Perfectly packaged

Posted on 7 May 2009 by The Manufacturer

An in-depth knowledge of its market coupled with a forward-thinking, innovative strategy has ensured that Benson Group stays ahead of the game, as TM finds out.

Benson Group is the UK’s fastest growing food packaging company. With a staff base of 790, it has been manufacturing packaging products for over 85 years and is currently headquartered in the Midlands. Annual sales now total £85m, with clients including GlaxoSmithKline, Northern Foods and Greencore, as well as leading supermarkets. The company has two manufacturing facilities in northeast England, with food manufacturers counting for the majority of customers for these sites and the company headquarters. Pharmaceutical customers are served by the fourth site, Medica Packaging, which is based in Crewe.

Benson’s defined strategy when it comes to quality products comes down to what it calls the “three ps” – protection, preservation and promotion. All of the packaging manufactured by Benson Group aims to excel within all three areas.

Food manufacturing clients come to Benson for chilled, frozen, ambient and cereal product packaging. It is one of the largest suppliers of cartons for the chilled food sector in the UK and is able to employ an in-depth knowledge of this area’s specific requirements. Chilled food preservation, for example, is obviously key – and this is something that Benson appreciates and incorporates into the services it offers. The company is clearly committed to ensuring it is at the cutting edge of developments in its industry, and an investment of over £25m across its sites since 2000 goes a long way to demonstrating this.

The company’s expertise is wide-ranging. It offers packaging design from scratch at the Leicester, Gateshead and Newcastle sites, making use of its full CAD capabilities. By using its design experience it is able to work closely with the customer to maximise the individual product’s shelf appeal.

At its Medica packaging facility, the company supplies to the consumer, generic, clinical and research markets, supplying a diverse range of customers within these individual sectors. It has even branched out into supplying patient information leaflets; in addition, it has a place on the Braille Medicines Forum and uses its own in-house expertise to ensure this issue is kept at the forefront of the company’s development plans as both legislation and opportunities develop. Brand protection is also an important part of Medica’s operations and its experienced staff have a thorough understanding of anti-counterfeiting and developments within this area – obviously a key consideration for pharmaceutical
companies, as is a firm emphasis on health and safety underpinned by the Group’s OHSAS 18001 standard accreditation.

Working closely with its customers has always been a key element of Benson’s
success. Having access to customers’ sales and product forecast information for example, can ensure that orders for existing, new or re-designed packaging are anticipated ahead of time. This also enables the company to propose efficient production solutions to all of its clients.

Clearly well-respected within its industry, Benson won the Packaging Company of the Year Award, as well as the Cartonboard Packaging Award at last year’s UK
Packaging Awards at Grosvenor House on Park Lane in London. Speaking after the event, group chairman Andrew Benson commented: “Benson Group has enjoyed unparalleled growth since 2002, when the business had an £11 million turnover. This year, the company expects turnover to have reached £85 million, which has been achieved through both organic growth and astute acquisition. This fantastic performance has been due to a highly professional management team, with a vision for what we needed to become as a business, and a great set of employees on the production floor.”

Being environmentally-conscious is perhaps not the first thing that is naturally associated with a packaging company; but Benson is working hard to reverse this stereotype. It is widely accepted that cartonboard is an environmentally-friendly form of packaging; furthermore, the group uses only FSC- and PEFC-approved suppliers when making its purchases for the manufacture of its packaging – that is, any new wood used in the process is sourced from responsibly managed forests. The company is also making great strides in working towards ISO 14001-accreditation and its headquarters was the first carton business in the country to eliminate benzophenone from inks and varnishes. In addition, it uses emissions-efficient delivery vehicles – another demonstration of how seriously it takes environmental issues.

The company is rightly proud of its many certifications of quality and high standards; these include the FSC Chain of Custody, the ISO9000 quality management standard, Investors in People and category B within the British Retail Consortium / Institute of Packaging (BRC/IOP) Global Standard for Packaging – all proof of Benson’s commitment towards creating and maintaining quality across all sectors of the business, not purely its manufacturing operations.

In addition to its environmentally-conscious stance towards doing business, the company is also aware of its position within the local community – for example, it sponsors the U14 team at the local Ashyby Rugby Club. “We are always keen to give something back to the community, and children’s sport is a great way to do that,” explains Mark Kerridge, Benson Group’s managing director. “Jonathan, one of our sales executives, is a huge fan, and dedicates a lot of his spare time to the rugby club, and we are delighted to help out with sponsorship money for kit and equipment.” Last year the company was also involved with the Diamond Jubilee Horse of the Year when it sponsored the Small Show Hunter of the Year event.

It is clear that as packaging requirements expand and technologies evolve, Benson Group will evolve as well. The company has proved itself to excel in the marketplace and has clearly got the knowledge base, expertise and vision to capitalise on its success thus far.