Business Monday

Coffee, snacks and more: Sixto Packaging has a wrap for that

From left: Emilio Sixto Jr., slitter operator; Emilio Sixto Sr., vice president; Maria Sixto, accounting/human resources; Andy Sixto, production manager; Carmen Sixto, CEO and co-founder; Andres Sixto, vice president; Felipe H. Sixto, vice president; Felipe E. Sixto, director of sales, marketing and strategic planning; and Felipe I. Sixto, slitter operator. (A slitter operator runs machines that cut and modify metal or plastic for industrial use.)
From left: Emilio Sixto Jr., slitter operator; Emilio Sixto Sr., vice president; Maria Sixto, accounting/human resources; Andy Sixto, production manager; Carmen Sixto, CEO and co-founder; Andres Sixto, vice president; Felipe H. Sixto, vice president; Felipe E. Sixto, director of sales, marketing and strategic planning; and Felipe I. Sixto, slitter operator. (A slitter operator runs machines that cut and modify metal or plastic for industrial use.) Sixto

The company and its products: Sixto Packaging produces colorful and resilient flexible packaging for a broad range of food products like coffee, frozen foods, snacks, spices and produce, as well as for other sectors like pet food.

The family-owned and operated company, based in Opa-locka, uses high-tech machinery to print material in multiple colors and to fashion two, three and four layers of laminated packaging from paper, foil and different types of plastic to suit the needs of clients. It also helps customers design their packaging.

Food is sold in flexible packaging for produce and processed foods, as well as in solid containers — cans and bottles — for processed products.

Named after founders Felipe and Carmen Sixto, the company makes vacuum-packed brick wraps and special ventilated (degassing) bags for coffee, breathable plastic packaging with microwaveable venting for frozen foods, zippered and nonzippered pouches, shrink wrap and other products.

“This is a highly technical business,” said Felipe E. Sixto, the company’s director of sales, marketing and strategic planning. “It’s not just sticking something on a bag.”

Sixto Packaging is a converter, which means it prints complicated designs on large rolls of paper, different types of plastic (film) or aluminum foil and combines them into layered (laminated) packaging for a variety of applications. “You see flexible packaging in every aisle of the supermarket,” he said. “Packaging is key to attracting customers and extending the shelf life of products.”

Sixto has grown rapidly in recent years. It invested about $3.5 million in 2012 in its new production and administration headquarters in Opa-locka, plus new equipment, and invested another $2 million in 2016 in a state-of-the-art 10-color printing system. “These investments have allowed us to do more work and to do faster, better quality work,” Sixto said. “We also made a push in sales and marketing, and our sales rose from abut $3 million in 2013 to an estimated $8.5 million in 2016.”

This is a highly technical business. It’s not just sticking something on a bag.

Felipe E. Sixto, the company’s director of sales, marketing and strategic planning

The company, which has 40 employees, started by selling to Hispanic food producers in Miami in 1971. Today, it reaches a broad range of markets throughout the Southeast U.S. and overseas. Some of its customers are Badia Spices, Goya Foods, ARA Food, Pilón and Bustelo coffee, plus private labels like Walgreens’ Nice! brand.

Getting started: Founders Felipe and Carmen Sixto left behind a pasta factory in Cuba when they fled to Miami in 1961. They started a small pasta company here, but seeing that the regional pasta market was very crowded, decided to invest their limited savings in a modest packaging company that made small paper and cellophane bags for local businesses. One of their first acquisitions was a printing press made in 1946. The company began working with local Hispanic businesses — like Badia Spices — and grew as Latino food businesses expanded in South Florida and required more sophisticated packaging. Today, Sixto Packaging sells to scores of food-processing companies, including large, small and mid-sized concerns in the Southeast. It also has clients in three states in the Northeast U.S., as well as Central and South America. About half of its customers now are non-Hispanic companies. Other clients are cruise lines and private-label food producers for supermarket chains and other retailers.

