TWENTY-FIVE years ago, when Joe Foster embarked on an ambitious venture to establish his own packaging business, he remarked: ‘It will be very successful; the name Foster will feature strongly in South Africa and internationally.’
How gratifying it is to confirm that bullish prediction was correct!
Some might retort ‘it’s the luck of the Irish’, but Joe Foster doesn’t accept that simple explanation; the ever-affable Irishman has a more prosaic view. ‘If you want more luck, you have to work harder and take more chances,’ he maintains.
Today, Foster Packaging continues to progress packaging and innovation through the hard work and determination of its strong team of dedicated packaging professionals.
Where it all started
It was in 1998 that Joe Foster left the corporate world intent on fulfilling his dream of ‘flying solo’, which saw the birth of Foster Packaging out of small back room in Cape Town. With a focus on the South African market, and working closely with local converters, Foster Packaging began to build its foundation in South Africa.
Taking the ‘outsource’ route
Joe’s initial business model was unusual. He opted to go the ‘outsource’ route – buying and selling what best suited requirements instead of touting only what he could supply or manufacture. With an established partnership with Schutlok closures, and a well-established relationship with other selected suppliers, Foster Packaging was well equipped to offer the most efficient and cost-effective packaging to meet customers’ needs.
‘We partnered with selected suppliers who offered the best resources, standards and the constant innovation demanded by our customers,’ notes Joe. ‘Customers should always feel confident that they’re getting the right specification, the right quality, and
on-time deliveries – we are committed to being a reliable supplier and our success proves that we’ve delivered on this promise. Supplying packaging is not a ‘one-off’ deal, but an ongoing relationship,’ he adds.
Specialising in flexible packaging and bread closures, Foster Packaging became well established within the South African market but Joe had the urge to broaden his horizons! The early inclusion of the word ‘international’ was also prophetic. With an export programme in place in 1998, a supply base established in China in 2001, and Joe’s relocation to Ireland in 2002, to establish a market in Europe, saw Foster International Packaging at the forefront of the global market. From 2003 to 2008, Foster International Packaging saw exceptional growth within European and South African markets, as well as an increase in sales volumes, and in 2013 an office was opened in Johannesburg.
First-ever digital flexible packaging
In 2009, Foster International Packaging established a dedicated short-run digital flexible packaging business in Ireland. Its centerpiece was an HP Indigo ws4500, and this was the birth of Flexible Express. Until then, the business had relied on medium- to long-run high-resolution gravure printing. However, by establishing this dedicated short-run facility, short-run flexible packaging could be supplied to its growing US, Irish and UK markets, as well as supporting the African market via the Cape Town office.
According to HP at that time, this was the first business in the world to establish a dedicated short-run digitally printed flexible packaging facility, meeting short-run requirements for pouches, films, and bags.
The Pouch Shop concept takes off
In 2012, back in Cape Town, a sister enterprise known as The Pouch Shop also took flight. Established jointly by Joe Foster and Chris O’Brien, and aimed at start-up ventures, it offered a range of unprinted, off-the-shelf pouches.
This enterprise helps businesses to get going and once they’re strong enough to have their own branding on pouches they’re passed over to Foster Packaging.
The Birth of O F Packaging
In 2010, Foster Packaging saw a further move, this time to Australia, where Foster Packaging Australia was established, among other things breaking fresh ground by offering digital printing for short-run flexible packaging. 2016 saw a key development – a merger between Foster Packaging Australia and Omniverse, resulting in Omniverse Foster Packaging. Following
some years of collaboration, the owners decided to pool their resources, and expertise, creating a broader global footprint, better purchasing power, improved stock management, and more efficient supply chain logistics. The merger shifted both companies out of the SME space, creating a mid-tier supplier as an alternative to major packaging manufacturers and importers.
Says Joe Foster: ‘The Australian market needed a nimble local supplier with an international footprint to offer innovation, speed to market and the flexibility to cater for any run length while providing access to a comprehensive range of packaging from accredited worldwide sources.’
In 2019, Omniverse Foster Packaging saw an identity change and rebranded their name to ‘O F Packaging’, and this name has become recognised throughout Australia, and globally. With manufacturing facilities based in Melbourne, in addition to offshore capabilities in China, Vietnam and India, O F Packaging now ranks among the top packaging companies in Australia and Asia-Pacific, providing premium flexible packaging films, pouches, bags, and carton-based packaging products.
Stepping into the sustainability sector
In 2021, O F Packaging and Close The Loop merged to form and ASX list Close The Loop Group (CLG), which led to Foster International Packaging becoming a division of this group. The combining of these two already well-established, sustainability focused entities allowed for advanced innovation in product development, as well as the creation of end-to-end solutions. ‘Merging the two companies allows us to create a business suited for the circular economy and gets us closer to achieving the holy grail of recycling packaging back into packaging’, says Joe. As with becoming a division of CLG and sustainability becoming the core of its innovation efforts, Foster International Packaging realised that it was more than capable of targeting the South African and international sustainability markets, with the main goal of working towards a more sustainable future for packaging. With recyclable, recycled content, and compostable packaging alternatives, the company urges consumers to move away from single-use plastic packaging. By constantly pushing its manufacturing capabilities and packaging design limitations, and investing in research and development, Foster International Packaging is consistently working to improve the sustainability of its packaging, while upholding the high quality of its packaging, as the company believes that a great packaging partner not only provides solutions that meet the needs of brand owners’ products, but also addresses industry-wide issues.
Where Foster International Packaging is today
Foster International Packaging’s 25-year journey has not been without its trials and tribulations, but this has moulded the company into what it is today.
Having become a private company in 2017, reaching a record sales year in 2018, becoming a division of CLG in 2021, and having become one of the best flexible packaging companies in South Africa, Foster International Packaging has most certainly grown from nothing into something.
It would not be without the confident sales representatives, establishing relationships with customers and listening to their needs, or dedicated sales administrators, keeping customers in the loop from order placement all the way through until delivery, or driven management staff that ensure the constant smooth running of the business, that Foster Packaging would be where it is today.
With offices in Cape Town and Johannesburg, a team with extensive experience in the packaging industry, storage capabilities, and housing The Pouch Shop, Foster Packaging is well equipped to satisfy both small and large business needs. Providing flexible packaging formats, sustainable alternatives, and bread clips, Foster Packaging ensures that each product is carefully manufactured and goes through extensive quality control processes to ensure the highest level of both customer and product satisfaction.
As an innovation-based company, Foster Packaging loves to take on new challenges that others have turned down. The company constantly pushes its boundaries to reach new capabilities when it comes to both flexible and sustainable packaging, to meet
ever-changing consumer and environmental needs. With 25 years’ worth of experience in the packaging industry, the company brings a wealth of knowledge that serves as a solid foundation for innovation. Anybody would be hard pressed to find a company that is as competent and as dedicated as Foster International Packaging!
Who would have thought that such an established company came from such humble beginnings?