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LMG has big bite of snack pack market.

Packaging for snack products is just of the many specialist operations of the huge Toronto-based Lawson Mardon Group - one of Europe's largest packaging companies.

This multi-national giant was formed from a leveraged buy-out in 1985, which saw the merging of Mardon Packaging International, the UK's leading packaging group, with the Canadian packer and printer Lawson and Jones - 75 percent of which was already owned by Mardon Packaging International. The result was the formation of the Lawson Mardon Group as one of the biggest packaging grops in the world with sales of nearly 520m. pounds last year.

In Europe, where 73 percent of the business is located, the group now consists of 27 businesses with 18 companies based in the UK, four in Germany, two in France and two in Ireland, with a total of 5800 employees.

While they are involved in many areas of packaging, human food packaging - including packaging for snacks - comprises 53 percent of the group's output.

The Group comprises three divisions: Flexible Packaging, Folding Cartons, and Rigid Plastics and Metals.

Within these divisions only three individual companies are involved with snack packaging - LMG Smith Bros, Lawson Mardon Flexible and LMG Superior Packaging, and all three are incorporated in the Flexible Packaging Division. This division has more than 2300 employees working at nine production facilities in the UK, Ireland and France with sales offices in France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Italy. Local representation at these offices allows Lawson Mardon to sell in all major European Community countries.

It is probably the largest converter of flexible packaging in Europe with a capital investment in flexible packaging alone exceeding 40m. pounds in last two years. The Group's commitment to innovation and development is demonstrated by the fact that it has won 32 Worldstar awards since its formation in 1985-more than any other group.

The largest company in the Flexible Packaging Division is LMG Smith Bros based at Whitehaven in Cumbria; it is the UK's largest supplier of packaging for the snack food and confectionery industries. The company is also a leading flexo packaging converter and has invested considerable time in the development of process flexo technology to meet a fast increasing trend towards this printing process.

The company sees two key reasons for this trend. Quality is a major factor and LMG Smith Bros can achieve extremely high quality print on a wide range of substrates. The second factor is that of cost and, compared with gravure, process flexo makes particularly good sense on short print runs where the lower origination costs give the customer the choice of changing designs for promotional packs, etc.

Photopolymer plates are made in-house at LMG Smith Bros to the most stringent levels of accuracy and special ink systems are developed in the company's ink laboratory for each design. For fine line flexo work, origination can be achieved from any format of transparency or colour flat copy using the most up-to-date scanning techniques available.

Two years ago the company introduced a Disc computerised origination system, which gives even greater flexibility, as artwork can be prepared from the most basic information and scanned into the computer system. The Belgian-made DiscDigipack system scans line-art at high resolution, colours with grips and produces the texts and bar-codes, so that the complete job is output on film through a Disc laser recorder. They installed a full system with four work-stations comprising the Digipack software running on a Dec Super Mini, a thermal proofer, an A3 flat-bed input scanner and a D3800 laser scanner with a maximum film output of 800 by 1100mm.

As a result of this investment in new technology, which has significantly improved the quality of flexo printing, LMG Smith Bros are receiving orders from customers who previously opted for gravure. An example is the new packaging for Golden Wonder's Thick and Crunchy potato snacks, which is a laminate structure reverse printed in six colour process flexo.

The Golden Wonder design was previously gravure printed but LMG Smith Bros was chosen to handle the switch to process flexo because of the high quality of reproduction achieved from transparencies. Golden Wonder were particularly impressed by the print definition and the imperceptible joins in the photopolymer plates.

Over the years, LMG Smith Bros have won a number of awards for both their flexo and gravure printed packaging products. This year a Silver Starpack award was given by the Institute of Packaging for the pack for a dip snack called Tapas - bar snack usually eaten with drinks - produced by Derwent Valley Foods. Tapas bridges the gap between crisp-style snacks and a light meal - combining spicy dips with puris or tortilla chips.

Lidding for the product was provided by LMG Smith Bros and depicted an eye-catching design based on 19th century colonial prints that are reverse printed in six colour gravure on to 12 micron polyester laminated to Shorko M20 with a reverse peelable heat-seal lacquer. The lidding was applied to a polystyrene-based performed tray.

A notable sales achievement for the company was its recent success in winning the packaging contract for America' Ruffles, the world No. 1 crisp band, which is now being sold in the UK. The unique fine ridged crisp cut straight from the potato and fried to a light clean texture is the latest addition to Walkers range of potato snacks. Ruffles are expected to particularly appeal to 'crisp connoisseurs', so a distinctive metallised packaging is required to enhance this image and provide good barrier properties.

