The Van Dyke Press is one of Australia’s largest manufacturers of pre-cut and reel-fed aluminium and PET lidding, a sector that is showing dramatic growth. Lindy Hughson stopped by the company’s Brookvale, NSW facility and caught up with general manager Will Tompson about new developments in the business.
Some decades ago, when Will Tompson and I were growing up, yoghurt was considered a dessert and at most there were a handful of options in the dairy aisle. Fast forward to today, and the number and variety of yoghurt SKUs is staggering, with market leaders like Chobani continuing to create sub-categories to the sector, while start-ups are also adding artisan and dairy-free alternatives to the mix. Combine this with the growing convenience food trend driving growth in single-serve products, and it’s not too difficult to see why demand for pre-cut lidding – typically aluminium, but also PET, PET laminates, and paper/PE laminates – is spiralling upwards. And, of course, the lids are not restricted to yoghurt – there are many other applications including dips, desserts, butters and spreads.
This is good news for Sydney-based packaging converting and printing business The Van Dyke Press, whose pre-cut and roll stock lidding division accounts for a major part of turnover, the rest made up by its in-mould labelling and grease proof paper divisions. The company supplies aluminium and PET lids as either die cut or reel-fed lidding to major dairy, desserts and dip customers in Australia, New Zealand, and across the Pacific.
“We’ve experienced significant growth in our flexible packaging,” says GM Will Tompson. “We have done a great job of winning work locally, but an even better job of pinching work from overseas suppliers.”
Investment in this side of the business is ongoing, Tompson says, to ensure that the finished product is of consistently high quality and guaranteed food safe.
“We work closely with our suppliers to innovate with the materials we use – from down-gauging to create lighter weight films and reduce the amount of packaging to landfill, to changing the heat sealing layers of the laminates to incorporate PVC and BPA-free lacquers,” Tompson says.
“And in turn, we work with our customers to select appropriate material to achieve their barrier and seal strength requirements, ensuring that their product will be appropriately sealed.
“In the food industry, the price of a product recall is extremely high, with potentially major repercussions for a brand’s reputation.
“Our facilities are HACCP accredited, and all materials and inks we use are low migration. We’re at least two notches above where we have to be for Australian compliance,” he says.
“By keeping all operations in-house, we have total control of the consistency and quality of our die-cut lidding and roll stocks,” he adds.
Investment in technology is also a priority. Tompson says the business is currently operating two high-end German cutting lines working close to full capacity, but such is the projected growth in demand for pre-cut lids that the company has invested in a third cutting line to come on stream in September.
Using either sheet-fed offset or roll to roll flexographic printing, Van Dyke Press has the flexibility to print up to eight colours for heat sealable products. All finishing processes are completed in-house including varnishing, guillotining, die cutting, embossing, laminating and foiling.
“Our flexo line – an eight-colour OMET flexographic press for the manufacture of heat sealable lidding – is also close to full capacity, and when the new cutter is installed the next investment is likely to be in a new press,” says Tompson.
“We’ll probably go wider, moving from 430 to 530mm. This will allow us to improve our printing efficiency and the cutting width – adding thirty per cent to our current output. But the jury is out on whether we move to digital for the next press.”
On the subject of sustainable materials, Tompson says that apart from working on downgauging, the company is also collaborating with suppliers on new lidding materials to match the base container.
“Although aluminium is recyclable, the collection streams are not yet available, and looking ahead – albeit way ahead – there may come a time when the lidding film has to match the cup or tray it covers so that it’s one substrate material for a single collection stream,” he says.
Whatever the future holds in terms of materials and technology advancements, Tompson is of the firm belief that there are major opportunities in the flexibles space, and that Van Dyke Press is well positioned to grow its foothold in the market.