A Better Way of Packaging

Charter Next Generation

With corporate headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, 14 state-of-the-art-facilities in Wisconsin, Ohio, Massachusetts, and South Carolina, 1,900 employees, and more than 100 extrusion lines, Charter Next Generation (CNG) has emerged as North America’s leading producer of high-performance, engineered, specialty films used in flexible packaging.

CNG is the result of the full integration in October 2020 of two specialty film producers, Next Generation Films, founded in 1994 in Lexington, Ohio and Charter NEX, founded in 2012 in Milton, Wisconsin.

Speaking to Packaging Strategies in November 2020, Kathy Bolhous, former CEO of Charter Nex who was named CEO of the newly merged company, said, “The new name represents who we are today. A unified company—one team, one mission—to produce the highest performing films for our customers through an exclusive focus on film, continuous investment in the latest film technologies, and an endless commitment to find a better way.”

In 2021, KKR, a private equity firm, announced it would be investing in Charter Next Generation, as an equal owner with Leonard Green & Partners who had previously invested in Charter NEX.

According to Miriam Gottfried’s 2021 article in Private Equity News, “As part of the deal, KKR and Leonard Green have agreed to make all of CGN’s [then] roughly 1,700 employees owners of the business. Granting stock to hourly wage earners at portfolio companies as a means of combating inequality is a priority for Pete Stavropol, KKR’s co-head of private equity for the Americas.”

As Bolhous told Gottfried, “What I’m really excited about now is this ability to reward my employees who have been such a key part of our success. It has been a dream of mine to offer this kind of broad-based leadership.”

CNG’s growth continued in 2022, with the acquisition of Polymer Film and Bag, Inc. of Massillon, Ohio, a Safe Quality Food (SQF) manufacturing company serving the industrial and food service markets.

When Larry Lanham, Polymer’s CEO and owner, considered divesting his business, he explained that, “My primary concern was to find the best possible home for my employees while providing the best possible care for my customers. I immediately thought of CNG, the preeminent supplier in this marketplace with a reputation for delivering both,” according to PR Newswire.

CNG provides engineering, extruding, and manufacturing services for mono and multilayer co-extruded and barrier films. As explained on its website, the company’s product line provides blown, cast, and barrier solutions to protect food, consumer, industrial, and health care items, by providing heat resistance and sterility, and creating barriers to oxygen, odor, ultraviolet rays, and moisture.

CNG has the broadest portfolio of blown films on the market. Its advanced coextrusion process allows the production of mono and multilayer films, engineered for maximum strength, high level of flexibility and less scrap material, in fewer steps than competitors. The company has multiple lines capable of making barrier films with up to 11 layers, which protect products and prevent or minimize the migration of oxygen, liquids, oils, fats, and aromas for enhanced shelf life.

These products can be custom-designed with the appropriate combination of key properties such as moisture, oxygen, aroma, and chemical barriers; clarity and shelf appeal, tear performance; toughness; and easy-open features.

Within the barrier group are EVOH (Ethylene-vinyl alcohol) sealant films; Nylon sealant films, and Nylon EVOH sealant films, which provide the ultimate combination of toughness and high-barrier properties, which can be further customized for formability, clarity, and seal performance. Moisture barrier films can be tailored for various packaging formats, including pre-made pouches. Chemical barrier films are designed to hold substances such as alcohol or iodine and are built to provide exceptional chemical resistance and toughness. Among their applications are films designed especially for packaging raw protein products (meat or fish) and frozen food products.

Because of CNG’s investment in state-of-the-art equipment, it has the capability to produce small- to medium-sized runs of polyethylene, polypropylene, and nylon materials and can deliver up to 5-layer cast embossed film solutions. Film thicknesses range from 1.0 mil to 40 mil. Applications for cast film range from household items such as printed tablecloths to critical hospital-grade PPE masks and gowns.

The electronic, aerospace, medical, and other industries which depend on clean room technology to distribute clean, safe, and effective products can turn to CNG’s facility in Turners Falls, Massachusetts, which features a Class 7 clean room. There, an experienced manufacturing team operates with leading-edge equipment including a state-of-the-art vision system, a web cleaning system, in-line slitting, and a Class 5 air filtration system.

CNG also provides embossing services for clients wanting to enhance functionality and increase brand recognition. Engineered films, ranging in gauge from .09 to 40 mil and in width from 6 inches to 88 inches can be created in over 100 standard colors, with the option to match unique color requirements and choose from over 500 embossing patterns. Embossing adds a finishing touch to a product and provides additional benefits including more mass without the added weight, allowances for egress of air, adhesive capabilities, and barrier properties.

According to the company’s website, “We continually invest in our people and technology so we can operate lean, design for recyclability, have a redundancy in supply and strive for a greener tomorrow.”

CNG’s mission is to not only produce a great film product, but also to work with customers to produce fully sustainable packaging, from print to lamination to pouching. With environmental concerns in mind, the team is pleased to introduce Green Arrow™.

Using the latest in polymer and processing technologies, the Green Arrow™ platform of sustainable films has been designed to power a new generation of sustainable, flexible packaging without any trade-off in performance. They can be used in the new EVOH films for oxygen barrier and moisture barrier, and meet the How2Recycle® standards. For customers, this means that by choosing Green Arrow ™ for their company’s packaging, they are reducing their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions by using post-consumer recycled (PCR) resins, and can now convert multi-material, unrecyclable packaging into recyclable, store drop-off approved formats.

The Green Arrow™ family of films produced with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content at the Milton facility has been GreenCircle Certified. This certification allows CNG to provide converters and brands with the traceability and transparency information they require for their packaging regarding sustainable packaging claims.

In keeping with its commitment to sustainability through reducing, reusing, and recycling, CNG is also proud to have been a corporate sponsor for the Nationwide Trex® Plastic Film Recycling Challenge since 2021.

Now in its 17th year, the competition challenges students to collect and recycle as much polyethylene as possible in a six-month period, between America Recycles Day (November 15) and Earth Day (April 22). Top performing schools can win high-performance, sustainably made, wood-alternative products from Trex, the only decking company ever named as an Eco-Leader by Green Builder Media.

The 2022-23 challenge saw a record number of 780 schools take part, with students collecting a combined total of over 420,000 pounds of polyethylene plastic film—nearly 100,000 pounds more than the previous year.

The nine top schools from all regions of the country (three high schools, three middle and three elementary) each received a composite bench from Trex, and monetary prizes totaling $50,000 from CNG. An additional three schools also received monetary prizes for their social media community outreach programs.

Said Bolhous, “CNG is thrilled to once again be part of this important and impactful program. We are pleased to be able to help recognize and reward schools for their hard work and dedication to protecting and preserving our planet.” Participation in such a program is just one more example of the company’s continuing mission to find “a better way.”

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