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'Forgotten industry': Barrie-made boxes proving essential in COVID economy

'Online shopping came along and that’s really made us busier than we had been,' says Peter Moore, who employs approximately 225 people at Moore Packaging
17-02-2021 MoorePackaging_225_WEBRES
Moore Packaging makes corrugated containers at its John Street facility in Barrie.

Moore Packaging delivers the very essence of essentials during this pandemic.

Its corrugated packaging ensures food, drink and household products can be shipped to supermarkets, that pharmaceuticals and medical supplies make it to the drug stores.

And all of those online shoppers get goods dropped on their doorstep in a corrugated container.

“What we make is called the lowly cardboard box, because everybody takes it for granted,” said Peter Moore, chairman and CEO of Moore Packaging in Barrie. “We can make any size box you want. We can do a box to hold a refrigerator, we can do a box to hold, I don’t know, a hamburger.

“When you get your beer, your wine… when you go to the supermarket, they’ve got a whole area in the back where they bale up old boxes and ship them back to the (paper) mills,” he added during an interview with BarrieToday. “We’re kind of the forgotten industry.”

Moore said he found out quickly when the COVID-19 pandemic began, about 11 months ago, that his business was going to be on the essential list. America declared packaging an essential industry and, through the Canadian Corrugated and Containerboard Association, Ottawa got a reminder and made the same decision. 

Approximately 225 people work at Moore Packaging, about the same as when the pandemic started.

Moore praises his workers during these tough times.

“We’ve been very stringent with the COVID (rules). We haven’t had one case so far, and therefore no interruptions to our operations,” he said. “It’s a credit to our employees.

“We’ve been pretty busy, but it didn’t really ramp up until the fall. We are turning down new business daily from companies looking for another supplier as we are running at 100 per cent of capacity. If they (other businesses) didn’t have us they wouldn’t be able to ship any of their stuff," Moore added. 

Moore Packaging doesn’t sell corrugated containers directly to the supermarkets, for example, but to whoever’s making the food.

The John Street facility, near Highway 400 and Tiffin Street, makes its corrugated containers almost from scratch. It starts with rolls of paper, forms them, glues them, processes and prints them, slots them, glues them again, and ships them out the door, Moore said.

“The only thing we don’t own is a paper mill, which is making all the money these days,” he said. “They just raised the price again, because of the shortage of paper.”

Moore finds some amusement in the box sizes used in shipping during these days of online shopping.

“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but you get a little thing five inches long in a box that’s a foot long,” he said. “If you used a proper-sized box, you’d save a lot of money. We kind of get a kick out of the big boxes they ship little items in, with those air bags inside. But I think they only work with a dozen sizes of boxes.”

Like any industry, Moore says corrugated containers have had their ups and downs during his time in the business.

“When I started in the industry back in the '70s, automotive parts were the biggest users of corrugated,” he said. “In the '80s, they were shipping all their parts in plastic trays, so we went into a bit of a slump.

“Then online shopping came along and that’s really made us busier than we had been.”

Moore Packaging began in 1979, with Peter Moore building boxes from his own garage and selling them to local businesses. He had several roles in the company, including sales, design and shipping.

It expanded from his garage to a full warehouse and office facility, producing customized, high-quality packaging.

Today, both of Moore’s sons are involved in the business.

The pandemic has changed one other aspect of Peter Moore’s life: he hasn’t seen a Canadian winter in 20 years, preferring Fort Lauderdale, Florida’s warmer climate this time of year. But he’s not travelling this winter.

“I’m not adjusting well,” he said with a laugh. “We must be going to set a record for snow. I don’t remember anything like this for a long time.”

AT A GLANCE: Moore Packaging

* Three shifts, five days a week plus overtime on the weekends

* Average daily production of three million square feet of corrugated board, enough to cover 70 acres

* Board is converted into printed boxes and shipped daily to southern Ontario customers in 30 tractor-trailers

* Demand has increased 25 per cent since last fall and is still growing

Source: Moore Packaging