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Winpak short of big goal, still strong

'Billion-dollar commitment' on hold

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Winpak CEO Bruce Berry says revenue is now on track to reach $1 billion by 2016.

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Winpak CEO Bruce Berry says revenue is now on track to reach $1 billion by 2016. Photo Store

Bruce Berry is confident on-the-run consumers will help him meet his "billion-dollar commitment" to shareholders.

The CEO of Winpak Ltd. told about 50 shareholders at the packaging company's annual general meeting even though its financial performance in 2013 didn't meet management's aspirations, the company is still "well poised" for the future.

(Winpak's net income of $71.4 million for the year, up $100,000 from 2012, was still an all-time record.)

Two years ago, Berry told shareholders he wanted to grow the company's revenue to $1 billion by 2015, but Thursday he predicted the target won't be reached until 2016.

Last year, Winpak's top line was $714.9 million, up nearly $49 million from the year before (all figures in U.S. dollars).

Certainly demographics are in Winpak's favour. A growing number of families with two working parents and countless activities for their children play right into the company's focus on packaging for the ready-made food market.

"There are so many food applications that are moving to convenience, so the opportunities for us to grow the business are substantial. The movement is toward (things like) single-serve coffee and people are buying pre-made salad bags, not a head of lettuce and a tomato," he said.

"The foods on the supermarket shelf that you throw in the microwave have come a long way from the TV dinners of years ago."

Shareholders should be patient, however, if they're looking for growth to come from a major acquisition.

Berry said the company is constantly on the lookout to buy similar operations, but what has come on the market lately has been too rich for his blood.

"We've been very successful in growing the company organically and fortunate to generate sufficient cash, which allows us to invest in the technology that allows us to stay on the leading edge of technology," he said.

"We have five plants in the U.S., four in Canada and one in Mexico. There are opportunities for acquisition in those countries but we're also looking in South America."

Berry noted the company can service both the white-tablecloth and fast-food markets regardless of what the economy is doing.

"When times are good, we package steaks. When times aren't so good, we package hotdogs," he said.

The meeting was held at the Fort Garry Hotel.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2014 B7

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