Hop to it: bespoke packing line supports firm’s growth plans

Chris Daws

A hop-growing co-operative is reportedly enjoying increased export sales after investing in a bespoke packing line.

As well as selling products overseas, English Hops has grown its domestic revenue after installing a new production line at its Kent facility. Established after the demise of the Hops Marketing Board and comprising 27 growers, English Hops has supplied its pellets and bales to UK brewers since 1984.

Historically outsourcing the processing and packing of its T90 pellets to third parties, last summer English Hops decided to invest in a packing line to allow it to pack its pellets into 5kg nitrogen gas flushed foils.

The line, designed by GIC, features a GIC 4000 vertical form fill and seal packing machine, fed by a Cotswold overhead weigher. The line can pack up to eight 5kg packs per minute. Before being sealed, each pack is flushed with nitrogen, which preserves and maintains the quality for three years or more.

“The new packing line designed by GIC gives us flexibility and full traceability to our customers who want to hand on heart know where the hops they are using have come from,” said Chris Daws, chairman and sales director at English Hops. “The new line also eliminates our reliance on contract packers, which is a real bonus for us and has increased our output as we can now respond to requests for smaller volume orders.

“Before installing the GIC machine, we would have to wait for orders of a particular hop variety to reach the minimum quantity required by our contract packers. Now, we don’t have that restraint, and we’ve seen our output increase significantly in the first quarter of 2024.

“As a result of the investment, we can now cost-effectively fulfil low-volume orders for craft and family brewers and continue to supply the large brewers. We also have complete peace of mind that what goes into the line comes out the other end, and we’re able to offer foil-fresh 5kg packs of type 90 pellets, which are sought after by both domestic and overseas brewers.”

Currently celebrating its 40th year, GIC is a specialist designer and manufacturer of vertical form fill and seal packing machines.

“Every one of the capsulated coarse crimped 120-micron film packs produced by our GIC400 can have its unique production number printed on it, along with the crop year, variety, batch number, production date and details of the grower,” added Keith Marrow, applications manager at GIC. “This new line gives English Hops the increased speed and efficiency they were looking for along with accountability, plus the ability to produce smaller packs in the future as they respond to market demands.

“English Hops’ ability to quickly and easily respond to customer demand and produce foil packs that stay fresher for longer has allowed them to take on new business both in the UK and abroad, including the USA and Europe, which is great news. We’re pleased to have been able to help English Hops adapt and become more agile.”