For each issue since its inception, FlexPack VOICE® has hosted a question-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this one, we interview Kevin Keneally, president and CEO of PPC Flexible Packaging and a board member of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA).
“I started my career as a manufacturing manager in the textile industry in the Southeast, then moved to our industry 34 years ago—first in the resin business, then to film and flexible packaging,” Keneally says. “My roles have ranged from commercial leadership to operations to general management, both international and domestic.”
Keneally says most of his career has been in private equity-backed companies. “For our industry, this structure, I believe, can create solid transformational growth for businesses, their employees, and families,” he adds.
Based in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, PPC has grown organically and through acquisitions since its founding in 2017. Its purchases include the 2022 acquisition of Kansas-based Plastic Packaging Technologies, LLC. (Former PPT President and CEO David Staker, who is a former FPA chair, has stayed on with PPC as an executive vice president and general manager.) Earlier this year, PPC announced it was buying StePac, MAPfresh Holdings based in Israel.
FlexPack VOICE®: What do you see as the major challenges facing the industry in 2023, globally and/or domestically?
Kevin Keneally: Clearly, we, as an industry, particularly in the United States, need to do a better job explaining the environmental and sustainable benefits of flexible packaging. We all know the manufacture of flexible packaging has a preferable carbon footprint, drastically reduces food waste, and sends less material to landfills. Couple this with the benefits of convenience and safety, and our products are the winning choice. The industry’s key challenge, however, lies in end-of-life options. Europe has led the way here. And as an American society, we need to create a more effective infrastructure to support and build a true circular solution for plastic flexible packaging.
FPV: PPC has made many acquisitions over the past few years. Could you highlight the past few and the reasons why?
KK: Late in 2022, we closed our acquisition of Plastic Packaging Technologies, LLC. This deal brought us deeper capabilities in the latest downstream converting technologies and access to solid relationships in the pet care market—not to mention a high-caliber leadership team championed by David Staker and his brother Dan, who have stayed with the greater PPC business. In addition, in February 2023, we announced the acquisition of StePac, the clear technology leader in the shelf-life extension of high-value produce items like blueberries, cherries, melons, and vegetables. This business has a global reach and is highly focused on sustainable solutions utilizing the latest film extrusion and material science to create patented modified-atmosphere packaging. Both acquisitions demonstrate PPC’s strategy of creating a unique and differentiated platform of high-value products and services.
FPV: What would you tell someone who is thinking about a career in the industry if they were to ask for your advice?
KK: Flexible packaging, for me and many of my colleagues, has offered and continues to offer rewarding challenges and opportunities well beyond so many other businesses. Technology, creativity, and innovation in getting our food and healthcare products to market will continue to evolve. We recently attended a global fresh produce convention where over 86 countries exhibited their leading and latest fresh fruits and vegetables. The common denominator in moving all these goods around the globe and extending shelf life was flexible packaging.
FPV: Is there a particular experience that stands out in your career, good or bad or both?
KK: Any time I’ve had to report to a boss who challenges me to lead through particularly tricky or challenging situations has made the most impact personally and professionally. Usually, those challenges involve troubled businesses or situations where growth isn’t easy. Life’s best lessons are only learned through adversity and tough circumstances.
FPV: What advice would you give to a hiring manager who is seeking people to fill various positions?
KK: We understand that the makeup of our workforce today has changed. And at PPC, we believe it’s possible to create an inspiring and rewarding environment for personal and professional growth. The safety and development of our people is our first key principle—we always treat our associates with humility and respect. I tell our hiring managers to talk about PPC’s collaborative culture filled with long-term opportunities. We’re always looking for leaders to help us build a great flexible packaging company.