Grimsby print specialist has designs on lunch bags getting the green message out

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 25 Jan 2019

A Grimsby company’s innovative lunch bag design project is seeking a place in the National Curriculum.

Ultimate Packaging’s Kids Ink web-to-print platform, launched last summer, allows children to create their own lunch bags, using the latest creative design, IT and hygiene developments to bring it forward.

Highly commended at the UK Packaging Awards as 2018 came to a close, Chris Tonge executive director at Ultimate Group, used it as one example of how well placed the business is as printing enters a new era.

He said: “It has been an exciting project which has involved several departments, creative design, marketing, IT/Smartflow and our digital print team. The key was to make the drawing tool very flexible and then just let kids' imaginations and variable digital print do the rest.

“The kids can totally develop their own design, it is not restricted. They can draw, add photographs, stickers, and the whole thing is designed online and ordered through schools nationally. We have done 10 schools, and now it is going out on a national basis.”

STRONG MESSAGES: Work in progress on the Kids Ink line. 

Hygenic, it is lined with biomister, with handle and frame made from the same material, which is fully recyclable. “We are really taking the technology used on KitKat a stage further,” Mr Tonge said.

That project saw Ultimate fulfil a huge personalisation campaign for the confectionery giant. Now the plan for Kids Ink is to encourage children to be creative, but also helped them learn about current affairs.

Grimsby-based KAM Plastics, a recycling provider, works with Ultimate to ensure the bags are 100 per cent recyclable.

“This has been a really rewarding campaign to be involved in for us," Mr Tone said. "Our front end drawing and tool enables the kids to be really creative and design their own unique, hygienic, re-usable lunch bag which can then be easily recycled at end of life."

Read more: Ultimate demonstration underlines why Grimsby print specialist is at the front of the pack

He told how children have also written messages on their bags such as ‘recycle plastic’, ‘one person can change the world’ and ‘be nice’. "These positive words are reinforcing responsible behaviour and awareness," he said. "Kids Ink is making a difference to education across the UK."

It comes after Mr Tonge welcomed business leaders to tour the digital lab on Europarc, as part of a Marketing Humber visit. He said: “We were a reluctant manufacturer but once we got in to it and moved to this site we became a serious producer and my vision was for us to be one of the best print companies in the world. We have done some world firsts here and haven’t spoken enough about them. I have always pushed us in to new technology.”

Chris Tonge, centre, with managing director Jeremy Hodson on his immediate left, Young's Seafood's Einar Olgeirsson, packaging development manager, far left, and Marketing Humber managing director and chair Diana Taylor and Andrew Parkinson.

Ultimate has worked closely with HP to lead on flexible digital packaging.

“The whole world is digital, there’s no reason why printing shouldn’t become a digital technology,” he said. Ultimate looked at what was available eight years ago, becoming a test site to develop the technology. They developed the printers and ink but had no experience with flexible packaging.

“When we started our digital journey we looked to find a creative design agency, and we took over a business in Hull, and in that business were creative designers and really clever IT digital workflow guys.

MORE: 'Make recycling easy' call to Government

The former DWP call centre neighbouring the original Europarc site also came up. “I couldn’t believe the spec of the building, so we moved the business from Hull next door to the main factory. We are now recognised as a world leader in digital print.”

Presses currently run at 20m a minute, with the traditional flexographical at 350 to 400 a minute.

“We are not too far away from running at the same speeds, so it becomes a replacement technology,” he said. “It is fairly close to going significantly faster. Presses one metre wide printing at 100 to 200 metres a minute will be available commercially in the next two to five years. Once that happens, this business is in a fantastic position with all the new skills we have learned.

“The next press we put in, be it 2019 or 2020, could be wide web digital or it could be conventional. We are fantastically positioned wherever the technology goes.

MORE: Further Europarc expansion for Ultimage Group

“As a business now we are so much more than a printer, and I have loved the last five to six years far more than the last 25 before. I am selling to marketeers, brand-builders, rather than purely packaging. It is a really interesting journey, with lots more still to come.

“Everything we are developing on digital, a lot of it is new customers new brands and new applications. We have delivered a brand new business model.”

He told how it was ideal for shorter run new products, and has worked with established manufacturers Nestle, Mars and Unilever, as well as up-and-coming entrepreneurial brands Ice Kitchen, Dogs Gone Fishin’, Hut Group and Hider, as well as Waitrose, Iceland, Tesco and M&S.

“If the concept works, we move it on to the presses next door, he said. “Most is in snacking, chocolates and gifting. We are now selling to any brand using the pack as the centre of their marketing campaign. Any brand can do what they want on pack. Who watches adverts on TV now? May main task now is to get this conventional advertising on pack. Once you have bought a pack, you cannot switch off or fast-forward.” 

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