In Memoriam - Karl Gunia

Written by
KGI Marketing Team
Published on
July 2, 2024 at 4:28:28 PM PDT July 2, 2024 at 4:28:28 PM PDTnd, July 2, 2024 at 4:28:28 PM PDT

Karl Gunia

February 15, 1948 – June 25, 2024

We are heartbroken to report the recent loss of Karl Gunia, 76, the founder and retired CEO of K.G. International (KGI). Karl passed away peacefully on June 25, 2024, surrounded by his loving family.

 Karl was born on February 15, 1948 in Uetersen, Germany to Kurt and Elfride (Kays) Gunia. He became an apprentice with the Hamburg-based trading firm, August Harms, in 1965, which gave him the opportunity to leave post-World War II Germany and seek his fortune in the Caribbean. In 1968, Karl arrived in Georgetown, Guyana, where he was embedded with a local agent to learn how to sell in the region. He subsequently moved to Trinidad in 1969 and to Martinique in 1970, all while representing August Harms and building his network of customers and contacts. In those days, Karl traveled throughout the islands lugging nine suitcases filled with samples and catalogs, which he oftentimes transported on a donkey cart. In the absence of modern forms of communication at the time, it took weeks before sales orders could be confirmed and processed through the mail.

 In 1971, Karl met the love of his life, Gracie Sacaan, in Kingston, Jamaica, prompting him to move there and ultimately get married to her in 1972. Karl and Gracie emigrated to Miami, Florida in 1976 to settle down and pursue the American dream. After gaining experience in the packaging industry in Miami during the late 1970s and early 1980s, Karl saw an opportunity to serve the packaging needs of the Caribbean region.

 He founded KGI in November 1982 and set out to grow the nascent packaging distribution business by leveraging his vast network of contacts and deep knowledge of the region. By the late 1980s, the company added chemicals and ingredients to its product portfolio, thereby becoming a one-stop supplier for Caribbean manufacturers. This unique value proposition resonated with customers large and small, fueling the company’s growth and establishing KGI as a leading regional supplier for packaging, chemicals, and ingredients.

 In 2003, Karl's eldest son, Nicholas (Nick), joined the KGI team to follow in his father’s footsteps. Shortly afterwards, KGI entered the United States market, where the company’s hybrid approach gained immediate traction among manufacturers in South Florida. Recognizing the potential for growth, Karl's twin sons, Mark and Matthew, joined the KGI team in 2006 and 2009, respectively, to help operate the business. With the management support of his three sons, Karl was finally able to spend more time on his hobbies, which included fishing, reading, and spending time with his beloved grandchildren.

 Although Karl retired from his day-to-day responsibilities in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, he remained involved with the business to the end. Karl cared deeply about the “KGI family,” consisting of customers, supply partners, and team members. He was extremely proud to see the company expand beyond the Caribbean region and grow to over 40 team members under the leadership of his sons.

 Karl is survived by Gracie, his wife of 52 years, three sons, Nick (KGI’s CEO), Mark (KGI’s Vice President of Packaging), and Matthew (KGI’s CFO and Vice President of Chemicals & Ingredients), nine grandchildren, two sisters, and numerous other relatives, including nieces, nephews, and cousins. Karl will live on through their cherished memories of him, not to mention through his sons and grandchildren, and of course through KGI. 

 If you have any photos, memories, or stories of Karl that you would like to share with us, please don’t hesitate to reach out.


The KGI Team