- August 31, 2004, Stanley Sacharow, The Packaging Group Inc.
The demands of major retailers and supermarkets in the UK spark novel, innovative flexible packaging.
With the highest concentration of flexible packaging converting plants in Western Europe, the UK (pop. 60 million) holds an estimated 35% of Europe's major converting operations. It's a nation of relatively strong consumer purchases and a “shopper's paradise,” where most of the continent's leading retailers have a “high” street presence. The UK's flex-pack industry had sales of about US$2.0 billion in 2003.
Home of Amcor Flexibles Europe, Printpack Europe, and BPI, there are also a variety of specialized converters, Clondalkin Group Holdings Ltd. (Dublin, Ireland), the Alcan/Pechiney group (formerly Lawson Mardon), Lintac Plastics Ltd., and others that form the nucleus of the nation's diverse flexible packaging industry.
There are many unique characteristics among flexible packaging products in the UK. As the most sophisticated market in Europe, the nation is a world leader in modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), pioneered by Marks and Spencer (M&S). The UK is the European leader in the use of retort pouches and is a strong factor in the future growth of metallized films and aluminum foil. Because of its high fruit juice consumption, it's a nation where many novel juice packages debut.
Because of the high level of flexible packaging in the UK, it is expected future growth will be primarily through material substitution and retailer demands. The major supermarkets in the UK provoke packaging changes to a degree not found in other European nations. Tesco, Sainsbury's, M&S, and Morrison's work closely with their suppliers and maintain sophisticated packaging departments that interact with flex-pack converters. Newly developed products such as retortable lidding stock, “cold-chain” prepared foods, retort pouch-packed soups, and various innovative snack packs are initiated by retailers.
Converting equipment is a strong UK industry. Both Bobst Titan and Bobst Atlas, which supply slitters and rewinders, as well as Bobst General, a supplier of vacuum coating and metallizing equipment, are located in the UK. Joining the Bobst Group in early 2004, both firms are located near Bedford, where their machines are manufactured. Ashe Controls, located near Ipswich, manufactures machine controls as well as a full line of slitters and rewinders. Near Somerset, Elite Cameron/TS Converting produces rewinders and coaters.