The difference: “We offer custom service, quality and design, plus the lead times our customers need,” Sixto said. The firm can provide short- and long-runs for labels and packaging, with short lead times and in-house design. Its high-tech equipment can make a wide range of flexible packaging, including paper, foil, plastic and laminated products.

Sales: In 2015, revenues were $7.7 million and the company expects them to reach $8.5 million in 2016. The projection for 2017 is $10 million.

Competitors: A major source of competition is pre-printed packaging from China. Sixto has competitors in the U.S., like Transcontinental Ultra Flex for coffee and Temkin for food products. They do not compete with U.S. giants like Bemis, which has more than $4 billion in annual sales and provides packaging to companies like Kraft Heinz and General Mills.

Learning experience: The company went through growing pains as its sales increased rapidly in recent years and the firm had to add new systems for processing orders efficiently.

Outside view: Inc. Magazine placed Sixto Packaging on its annual list of the 5,000 fastest-growing American companies in 2016 for the third time. The company has also been ranked among the fastest-growing companies in the region by the South Florida Business Journal. Flexo Magazine, a leading publication for the package printing and converting industry, as well as other industry publications have praised Sixto for its high-quality processes and steady growth.

What customers say: Pepe Badía, president of Doral-based Badia Spices, said that he started working with the Sixtos about four decades ago when he bought his first machinery for filling and sealing his products. “They print film for us that we turn into cellophane bags for spices, and larger rolls of film that become chili bags,” said Badía, whose company’s products are sold throughout the U.S. and overseas. “When we get into a pickle because we run out of film — or anything else — they work at night or through the weekend to provide what we need. They are very important to us. The idea of going anywhere else with our business is unthinkable. They are just a wonderful family, hard workers, decent and very proud of the work they do.”

When Miami-based Meel Corp. planned to change and expand its food product line several years ago, the president, Michael Laslovits, went to Sixto Packaging. Meel packs and sells frozen fruits, vegetables and specialty convenience foods under its own labels (Tropicland, Farmers Value and Harvest Collection) and for private-label clients. “We wanted to modernize and reinvigorate our packaging to reflect our quality products,” said Laslovits, who bought and expanded the company, which had been in Miami for about 30 years. “When I met them and saw their products, I was convinced. Working with a very large packaging company is like moving a battleship. In contrast, Sixto is located nearby, they’re responsive and flexible when we need to make changes.”

Challenges: “We have to work hard to find good people in order to stay competitive, especially because of cheap imported packaging,” Sixto said. “And we need to diversify our customer base even more than what we have now.”

Outlook: Since acquiring the Opa-locka plant and new, high-tech equipment, Sixto has increased its capacity to provide the highest-quality flexible packaging services to a wider range of clients in the U.S. and overseas.

“We’ve grown rapidly in recent years because of our stress on sales and marketing, and if the economy remains healthy, we expect strong growth to continue,” Sixto said.

The writer can be reached at josephmannjr@gmail.com

Business: Designs and produces flexible packaging, labels and bags for the food industry in the United States and overseas, and for other sectors. Using a variety of materials — paper, plastic, foil and laminates — family-owned Sixto works with companies that sell coffee, frozen and fresh foods, snacks, candies, pet foods and other products. The high-tech plant makes custom packaging for name-brand products and private-label customers serving Hispanic and broader markets.

Headquarters: 13301 NW 38th Ct., Opa-locka.

Founded: 1971.

Founders: Felipe Sixto and his wife, Carmen, who fled Cuba for Miami in 1961 with their children.

Leadership: Carmen Sixto, CEO and co-founder; Vice Presidents Felipe H. Sixto, Emilio Sixto and Andres Sixto; Andres Sixto Jr., production manager; and Felipe E. Sixto, director of sales, marketing and strategic planning.

Owners: Co-founder Carmen Sixto and other family members.

Employees: 40

Website: www.sixtopack.com

Source: Sixto Packaging

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