With group sales reaching €215 million in 2010 (2009: €192 million), the Weidenhammer Packaging Group (WPG), one of the world’s two leading suppliers of composite cans, composite drums and plastic containers, achieved strong sales growth and clearly surpassed company targets. The group’s cash flow for the same period increased by one percentage point to 14 per cent. In the current fiscal year, WPG is planning to increase sales – although sharply rising raw material costs will prevent the company from reaching the same earnings level achieved in 2010. Nevertheless, investment will continue at a high level. The expansion of production facilities and the introduction of new packaging solutions will help open up new markets and market segments.
The WPG achieved sales growth for the 15th consecutive year in 2010 with a significant increase in turnover that clearly exceeded management targets. "We are pleased with our financial results – especially in light of the global economic crisis that clearly had an impact on our company in 2009", said WPG CEO Ralf Weidenhammer. "The company’s positive financial results show that our business strategy is on the right track and that our investment in production facilities, staff, research & development and new markets pays off. We plan to continue along the same lines in the future".
WPG cardboard and plastic divisions both contributed to the company’s outstanding financial performance in 2010. The group’s core business in composite cans and drums accounted for the largest share of revenues. A significant amount of turnover came from Weidenhammer Plastic Packaging (WPP). Founded in 2005, the group’s plastics division reported growth for the third consecutive year. "Our plastic packaging business has evolved to become a mainstay in the company," Ralf Weidenhammer explained. "We hope to soon see WPP account for around 15 per cent of total group sales. This figure reached nearly 10 per cent last year".
The WPG is aiming for total turnover of €223 million in 2011. While raw material cost increases are likely be absorbed by the company’s core business in composite cans, the thriving business in durable, attractively labelled plastic packaging is expected to increase by 30 per cent. "Of course we will continue to offer high quality, attractive packaging solutions along with new developments in both segments", said Ralf Weidenhammer. "That’s why we are planning to invest in the expansion of our production facilities again 2011. A total of €24 million is already earmarked. This enables us to consistently offer our customers uniform, high-quality standards when it comes to packaging and services".
Expansion of composite can business
The successful launch of new packaging solutions is an important aspect of the company’s core business in composite cans. These innovations range from a Peel-off Top for composite cans, to the uniquely-shaped composite OvalCan. While this solution attracts attention and creates new marketing options with its striking shape, the specially-designed Weidenhammer Peel-off Top opens the door to brand new markets. This innovative solution is available with a ring pull or flat tab and, in terms of handling and appearance, is similar to the closures on metal cans commonly seen in the supermarket. The Peel-off Top solution also ensures outstanding oxygen impermeability. Powdered milk and other highly sensitive products can now be packed in airtight composite cans. "When it comes to sealability, the composite can with Peel-off Top is just as good as glass or metal packaging", explained Rolf Regelmann WPG executive in charge of sales. "At the same time it is less expensive and more environment friendly".
New plants in the UK and Zwenkau, Germany
With sales reaching €127 million in 2010, Germany remains the most important market for WPG, followed by France, the Netherlands and Belgium. New markets in Greece, Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Russia and the UK also played an important role in the company’s growing sales figures. While in 2011 production operations for composite cans with Peel-off Tops continued to expand in Greece and France, the focus of the group’s foreign investment is on modernising and new construction at the WPG plant in Bradford, England. In addition to expanding assembly lines for composite cans, WPG plans to launch plastic packaging on the UK market. According to Ralf Weidenhammer, "We see a huge potential for plastic packaging solutions in the UK. As the second local manufacturer of packaging with In-Mould Labelling, we see an emerging demand in a modern market".
Together with the Weidenhammer plant in Hockenheim and the main factory in Zwenkau, Bradford is destined to become the third production site for Weidenhammer Plastic Packaging (WPP). Zwenkau is another focus of WPG investment. During the course of the year, a new production facility for plastic packaging with In-Mould Labelling (IML) technology will be built adjacent to the existing plant. This will double the amount of WPP production space. The expansion is in line with the very positive development of the WPP over the past few financial years. "Our customer base has continued to grow with well-known manufacturers including Rügenwalder Mühle. ‘Zwenkau 2’ will help support further growth", said WPP Sales Director Andreas Rothschink. "This also applies to PermaSafe, our reinvention of the metal can. There is significant market interest in this packaging solution and more new products packed in PermaSafe will soon be launched on the market".
Commitment to sustainability and staff
Parallel to the growth in 2010 sales, the size of the WPG workforce has also increased. The group currently has around 1,000 employees, including 630 working in Germany. "As a family enterprise, we take our commitment to staff very seriously", said Ralf Weidenhammer. "As an employer, the WPG offers managers and skilled workers outstanding development opportunities". Staff training and development is part of the group’s sustainability strategy. "Sustainability is a cornerstone of our economic activity across all business divisions", Ralf Weidenhammer explained. "Along with human resources, it includes long-term customer and business partner orientation, material and energy management, as well as our efforts aimed at environmental protection". One key aspect is the increased use of renewable energy sources in production operations. As a result, all new WPG building projects are analysed for the potential use of photovoltaic systems and designed with solar energy in mind. The WPG currently operates six large-scale solar power systems and plans to add four more. In Germany, the company covers 16 per cent of its energy needs with solar power.