Sistema doubles size in Petaluma

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PETALUMA -- The North American distributor for a growing international brand of colorful plastic food-storage containers is making another big expansion of its Petaluma distribution hub.

An affiliate of Sistema US (707-795-9060, sistemaus.com), distributor for New Zealand-based Sistema Plastics, purchased the recently vacated 94,000-square-foot Pomegranate Communications warehouse and office at 775 Southpoint Blvd. on Aug. 9 for nearly $8 million, or about $84 a square foot.

Sistema US plans to relocate to the new building by October.

"We've reached full capacity at the current building," said Simon Kirby, co-owner of Sistema US with Peter Carter. "Had we not purchased the building, it would have impacted our growth."

Sales for Sistema Plastics have grown 400 percent in the past six years and are set to double again in the next three, according to the company. Sales in 2011 were NZ$65 million (roughly $50 million at the time), with NZ$50 million (about $37 million) of that from exports.

Coming off the 2005 sale of Novato-based VacuVan, which removed air from wine containers, Mr. Kirby and Mr. Carter started Sistema US in Novato in 2008. Appealing were the trends of spending-conscious consumers packing lunches to work and greater consciousness about plastics compounds such as BPA. The distributorship moved to 1445 N. McDowell Blvd. in Petaluma in 2009 with the purchase of the 42,000-square-foot former Cisco Systems building.

Sales have been doubling annually since 2008, according to Mr. Kirby. The new facility will be able to accommodate imports of 20 million to 30 million units from the Auckland, New Zealand, manufacturing plant to markets on the continent, but some retail accounts receive direct shipments.

Sistema Plastics started in 1994 as a maker of colorful lunchboxes for children and has been a proponent of BPA-free plastic. The product line has expanded over time, and the company has gained international attention as a staunchly New Zealand-based manufacturer, building a large manufacturing plant there. The brand has 80 percent market share in New Zealand and Australia, according to Mr. Kirby.

Marketed as "department store quality at supermarket prices," Sistema goes up against the Atlanta-based food-container giant brand Rubbermaid. Sistema's line of products are sold in grocery chains such as Safeway, online venues like Amazon and in department stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond.

In the purchase deal for 775 Southpoint, Steven Leonard, Trevor Buck and Brian Foster of Cassidy Turley represented Sistema US and seller Inland American/D.R. Stephens.

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