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Sigma and the round tea bag - it's not square!

Sir Christopher Cockerell once said, when talking of his invention-the Hovercraft-"this is the best money-spinner I never had! " Everyone else had made money from his invention-including the Russians-but not him. So often the British have a flair for inventing, but not for capitalizing on the idea in the market place.

Not so always, however. Deep in the beautiful Sussex countryside sits a small company-whose main operations center around the film business-who have invented, developed, and successfully marketed a very logical idea-the round bag.

It all began in 1986 when their product designer, Brian Hurst, was called in by a tea company to solve a particular problem-to create a tea bag that could be used by the vending industry.

From the outset, a round bag was the obvious choice, and this was further underpinned by extensive market research which concluded that the consumer simply felt happier with a round rather than a square shape. He began by making hand samples to establish volumes and dimensions. Then came the tricky bit of designing a continuous motion cutting unit to produce the circular shape. In early 1987 the trials were complete and the hardware approved.

A write-up in a packaging magazine produced a good response for other tea companies, and from the original 50mm diameter bag came requests for bags up to 170mm diameter.

Meanwhile, the coffee industry became interested in the round concept for use with a bag in the filtered coffee market.

At this time and rather laboriously, Brian Hurst was continuing to produce bespoke machines on a on-off basis for particular clients.

Sigma's managing director, Graham Smith, told Tea & Coffee Trade Journal that by 1989 the level of interest and demand had grown to the point where a more mechanized system to manufacture a range of machines became necessary.

The following year a metallized handle/tag was introduced for vending cups, which led to the development of complete systems and subsequently to a high speed machine capable of churning out up to 1,000 bags per minute.

Key features of Sigma's machines are their comparatively low cost and flexibility of operation. Further information may be obtained from Sigina by fax: (44) 903 745-038.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:May 1, 1991
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