As Bunzl has been nominated by the UK Home Office as a ‘critical supplier’, Tri-Star Managing Director Alex Noake looks at the effects of the Coronavirus on the food service packaging industry.
WHILE this crisis is shocking and unprecedented, it’s positive to represent a business which delivers useful and relevant products in the areas of hygiene and food safety.
The Home Office has classified Bunzl as a ‘critical supplier’ and each division, including Tri-Star, WK Thomas and London Bio Packaging (LBP) has a crucial role to play – supplying the NHS, schools and home delivery businesses with safe, secure and hygienic food packaging.
For instance, we are about to fulfil a major order for much-needed disposable cutlery packs for the NHS in just one week. It’s great that we can be responsive and customers are pleased that they are taking delivery of UK-made products rather than imports. Some product lines are in more demand than others and some market sectors have swapped around. For instance, cutlery and food service packs which used to go to the airline industry are now going into the healthcare sector.
It’s fascinating watching the agenda change so fast. Suddenly disposable single-use plastic is in demand again and with a focus on hygiene, there is an expectation for food to be wrapped and even double-wrapped.
Sustainability issues have quite naturally lost their top slot on the agenda, in favour or business durability, but we are not going to let the importance of environmental sustainability become lost through this crisis. Indeed, with more packaging going into people’s homes, our messages around recycling and home-compostables will continue.
Tri-Star, WK Thomas and LBP will endure. It’s one the major advantages of being part of a FTSE100 company, so perhaps we could say that the agenda has shifted from sustainability to endurance.
Through this developing situation I must take a moment to say that I’ve been impressed with the people in the business. They’re working harder than ever and are proud to part of something that is making a genuinely positive contribution.
We’ve got a sales force which isn’t on the road and isn’t visiting customers, so they are all putting in a concerted effort to stay in touch to let them know that we are here to help. To help them come out of the other side of this situation. We’re sending them ideas on how they can add value in their business when it gets back to normal. So we’ve really kicked in to consultancy mode. Letting people know that we are here to support them.
We’re also taking the opportunity of having people working from home to step-up our key staff training and as a good current example, Alan Bryson from Tri-Label is delivering training on labelling, including Tri-Star’s recently announced charitable support for the Natasha Allergy Research Foundation.
And talking of charity, we are donating valuable packaging resources – free of charge – to a variety of causes, for instance Cosmo, which is supplying free meals and sandwiches to the NHS to support key workers.
As a result of Coronavirus, everyone is going to become increasingly hygiene-aware. And this isn’t just for months. People will remember Covid-19 for years. They will be precious about it for probably a generation. That’s going to drive increased use of chemicals, hand sanitisers, and cloths. So there is a great opportunity to stock core ranges, but also to develop niche ranges to fit in with eco-brands. Let’s have eco- hand sanitisers, eco- cloths and all manner of eco products.
We will improve our offering of consolidating supplies of packaging, hygiene, janitorial, chemicals, to the food service sector, raising awareness that we’re not just the packaging guys, but that we supply everything a food business needs to operate safely and efficiently. By default, we will become more of a one-stop shop.
What we’re saying to our customers is ‘put us in your business continuity plan’, because we are a strong, secure business and we have the stock holding and manufacturing flexibility to supply all your packaging needs, and more.