviro-Log will be focusing heavily on its West Coast opportunities now that the Arizona manufacturing facility is operational. "We've got a lot of small retailers that are wanting to talk to us," he continues. "Now that we have a presence [in Arizona], we can be cost effective and responsive to the smaller opportunities. We're also looking to partner with several large retail grocery chains to recover their waxed boxes. They're enthusiastic, so that's coming together quite well."
Needs: "On the West Coast, we need strong partnerships and a good, qualified supply network," McRoy says. "And a strong, solid workforce." The company is currently searching for qualified candidates to fill positions in operations and production at its Glendale facility including equipment operators, line workers, electrical and mechanical maintenance, logistics, shipping, and more.