Digital growth

HP and BPIF outline folded carton opportunities at Kalas event

Padley: Kalas growth "is snowballing" thanks to HP Indigo 30000

HP and the BPIF hosted a special open house event last week at Boston United FC, as well as a tour of nearby Indigo user Kalas Packaging’s premises, with the numerous current opportunities in the digital folded carton market outlined by all involved.

Taking place on Thursday afternoon (30 November) following lunch at the National League North team’s grounds, the day featured introductions and presentations from HP Indigo UK & Ireland manager Peter Jolly, UK & Ireland business manager for folded carton Tony Lock, BPIF Cartons general manager Jon Clark, and Kalas Packaging managing director Jonathan Padley.

In attendance at the event were BPIF partner members including W. H. Leary and Arden Dies, and several existing HP customers, from label printers through to general commercial, book and direct mail printers, many of whom praised the support and advice they receive and can share from being part of the wider HP community.

The BPIF’s Clark said that in 2022, the UK folding carton industry had a turnover of nearly £1.4bn – up from £1.21bn in 2021, employing 7,250 people, and with 718,000 tonnes of board converted in the UK industry per annum.

Food makes up around 75% of the industry’s UK turnover, at around £1.03bn, with non-food accounting for the rest. Domestic sales made up £1.23bn – or 89.7% of turnover in 2022, with export sales accounting for the remainder.

“BPIF Cartons is a special interest group within the BPIF and represent over 90% by value of the UK folding carton industry, which is critical by my perspective when I’m talking to government civil servants, in that it gives me some credence in how we deal with government,” said Clark.

He also gave an overview of the “tsunami of legislation either with us or heading our way, and increasing day by day”, including the EU Deforestation Regulation, and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

HP Indigo’s Lock, meanwhile, addressing the questions ‘why now? why digital?’, highlighted a number of case studies from brands and Indigo users to highlight the potential of both the Indigo technology and its market uses.

“We think it’s a very good time for companies to start investing in this technology,” he said.

“It’s a very unpredictable world that we live in and we as HP Indigo typically do well when there’s massive change and disruption.”

Lock continued: “One of the main trends that’s happening – and there’s huge evidence of this – is that the supply chain is reorganising, and for the first time in human civilisation, manufacturing is starting to move back closer to the consumer.

“Packaging is changing all the time – we see a lot of regulatory change, particularly in pharma and healthcare, for example. And regulatory change means there’s adding to a lot of waste.

“The workforce is also changing – HP has an intern programme and takes in around 50 interns every year for their work experience year. It’s fascinating talking to young people who are at university – they have a completely different outlook on life to a person of my generation, and on what they want out of a career, and I think a digital solution is more attractive than an analogue process.

“And on sustainability – what if all packaging in the world was printed on HP Indigo? According to Accenture, we’d have a 30% reduction in packaging waste. Some of that is in the makeready and production, some of that is the fact they’re throwing away packaging that was printed six months ago and is now no longer correct.”

Between sessions at the event, a short excursion to Boston-based Kalas Packaging gave attendees a chance to see the wide range of print and finishing kit run by the business, which in late 2016 became the first company in the UK to take delivery of an HP Indigo 30000 Digital Press for folding cartons.

Kalas Packaging’s Padley said the business, which was established in 1987 as a jobbing printer doing business cards, letterheads, and invoice books, “spent the next 25 years running away from digital”.

It had initially moved to become a commercial printer, producing leaflets, brochures, magazines, and catalogues, before eventually going into packaging and by 2000 it was “a fully-fledged B1 carton printer”.

After it bought the Indigo 30000 in 2016, the business trialled various types of work on the press, including personalisation jobs, but ultimately found its sweet spot for the machine with carton printing, including some variable data work but not one-off style personalisation jobs.

While the business has continued to enjoy success in the horticultural sector, which used to make up the majority of its turnover, its recent growth has been fuelled by the production of cartons and sleeves on the Indigo 30000.

“We’ve gone for short-run work – we’re looking for companies that have a small carton so we can get a lot on a B2 sheet, and people with hundreds if not thousands of SKUs at very limited profiles,” said Padley.

The company now produces work for the tobacco and healthcare, food, and gifting sectors, and also works with artisan producers and start-up manufacturers.

Padley added the company’s growth “is snowballing, and every bit of growth is because of this machine”.

The day concluded with a stadium tour at the football club followed by drinks and networking, then dinner.

Last week’s event followed HP’s October gathering of customers and Indigo experts at its London office for its first-ever UK Packaging Forum event.