The APL Cartons Story

Packhouses’ needs lead to a successful business plan.

The corrugated carton industry has become famous for its super competitive nature. That was not the case prior to 1988. At that time, export fruit packhouses felt that they had been exposed to a limited negotiating arena on carton prices.

Concerned about the rising costs associated with corrugated cartons, which were their single largest direct packaging cost, a group of deciduous and citrus fruit packhouses in the Western Cape joined forces to investigate the feasibility of a new corrugated plant. It did not take long before their research confirmed that e.g. fruit carton prices were subject to particularly high profit margins. This, together with the commitment of their total volumes, made the business plan fly. Therefore, it was eagerly decided to proceed with the project so that APL Cartons was founded on March 1, 1988 by its first four shareholders namely, Ceres Fruit Growers, Goede Hoop Citrus, Kromco and Two-a-Day Group.

They decided on Worcester in the Breede River Valley as the ideal location, and did not waste any time on employing a team of experts to proceed with the construction of a factory and the buying and installation of board and carton making machinery and equipment. It took the team only nine months to complete the task, so that the first cartons were produced on December 8, 1988.

From the beginning, it was the company’s driving force to do everything in its power to make sure that its corrugated cartons would be manufactured sustainably at the lowest possible cost and for the long-term. In the process, the company’s value system is still shaped by its motto that “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE”. Customers associated with this, as well as the fact that the shareholders themselves were customers of the company. They appreciated that the company would therefore have a first-hand understanding of their needs and readiness to support their requirements.

Thanks to the support of loyal customers, APL Cartons has grown to such an extent that by 2001 it decided to expand to the equivalent of two factories in Worcester. To cover the risk associated with such a big step, Sundays River Citrus Company, with export citrus packhouses in Kirkwood, Summerville and Hermitage, joined the company in 2002 as the fifth shareholder. By 2018, the company had again reached a point where additional capacity, as well as a footprint in the Eastern Cape, was needed to continue serving its customer base effectively. When the opportunity presented itself, APL Cartons took over Neopak’s corrugated plants, box plant and carton folding division in the Western and Eastern Cape on November 1, 2018. This big step gives customers the peace of mind of back-up between plants and enhances the company’s offering of cost-effective and innovative products and services.

It is heart-warming that an anchored faith, along with loyal customers, suppliers and staff in this way can attest that indeed “NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE”.

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