“Pick up a basket of strawberries at the supermarket and reflect upon the texture, color, shape, and design… of the basket. That’s right, the fruit basket. While consumers may take such packaging for granted, without the aid of the seemingly innocuous strawberry basket, shipping and selling agricultural products would prove impossible.
Chief Executive Officer Sam Stevenson, the only remaining original partner, explains how his fledgling enterprise took root. “In the 1940s, certain agricultural businesses in the state wanted packaging supplies that they couldn’t get.” At the time, Stevenson- who had a background in agriculture and the paper industry- was working as an engineer at a paper mill owned by Fernstrom. Sam figured out that produce distributors needed a better method to ventilate fruit and vegetables at the center of their shipping boxes. Thus, Sam invented a single face corrugated pad that fit at the bottom of the “wood lug” (shipping crate) to allow for better airflow to the fruit or vegetables.
Welcome to F-D-S Manufacturing Company of Pomona, a 240,000 square foot industrial complex off of California State Highway 60. Since 1950, F-D-S, named for founders Fritz Fernstrom, Dan Dayton, and Sam Stevenson, has cornered the market on not only strawberry baskets, but innumerable other agricultural packaging products and single face corrugated paper products, serving customers throughout the United States and Worldwide.
FDS' First Location in Pomona, CA
This invention not only let the produce “breathe” but turned the agricultural packaging industry around. At that time, the transportation of fruits and vegetables was problematic; railcars were poorly refrigerated and the need for ventilation was crucial. Sam’s pad was a must have for produce distributors and put him on the map. Sam was so inspired by the positive reception of his “lug liner”, he decided to start a business that would cater to the agricultural packaging industry with new and innovative packaging. Sam convinced Fernstrom and fellow employee of the Ferstrom paper mill, Dan Dayton, to help launch a business that would better serve the California agricultural community. With that, Sam, Fritz, and Dan would form the company F-D-S Manufacturing Company in Chino, California.
Advertisement for the FDS "Air Flow" Pad
Fernstrom, who lent his name to the company, worked for F-D-S Manufacturing Company as president for two years and Dayton, who originally worked as a salesman for F-D-S, soon quit to work with another company, which left Sam to be the sole owner and operator. Unfazed, by the recent departures, Sam and F-D-S were on the move. “Basically,” Sam said with a laugh, “I was the operating person from the start.” Sam was known to make light of his early commitment to the company, even though the company often required long days and weeks. Up until his death in 2004, Sam Stevenson was a vital part of F-D-S. He would frequently visit the F-D-S office and check on operations as well as attend board meetings.
Of course, these days F-D-S is hardly a small shop on the out skirts of a small dairy town. The main manufacturing facility in Pomona, California works in tandem with the 100,000 square foot distribution center in Fowler, California. Together, the two operations provide a wealth of paper and plastic packaging supplies to the agricultural and industrial industries. F-D-S’ industrial output consists of single face corrugated rolls, sheets, die cuts, wax paper, corner boards, build up pads, Titan tents (one plant miniature greenhouse), and cohesive single face corrugated. Aside from strawberry baskets, F-D-S thermoforms various sizes of clamshells and tray liners for fruit and vegetables. F-D-S’ clamshells have been tested and rated to be some of the “fastest coolers” of fruit on the market.
Sam's First Corrugating Machine
Besides the aforementioned capabilities, F-D-S has a veritable maze of equipment at the Pomona plant. Some of it was bought and used as it was intended. However, much of the equipment that fills the warehouses at F-D-S Manufacturing Company is custom designed and built to fill a particular need the company has had. Robert Stevenson, President of F-D-S Manufacturing Company and Sam’s son, explains that his father invented most of the machines used today, often with little mind to the creative genius behind his efforts. Although Sam has “always made a living,” his efforts have afforded him far more reason to boast. F-D-S is a top manufacturer in both the industrial and agricultural packaging industries. The secret, Sam felt, is devising materials and producing them at a price that has allowed it to remain competitive. Products like clamshells has allowed F-D-S Manufacturing to stay open even as competitors have had to close their doors. However, Sam said that F-D-S has fierce competition in every market it makes products for- a challenge Sam reveled rather than writher.
Various FDS newspaper advertisements through out the years
Past FDS logos from 1950, 1978 and 1990 before the recent redesign
To this day, F-D-S Manufacturing is still a family ran business and there are currently three Stevenson generations working at the manufacturing company.”
The article above, recovered from F-D-S' archives and written by Laurie Wiegler (lauriewiegler.com). The original article was published in the book Pomona: The Citrus Empire.
FDS Manufacturing Company is a family-owned and operated company that started in 1950 and has grown into a major manufacturer of Industrial and Agricultural packaging on the West Coast. Headquartered in Pomona, California with a 240,000 square foot manufacturing and warehousing facility and an additional 200,000 square foot warehousing facility in Fowler California. FDS Manufacturing also employs its own trucking fleet for quick reliable deliveries.
Current FDS Manufacturing Company Headquarters in Pomona, California
FDS Manufacturing produces high quality and eco-friendly standard and custom packaging and FDS has streamlined the processes to create these products. Currently, FDS uses extrusion, thermoforming, injection molding and unique paper converting processes to manufacture the products. FDS Manufacturing Company also has a full machine shop which allows us to maintain and create custom tooling for any of our customer’s various packaging needs.
FDS Manufacturing Company Warehouse in Fowler California
Today, FDS is a flourishing innovative Agricultural & Industrial Packaging company while preserving the environment. In 2009, FDS completed a co-generation or "Co-Gen" project which produces our own power, conserving energy, clean emissions, and utilizing 80% of the "Co-Gen" system to run our machinery.
FDS Manufacturing Company RPET Silos
FDS manufactures only recyclable PET clamshells & Fruit Trays as well as PET rolls which we regrind our own scrap to reuse in the product with minimal waste.
FDS uses a water soluble glue for single face products which is better for the environment.
FDS has taken the first steps in implementing traceability at the manufacturer's level.
FDS has always strived to grow with industry changes.
FDS Manufacturing Company's Co-Gen System
These eco-friendly and innovative steps in manufacturing coupled with our top- notch unsurpassed customer service and competitive prices is what makes us the leader in our industry.