Berk, Vegware become partners

HOWLAND – Berk Enterprises Inc. today announced a partnership with United Kingdom-based Vegware Ltd., which produces completely compostable food packaging.

Berk Enterprises, which operates out of a 200,000-square-foot facility on Thomas Road S.E., will be the exclusive distributor of the Vegware product line in the United States, with the option to pursue further expansion in North America.

It also should mean expansion of property and the addition of more local jobs, according to the company.

“We have been trying to secure (an arrangement) with Vegware for over six months,” Berk Enterprises President Robert Berk said Friday morning. “For the company, it’s an opportunity that we thought had escaped us many times and we felt that the future of America is in environmentally friendly products.”

Unlike traditional Styrofoam food-service packaging, Vegware promotes that its products can be composted with food waste after use. Vegware claims its products can biodegrade in less than 12 weeks.

“We’re a green company, but we’re really a solution-based company,” Vegware founder Joe Frankel said. “In food service, you can’t recycle plastic with food in it, and you can’t recycle food with plastic in it. So what we’ve done is create a line of products can be recycled together with food.”

Vegware manufactures a full line of eco-friendly catering disposables and food packaging, he said.

No stranger to environmentally friendly products, Berk Enterprises launched its own Environ line of cutlery and tableware many years ago.

With the growth in demand for green products, Berk said he looked to partner with Vegware to launch an entire line of products that were not only biodegradable, but also compostable making them suitable for inclusion in food waste recycling.

“We saw Vegware’s product line and their offerings, and we saw it as a great match for our company,” Berk said. “Our company is very strong (with its distribution network), and we felt like the opportunities here are endless and boundless with how these products can help the environment.”

Berk Enterprises employs about 65 employees at its Thomas Road facility, and Berk CFO Frank Valley said that the company expects the agreement with Vegware and its roughly 150 different products to both boost the company’s bottom line and create new job opportunities in the area.

“There may be a call for extra space or real estate, whether we add on (to the current facility), or look at a different location,” Valley said. “We will definitely be adding jobs as the result of initial sales, which we expect to add 10 to 15 percent to our current sales levels. That equates to additional manpower and additional staffing.”

Berk operates three divisions, Berkley Square, distributor of cutlery, straws, environmentally friendly products and food service disposables; Berk Paper & Supply, distributor of restaurant and janitorial supplies; and Berk Concession Supply. The company was founded in 1945.