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Packaging Firm Takes Off With High Pressure Processing Technology

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Elkridge-based Maryland Packaging is expanding with a foray into high pressure processing (HPP), a new technology that kills microorganisms on food products to dramatically expand the shelf life. HPP is also referred to as pascalization and bridgmanization.

Its proponents say that, because HPP does not include the use of food additives or heat, it is regarded as a “natural” preservation method. For seafood, HPP is used to provide clean meat separation for lobsters, oysters, clams and other shellfish by denaturing the specific protein that holds meat to the shell.

Maryland Packaging, which works with clients such as Domino Sugar, Starbucks and Rio Grande, has doubled its facility from 40,000 to 80,000 square feet.

“We plan on spending an additional $40 million on high pressure processing in 2015 and 2016,” said Marwan Moheyeldien, president, “and we are currently hiring, and looking for a CFO and a COO from the food industry.”

Maryland Packaging purchased its first HPP machinery from Avure, which is marketing the machines worldwide while working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and a host of universities to refine the machines. So far, there are only about 120 HPP machines that have been purchased across the world but, already, more than $3 billion in food products worldwide are created with HPP each year.

“The food supply is very unprotected, coming in from the rest of the world,” said Moheyeldien, and he believes HPP will increase food safety for many markets.

Among the companies using HPP for all or some of their products are Hormel, Fresherized Foods, Garden Fresh Gourmet, Perdue Farms, Puro Fruits, SimplyFresco, Maple Lodge Farms and Wholly Guacamole.

Maryland Packaging is also planning a joint venture with Vani Hari, or “The Food Babe,” creator of a blog focused on investigating what goes into our food, how it is grown and what chemicals are used in its production.

From his perspective, said Moheyeldien, “she is the most influential person on the web.”

Growing Manufacturing

Maryland Packaging is a family-owned company with 125 employees. Located in Elkridge since 2004, its former headquarters were in Laurel. In addition to the two executive positions, the company also wants to add 120 new workers with salaries ranging from $14 to $22 an hour, and Moheyeldien said he will invest heavily in training them. “We have a philosophy in this company, and that philosophy is everyone has to win,” he said.

Mike Kelleher, chief operating officer of the Maryland Manufacturing Extension Partnership, said he was pleased to see the Maryland company grow and expand.

“We see the greatest area of growth in Maryland coming from existing businesses that continue to innovate, expand and grow,” he said. “There is a growing food and food product sector that is emerging in Maryland, and Maryland Packaging’s investment in HPP will enable them to serve this growing need.”

In addition to food processing, the largest numbers of manufacturing jobs in the state are in the computer and electronic products industry, as well as chemical manufacturing.

Route 1 Success

The Route 1 Corridor has become a magnet for manufacturing and distribution, said Larry Twele, CEO of the Howard County Economic Development Authority. “It’s really one of the key drivers of economic development in Howard County,” he said.

By using innovative HPP technology, Moheyeldien and his team “are not only growing their business, they’re also attracting new businesses to the county,” said Twele.

“Maryland Packaging is providing a whole new area of opportunity for aspiring businesses, as well as established companies, particularly in the growing food-to-table sector. They’re just a great example of growth taking place in the manufacturing sector, and we’re glad they’re proud to call Howard County their home.”

Family-Owned Business

Moheyeldien’s son, J.R. Moheyeldien, serves as executive operations manager. The 2012 University of Alabama graduate has been working with Maryland Packaging since age seven.

Moheyeldien enjoys the diversity of his company’s products, as well as the feeling of teamwork among employees. In addition to HPP, the company also packages an array of goods. “Our packing facility is capable of doing many different types of products, from one-pound boxes to 50-pound bags,” he said. “We do canned goods, bags, boxes, blending. We are capable of doing very large or small quantities.”

With a management team of about 20 people, Moheyeldien echoed his father’s message that the company is looking for employees. “A great-fit person would be anyone whose willing to work and get along with others.”

And a job with Maryland Packaging might have some unexpected perks. “It’s definitely a sweet job,” he said, “when you come home covered in sugar.”