Berk Enterprises Sees Green with Vegware Partnership

WARREN, Ohio – The trend toward environmentally conscious packaging has brought a rapidly growing company in the United Kingdom to Warren, helping a business here weigh an expansion likely to create more jobs, principals say.

Vegware Ltd., based in Edinburgh, Scotland, announced Friday that it's secured a partnership with Berk Enterprises Inc., 1554 Thomas Road, to serve as the sole U.S. distributor of its full line of biodegradable products such as disposable cups, plates, flatware, soup containers, food cartons and carriers, bags, and napkins.

"We are so excited about the opportunities it gives to our company," says Robert Berk, president and owner of Berk Enterprises. "We've been importing plastic cutlery overseas, but we've found more and more of a niche for people that want environmentally friendly green products."

This is likely to spur additional hiring at Berk as well as an expansion of its distribution hub. "We wouldn't approach it if we didn’t feel there was a demand for it," Berk says. "It's something you can't find anywhere."

Vegware's initial business is expected to increase sales at Berk 10% to 15%, reports Frank Valley, its chief financial and chief operating officer. "They've been in the states for a number of years now, so there's an existing customer base."

Just how many new employees would be required to handle the Vegware business isn't clear, Berk added.

The founder of Vegware, Joe Frankel, says that Berk commands an impressive network of customers across the United States and fits perfectly with his company. And, he says, the use of biodegradable products in the United States is a rapidly growing market that the company wants to capture.

"It's the only way to create 'zero to landfill,'" in the food-services industry, Frankel reports. "You can't recycle food with plastic in it, and you can't recycle plastic with food in it."

All Vegware products are manufactured from plant-based substances that contain nutrients and calories that can be recaptured, Frankel says. "It creates value," he says, emphasizing that an entire industry related to recycling food products is having a positive effect across Scotland.

Over a five-year period, Vegware experienced 901% revenue growth, Frankel reports, and the 2013 Deloitte Fast 50 ranked the company the third-fastest growing firm in Scotland, the 30th fastest-growing in the UK, and the 160th fastest in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"We plan to take America by storm," Frankel said at a news conference held at Berk Enterprises last Friday. "I think you can expect big things from Vegware and Berk."

"We've seen jobs created, we've seen value created, and we've been at the heart of that," he continued

The communications director at Vegware, Lucy Frankel, reports that many communities – most of them along the West Coast -- have enacted bans on the use of nonrecyclable materials such as polystyrene, or Styrofoam. That makes products such as those Vegware produces, more appealing to these regions.

"I'm particularly excited about the movement within the U.S.," she says. "We've seen that there are many, many communities that are banning Styrofoam and are mandating composting. The sort of solution that we are bringing has found a home in the U.S.A."

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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