The current backlash against single-use plastics has caused a number of the group’s customers to ask about potential alternatives to traditional polywrap.
“Paper wrap is not a new thing for us and we’ve been doing paper wrapped DM products for years,” explained sales director Lance Hill. “The big difference is being able to do it using a lightweight paper, whereas previously it was a heavier paper that doesn’t lend itself to bulkier products.”
Hill said that Lettershop managing director Simon Cooper and the R&D team at the business had spent months perfecting the new offering, starting with sending handmade samples through the post to test robustness, and progressing to machine tests and bespoke engineering of its CMC lines, and then trials with the Royal Mail to ensure that barcode readability was acceptable.
“Our existing machines are geared around A5 products, so we’ve done a lot of work on A4-format because the bigger potential is in A4. We had to work out whether we could make this work commercially using a lightweight coated material,” Hill said.
He said that although a paper wrap was more expensive than polywrap, it was important to look at the overall project cost.
“With paper wrapping we can offer a full Mailmark product,” he explained. “You can’t look at it in isolation. If you get the specification right it can be cost-neutral when you factor in the postage and sustainability discounts.”
Cooper added that tray discounts were also possible because the paper wrapped products were easier for Royal Mail to process. “From a sortation point-of-view they get better fill per tray. Royal Mail are happy because we are embracing their automation,” he noted.
“Magazine publishers have got massive issues because people don’t want to see things in plastic. We’re also looking at the potential to produce in-store magazine bundles using translucent paper instead of plastic.”
Lettershop is using a 65gsm paper for the wrap that can be printed reel-to-reel using its M4000 32pp web offset press or on its Kodak Prosper inkjet press, with variable content if required. It has run tests with stitched and perfect bound products up to 5mm thick.
“We’re not limited by cut-off on the Prosper so we can print any length and put variable messaging or targeting on it, for example local store information,” Hill explained.
“The marketing potential of that is really exciting and we have clients in the publishing sector excited that they can also sell that real estate.”
The firm has two live jobs booked in for next month including a major brand that has a regular publication, and a project for a big supermarket chain. A large number of customers want to test the process.
Capex has already been approved to add additional paper wrapping capacity. The group currently runs five polywrapping lines across its Pindar and Chantry factories, and Cooper said the intention was to carry out bespoke conversions so the lines can handle both polywrap and paper wrap.
“Interest is really strong. I think if people could use paper, they would,” he said.
YM Group had sales of £120.5m last year. It has print sites in Leeds, York, Scarborough and Wakefield producing a range of products including direct mail, retail flyers, catalogues and magazines.