BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND — Growing demand for thin-wall food containers in Europe has seen Danish molder Panther Plast A/S add 20 more injection presses in a major expansion program.
Panther Plast of Vordingborg, a supplier of containers to the dairy, preserves and salad sectors, recently acquired the machines in a deal with Malmo, Sweden, packaging group PLM AB.
Panther agreed to exchange its extrusion blow molded food-bottle business for PLM's injection molded thin-wall container business in Nyborg, Denmark.
The two firms were competitors, said Panther Plast sales director Niels Dyrlund. The basis of the deal, which involved an unspecified investment, was to cultivate the strengths of each company, he said.
Panther Plast, which was founded in Vordingborg in 1933 to produce Bakelite combs, recently doubled its injection molding space in a $10 million expansion program. The plan involved a 13,000-square-foot addition, which gave the plant a total of 65,000 square feet.
``We needed to expand because of the average increase in our [sales] of 15 percent over the last seven years,'' Dyrlund said in Birmingham at Pakex 98, which was held March 30-April 2.
Today, the firm has annual sales of $25 million, 90 percent from thin-wall containers and 10 percent from technical products and components, including fishing floats and freezer spacers.
The Danish molder, owned by Leo Pharmaceutical Products Ltd., claims to be northern Europe's largest producer of custom injection molded containers.
Panther Plast employs 200 and exports about half of its output.
Dyrlund would not disclose the number of product lines or injection presses at the Panther plant, but he said the machines range from 45-750 tons in clamping force.
The firm processes about 11 million pounds of polypropylene a year. Its clientele of multinational food companies includes Van den Bergh Foods, Kraft, Dairy Crest and Kerrygold. Panther Plast expects to follow its customers into new markets but currently has no plans to open plants outside of Denmark.
Panther could expand internationally in two to five years, Dyrlund said. The company wants to license its patents and products widely.
The molder now is making inroads in the expanding Eastern European packaging markets, such as Poland, where food is packaged in round polystyrene tubs. The trend there is to modernize packaging, Dyrlund said.
While most of its container sizes range between 8.75 ounces and 4.4 pounds, the firm produces containers as large as 3.9 gallons. For local Polish fillers, it has been creating a new, 14-ounce package size, he said.