Bag maker counts on ag sector

Lloyd Bag Company | Ontario manufacturer produces bags for feed, seed and food

CHATHAM, Ont. — Attention to detail is essential at Lloyd Bag Company for two reasons.

It’s a matter of pride for owner Mark Allott and employees like pressman Carlos Vinagre. It’s also important to the marketing success of the companies buying the polypropylene, cotton, burlap and paper bags the business makes.

“We are by far the best printers in the industry,” Allott said.

The Lloyd Bag Company counts on agriculture for most of its business. Feed, seed, edible beans and food products fill most of the bags the company makes.

It takes a discerning eye to distinguish a printed bag that may be acceptable to one that’s top notch. Misprints are simply discarded.

“If it’s not done right, you just don’t feel good about it. You’ve got to do a good job,” Vinagre said.

Allott has operated all the equipment in the facility since his father, Gary, purchased the business in 1991. He went on to become general manager in 1999 and is the sole owner today.

The technology being used has been around for decades and so have most of the machines. Some of the big, German-designed Schmutz presses, for example, date back to the 1940s.

“These machines are very, very reliable and Carlos is skilled in welding and we do a lot of our own in-house repairs,” Allott said.

The woven and mesh polypropylene bags are imported from China, Indonesia or India in a wide range of shapes and sizes.

Burlap, made from the jute plant, comes from India or Bangladesh. Paper bags are brought in from Quebec.

Nearly all the bags are printed in-house. Bales of imported fabric are used to make the cotton and burlap bags.

Most, if not all, Canadians are familiar with at least some of the bags produced by the company. Important parts of the business are the cotton bags used for summer sausage produced in Ontario by several small companies and carried in grocery stores across Canada.

They represent about 25 percent of sales.

The sausage bags are made from unbleached cotton approved by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. The ink used for printing is edible and is ordered from a single supplier in the U.S. for more than $50 a pound.

Another important line is the bags designed to be filled with either cement or sand. Cement bags are used for various construction purposes while the sand bags end up in flood prone locations.

“We sold quite a few of the sand bags this past spring and summer. Most went out west or to northern Ontario,” Allott said.

The diversity of markets helps keep the company on an even keel, but there are still ups and downs. Allott remembers agricultural challenges in Ontario, such as the soybean aphid invasion a few years ago, that disrupted normal production.

“We have some down times and we’ve had some good times. A lot of it depends on the crops…. The soybean industry is one of our biggest customers.”

There are currently 18 employees at Lloyd Bag Company.

Apart from the warehouse area, the business is located in a historic three-storey brick building built in 1903. It was used for a number of industrial purposes until Donald Lloyd founded the company that bears his name in 1939.

Lloyd operated the business until he passed away in 1978. Gary Allott came on board as general manager the next year.