LC Packaging Belgium celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Company director, Kurt Du Bois, offers a glimpse into its history and success. In 30 years, LC Packaging has transformed from a modest business, with a small but passionate team, to a major player. It has over 50 FTE's and an annual turnover of more than €40 million.
Kurt Du Bois (LC Packaging) and Dirk Verheyden (BelOrta)
30 years of LC Packaging Belgium in a nutshell
It all began in 1991. The Dutch family business LC Packaging took an important step in the Belgian market. It opened a sales office in the city of Halle. This office sold cardboard producer Pacapime's packaging as well as other fruit and vegetable packaging like jute and net packaging.
Regarding corrugated cardboard, the company's main focus at that time was promoting and marketing this product to the industry. Soon this expanded to the fruit and vegetable sector, where corrugated cardboard boxes were becoming more popular.
"This market clearly had an urgent need. So, we opened our first box-erecting station in Belgium", begins Kurt. In 1994 LC Packaging opened its box-erecting facility with offices in Sint-Katelijne-Waver. This location initially gave the company enough room to grow.
"We expanded and added new offices on the second floor there. But, this site couldn't accommodate our growth and ambitions. In 2013, we moved into our new warehouse and offices, also in Sint-Katelijne-Waver." At this site, LC Packaging will expand the existing warehouse by almost 2,000m² in 2022.
In '99, the company opened a second warehouse in Sint-Truiden. "That wasn't always easy," says Kurt. "At that time, in that area, many people still used wooden and plastic crates and solid cardboard boxes. Initially, people were skeptical about corrugated cardboard as a replacement for the existing packaging."
"It wouldn't be strong enough. Or would quickly become damp, making it unsuitable for longer trips. Through innovation and R&D, we've been able to convince the market. With the right knowledge and skills, corrugated cardboard boxes with a Kraft PE layer are very strong. Now, corrugated cardboard is the preferred choice for packaging hard and soft fruit."
LC Packaging and BelOrta: a strong partnership
Belgian cooperative, BelOrta, and LC Packaging are practically neighbors. The cooperation between the cooperative and the packaging giant goes back to LC's early years. "It was quite hard to win over BelOrta as a customer," explains Kurt.
Back then, the auction house was still using a lot of wooden boxes. But when it wanted to make the big switch to cardboard, BelOrta naturally approached its neighbor. "After all these years, LC knows what we expect from our suppliers," says Dirk Verheyden, BelOrta packaging supervisor.
"LC Packaging's team brainstorms with you. They try to find the best solution even if that doesn't give them a return. With LC Packaging, you can be sure your needs will be met. They also install production lines at the auctions and, of course, at growers, if it will benefit them."
Service, Speed, Stock, and Site
LC Packaging processes numerous loads of cardboard folding boxes and trays at its two facilities every day. So, much of the main site in Sint-Katelijne-Waver (4,500m2) is used for storage. Towering 12m high racks that reach the warehouse ceiling are stacked with cardboard stock.
"Our strength lies in our rapid response time to quickly and fully meet client demand. We have a lot of stock and are ideally located. Also, our service focuses on completely unburdening customers," says Kurt.
Unstable paper market and rising costs
"We've been through a lot over the years. But, never anything like the ever-increasing paper prices and shortage-driven supply problems we've been experiencing since the end of last year. Things aren't expected to change this year either. And who dares to make predictions in these times?"
"It's not only paper, but many other components such as energy, transportation, wages, and starch prices are also rising. Some kinds of paper have longer and longer delivery times. That is forcing us, our competitors, BelOrta, and other cooperatives to jointly consider how to handle this differently and better in the 2022 season," says Kurt.
"The new season will be even more challenging for us," adds Dirk. "But with precise planning and forecasting, we're sure these uncertain times will soon be a thing of the past."
Trust-based commitment encourages this partnership and the parties' connection. Still, it feels awkward, to say the least, to make deals while the prices keep climbing. "Everyone should think about possible solutions together," continues Kurt. "It's a new thing for everyone. But it's necessary to find those solutions together. We must create more peace-of-mind and stability in the sector."
LC Packaging began selling cardboard packaging at a time when recycling and sustainability were gaining traction. Its top-quality cardboard trays provide the perfect alternative to wooden boxes and plastic crates.
"Now, 30 years later, there's a greater-than-ever need for sustainable, customized solutions. We, therefore, look forward to continuing to innovate and search for circular packaging solutions with our clients. Together, we hold the future in our hands," Kurt concludes.