Toast to success for firm’s grand designs

A PACKAGING design and production company, based in Yorkshire, is seeing its revenues boosted by the luxury drinks market, thanks to business wins with the likes of French champagne house Taittinger.

Professional Packaging Services (PPS), which earlier this year invested in larger premises in rural Esholt, between Bradford and Leeds, is this year forecasting a 15 to 20 per cent increase in turnover to £6m.

It recently created a new luxury presentation box set for Taittinger for its limited edition champagne. Taittinger requested exclusivity within the champagne market and has since commissioned an expansion to the range.

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Simon Bell, managing director, who bought the business from his father and its founder Brian Bell six years ago, said: “We are currently working in the champagne and cognac world in France and we are just about to start working in the Russian market in premium drinks.”

PPS sub-contracts its manufacturing, mainly to China, and has a base in Hong Kong, which generates additional revenues of £2.5m.

Mr Bell said: “That’s a stepping stone into the southern China base where prices are more competitive. You can’t do it remotely, you need a team out there.”

Since the business was founded in 1979, the markets within which PPS operates have changed. Mr Bell said: “Because we don’t manufacture anything we have been able to adapt to different trends in the market place.

“For example, when the world economy slumped three years ago we made a conscious effort to move into what I would call the luxury market.”

His clients in the luxury market haven’t been affected as much as other sectors by the economic downturn, he said, adding: “The price is less sensitive.” Clients are willing to spend money to protect their brands, said Mr Bell, who said the luxury drinks market could be described as “recession-proof within reason”.

The account win with Taittinger follows a number of other recent successes in the champagne world, including Bollinger, Jacquart and Duval Leroy.

PPS’s design team worked directly with champagne artistic director at Taittinger, Vitalie Taittinger, to create the final product.

Mr Bell said: “This design works to enhance the perception of Taittinger as an innovative and prestigious champagne house, and is a great example of what our dynamic and creative design team can achieve.”

The constructional design means the presentation boxes can be reversed for display purposes to reveal all bottles or fully open in a row to increase shelf presence.

The presentation boxes, which are sold across 30 countries, were a pan Asia-European project, with PPS managing the production with its network of manufacturing partners.

“Anybody can buy anything in China. The key to it is ensuring that what is produced in China is to specification which is why we’ve had an office out there for 10 years, managed by an ex-pat who knows what we’re talking about,” said Mr Bell.

PPS employs 14 people in Yorkshire and 12 in its Hong Kong office.

Mr Bell said he expects to recruit further in sales as the company’s turnover increases.

“In the drinks market, it is a huge market controlled by a small number of companies. So, for example, Bacardi, which is one of our major clients, they own Dewar’s whiskey, they own Bombay Sapphire gin, and Grey Goose vodka.

“So you only need to get into one new one, and that gives you a real increase in turnover as well”, said Mr Bell.

He added: “I’ve been looking to employ at least two more people on the sales side in the last six months, but getting the people who can do what they can say they do is the challenge.”

Currently, 20 per cent of the firm’s production goes into France, with the remainder going into the UK. Russia will be its second export market.

Mr Bell said: “If we get into the Russian market and into one other large Scottish distiller, which we are on course to do, that would be a fantastic achievement for us because it’s a tough business and everybody is after everybody else’s share of the market.”

He said the business is profitable, though he declined to discuss exact figures, but said that having bought the company six years ago, it is now debt-free.

As well as working in the luxury drinks market, PPS also offers a range of packaging services across the confectionery, cosmetics, toiletries and gift markets, with a client base including William Grants, Harrods, Thorntons and Boots.