Top Companies Report

7. Wikoff Color Corporation


1886 Merritt Road 
Fort Mill, SC 29715
Phone: (803) 548-2210
Fax: (803) 548-5728
Sales: $150 million (Ink World estimate).

Major Products: Sheetfed and web offset inks, solvent-based and water-based flexo and gravure inks, energy-curable inks and coatings, security inks, overprint varnish and aqueous coatings.

Key Personnel: Phil Lambert, CEO; Geoff Peters, president and COO; Daryl Collins, VP of national sales and regional operations; Martin Hambrock, VP of Canadian operations; Don Duncan, director of R&D; Ben Price, director of purchasing; Art Dennis, director of manufacturing; Buck Rorie, VP of finance and administration.

Number of Employees: 510.

Operating Facilities: 29 manufacturing plants in the U.S. and Canada. Headquarters and research and development facilities are located in Fort Mill, SC. 

Comments: For Wikoff Color, 2009 was a year of challenges as well as opportunities, as the company positions itself for 2010 and the future.

“Unfortunately, 2009 was a disappointing year for Wikoff Color due to a decline in sales and reduced margins due to the steep run-up in material costs in 2008,” said Geoff Peters, Wikoff Color’s president and COO. “Many printers struggled to keep the doors open and a number of plants closed as a result of the recession. Other printers performed fairly well (i.e. food packaging printers), but still felt some impact from the banking and credit crisis. The year was not without some highlights, however, as we developed new paste and fluid products, landed new customers, and aggressively reduced costs to position ourselves well for the future.”

The recession hurt the printing industry as a whole, although packaging was impacted less.

“The recession led to a large drop-off in advertising-related printing while food packaging, including folding carton, flexible packaging and labels fared much better,” said Mr. Peters. “Sales of new presses were not as robust as in years past, usually a solid indicator of reduced print production and ink consumption. As we begin 2010, we no longer see a decline in sales and many of our markets, especially packaging and labels, have stabilized. We forecast growth this year, but at relatively modest levels.” 

Growth in flexible packaging and in China, along with a host of new products, were among the highlights for Wikoff Color this year.

“After implementing difficult cost controls throughout the last year, Wikoff remains a healthy company and we are proud of how our employees dealt with this difficult period,” Mr. Peters said. “Other Wikoff highlights include improved growth in flexible packaging, the successful first year of our operation in China, and the introduction of several new products, including many inks and coatings that represent clear, environmental improvements in our product line. We continued to have a strong product development program, and new products in all of our technologies (water, solvent, oil and UV/EB) were regularly introduced. Additionally, we strengthened the technical resources we offer our customers by providing additional consultative services and customer training.”

Mr. Peters noted that raw material pricing stabilized for most of 2009, although there are signs of pressure on some key ingredients.

“Wikoff Color’s raw material pricing was extremely volatile throughout the second half of 2008 and the effects carried over into the first quarter of 2009,” he said. “For the rest of 2009, pricing for the majority of our raw materials declined. Since the fourth quarter of 2009, however, there has been pressure on several key raw materials, especially those tied closely to petroleum, and there are a couple of markets where supply has tightened. We continue to work with our vendors to keep the supply lines open and pricing stable because the printing industry is not prepared to absorb additional cost increases at this time.”

In spite of the economy, Wikoff Color looked to improve its operations. In early 2009, Ben Price was named director of purchasing and Art Dennis director of manufacturing, thus strengthening the operational team at Wikoff. Technical staff was added to service Wikoff’s growing UV ink jet business, and may need further additions in this area. 

The company also embarked on capital improvement programs.

“As part of our commitment to sustainability, we also completed capital-intensive programs to redesign the layout and workflow of our three largest plants,” Mr. Peters said. “We expect that these programs will result in significant efficiencies and reduction of waste.”

All in all, Mr. Peters expects 2010 to show improvement.

“Wikoff expects 2010 to be better than 2009,” Mr. Peters said. “We believe that the recession is ending and consumer spending will help lead the recovery. We also believe that the cost adjustments and manufacturing efficiency programs that we have implemented will pay dividends this year. We expect demand to improve and with less inventory on hand, production could increase significantly. The risk for our business will be with material costs and our ability to manage those costs in conjunction with customer pricing.”