It’s not often you hear a respected businessman say he took a cue from drug dealers in marketing his latest product.

But Derek Volk, CEO of Volk Packaging, a manufacturer of boxes and packing materials in Biddeford, said it was exactly the right approach in getting Super Shield, a waterproof corrugated box his company makes, into the market.

“You give them the product for free and then they’re hooked and then you go back and make the sale,” said Volk, chuckling over the reference. “It totally worked for us.”

The box, developed by Volk using research from the Gulf of Maine Institute and a Canadian paper company, is designed to replace waxed boxes commonly used to transport food products.

Volk said the Super Shield boxes are being used by several of his clients, including Cape Seafoods, Inland Seafood and Cozy Harbor Seafood, to transport lobsters and other seafood. The boxes are designed to retain their strength no matter how wet they become.

And they appeal to companies adopting sustainable practices. The Super Shield boxes are 100 percent recyclable, giving them a market advantage over waxed boxes, which have to be separated from conventional cardboard in the recycling stream, he said.

The company did its beta testing and sampling last year. Volk said he expects the Super Shield boxes will provide about 10 percent of the company’s revenue this year, and he sees even greater growth as its reputation for sustainability and durability spreads.

“We spent three years working on it – there was a lot of trial and error,” he said. “But the (market) reaction’s been great.”

PAPER ON A CUSTOMIZED SCALE

NEPW Logistics, a shipping and supply chain company that has operations around the state, is unveiling its fourth paper converter machine in Scarborough later this month.

The machine takes paper made in local mills and converts it into sizes commonly used by businesses and consumers.

“With the complexity of the printing world these days, printers and presses are requesting smaller and smaller sizes as well as smaller orders in general,” Dana Hanson, NEPW’s general manager, said in an email. “We take paper that is produced at the mill and convert the paper on our machines to smaller widths and diameters to meet their customer specifications.”

This value-added service started in the 1990s with Northeast Paper Services founder Ralph Carpenter and one piece of converting equipment. The service took off, prompting the installation of a second converter, which, like its predecessor, ran 24/7. Carpenter sold the business in 2009 to NEPW Logistics, in part because the bigger company had the resources to install a third paper converter. Hanson said the company is already looking to install a fifth machine.

“We are, as some have termed it, the ‘hidden secret’ in Maine that gives the mills an advantage to supply product to their customers in a timely manner with sizes of paper that are not produced efficiently at the mills,” he said.

The company is hosting an open house on July 22 to show the fourth paper converter in action to its paper mill clients.

CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY

I was sad to hear of Jim Costello Sr.’s passing last week.

I worked at the Sun Journal for 22 years, nine as managing editor, and Jim was a great guy. Not only was he an astute businessman (savvy management through three generations of Costellos left the company without debt, which allowed it to make heavy investments in modernizing its printing and mailroom operations back in the early 2000s), but he had a fierce sense of community.

That’s probably best reflected in his five children, all of whom are involved in the company and serve on multiple boards and associations in the Greater Lewiston-Auburn community.

Jim thought if you operated a business in a particular community, you had an obligation to do more than just sell products or services to it. You needed to be invested in its well-being, and that meant rolling up your shirt-sleeves and lending a hand.

It’s a legacy already embraced by the fourth generation of Costellos and likely to be passed on to the next.

Carol Coultas, business editor, can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

[email protected]


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