PET project sees sales top £5m in two years

Helping food companies meet their green targets is proving the catalyst behind a North East manufacturer's major expansion

Adam Setterfield, an apprentice at Re Pet
Adam Setterfield, an apprentice at Re Pet

Helping food companies meet their green targets is proving the catalyst behind a North East manufacturer’s major expansion.

Re Pet, which employs 20 people at its Houghton-le-Spring factory, has reported 40% year-on-year growth after demand for its food grade PET film rocketed, sending sales to a heady £5m just two years after the firm was officially launched.

The company offers full recyclable plastic sheeting for the packaging sector, usually used in the manufacture of food cartons for supermarkets across the world.

Its main turnover is currently focused around the UK market, but it has also become the largest supplier of PET plastic sheets to Iceland, which are then used for produce such as cod.

However, future plans will involve a much greater export push, with the firm – which kickstarted its original growth with funding from the North East Accelerator Fund, the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) Accelerating Growth Fund, in addition to private finance from shareholders – targeting new customers in Africa, Australia, the EU and South America.

Backed by strategic support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the firm has been able to adapt its systems so that it meets the standards set by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), accreditation that has opened new doors for Re Pet, enabling the turnover boon.

John Forrest, managing director, said: “The company name is derived from the PET material we produce and this material is a lot easier to recycle than other types of plastics used by many retailers today.

“However, sentiment is changing and there is a need for supermarkets to hit new sustainable targets and they are beginning to put pressure on the packaging companies that supply them.

“This is a major opportunity for us.”

“Currently, the UK imports two-thirds of the PET material used and we intend to change that by offering great products competitively.”

Investment is a big part of the Re Pet approach and the company has already spent £2.7m on new extrusion equipment and a dedicated training programme for all of the staff.

A further £2.4m will be spent on new machinery and the recruitment of a senior manufacturing manager.

The firm has also tapped into expert support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service, with advisor Alan Hewett helping to overcome initial start-up issues, implement efficiency improvements and, more recently, work towards the BRC accreditation which has brought more opportunities for the firm.

“MAS has been a tremendous source of information, signposting, mentoring and in helping deliver bottom line benefits to the business,” said Sarah Lea, health and safety manager.

“The British Retail Consortium standard is essential for our business. We needed help in fine-tuning some of our systems, in order to meet the exacting standards expected.

“This would have taken a lot longer without his input and the funding we received in bringing in a specialist to oversee the process.”

MAS’ Alan Hewett added: “Starting a business and growing it to �5m in two years is no small feat and John and the team have a clear focus of where they are looking to go.

“From the outset, the firm wanted to do things differently and continues to invest in the best equipment for producing the PET material. The accreditation could have been a big stumbling block, but instead it will be the catalyst for even greater success going forward.”

From the outset, the firm wanted to do things differently and continues to invest in the best equipment

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