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Strong Roots

From a small family business to a multi-billion dollar global company, Sonoco has been changing the face of products and packaging since the turn of the 20th century — all while keeping the heart of “People Build Businesses” alive. Our talented people are the core of our growth, constantly reinventing the Sonoco wheel with brilliant solutions every year. In 1899, founder James Coker had a revolutionary idea – and the rest is history.


The story of Sonoco

Generations of big dreams and dedication have spread Sonoco's iconic spirit and products to every corner. We've come a long way, and with our growing achievements and international ventures, it's clear: we've still got it. While we look forward to a bright future, we like to take a look back at the inspirational people and major milestones that got us here.

The Early Years

1930 – less than 24 employees, 1 plant

It all started when Major James Lide Coker and Walter F. Smith formed the Southern Novelty Company in Hartsville, SC, a small manufacturer of the first patented conical paper yarn carriers and parallel tubes. We opened new regional plants in New Jersey and North Carolina, and later, Connecticut and Massachusetts, before expanding into Canada. After President Major Coker's death in 1917, his son Charles Westfield Coker took over, followed by his own son, James Lide Coker III, in 1930. Even in its earliest stages, Sonoco began to look across the pond for new ventures in Europe, forming a cotton partnership with English investors in as early as 1922.

The War Years

1940 - 1,500 employees in Hartsville, 6 U.S. operations, 1 international plant

As World War II picked up speed, Sonoco remained strong, with sales reaching $5 million and the acquisition of multiple American fiber and paper businesses. In addition to regular production, Sonoco produced shell and bomb containers, becoming the first industrial company in S.C. to receive the National Security Award. We quickly trekked out west with operations as south as Texas and far as California and formed Sonoco de Mexico in 1950. James Lide Coker III died in 1961 and was replaced by his brother, Charles W. Coker. Even during the Vietnam War, Sonoco continued to make friends abroad, entering the Portugal, France, Ireland and Germany markets in the ‘60s.

The Growing Years

1970 - 6,000 total employees, 60 operations around the world, 10 countries

Coker's son, Charlie, took over as CEO and elected chairman as Sonoco's growth skyrocketed. Despite the recession and decline of the textile industry, sales revenue tripled in ten years as we partnered with more regional businesses, upped our recycling efforts with new facilities and explored new diverse consumer industries: composite cans, grocery bags, folding cartons, etc. In 1981, we were number 457 of the Fortune 500 list for top U.S. public manufacturing companies and, later, on the New York Stock Exchange (SON). Russell King became president and COO in 1990, then Peter Browning in 1998. Meanwhile, foreign branches popped up across Europe, Southeast Asia, and South America by the end of the ‘90s.

The Transformative Years

2000 - 18,000 total employees, 300 operations around the world, 32 countries

From product displays to graphic design, we've expanded into 12 diversified areas of business. With Harris E. DeLoach Jr. as president and CEO, Sonoco achieved its best safety record with a Total Incident Rate of just .41 per 100 full-time employees – a 70% improvement since 2000. We've improved our recycling efforts, too, and are the biggest U.S. recycling company. Over the past decade, Sonoco has won dozens of awards, including Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies, Forbes' 100 Most Trustworthy Companies, and The Dow Jones Sustainability World Index. With annualized net sales of approximately $5 billion (one-third international) and operations on every continent (except Antarctica!), we have become a global industry leader.

Today – 19,900 total employees, 336 operations, 34 countries

Advice from a recruiter: Make an impression.

While it's perfectly normal to be nervous for your interview, you'll feel comfortable with our recruiters. Sonoco works with you, not against you, to help you find the right job. We like to think of our interviews as more of a conversation than a one-sided interrogation, so come with some questions to ask us, too! Asking the right questions about the company and work will show that you're not only interested, but invested in us too.

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