The knowledge amassed by those flexible packaging pioneers has continued to percolate throughout the land; and proof of this contention resides in Chris McLaughlin, who went on to become MD of Kohler Flexible Packaging, Cape Town, and eventually MD of Nampak Flexible.
By the time he left Nampak in 2006, he had risen to the considerable challenge of managing two plants – in Cape Town and Pinetown (KZN) – and then went on to repeat the experience as general manager of Afripack’s two flexible packaging plants in Paarl and Pinetown.
With that background, there can’t be any doubt that Chris thoroughly understands the ramifications of the flexible packaging game! And now he’s relishing a fresh challenge – establishing his own business, Supreme Packaging.
Inaugurated two years ago – when Chris found himself at a crossroads with the consolidation of Afripack’s two plants into the Pinetown operation and no wish to move away from the Cape – this fledgling enterprise is dedicated to the production of novel, speciality stand-up-pouches with a variety of fitment options. Products include the SUPerPouch, SUPerBota, SUPerJug, SUPerBarrel and SUPerBottle – all of which are registered trademarks and patent protected in South Africa and abroad.
Working with industry leaders
‘We’ve worked closely with industry leaders, such as Maverick Engineering,’ Chris explains.
The team at Maverick Engineering, led by Derek Fay (another with his roots in the Ndabeni breeding ground) has enormous and long-standing experience in designing and selling bag-in-box and pouch-making machinery, with customers as far afield as California in the west and China in the east.
It’s not surprising, therefore, to learn that the impressive 14-metre-long stand-up pouch-making machine at the Diep River premises has been specifically designed and manufactured by Maverick Engineering.
Chris emphasises that the machine is purpose built for the production of speciality pouches, and that it’s operated by highly-qualified and well-trained staff. The 900mm wide line copes with outputs over 1 500 pouches/hour, with the option of single or double gusset. Its clever modular design allows insertion of various fitments such as taps and spouts.
Continuing the Maverick connection, the flexo-printed laminates used to produce Supreme’s splendid array of pouches are supplied by sister company, Maverick Flexible. When longer, gravure-printed runs are required, the supplier of choice is Chris’s erstwhile employer, Afripack Consumer Flexibles.
Another key supplier is Conro Precision, a company that has been producing fitments – not only for local consumption but increasingly for the international bag-in-box market – for three decades.
‘With these companies firmly behind us, we enjoy the technical expertise and the necessary infrastructure to work with brand owners to provide fresh, innovative pouch designs,’ Chris asserts.
‘Our SUPer range is already being taken up by wine producers, mostly for export markets. We’re supplying pouches directly to customers in Russia, Australia and the US, and we’re currently undergoing an audit with a potential customer in the UK. Indirect exports go to Holland, Finland and Sweden for wine packed in South Africa,’ Chris continues. ‘However, we also see enormous potential for water, juice, ready-to-drink beverages, sauces, oils and detergents – especially for the catering trade, where space is often at a premium and pouches solves the problem of storing empty containers,’ he adds.
To meet the quality, health and safety requirements of such customers, Supreme Packaging has embarked on BRC certification, with accreditation expected towards the end of March.
The benefits of stand-up pouches in terms of improved marketing, consumer convenience, enhanced logistics and reduced environmental impact are already well documented. According to Chris, pouches offer an environmentally-friendly alternative to other packaging formats with a reduced carbon footprint and a lower impact on landfill.
However, Chris particularly underlines what he sees as a major selling point – that product remains fresh in the pouch for up to six weeks after first opening. ‘We offer a carefully-structured triple laminate of PE/metallised PET/PE (or a tailor-made laminate to suit a particular application), complemented by Conro’s no-return, drip-free tap. These two features together provide an outstanding oxygen barrier,’ he explains. ‘The new-age technology and materials that we use are allowing us to produce an ultra-strong pouch,’ he adds.
A recent development, the SUPerBarrel, offers this and other advantages.
For wine producers, it’s easily filled on standard bag-in-box filling machines; and its clever design includes perforations that allow it to be filled on link-fed lines. From an inventory-saving perspective, it’s also fitted with a standard bag-in-box handle.
For the retail trade, the SUPerBarrel is an ideal solution for crowded supermarket shelves – it holds three litres of wine (the equivalent of four 750ml bottles) with strong shelf appeal.
Another novelty from Chris and his team is the SUPerBota, named after the traditional pear-shaped Spanish container. Following the shape of the time-honoured leather container, it features a drinking spout at the tip of the pear and a rounded body that holds one litre of liquid. It’s protected by design applications in numerous countries, providing brand owners with exclusivity in any particular market.
Its surface area (front and back) can be printed in up to ten colours to maximise shelf appeal, and for downstream consumer convenience it features a shoulder strap for easy portability. ‘And its flip cap makes it almost impossible to “spike”,’ comments Chris with a grin.
The SUPerJug is yet another innovation – this pack can be tailored to suit a particular product and features a pour spout for easing dispensing. ‘In the US,’ Chris notes, ‘this pouch type has been used for motor oil.’
Summing up, Chris remarks: ‘As a team, we have many years’ experience in the flexible packaging industry, and our enduring relationships allow us to deliver superior product quality and customer service. Our next move is to produce substantially improved quad-seal bags. Our bags offer much improved strength and durability to withstand the rigours of a demanding supply chain. Our market focus will include pet food, agricultural products and many others.’
[Ed’s note: The new quad-seal machine (again specifically designed by Maverick Engineering) is due for installation as we go to press, so watch for further news in a forthcoming edition of PPM.]