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Ahead of the Pack

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 9:33 p.m. March 30, 2012
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Sarasota executive R. Charles Murray is staring down a monumental decision for his company, a choice that puts him in an atypical spot: to buy or not to buy a 100,000-square-foot building listed at $4 million.

The purchase would primarily be a gung-ho gamble that the products he's behind — alcohol packaged in a pouch — are ready to take off.

Murray's company, PPi Technologies Group, has manufactured pouches that store a range of food and beverage products, from raisins and cookies to Spam and chocolate milk, for more than a decade. It had $20 million in 2011 revenues, up 17.6% from $17 million in 2010. It has about 50 employees, including 10 hired during the past year.

But Murray believes the trademarked and patented ShotPak, a line of five ready-to-drink cocktails and spirits, is where the firm will gulp its future growth. It's why he's contemplating one of the largest single-building acquisitions in the Sarasota-Bradenton market so far in 2012.

“I really think if you don't take a chance, you're not going to make it,” Murray says. “People can't believe that I might be doing this. But I really believe there will be a turnaround.”

The building that attracted Murray's interest is at 1712 Northgate Blvd., where PPi already leases 30,000 square feet. The firm owns two other buildings on the same street, about 60,000 square feet in total.

The 1712 Northgate building, just north of downtown Sarasota, currently has two tenants: PPi and Cruise Cars, a solar-powered vehicle company. A fan manufacturer previously occupied the space, which was built in 1990 and has truck-well loading docks and seven overhead doors. It's been on the market for a few years, says the listing agent, Jon Kleiber with James Buchanan Realty. “It's a clean, functional building,” Kleiber says.

Murray hasn't committed to buy the building, and he's not sure he ever will. But based on his abundant optimism about ShotPak, Murray would certainly seem to lean toward a purchase. “I absolutely believe we will grow. We are coming together with the right pouch at the right time,” says Murray. “The interest is huge. There is going to be a lot more opportunity.”

PPi calls the ShotPak a “party in a pouch.” Murray says the pouches are ripe for sporting events and outdoor happenings, like camping, the beach or a block party. Says Murray: “Anywhere you don't want a glass.”

ShotPaks are sold in six-packs and 12-packs. Flavors include mojitos, margaritas and kamikazes. PPi sells the ShotPak in England, too, through its Yankee Cocktail brand.
A South African native, Murray founded PPi in 1996. The firm, which stands for Pouch Pac Innovations, initially focused on selling pouch-packaging machines. Clients included Nestle and Del Monte, and some machines sold for $700,000.

But Murray switched to the packaging side of the business, thinking the machine side had a low ceiling. The high ceiling, he maintains, is in ShotPak and, coming soon, a line of organic wines in pouches. PPi also plans to launch a line of bottled water in pouches.

“If it's in a bottle, we can put it in a pouch,” Murray says. “We think pouches are the packages of the future.”


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