After a year of global economic uncertainty being faced by all business sectors in the UK, particularly the manufacturing industry, the arrival of 2023 was one that was welcomed by many as a new year with new possibilities. With the constant backdrop of inflation and rising supply costs starting to ease slowly, it feels like hope is back on the horizon and that manufacturing businesses can begin planning for the future again.
As part of this planning, we expect to see the focus put back on what really matters to manufacturing businesses that may have taken a back seat over the past 12 months such as sustainability, technology and innovation. At Clearly Drinks Group these three pillars are so important to us to ensure we can meet the changing trends and needs of both consumers and our clients whilst reaching our ambitious business goals and gaining profit.
We anticipate that technology and automation will take centre stage again throughout the year as manufacturers feel confident enough financially to invest back into business solutions that will make production processes quicker and easier and help to increase productivity and reduce overall costs. Within manufacturing in the FMCG category, technology and robotic automation play an even more important role, helping with quality control and improved product line scheduling.
For example, we installed our new canning facility in 2021 after spotting a gap in the market during the pandemic. The bespoke machinery’s speed and efficiency have allowed us to offer high flexibility for product and packaging and grow our customer base with contract filling for household brands such as Britvic and Fentimans, as well as now having more capacity for new contract clients now that we can offer the customer multi-can sizes and packaging formats. The can line is capable of producing 250ml, 330ml (fit and squat) and 150ml cans, as well as allowing products to be packed in trays and shrink or environmentally-friendly wrap-around cardboard boxes.
We also see sustainability being more important than ever to manufacturers as consumers and stakeholders seek out businesses that have a clear vision for the environment and have realistic roadmaps in place to make the plans a reality. Businesses now must be working towards becoming carbon neutral, increasing recycling and reducing energy consumption – all things we have implemented over the past year.
The demand for plastic alternatives is growing year after year and we expect to see FMCG manufacturers of all sizes look to more eco-friendly solutions to compete in the market. In particular, the demand for cans is growing as shoppers make more conscious buying decisions and choose to put canned drinks in their baskets over plastic due to cans being infinitely recyclable. Despite the turbulent economic environment, we anticipate that manufacturers will still look to prioritise the environment where they can and invest in sustainability this year.
When it comes to drinks trends, it’s all about functional health and the soft drinks category will be riding the wave in 2023. As part of innovation, manufacturers should look at how they can expand into these health and wellness categories, in order to add that value. Functional categories are continuing to strengthen, ensuring retailers can retain existing buyers in the category as well as attract new shoppers that are key to growth.
Manufacturers must take notice of this as consumers look to spend their money on drinks that have additional benefits, whether that be CBD, kombucha, or vitamin drinks. We are seeing more and more of our contract clients expanding into these categories, so over recent years it has been crucial for us to learn, innovate and be flexible to these trends which has allowed us to become experts in both functional can and PET products. Our expertise has now opened the doors to multiple high-profile client wins in the functional health space.
After a difficult year for so many, it’s exciting for us all to get back on track and plan for the future. Over the next eight months, it will be promising to see the manufacturing sector get back to doing what it does best and being an industry with significant growth and investment as well as one that helps to make the planet a better place.
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About the author
Ian Forrester is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Clearly Drinks Group with notable engineering experience within HSE, production, logistics, and strategic planning. Ian has worked within operations and engineering at several household drinks brands throughout his career including Carlsberg Group and Britvic PLC, before taking up his role as operations director at Clearly Drinks Group in 2019 and then COO in 2021, where he has supported world-class manufacturing implementation at its Sunderland site.