Lloyd’s predecessor, Ivan Ortlepp, purchased one of Cibapac’s operations – Unsgaard & Samson – and has relocated the business away from Cibapac’s Montague Gardens (Western Cape) factory campus. With the removal of this product portfolio, Cibapac now splits clearly into two major divisions, FFT (Foam, Film & Trayliners) and an ever-expanding Flexibles division.
This restructure has involved the closure of the extruded polystyrene production facility in Cape Town and its re-establishment at Cibapac’s Alrode (Gauteng) complex, making this the largest plant of its kind in that province, and leaving the focus in Cape Town firmly on flexible packaging. Providing even sharper focus, each division now has a dedicated sales team – in Gauteng, the FFT division is headed by sales manager Ian Smit, while in Cape Town Flexibles is led by Ismail Juta.
‘We’re customer-focused and offer a wide selection of world-class packaging products that allow us to provide comprehensive solutions,’ Lloyd explains. ‘We continually expand our portfolio to cover all major food-related packaging, and our dedicated sales teams bring specialised skills and experience to the company and ultimately to our customers. They’re hugely valuable in realising our key mission to support customers’ requirements for innovative and cost-effective packaging.’
Hot news is that the ink is barely dry on an agreement with former parent company, Linpac, following Lloyd’s most recent visit to the UK, in late January, bringing the company full circle in the space of six years. Previously the South African arm of Linpac Packaging, Cibapac was created in 2009, when ownership was transferred to management and two private equity partners, Leaf Private Equity and Clearwater Capital.
Over the intervening years, however, an excellent relationship has been maintained and Cibapac has continued to hold exclusive rights to some Linpac lines through licensing agreements. According to Lloyd, this renewed alliance with Linpac will now bring a range of innovative, world-class products to the Southern African market.
As examples he mentions trays for modified atmosphere packaging (MAP), including the award-winning Elite tray system, and a full range of MAP lidding products, including shrinkable, skin and peel/resealable lidding. Linpac also offers Multilin and Optilin polyolefin cling films.
Lloyd adds that Linpac will collaborate with Cibapac at high-level product innovation forums, which will result in new packaging being released simultaneously in South Africa and Europe!
Expanding the flexibles footprint
Cibapac’s Flexibles division already supplies a multitude of products such as shrink pouches and vacuum bags, polony casings, laminated/coextruded films, and base and lidding materials, but emerging as a significant new market for this division are laminated and printed pouches, supplied in a growing array of shapes and sizes and fitted with sophisticated features such as resealable zipper closures, Euro-slots, tear notches and bottom gussets.
In fact, there’s a relentless move from commodity-type products to higher-technology, higher-value products; and facilitating this process are two key executives – Martin Carew (technical manager), who joined the company some 18 months ago, and Ismail Juta (sales manager: Flexibles), who joined Cibapac from Sealed Air in 2008. They both have considerable knowledge of new product development and enviable experience in flexible packaging technology.
Another valuable member of the team is Gareth Roberts (manufacturing manager), who joined Cibapac from Astrapak last July and has been assisting Martin and Ismail by improving manufacturing standards and efficiencies.
‘Our focus is on developing new products and regularly releasing them to the market,’ Lloyd continues. ‘And this is where Martin, Ismail and Gareth play key roles.’
Just one example he cites that’s due for imminent release is Cibapac’s Paper Form packaging – a thermoformable high-barrier, paper-based material that can be shaped and filled on horizontal form-fill-seal machines and closed with suitable lidding material.
In view of this ongoing expansion into flexible packaging as a fundamental strategy, it’s not surprising to learn that plans are afoot to expand production capacity. ‘We’re running at full capacity at the moment,’ says Lloyd, ‘so we’re seriously considering investment in new extruders, printing presses, laminators, slitter-rewinders and bag- and pouch-making equipment.’
Serving the food industry
Cibapac is a well-established participant in the red meat, poultry, fish and dairy packaging sectors and a market leader in several fields such as vinyl cling film; shrink pouches and vacuum bags for meat and cheese; fibrous and polymer casings for polonies and processed meats; extruded polystyrene (EPS) ‘foamo’ trays for meat/poultry, fresh produce, bakery and fast foods; and APET base and lidding films for thermoformed and modified atmosphere packaging (MAP).
When it comes to fresh meat packaging, the sector rests on a solid base: the ‘foamo’ tray. It’s by far the pack of choice for fresh meat/poultry and has no peer when comparing cost, optimal simplicity, strength, lightweight protection, and low environmental impact.
Cibapac’s extensive choice of ‘foamo’ trays is complemented by high-gloss vinyl (PVC) food films – the company is one of the largest suppliers in South Africa, producing over 400 tons of this modern-day essential every month.
While food regulatory bodies around the world have verified that health and environmental concerns around PVC are massively overblown, Cibapac has acknowledged fears about traditional plasticisers used to make vinyl film and following extensive trials has adopted natural plasticisers, without affecting stretch or cling properties.
Vinyl cling film has qualities and a track record that have not been matched by any other food protection film. These are stretchability, permeability to oxygen and water, food preservation at low cost, visual appeal and cling performance. And now, with the close association with Linpac, sophisticated polyolefin stretch films are added to the line-up.
Another key trend is growth in the use of vacuum bags for a variety of fresh meat lines, from roasts and racks, to marinated ribs and kebabs – and this is of benefit to both consumers and butchers. Consumers want the assurance that fresh meats and poultry are fresh and safe to eat, and vac bags add to that promise. For butchers, vac bags offer cost and labour efficiencies, especially in extending shelf life and reducing the reworking of meat or write-offs.
But not all vac bags are created equal. While the conventional wisdom is that price is all that matters for commodity packaging, this isn’t the full story. In fact, a great deal of sophisticated technology goes into Cibapac’s vacuum bags to ensure efficiency. They comprise a market-leading five layers for optimal functionality, including a sandwiched nylon layer that creates an oxygen barrier to retard bacterial growth. They also have excellent clarity to enhance retail display and merchandising.
Getting the BRC ticket
Underlining Cibapac’s commitment to the food industry in general and to the protein industry in particular, the company boasts the highest-possible A-grade rating for BRC (British Retail Consortium) and is annually audited for this rigorous international standard that demands strict risk, quality and safety management systems.
However, there is a concern in the market. As Lloyd argues, responsible companies such as Cibapac spend vast sums on BRC and other food safety systems, yet foam, PVC film, vacuum bags, polony casings and trayliners are being sold to meat/poultry packers, and ultimately to retailers and consumers, that do not comply with minimum food safety standards. ‘It’s important that customers check whether products have the BRC tick of approval,’ he insists. ‘This can be easily verified on the BRC website.’
Admitting that organic growth is difficult in the current economic climate, and given the competitive nature of the local market, Lloyd’s closing remarks concern the possibility of making acquisitions as part of Cibapac’s growth strategy. ‘We will certainly consider the purchase of local manufacturers of complementary products, as well as JVs with local and international players,’ he explains.
Finally, Lloyd stresses, what makes Cibapac unique among its peers in the food packaging sector is the calibre of its people.
‘We’ve always prided ourselves on building teams of highly-qualified, experienced and customer-centric technical sales staff, with an ability to customise products to meet specifications, and to get them to market in the shortest possible time while ensuring the highest quality. In future, to improve their technical skills even further, in addition to regularly attending international exhibitions such as IFFA, Anuga and the K-show, they’ll travel to the UK regularly to work with Linpac.’