Barrels Were Our Business

Greif, Inc. traces its roots to 1877 in Cleveland, Ohio, when William Greif and Albert Vanderwyst established "Vanderwyst and Greif," a barrel manufacturer.  In 1882, after Vanderwyst's death, William's brother Charles Greif was invited to join the business, and brothers Louis M. and Thomas joined shortly after. The company was renamed Greif Brothers Company and officially incorporated on Oct. 27, 1890.  The company was formed for the purpose of "doing a general cooperage business, buying, selling and manufacturing all materials, supplies and products used and made by coopers."  They were in business to manufacture barrels, boxes, kegs and "all other storage receptacles."  At the time, all bulk foods were shipped in barrels - from potatoes and apples to flour, sugar and even fine wines. Early Greif kegs were so strong that they were used to deliver heavy spikes to the westward-expanding railroads.

As the cooperage business flourished, Greif purchased nearly 300,000 acres of timberland to provide raw materials for our plants. Greif still owns and manages land located in the southeastern United States and in Canada.

In 1926, the company made its public offering as The Greif Bros. Cooperage Corporation.

Following World War II, the United States experienced another economic surge that brought many new developments to the packaging industry. Although 50 percent of Greif sales were still cooperage, the market seemed ripe for containers that were lighter in weight than wooden barrels.

In the mid-1940s, Greif experimented with fibre drums. It seemed logical that we could manufacture fibre drums the way we manufactured wooden barrels. The challenge was how to remove the paper drum from the mandrel without cutting it. John C. Dempsey, who was then Greif chairman, learned of an inventor in New York, Herbert Carpenter Sr., who purportedly had great success making fibre drums. Dempsey visited Carpenter and ultimately convinced him to allow Greif to acquire his company. Carpenter could then devote his time to product and equipment development for Greif. This acquisition not only launched Greif into the fibre drum business but also initiated a major corporate renaissance.

In the latter half of the 1900s, the company transitioned from its keg and barrel heading mills, stave mills and cooperage facilities to the manufacturing of fibre, steel, and plastic drums; corrugated containers; intermediate bulk containers; corrugated products for transit protection; multiwall shipping bags; and containerboard. In 1951, the company moved its headquarters from Cleveland to Delaware, Ohio. Later in the 1960s, we changed the company name to Greif Bros. Corporation.

Greif's market and product growth has resulted, in part, from various acquisitions. This includes many corrugated container businesses and our containerboard mills. In 1998, we bought the industrial packaging business from Sonoco Products Company, a U.S.-based company, which made Greif the North American leader in industrial shipping containers.

In 2001, Greif purchased Van Leer Industrial, a business based in The Netherlands, from Huhtamaki Van Leer. This acquisition doubled the size of Greif and gave the company an international footprint. Van Leer’s beginnings date to 1919 when Bernard Van Leer founded a small company producing cans and boxes in The Netherlands. The company later became Royal Packaging Industries Van Leer NV and grew to be a global industrial packaging leader.

Following the acquisition, Greif integrated the identity of its businesses, established a new global brand mark that is used today, and renamed the company Greif, Inc.  The company was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 2002.

In 2003, Greif, Inc. obtained full ownership of CorrChoice, Inc., a Greif joint venture formed on Nov. 1, 1998, with Greif owning 63 percent of the outstanding stock.

CorrChoice operates seven corrugated sheet feeder plants, which supply converting operations in the eastern United States. In addition to these external customers, Greif sells paper to CorrChoice, which it uses to produce the corrugated sheets, and Greif purchases corrugated sheets from CorrChoice to use in its corrugated converting operations.

Also in 2003, Greif began its transformation into a lean manufacturing company. Beginning with a successful effort to cut selling, general and administrative expenses, the transformation soon included Operations and Sales, focusing on creating excellence at locations around the world. Today, the Greif Business System is used to embed continuous improvement and the never-ending identification and eradication of waste in everything we do.

In 2006, Greif made two significant acquisitions: Delta Petroleum Company, Inc., and Blagden Packaging Group’s steel drum manufacturing and closures business in Europe and Asia.

Delta provides a roster of blue-chip clients with blending, filling and packaging, drumming, warehousing, distribution and logistics services.  Delta processes more than 200 million gallons of products a year.

Blagden expanded Greif’s network in Europe and Asia, assuring customers of a continued optimal and cost-effective supply of packaging material for the future.

In 2010, Greif made another visionary move, acquiring the top three producers of flexible intermediate bulk containers, and a large regional distributor of the "big bags." Storsack, Unsa and Sunjut, along with Benelux-based distributor Ligtermoet, make up Greif's Flexible Products & Services business segment.

Also in 2010, Greif established the Container Life Cycle Management joint venture, focused on reconditioning of rigid industrial packaging in North America.  In 2011, the venture went global with Greif's acquisition of pack2pack in Europe.  Both, along with other independent reconditioners who are network participants, are now part of EarthMinded™ Life Cycle Services, which is the largest global reconditioning business.

Greif’s long and successful history is the result of sound philosophy regarding the way we conduct ourselves and do business. This dedication to customers, employees and our local communities continues as we grow our business.