Links in a Chain

Greif’s vision is to be the best performing customer service company in the world. This may seem like a lofty goal for an industrial packaging company, but from its humble beginnings in 1877, it has grown its global footprint across 41 countries to provide packaging to safely deliver essential supplies.

Greif manufactures various bulk packaging products—including fiber, steel and plastic drums, tubes and cores, coated recycled paperboard, water bottles and more. The manufacturer was founded nearly 150 years ago in Cleveland, Ohio to assemble wooden drums. Since its establishment, Greif has not only grown in scale but has remained steadfast, yet innovative, in its business approach.

Some of our transactions are unusual, but CoBank gets really creative and always provides an answer to difficult questions.

“The service profit chain is a big part of our business model. There are lots of links in a chain, but the only way it works is if it stays together,” said Ole Rosgaard, president and CEO of Greif. “We firmly believe that you win business through customer service. Every positive internal experience of our 13,000 employees will almost always create a successful external experience.”

Trials, tribulations and great success all go hand-in-hand with such a long tenure in business. During COVID-19, Greif realized just how essential its products were for consumers—its steel drums deliver pharmaceuticals, chemicals and petroleum. It accommodates packaging for an array of markets, including food and beverage, agriculture, construction, retail and other crucial supplies.

However, after consistent and steady demand through the pandemic, Greif experienced a decrease in volume in 2023 due to an overall industrial manufacturing slowdown.

“Our research shows that consumers are spending money on experiences rather than material items, and we are feeling the effect of that right now,” said Larry Hilsheimer, Greif’s executive vice president and CFO. “No matter the circumstances, CoBank always remains calm and is willing to stand by us through our accomplishments and setbacks to help find solutions.”

Greif has been a CoBank customer for over 20 years and has expanded the relationship with recent investment needs. In 2019, CoBank provided a $400 million Farm Credit term loan to partially finance the acquisition of Caraustar Industries. Greif then requested an additional $225 million loan in 2020 to refinance pending maturities. Again, in 2023, Greif added an additional $300 million loan to its liquidity position after acquiring Lee Container.

With these new expansions, Greif is looking forward to the next 150 years—and is especially excited to achieve its sustainability targets by 2030.

“Having a dependable financial lender is crucial for our future growth. Some of our transactions are unusual, but CoBank gets really creative and always provides an answer to difficult questions. We are grateful that CoBank is a link in our chain,” said Rosgaard.

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2023 Annual Report.