They used advanced flexo techniques to reverse print the brightly coloured designs on to 20 micron polypropylene laminated to 20 micron metallized polypropylene. Six colours were used for the spring onion and salt and vinegar flavours while five colours were used for the original salted variety. The packaging converter also produces a five bag multi-pack which is surface printed in five colours on to 30 micron polypropylene.

Another dominant snack brand in the USA and Europe is Chee-tos corn puff snacks, which feature the image of Chester, the cartoon cheetah on the packs. This cheesey snack product is made by Smiths Crisps who are confident that Chee-tos will prove equally popular in the UK.

Smiths Crisps required packaging featuring a bright, sharp print finish with snappy graphics specifically targeted at younger snack consumers. LMG Smith Bros print packaging for both the corn puff and crunchy varieties of Chee-tos in five colours line flexo on to 40 micron polypropylene with the 'cool cat' Chester as a key feature of the design.

Cartoon characters needing no introduction are the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles who have been a big hit with young audiences on both television and movie screens. The same converters were asked to produce two popcorn packs for Butterkist, in 23 and 85g sizes, which featured the cartoon characters. Packs were designed and manufactured to reinforce the vibrant image of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles - using bright, bold colours with a high gloss finish. Both packs employ six colours to create 12 different shades - exploiting a system developed in-houseby company, which uses a combination of tints and solids to create very bright strong colours. The design exceeded Butterkist's best expectation and is selling to successfully they have introduced a night shift on their production line to cope with demand.

Another well known product, which required a much less modern look, was the multi-pack for Brannigans thick cut potato crisps made by KP Foods. LMG Smith Bros used high quality process flexo printing to produce the Brannigans multi-pack, which was designed to reflect the 'olde worlde' traditional brown paper bag appearance of the individual packs.

Brannigans also provided some award-winning work for Lawson Mardon Flexible. Lawson Mardon won a Worldstar this year for the packaging for KP's Brannigans thick cut potato crips, while the same pack won the company 'The Labels and Packaging' section of the Print Buyer Awards announced last year.

As with Brannigans flexo printed multipack made by LMG Smith Bros, the desired effect was an old fashioned brown paper bag effect. Lawson Mardon Flexible achieved this bygone era 'traditional' look by printing six colours gravure with an overvarnish applied over the ink on to 40g MgBk paper.

The unprinted side of the paper is adhesive-laminated to 18 micron metallized co-extruded polypropylene to produce excellent low temperature sealing properties. The uniqueness of the pack was also highlighted by its paper-polypropylene structure, which compared favourably with the traditional polypropylene or polypropylene lamination structures usually associated with crisps market.

Six months ago they won a further award for another KP's Brannigans package - a Certificate of merit in the European Packaging Competition for its Beer Nuts pack. The judging of the packs was undertaken by an international jury of packaging specialists nominated by individual National Packaging Institutes. Fortythree entries were submitted but only three awards went to the UK.

The packaging for KP's Brannigans Beer Nuts consists of a three-ply laminate which provides the necessary puncture, heat and grease resistance to the pack. This is printed seven colours gravure to produce a high quality appearance which accurately reflects the quality of the premium product inside. The materials used in the pack act as a barrier to moisture and light whilst the inside ply exhibits excellent heat seal properties - ensuring good seal integrity. The award-winning pack was described as 'successfully conveying to the consumer, the genuine values of yesteryear - care, tradition and quality'.

As might be presumed from such an award-winning performance, Lawson Mardon Flexible, which is based at Midsomer Norton near Bath, has one of the most comprehensively equipped flexible packaging units in Europe and was recently registered as BS 5750 by the British Standards Institute.

The company's facilities were enhanced in May 1989 by the installation of a Schiavi eight colour rotogravure press with in-line laminating and coating. This investment was quickly followed last year by the introduction of the same company's Non Stop eight colour gravure press which was the first of its kind in the world, at the time of purchase.

Additionally, Lawson Mardon Flexible is expected to announce shortly that a further increase in its significant plant investment has just been made with the acquisition and installation of a Schiavi nine colour press. This brings the total investment, in three new presses alone, to 6.5m. pounds in the past two years.

The third 'snacks packaging' member of the Lawson Mardon Group is Ireland's LMG Superior Packaging, which has just achieved registration under IS/ISO 9002 - EN 29002 - the Irish equivalent of the British BS 5750 - granted by the National Standards Authority of Ireland.

