In January 2006, NewAge Industries’ owners signed paperwork that sold 30% of the plastic tubing manufacturer to its employees. The ceremony was a notable step in the company’s journey to employee ownership.
Now, fifteen years later, NewAge is 100% employee owned. The company’s ESOP — Employee Stock Ownership Plan – rewards long term employees at retirement and has allowed several to retire earlier than originally planned. The ESOP encourages employees’ commitment to NewAge Industries; employees know and understand how their actions and work ethic affect not only their customers but their coworkers, their families and their futures.
That commitment was tested in 2020 like no year before and involved team leaders and team members from sales, engineering, marketing and other departments assisting in manufacturing and with other critical tasks. The groups worked together, learning new assignments and adjusting work hours, with one thing in mind: customers.
Ken Baker, the company’s CEO and former majority owner, noted that over the years, he’d had hundreds of offers to sell NewAge to competitors and businesses with complimentary product lines.
“What’s the easiest way to squash your competition or to expand your product offering? Buy another company. But I didn’t want to take the money that was being offered and walk away from the business my father started in 1954,” said Baker. “NewAge has been part of my life almost as far back as I can remember. My father and I and my family put a lot of hours and sweat equity into growing NewAge. And there are people who’ve worked here for 20, 25, 30 years. I wanted to reward them in a meaningful way for their hard work, dedication and loyalty.”
NewAge became a 100%-employee-owned company in September 2019 when the final portion of company stock was sold to the ESOP.
“Employee ownership is new for most of the people who come to work here,” noted Baker. “Every new team member attends classes to learn what an ESOP is, how ours works, the difference between stock and cash accounts, and how money from the ESOP is distributed to retirees. We want everyone to understand how this system works and how it puts into place a succession plan for NewAge and our AdvantaPure, BrewSavor and Verigenics brands.”
Since the plan’s inception in 2006, the privately-held company’s share price has appreciated 975%.
“It’s certainly something to be celebrated. You don’t get returns like that in the stock market,” observed Baker.