Most of medical team redeployed at print ops

Bluetree focuses on print growth as masks are mothballed

Bluetree: mask and print ops now individual trading entities
Medical division was successful at time of crisis

Bluetree Group has mothballed the equipment at its Medical division due to a decline in mask sales, and will focus on growth at its core printing operations instead.

Bluetree made a swift pivot to establish surgical mask manufacturer Bluetree Medical in the summer of 2020, when the UK was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic and facing huge shortages of PPE.

The firm became the first UK manufacturer of medical grade type IIR masks in the process, and subsequently won a huge contract to supply more than 350m masks to the Department for Health & Social Care.

However, with life and supply chains ‘normalising’ over the past 18 months post-pandemic, Co-CEO James Kinsella told Printweek that current mask volumes had fallen off.

“The medical division played a critical role in allowing the business to be successful through the pandemic but going forward it needed a contract with committed volumes each month which we didn’t have,” he explained.

“The plan going forward is to mothball the kit and focus all of our energy where we see the largest opportunities, firmly in print.”

The group had previously earmarked the 4,200sqm space that was used for mask production for expansion of its print offering anyway, and has revisited these plans.

Kingsbury Press, acquired just over two years ago, has been relocated into the unit, which is adjacent to Bluetree’s main 9,300sqm factory.

“This move has enabled Kingsbury to expand its offering, in particular utilising Landa for shorter run lengths,” Kinsella added.

The firm installed the first Landa S10P B1 inkjet press in the UK in 2020

“Critically by bringing together a wealth of binding experience we have been able to expand the range of products that we offer to our trade customers through Route 1 Print, something that will continue to grow as we move into the new year.”

Bluetree Medical had employed 19.

“There were six individuals that we were unable to offer roles to so have unfortunately left the business. The rest of the team have been redeployed across the print side and have taken roles in large format, print finishing and book binding.”

Kinsella said the most significant part of the reshuffle had been at the group’s senior management team.

Jon Smith who had been managing director of the Bluetree Medical business has taken the role of production director. Smith joined the business in 2015 and previously ran its Instantprint brand.

Phil Tasker is taking over as head of Kingsbury Press. He joined in 2022 and previously headed Route 1 Print.

Jack Parks, previously sales director at the mask business becomes head of Route 1 Print. He joined the business in 2019 and originally ran the Instantprint Direct brand.

“Getting all of our team aligned behind our biggest growth areas will allow the business to move faster than we could previously and enable us to expand the range of products and services that we offer to our customers,” Kinsella stated.

The firm recently invested £500,000 to boost its post-press setup ahead of the Christmas season, and further investment is on the cards.

The overall Bluetree Group, including its medical wing, had sales of nearly £94m in the year to 30 April 2022. The Bluetree Print operation had sales of £50.4m, up 52% on pandemic-impacted 2021.