Each industry has its own challenges, every business its own perspective but within that is commonality and opportunities to develop and learn. With this in mind, FIG is developing a series of Industry Insights interviews, with business leaders and company owners.
In the first of our series we speak with Jacky Sidebottom-Every, Joint Managing Director at Glossop Cartons, to explore the challenges currently facing the packaging industry and how the company is maximising the opportunities for the taking.
One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of carton board packaging products, Glossop Cartons is a family firm based in Stockport. Its core market sectors include pharmaceutical and beauty, food and drink, vapes and household.
Jacky Sidebottom-Every has played a pivotal role in the growth of Glossop Cartons, from a start-up in 1982 to a 21st century market leader; increasing turnover and profit and maintaining a strong and loyal customer base of household names. With a clear vision Jacky, alongside husband and Joint Managing Director Brian, has ensured that innovation, quality and service are at the forefront of Glossop Cartons’ offering to meet the ever-changing requirements of its customers. Both have led the company to many industry firsts, including becoming one of the first carton companies to be British Standard accredited in 1992, to being world’s first to commission an innovative, digital cutting and creasing machine in 2013.
What has been motivating your own customers over the last financial year?
Without a doubt the important issues for most of our clients is sustainability. In terms of sourcing of materials and production process, there’s been growing investment in developing eco-friendly environmental materials and packaging. It is something which we’ve been investing in to meet the needs of our customers and deliver more conscientious and environmentally friendly packaging.
Alongside that, is of course Brexit… hard Brexit, soft Brexit – the uncertainty and indecision is felt by all businesses in both our sector and all the others with so many questions left unanswered. What is going to be affected and how it will impact over the coming months remains supposition – but it has been the low rumbling soundtrack of the year.
What have been the key challenges to your industry in the last 12 months?
World pulp prices have risen incredibly, leading to increases in GC boards and making life hard and putting fiscal pressures on us as a carton convertor. We try to absorb as much of the increase as possible but when necessary we have to look to our clients to meet that increase with us. It can be a tricky conversation to play out and is unwelcome (on both sides!), but our strong relationships with our clients have served us well.
Another key challenge is the development and skilling of a new generation labour force. The printing and packaging sector has, and needs, a workforce with expertise, skill and professionalism – but it is also an ageing workforce. We are taking steps to ensure we continue with our levels of expertise and agility by recruiting new blood. It can be challenging in a competitive employment market and as manufacturing is not seen as an immediately enticing career, we’re working hard to change young people’s impressions and convince them that our industry is a great sector to work in and can offer great prospects and opportunities.
What would be the one feature of the industry that you would change in 2019?
As for most people in my industry, Brexit is the main topic of conversation. That’s not likely to change soon but hopefully the impact of uncertainty will. We need clarity and we need it quick. That said, it’s not stopped us rolling out our expansion plans and investing in technology and workforce. So perhaps one feature for UK industry would be a refocusing on action and positivity.
How are you preparing for Brexit?
Brexit preparations are in hand , we will increase our consumables stock levels to create a buffer , we are encouraging clients to forward order so we can place orders with our board manufacturers for the next six months to ensure we have continuity of supply . We have the capacity to have bank accounts in both sterling and euros enabling us to receive payment or pay for goods in the most efficient and effective currency for the contract. We cannot see any other significant issues – there may be some impact and delay in customs procedures but we’re looking to build in contingency plans so that for example machine parts are not affected.
What are the key factors that will be driving your customer’s decisions and choices in the coming year?
Clients are looking for both unique packaging design along with reduced pack size. This is in turn being driven by growing consumer expectations and demand to reduce the carbon footprint and environmental impacts. We’re enabling them to meet that demand by innovating, developing and producing packaging which balances green and eco-conscious requirements with eye catching design and product safety needs.
On a human level – clients are looking for reliable trading partners to build relationships with. The personal touch, with a caring ethos and are willing to understand their business. This makes all the difference. They’re wanting to know that they are looked after in this very demanding and volatile retail environment. I believe that our expertise, heritage and expertise as a fast and nimble SME does give us an advantage to the larger multi-national organisations.
Looking forward, what is going to be your key area of focus?
We are at another exciting point in our journey. We have invested in talent and experience with new recruitment to our professional management team to deliver increased sales and performance.
Innovation and sustainability in our carton concepts are a given – it’s what drives and excites us – developing and looking to that next ‘big thing’.
To help us do that we’ve exciting plans for capital investment in both machinery and buildings this year. We’ve engaged architects to redesign a key business area to create a working environment which reflects our growth and innovation. It’s going to be more space efficient and modern and will create an impressive and memorable experience for guests when visiting Glossop Cartons whether they be clients or suppliers.