Based in Dublin, LMG Superior has also invested heavily in the purchase of equipment to upgrade production capabilities. Last year they doubled their gravure printing capacity when a 1.57m. pounds Rotomec eight station press with in-line laminator was installed. A third gravure press next year will probably be purchased next year. Outside the press area more than 200,000 pounds was recently invested in three automatic slitters and 100,000 pounds on a 24-barrel computerised ink blending system.

A further significant investment was made on the marketing front this year with the appointment of Martin Higginson to the newly created position of UK sales director - reflecting the importance LMG Superior places on its export market, which is expected to account for more than 50 percent of sales this year. Packaging for snacks makes up the largest single category of products sold by the company - accounting for 25 percent of all sales.

Three types of packaging product are sold to the snacks industry. The first is a 30 micron single ply polypropylene which is surface and generally flexographically printed. It tends to be employed for the most popular snack brands. The second is 20 micron polypropylene laminated to 20 micron polypropylene, which can be flexographically printed but is generally gravure printed. The image is reverse printed to give greater point of sales impact to the more premium brands. And the third is 20 micron polypropylene laminated to 20 micron metallized polypropylene, which is similar to the second category except the metallized inner web creates greater visual impact and superior product protection.

LMG Superior sells this range of products to the snackfood industry in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the UK and in a number of Continental countries - with names like Tayto, Sooner Foods, Golden Wonder and Bensons being familiar titles on their packaging.

Recently, LMG Superior has produced dramatic packaging for the launch of several new snack products. Two products now being sold on the British and Irish markets are natural maize and potato snacks called Exy Ozy's and Fright Bites. Exy Ozy's derive their name from the children's game which is also known as Noughts and Crosses. The snacks are beef flavoured and come in X and O shapes. Fright Bites are made from the same base materials in the shape of flying bats and come salt and vinegar flavoured.

Both new products are advertised as being free of artificial colours and preservatives, and are made with pure sunflower oil.

Exy Ozy's are packed in 30 micron polypropylene film - flexo printed in five colours, it features a heavy background with bold white, orange, red and yellow lettering. The pack has the appearance of a blackboard with chalk lettering and games of Exy Ozy's on it.

The Fright Bites pack - also flexo printed in five colours on 30 micron film - features a graphic twilight scene complete with a starlit city skyline silhouette, a full moon and vampire bats with spread wings. The launch of the colourful packs is part of a strong product development by Tri-Sum Snacks of Portadown, Co. Armagh, which is marketing six new products this year.

A range of new snack products, also in packaging by LMG Superior, has just launched on the other side of the Irish Sea by Jordans Cereals Ltd of Biggles wade in Bedfordshire. Frusli is a new high fibre chewy cereal bar containing 30 percent fruit and nuts, which is being made available in two flavours-apricot and almond or raisin and hazelnut. The packaging produced by LMG Superior is a gravure printed laminate comprising paper and metallized polyester. A pattern cold-seal coating is applied to the inner side of the laminate to allow quick and effective sealing of the pack.

Also from Jordans is a low fat baked savoury snack called Oasters that contains less than half the fat of traditional potato crisps. It is available in two flavours - mature cheddar and chives or tomato with mixed garden herbs. The gravure printed pack by LMG Superior consists of polypropylene and metallized polypropylene which is reverse printed to give good point of sale impact.

Just by looking at snacks packaging, which is only one important aspect of Lawson Mardon's operations, involving three of its businesses, it is apparent that the Group is a force to be reckoned with on the world packaging scene. Depsite the international economic downturn, which has affected the performance of its companies both in Europe and North America, Lawson Mardon continues to report increases in sales and earnings from its operations. Sales for the three months ending March 31st 1991 increased by more than 35.5m. pounds or 27.3 percenet to 165.25m. pounds from 129.8m. pounds in the same period last year. And earnings from operations for the period increased by 1.21m. pounds or 14.3 percent to 9.7m pounds from 8.48m. pounds in the first three months of the previous year.

To quote Lawrence G Tapp, vice chairman, president and chief executive officer of Lawson Mardon: "We are continuing to hone our competitive edge against the best in the world as we prepare for the special challenges of North American Free Trade and the Single European Market. New factors, such as the breakdown of the GATT world trade talks, the reconstruction of Eastern Europe the continuing volatility of foreign exchange markets and reduced consumer and investor confidence must all be considered in a fast-changing environment.

As evidenced by its continuing success in a tough international environment, the Lawson Mardon Group not only intends to survive but proposes to enhance its position among the best on the world packaging scene.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Food Trade Press Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Lawson Mardon Group
Publication:Food Trade Review
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 1, 1991
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