170 year-old Leeds firm launches first overseas premises with new office in Australia

Family-run West Yorkshire packaging firm Roberts Mart has launched its first overseas office in the company's 170 year history, opening a new premises in Australia.

The Leeds-based company has paired the opening of its new Australian office with the launch of a new home compostable material to be used for packaging. The material takes the form of a printed film designed to be used on food products with a short shelf life. After achieving accreditation from the Australian Standard measurement, the product is now set to be launched alongside the new office.

Ben Roberts, marketing director, said: “Roberts Mart has always been about innovation, seeking out options for our customers that are both sustainable, viable and cost-effective.

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“We are very excited to be launching our new Biyo film from our first overseas office based in Northern Rivers NSW.

Left to right: Roberts mart marketing director Ben Roberts with managing director William Roberts. Picture by Roger Moody.Left to right: Roberts mart marketing director Ben Roberts with managing director William Roberts. Picture by Roger Moody.
Left to right: Roberts mart marketing director Ben Roberts with managing director William Roberts. Picture by Roger Moody.

“Having now received both accreditations the product will be launched into the Australian market over the next few months.”

The company was founded in 1852 by William Roberts, initially set up as a paper merchants on Lady Lane in Leeds. It later branched out into handmade bag making, and then commercial printing.

In 1888, the company opened a new factory in Birmingham, where it returned until 1928, when a decision was made to to concentrate all production on Bank Mills, Leeds, and the Birmingham factory was closed.

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In June of 1983 Romar Packaging Limited was formed as a separate subsidiary company to Roberts Mart, to focus on the extrusion and conversion of Low Density Blown Film.

In 2004, it relocated to a new, purpose built 100,000 square foot site on Thornes Farm Way.

As of 2023, the company is now in its sixth generation of family ownership, and employs a staff of over 220 people.

The Australia office will be headed up by Peter Cumberlege, who has an extensive background and career history in sales, predominantly in the packaging industry both international and locally. Over the last seven years he has focused on the Home Compostable flexible market.

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The company’s newly developed packaging mono material, Biyo, can be run on conventional packing lines, and is ABA certified as home compostable.

To be accredited OK Home Compostable, all materials must pass the EN13432 European Standard as well as the Australian Standards, which also include a worm test. The AS5810-2010 Australian Standard requires the compostable film to be Toxin free for worms and disintegrate after 12 weeks and completely biodegrade after six months.

The packaging is made from biodegradable materials such as vegetable starch which replace traditional oil-based materials, this then breaks down naturally and decomposes into nutrient rich compost, aided by fungi, bacteria and enzymes. The product is developed and produced in the UK.

Roberts Mart operates predominantly in the fast-moving consumer goods sector, providing packaging solutions for companies including Highland Spring and John Cotton Group.

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The firm has won multiple awards over the years, including a Gold award from FTA America for its Mano Coffee Capsules print in 2018. The same compostable pack also won the Product Innovation prize at the Sinal Exhibition in France. A further print award was received from FTA Europe for the firm’s Espresso Monte Carlo Velluti printed design.