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This article was published 15/1/2015 (2086 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
KELLY RASMUSSEN figures Sterling Packaging is recession-proof.
No matter what the economy is doing, the Selkirk-based manufacturer of boxes for beer, wine and food products has what companies are looking for.
"We joke around here that when the economy isn't doing well, people are drinking beer and eating low-end-type food, which is pasta," said Rasmussen, manager of the company started by her father, Jim Hickson, in 1989.
'We're getting a lot more U.S. business, that's for sure. We need to increase our capacity'‐ Sterling Packaging's Kelly Rasmussen
"When the economy is good, they're drinking higher-end beer and wine and eating frozen lasagnas, frozen meatballs, sausage rolls and shepherd's pie."
Demand for frozen lasagnas and sausage rolls must be going through the roof, because Sterling is about to embark on a $3-million expansion that will require the hiring of 10 to 12 new employees. It currently has a staff of about 45.
The equipment includes a printing press, a dye cutter and folding and gluing machines. Rasmussen believes the investment will enable the company to double its business.
Only five per cent of Sterling's sales comes from Manitoba, while the rest is found across Western Canada and the U.S.
The falling Canadian dollar, which dropped below 84 cents this week, is suddenly making Sterling's paper board packaging much more competitive with U.S. counterparts.
"We're getting a lot more U.S. business, that's for sure. We need to increase our capacity," she said. In addition to doing "millions of boxes" per week for U.S. food manufacturers -- macaroni and cheese is the big seller here -- the company also does smaller runs.
"If somebody wanted to purchase 1,000 high-end whisky or wine boxes for their staff or clients, we can do that. We can emboss it, put some foil on it and make a really high-end, classy box," she said.
Some of Sterling's clients include Big Rock Brewery and Highwood Distillers in Alberta and B.C.-based Russell Brewing (which owns Winnipeg's Fort Garry Brewing) and Vancouver Island Brewery.
Lawrence Warwaruk, co-owner of Farmery Estate Brewing and the Luxalune Gastropub on Osborne Street, said it has been working with Sterling for several years -- it makes its six-pack cartons for its bottles and eight-pack containers for cans -- because it could offer shorter production runs to meet the needs of a microbrewery.
"They're in the sweet spot. The big guys are cheaper, but you have to buy tonnes and tonnes of boxes. Sterling can be competitive (on price), and we don't have to commit to such huge box runs," he said.
The fact Sterling is based in Manitoba played a role, too.
"We can talk to them directly and see them face-to-face," Warwaruk said.
Updated on Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 6:42 AM CST: Replaces photo
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