By Eric Peterson | Apr 01, 2015
Salt Lake City, Utah
Boxes and packaging
Salt Lake City
Chairman and CEO Paul Keyser and his son, President Steve, are the family-owned company's third and fourth generations. They're geared up for a second century in the packaging business.
Paul's grandfather, George Keyser, bought the business -- then named Union Label Company -- in 1922. "We made more boxes than labels, so in 1923, we named if Utah Paperbox," Paul says.
The company diversified from rigid boxes into folding cartons in the 1970s and then got into stackable litho-laminated boxes a decade ago. "We're the only box plant in the United States that does all three," says Paul. The company also does plastic packaging, including containers for ski goggles for several manufacturers.
Utah Paperbox is focused on premium products. "Our innovation is that we understand upscale packaging sells more of the same product," touts Paul. "We can prove it, we understand it, and that's what we sell."
Sweet Candy Company is an example of a customer getting a sales boost by investing in packaging. After upgrading their boxes in the late 2000s, sales quadrupled, says Paul.
It's about grabbing consumers' eyeballs in a split second, he adds. "I always buy Dial Soap because it's in a foil wrapper and I can see it immediately, and I'm no different than anybody else."
To this end, Utah Paperbox is moving into Cast & Cure holographic finishes and cold stamping this year to make even catchier packaging for its customers.
The company is industry-agnostic, with a customer list spanning the coffee, confection, cosmetic, medical, and outdoor industries. More than half of sales go to out of state companies.
Utah Paperbox moved from its longtime location at 340 W. 200 South in downtown Salt Lake City, consolidating operations on a former tire recycler's property in the Glendale neighborhood on the west side of the city in Dec. 2013.
"We needed more space," says Paul. The new facility has that: 250,000 square feet in three buildings. But getting the gang together on a single property has more benefits than increased elbow room. The move proved a boost to communication and productivity as 2014 revenue rose $6 million to $38 million, he adds.
The neighborhood is happy to have the tire plant supplanted by Utah Paperbox. "They love us, and we love this neighborhood. We love being here," says Paul.
After years of operating at three locations, "I feel like we're one company again," says Paul. "340 South was my home. I was there since I was seven years old, but I haven't missed it. It was like a sieve."
Conversely, the new Glendale property is a model of energy efficiency, with plenty of solar power. "With the next installation, we're going to be one megawatt," says Paul "That's quite a bit" -- enough to power 129 homes. Overall, the Gold LEED-certified facility is about 50 percent more-energy efficient than its predecessor.
Sustainability is Steve's initiative. "This is my son's thing," says Paul, "but I agree with it."
Paul's 2015 forecast Utah Paperbox is about six percent growth. "We can get bigger with the equipment we have," he says, noting that the company runs three shifts five days a week, but could open on Saturdays.
Running a century-old business, Paul says his philosophy is simple: "to survive." And he's optimistic about the company's future: "I'm excited for the next 100 years."
But Utah Paperbox is not just surviving, it's thriving. "We're the only rigid box plant between Denver and San Francisco," Paul notes. "We consider ourselves one of the top three manufacturers in our field, and I think other people do, too."
Challenges: "Since the recession, no [customers] will raise prices," says Paul. But vendors will. "We get caught between our customers and our suppliers."
The solution? "What we all did is get better at what we're doing without adding people." This translates more computer-aided drafting and manufacturing and streamlined internal communication, he adds. "We're able to do a lot more a lot faster now."
Opportunities: "New markets," says Paul, pointing to opportunities in the beverage and automotive industries. "There's all kinds of growth potential."
Needs: The recent relocation not only involved moving massive printing presses and other equipment, it also incurred a lot of debt, says Paul. "It cost $30 million to move. I felt like I was walking around with my pockets inside-out."
It follows that the company's "biggest need is to get our debt down," he says. "I'm comfortable with our debt, but I'd be more comfortable with no debt."