THIS year, Seal Chemistry celebrates its 50th anniversary. The company has been manufacturing packaging coatings in South Africa since 1966, and had a long association with its parent company in the UK (which later became part of Sun Chemicals). When, in 1987, the South African operation became independent, technology links were retained through licensed agreements with the UK but, as MD, Doug Knox, relates, the agreement expired in 2008 and was not renewed.
As he explained back then, the resultant name change was purely cosmetic, as the company retained ownership of its technology. Since then, Seal Chemistry has continued to support the South African packaging industry through its capacity to provide innovative specifically suited to meet local market demands.
For five decades, this company – in both its guises – has taken the building blocks of international technology and reinvented them to meet local application techniques, local equipment and – most critically – climatic conditions. It has developed procedures and quality control methodologies to ensure consistent delivery and performance of high-end products. It’s not surprising to learn, therefore, that it has often produced ‘world firsts’ in supplying customers with specialised products.
For instance, in the days when nothing would stick to metallised BOPP, Seal Chemistry invented Tresprime, a water-based preprint primer that adhered at corona levels as low as 28 dynes. When a major confectioner wanted to create a bar line wrapper with a matt finish, first world experts were sceptical but the team at Seal Chemistry merely embraced it as another technical challenge. Today matt release lacquer is a standard product widely used on confectionary bar lines. Those are but two of a myriad examples.
‘Sealed in technology’
The Seal Chemistry philosophy is aptly described as ’sealed in technology’ and has been the driving force since Doug Knox took over as MD in 1996.
Doug’s career as a liquid ink technician kicked off in 1976 and he worked for a number of printing ink companies until 1987, when he joined the company as technical manager.
It was Doug who pioneered the use of offset water-based coatings in South Africa and was present when the product was run on the first in-line coater in the country.
‘The business is managed loosely along the lines of ubuntu,’ Doug remarks. ‘Ubuntu means being open and available, not feeling threatened by others. Such a person has the self-assurance that comes from knowing he belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished,’ Doug explains. This philosophy, he believes, has ensured that each team member delivers 100% of his or her capability, which directly impacts not only on the working environment, but also leads to dedication, passion and commitment to the business. ‘This is reflected in the outstanding service and product quality delivered to our customers,’ Doug further proclaims.
Providing technical support and critical product development to the team is Clint Angamuthoo, who joined the company in 1992 as a trainee technician. Under Doug’s tutelage, he has developed into one of the most outstanding, innovative, creative and authoritative technical figures in coating chemistry.
‘His innovative and creative ability, combined with his enthusiasm and commitment to the business, makes him a tour de force, relentlessly developing, fine-tuning and ensuring maximum effort to provide continual successful outcomes for our customers,’ Doug proudly comments.
Heading up the financial and administration department is financial director Richard d’Unienville. Richard first became involved with Swale as an auditor in 1999, which provided an insight into the company’s infrastructure. He then joined the company in 2003 as financial manager. Richard has overseen the implementation and upgrading of company systems and played a pivotal role in managing Seal Chemistry’s ISO9001 certification. In the deputy MD’s seat is Shalane Knox, who joined the company in 2001.
Although initially in a temporary position, Shalane’s proactive and meticulous nature led her to work through a wide variety of administrative functions and she subsequently took on the key responsibility of raw material and finished goods stock control, a vital aspect of any successful business.
Under Doug’s guidance, and as his former PA, Shalane has gained immense knowledge of the industry generally and has been increasingly involved with internal managerial aspects of the business.
The latest addition to the executive team is James Cammell, filling a new role as global marketing manager, working with existing customers at home and abroad.
James has brought some 26 years’ experience of the South African packaging industry to his new position. His formative packaging years were spent in the folding carton business, with some exposure to the corrugated sector, followed later by a move into flexible packaging.
‘We’re thrilled to have James as part of the team that remains focused and passionate about doing what’s right for the industry, its stakeholders and the environment,’ Doug comments. ‘The Seal Chemistry senior management team is sincerely passionate about its business and giving its all to ensuring our customers receive the best possible support in all facets of operations and that business is conducted with impeccable integrity and honesty,’ he adds.
Into the future with confidence
So much for the history and its current status, but where to from here is a crucial question for the Seal Chemistry team.
‘For the future, we’re looking forward to accelerating our past successes in a profoundly dynamic manner,’ is Doug Knox’s confident answer to this question.
‘This will be in a cohesive, compatible and symbiotic approach, both evolutionary and revolutionary, in the development of processes and products,’ he insists.
‘And,’ adds James Cammell, ‘high on our agenda are “new age” products that are fit for purpose, that make sense commercially and operationally for both converters and brand owners, particularly dovetailing with brand owners’ marketing strategies.’
As part of this agenda, Seal Chemistry now offers a fresh range of products under its Brave Blue Wave trademark. ‘These products meet and in some cases beat legal and environmental requirements, with no compromise on quality and at no added cost,’ James explains. ‘We’re thrilled to have reliable international technology partners who have assisted in the development of fit-for-purpose coatings and our latest Brave Blue Wave products.’
Working with all links in the chain
‘We believe it’s our responsibility to work closely with all links in the packaging chain – raw material suppliers, converters, brand owners and retailers – to find ways to reduce the stress that packaging causes in the environment. To succeed, focus is critical and typically project-driven. We believe in the responsible approach of “saving one star fish at a time”,’ James adds.
‘For instance, our current offering includes both wax and polyethylene alternatives for food packaging. We also have paper-strengthening coatings that can be used to reduce fibre by increasing crush strength. At various stages within our development pipeline there are exciting “first in-the-world”, revolutionary concepts. Such ideas will continue to grow and be further enhanced as time goes by.’
Seal Chemistry boasts a focused and passionate technical team with an in-depth knowledge of packaging – from the pot to the converter; from the brand owner to the retail shelf; and from the consumer to its final resting place.
And last word goes to Doug Knox: ‘In 2017, we start our next 50 years. The future requires a total recalibration and re-evaluation of many forms of packaging to achieve technological solutions in harmony and not at odds with economic and environmental requirements. Most importantly, we have to add economic value to each link in the packaging chain, while remaining aligned with the benefits offered to our society and our environment.’
Seal Chemistry’s range of products
Applications for gravure and flexo printing, including:
Cold seals and release lacquers
Water- and solvent-based over lacquers
Primers for improved ink adhesion
Universal heat seal coatings
Low-temperature heat seal coatings
Water-based heat seal coatings
Latest technology in high performance systems:
In-line and off-line water-based coatings for the litho printing process, including:
High gloss or matt coatings
Coatings for metallised papers or boards
Coatings that provide excellent foil adhesion
Barrier coatings that provide grease, water or oil resistance
Blister packaging coatings for PVC
Heat seal header card coatings
Water-based coatings for paper/corrugated board providing a ‘green’ recyclable alternative to poly-coating and wax, to impart:
Stiffness (fibre reduction)
Heat or deep freeze resistance
Water- and solvent-based pre-metallisation primers for:
Recyclable bottle labels