Fifty years after its founding, the company now known as Berry Global is an undeniable Evansville success story.
The company at first was called Imperial Plastics, making aerosol caps using one injection molding machine. Three people worked there. Operations grew slowly. When Don Bender was hired in 1974, the workforce was about 75. By that time there were 13 molding machines, several silk screen machines and a few printers. The company was making containers and lids, along with aerosol caps. Imperial Plastics became Berry Plastics in 1982, when it was bought by Jack Berry Sr. Five years later the company made its first expansion outside Evansville, opening its second plant, in Henderson, Nevada.
Berry in 1988 made the first of its more than 40 acquisitions. Today, as the company now known as Berry Global, celebrates its 50th anniversary, it has more than 23,000 employees at 131 manufacturing sites around the world. That includes 2,400 workers at the company’s Oakley Street headquarters in Evansville.
As of last week, Berry stock traded at about $56 per share. The company makes numerous plastics and packaging products, generating annual revenue near $7.5 billion.
“Back when I hired, if somebody had told me by 2017 we’d be an international company with 20,000-plus people, I would have said, let me have some of what you’re drinking or smoking,” said Bender, who today is a product logistics supervisor with Berry Global. “Never would have dreamed we’d be this big.”
Berry CEO Tom Salmon, who in February was elevated from the role of chief operating officer, came to Evansville last year. He spent the previous 13 years in Boston, working for a company that is now part of Berry.
The name change, from Berry Plastics to Berry Global, happened earlier this year and was a natural move for the company, Salmon said. Multiple Berry-owned facilities are scattered throughout Europe, and the company also has some presence in Asia, South America and Australia.
“It was just time,” Salmon said of the new company identity. “We had done a number of acquisitions, and we wanted to get everyone aligned around a common mission and a common view. We felt it represented aspirationally what we wanted to be, which is a global provider.”
The worldwide presence “gives us balance as a company,” Salmon said. “About 20 percent of our sales reside outside the U.S., and it’s growing, because a lot of macroeconomic factors continue to support growth in some of the developing regions. Nonetheless, the U.S. is incredibly important to us. We feel we’re in a low-cost producing region of the world in the U.S., driven by shale gas, and we’re excited by our future prospects.”
Jobs are available at Berry Global in operations, supply chain, sourcing and engineering.
“We’re hiring today,” Salmon said last week during the company’s 50th anniversary celebration. “Berry is always evaluating new talent and opportunities for people.” He directed interested people to berryglobal.com.
Bender, 62, has enjoyed his career and hopes to hang around a while longer.
“The people are fantastic and make it worth coming in every day,” he said.
Berry Global employees last week celebrated the milestone anniversary and recalled those humble beginnings with three employees and a single machine.
“The company’s changed a lot,” Salmon said. “We’ve got a tremendous amount to be proud of here with this team and the strong legacy that was created by those who came before us. Our job going forward is to take this company and continue to grow and expand.”