Digital Magazine

Foil Converter Changes Course

Heat sealable lidding films make U.K.-based FFP Packaging Solutions Ltd. a leader in innovation.

Among the top three privately owned flex-pack converters in the U.K., FFP Packaging Solutions Ltd. ($35MM) began operations in the 1960s. The company was dedicated to the sole manufacture of gravure-printed aluminum foil for the confectionery industry. Located in Northampton, about one hour from London's Euston rail station, its original name was Foilwraps Flexible Packaging.

The company's first flexo press began printing in 1971 and two Kroenert wax laminators were added several years later. By the mid-1980s, FFP had become a leader in supplying converted flex-pack to the U.K.'s rapidly growing retail industry; its client list soon included Marks & Spencer, ASDA, Sainsbury's own label, and Waitrose.

The sale to Star Aluminium of FFP's aluminum foil printing and converting activities set the firm on a steady new course. Product lines were extended, markets added, and specialized flex-pack materials were developed for a wide range of applications.

In an exclusive PFFC visit, William (Willie) Mercer, the company's longtime technical manager, noted that FFP now prints exclusively by flexo. There are five flexo presses (manufactured by Windmoeller & Hoelscher and Paper Converting Machine Co.). A new PCMC Infinity gearless press is scheduled to be onstream this year. Lamination is accomplished with two Nordmeccanica and two DCM laminators. Solvent, aqueous, and solventless laminates are manufactured.

There is no extrusion capacity in-house; however, FFP does own a polyethylene (PE) extrusion plant in Worcester, U.K., obtaining material for its own internal needs both efficiently and economically.

Film suppliers include DuPont and BPI; Sun Chemical supplies ink. Rohm & Haas provides adhesives, and SAPPI is the paper supplier.

A substantial investment has been made in prepress. More than $400,000 was invested in a state-of-the-art prepress service based on the Barco (Esko-Graphics) Reprographic system networked to Apple Macintosh hardware. This offers the customer the latest digital artwork technology. FFP offers a completely integrated design and print service. There also is a newly equipped photopolymer platemaking plant.

Active Lidding Film
In 1985, FFP pioneered the introduction of a line of “Esterpeel” heat sealable lidding films. This was a construction based either on a heat seal or specialty lamination on polyester (PET) film. This soon led the firm into the emerging area of high-temperature lidding applications.

“Estersteam,” introduced to the market in 2002, is an “active” lidding film. The product line contains a range of self-venting lidding films that are heat sealable to thermoformed polypropylene (PP) trays. The lid opening is covered with a heat-sensitive label. When the package tray attains the required heat level, the label shrinks, thus allowing for package venting. Variable steam conditions can be created by adjusting the aperture size.Mercer told PFFC, “We are currently market testing this product with major fresh convenience food outlets.”

FFP also has introduced a “stabilo” package (quad pack), constructed from a metallized PET (MPET), that can be lap sealed for the full use of all faces of the pack, i.e., oriented PP/adhesive/MPET/adhesive/low-density PE. Its “block bottom” bag (OPP/adhesive/cast PP) offers a metallic appearance without the inclusion of metallized film. Called “Hi-Lustre,” the line consists of printed material that offers a metallized look. Stand-up pouch stock is supplied to the dried fruit industry with easy-tear features. This is printed MPET/adhesive/medium-density PE.

Sophisticated and Family Owned
With 235 employees, FFP is now a second generation, family-managed company. Robin Chudley, M.D., the firm's owner, told PFFC that “innovation is a key factor in FFP's success and in the development of our new product, Eastersteam. Our ultimate strength in the flex-pack business is having talented people coupled with the best plant money can buy applied to the changing retail environment.”

There is also a stringent environmental awareness at FFP. Chudley proudly showed PFFC the new solvent burner installation. It is located in the plant's front yard and firmly demonstrates that clean air is an FFP priority.

From foil confectionery packaging to providing flex-packs for frozen foods, prepared meals, dried fruit, and grains, FFP Packaging Solutions offers its customers a wide range of technical expertise. With its strong retailer base, the firm can be expected to develop even more sophisticated products in the future.

FFP Packaging Solutions

Tenter Rd., Moulton Pk., Northampton NN3 6PZ, U.K.; +44-01604-643535; ffppkg.co.uk

Kroenert Corp.—PFFC-ASAP 301. Cedar Rapids, IA; 319/366-6200; kroenert.com

Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp.—PFFC-ASAP 302. Lincoln, RI; 401/333-2770; whcorp.com

Paper Converting Machine Co.—PFFC-ASAP 303. Green Bay, WI; 920/491-6637; pcmc.com

Nordmeccanica NA—PFFC-ASAP 304. Edgewood, NY; 631/242-9898; nordmeccanica.com

DCM —PFFC-ASAP 305.Nanterre Cedex, France; +33-01-41-37-52-70; dcm.fr

DuPont Teijin Films—PFFC-ASAP 306. Hopewell, VA; 800/635-4639; duponttejinfilms.com

BPI British Polyethene Industries—PFFC-ASAP 307. Greenock, U.K.; +44 (0) 1475-501000; bpipoly.com

Sun Chemical Corp.— PFFC-ASAP 308. Fort Lee, NJ; 210/224-4600; sunchemical.com

Rohm & Haas Polymers & Resins North America—PFFC-ASAP 309. Philadelphia, PA; 215/592-3000; rohmandhaas.com

SAPPI Fine Paper North America—PFFC-ASAP 310. Boston, MA; 617/423-7300; sappi.com

Esko-Graphics— PFFC-ASAP 311. Kennesaw, GA; 770/427-5700; esko-graphics.com

Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. He is also the author of PFFC's “Package Converting” column. Contact him at 732/636-0885; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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