Dart Container is a world cup winner -- not in soccer, but in foam cups and containers. Commanding about half of the global market in foam cups, its foodservice lineup also includes lids, containers, dinnerware, plastic cups, and cutlery, which is sold to hospitals, schools, and restaurants, as well as retailers. To make its products, family-owned Dart touts a secret molding method for expandable polystyrene. It also builds its own molding machinery and uses Dart trucks to deliver products from about 20 plants in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the UK, and the US. In mid-2012, Dart made a significant move to expand when it acquired long-time rival Solo Cup in a deal valued at $1 billion.
As part of the milestone acquisition, Dart paid $315 million in cash and assumed about $700 million of Solo's debt. The deal created a noteworthy juggernaut in its industry: Solo Cup not only makes the iconic red solo cup but is a leading maker in the overall disposable consumer products industry, marketing its products under the recognized Solo and Sweetheart brands. Dart continues to offer products under the Solo brand, including its popular red cups.
One of the reasons Dart is a leader in its industry is because it operates autonomously -- it makes its own equipment, produces the raw materials it needs, converts the materials to finished products, and then delivers the products around the world. It even has printing capabilities for which it makes its own ink. The company also makes clear plastic containers that are used in delis and take-out restaurants, and it is on the path to developing a biodegradable container.
The king of cups is shaped by its history of secrecy. The Darts never patented the cup-making machine they developed; this allowed them to avoid revealing how it works. Most of the company's factory workers have never seen the machines, and Dart's salespeople are not allowed inside the plants. Internal management is equally circumspect. The company, which was founded in 1960 by chairman William A. Dart and his father William F. is under the control of W.A. Dart's sons, CEO Bob and president Ken. – less