If you have ever enjoyed a Chick-fil-A salad, purchased strawberries from a local produce stand or the grocery store, or basically bought any food packaged in a container, take pride in knowing there is a good chance it was manufactured in your own community at Direct Pack East.
In October of 2016, this California-based company responded to growth in East Coast sales by expanding to open a manufacturing and packaging plant in Rockingham. With more than 50 full-time employees and 20 plus temporary workers, a large portion of the workforce at Direct Pack are Richmond County residents.
Since its inception, the business has become quite an essential industry in our community and also provides food-grade packaging options to the food industry in various sectors, including grocery stores and restaurants. Additionally, the packaging producer supplies products to other local industries, such as CorTek.
Post the onset of COVID-19, the plant has adapted to continue providing essential food packaging options and made several adjustments to adhere to safety guidelines to protect workers and accommodate child-care hardships by allowing them to switch their shifts. Also in response to the global pandemic, the plant has seen an increase in the demand for their food-grade packaging supplies and has responded in accordance to this need.
Historically, the plant has produced polyethylene terephthalate materials that are widely used in multiple sectors of the food industry; however, to adapt to the dramatic swift shift in the industry, the plant is shifting production to manufacture polypropylene based material, which is commonly seen in milk jugs and takeout containers.
Direct Pack East General Manager Craig Griffith says the shift is “an entirely different resin, which consists of significant changes in the plant.” Regarding the drastic transition, he notes, “There is not much more you can do to send the message to your customers that you see their needs and are reworking every aspect of your business model than to change the fundamental material you produce on a day-to-day basis.”
Another notable response to the current crisis worthy of recognition is the contribution from the plan of PET material for other companies to make face shields. As the production of PET material has decreased, Direct Pack is supplying others with the material, of which there is a significant shortage of at this time, to manufacture the essential protective wear.
“We have an idle PET line, so what better way to utilize the material than to push it out to frontline Covid Defenders,” Griffith noted.
Along with expressing his pride for the employees and the organization as a whole, Griffith also detailed his honor in being a part of a company that is truly committed to manufacturing and supplying essential food packaging products:.
“People need feed and they need our products to get it,” he said.
We are so thankful for another powerhouse production plant that continues to make an enormous impact on both our community and nation, and is so responsive to our ever-changing environment. The next time you get a take-out meal, take pride in knowing that not only was the food prepared locally, but probably the packaging for it was as well.
Meghann Lambeth is director of the Richmond County Tourism Development Authority. She is writing a series on how local industries are contributing to the COVID-19 effort, which will also be published at the Richmond Observer. You can read the original post here.