The European flexible packaging market is bracing itself for considerable growth over the next few years. According to research carried out by Pira, volumes in pharmaceuticals are predicted to increase by eight per cent a year to 2005, whilst baked products will jump seven per cent per year, and dried foods and confectionery by six per cent. Almost three-quarters of packagers say they have at least one project which aims to substitute flexibles for rigids, it reports.
In short, the future is bright for those who are up to the challenge. The Spanish market in particular can be characterized as one of Europe’s rising stars. Key growth drivers are the increasing consolidation of the grocery retail market and more sophisticated consumer demands, which are leading to a greater focus on packaging performance and pack design in new product development. As a result, packaging is taking on a much more prominent role in the supply chain.
It was just these developing market conditions in Spain that sparked a decision by Alcan Packaging to invest a further €35M in its flexible packaging operation based in Alzira, near Valencia.
Commenting on the decision, Michael Cronin, Alcan’s president of Food Packaging & Food Services Europe, says: “Spain is a market of key strategic importance for Alcan Packaging. It reflects many of the trends we are seeing across Europe and has enormous growth potential, on which we are keen to capitalize. This major new operation will help us to provide outstanding service levels to our customers and strengthen our foothold in food flexibles. The company is delighted to be investing and growing at Alzira, where we have a great, customer focused operation and a highly skilled workforce. We believe that this will be probably the largest flexible packaging operation in Spain and one of the largest in Europe.”
Alcan Packaging Alzira has an 80-year history in the Spanish market. The company has grown from an artisan’s workshop specializing in carton trays for oranges to become one of the largest producers of flexibles, supplying packaging for snacks, frozen foods, instant coffee, confectionery, ice cream, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. Its manufacturing capabilities are diverse, covering extrusion lamination, metallizing, duplex and triplex laminates, extrusion coating, gravure printing and the in-line application of patterned coldseal.
The flexibles suite currently consists of three 1,200mm wide Cerutti gravure presses, up to 10 colours and all with in-line lamination. An extruder, two laminators, a metallizer and an army of slitters complete the armoury. As part of the move there will be some additional kit which the company prefers not to announce before the end of the year.
“The operation recorded a turnover of €66M in 2002 and was forecasting continuous growth over the next few years,” continues Michael Cronin, “so we have opted for a larger greenfield site on the outskirts of Alzira. This will give us the flexibility to expand and will create a state-of-the-art production environment with better working conditions. The move has been well received by both employees and our customer base.”
Construction is reported as progressing well, with transfer of production planned to start before the end of this year. The 100,000m2 site, which effectively trebles the size of the current operation, will be fully completed in 2004. The existing plant employs 550 people and it is hoped that by completion this new investment will have created around 70 further jobs.
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