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MeadWestvaco to Enter Strategic Alliance with Gralex

Press release from the issuing company

STAMFORD, Conn.--Feb. 26, 2002--MeadWestvaco's packaging resources group announced today that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Gralex, Inc., setting the stage for a formal strategic alliance with the company. The MOU establishes a framework for the companies to combine their resources and technological strengths to add value and drive innovation in the global market for paperboard thermoforming materials and systems for specialty food and pharmaceutical applications. MeadWestvaco and Gralex will jointly develop converter and end-user relationships through a "systems sales'' approach that promotes the use of MeadWestvaco's specialty paperboard grades with Gralex's hydraulic paperboard thermoforming systems, which are currently used in Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand and North and South America. The companies will initially focus on opportunities in the frozen food, bakery and high-end branded carryout and delivery markets. MeadWestvaco and Gralex will also pursue joint research and development initiatives to identify and commercialize new technologies that meet emerging market needs. While sales and distribution efficiencies and new market opportunities will obviously arise, the relationship is intended primarily to enhance customer value, says Barry Calvert, Specialty Products Manager for MeadWestvaco's packaging resources group. "The combination of MeadWestvaco's market-leading specialty food paperboard grades with Gralex's technologically superior thermoforming and heat-sealing equipment will give folding carton converters, corrugated operators and food processors a very affordable opportunity to produce value-added products for their customers,'' he says. MeadWestvaco's packaging resources group manufactures a variety of specialty paperboard products for refrigerating, freezing, heating and serving foods and beverages in retail or institutional food service settings. It also produces a special paperboard grade for thermoformed trays that provides a number of advantages, including improved shelf appearance, enhanced productivity and superior product protection, over competitive alternatives such as non-clay-coated milk carton stock extruded with clear PET. "Our coated paperboard products set worldwide standards for precision, consistency, uniformity and performance, while our uncoated packaging grades are the products of choice when premium surface quality and consistent physical properties are critical,'' says Calvert. "We're also able to support our products by providing the specialty food market with extensive knowledge of product marketing, packaging design and carton forming, sealing, printing and die-cutting.'' MeadWestvaco paperboards can be heat sealed and blister sealed and are engineered to deliver special end-use properties, such as barrier protection against oils and water, moisture absorption, heat resistance and non-stick surfaces. Hot and cold cups, ovenable trays that can go from freezer to microwave or conventional ovens, industrial fish cartons, plates, trays and aseptic liquid packaging are just a few of the applications for MeadWestvaco's specialty substrates for food packaging. Gralex is a leading manufacturer of thermoformed paperboard and heat-sealing equipment. The Gralex Hydraulic Forming Press utilizes an optimal combination of heat, hydraulic pressure and dwell time to convert die-cut corrugated or solid paperboard blanks into packaging products in a vast array of three-dimensional shapes and sizes. Product applications include pizza boxes, food trays, carry-out containers, bakery trays, frozen food cartons and commercial and industrial packaging. The company's thermoformed paperboard systems offer folding carton operators, corrugated manufacturers and end-users a number of efficiencies and cost advantages. One benefit the systems share, for example, is a blank-fed process that accommodates both solid board and corrugated materials, enabling companies to utilize their existing printing and die-cutting assets and thus helping to keep equipment and start-up costs low. In addition, Gralex systems offer the flexibility to run a variety of products with minimum changeover and set-up time and relatively low tooling costs. Gralex and MeadWestvaco both realize the need to assist converters and food processors in heir selection of an efficient and economical packaging system," says Gralex President Gary Alexander. ''The significant competitive advantages that Gralex systems afford will be immediately magnified when the systems are used in concert with high-quality MeadWestvaco specialty paperboards, and we expect many additional customer benefits to arise out of our joint development of new technologies."