Manufacturing

Innovation is Key – How One Company Evolved to Beat Covid-19

Gabriel Fysh, director of Transcend Packaging, discusses how innovation has helped his company trump the virus.  

Transcend Packaging is a global pioneer in sustainable packaging and the first major producer of paper straws in the UK. Focused on being a sustainable disruptor in the packaging category, Transcend was launched in 2017 and is already Europe’s largest producer of paper drinking straws and is working toward a target to produce over 5 billion units per year by the end of 2021. Transcend provides a range of sustainable packaging solutions to customers in the food service, food and beverage, and health and beauty industries.

We supply many major international brands including McDonald’s. Throughout their careers, several of our executives have worked closely with the food chain previously so there was a high degree of trust that we could fulfil their paper straw requirements, and this was instrumental in landing this leading brand.

Coronavirus and innovation

Like most British companies, the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on our business. It has created challenges to solve, opportunities to innovate, and critical life safety objectives to meet. However, in a positive way, the crisis has focused our energies into innovating as a team as it forced us into a position where we had to think outside the box and deliver new, useful products in record time.

Since 2018, we have had the opportunity to supply companies like McDonald’s and KFC, cementing our position as the UK’s leading paper straw provider. But when restaurants and cafes were ordered to close in lockdown in April, it created an impact on our company as those large client orders dried up as restaurants remained closed. To respond to the challenge, we converted part of our operations at our Ystrad Mynach manufacturing base to create protective face shields made from reinforced carton board and recyclable materials.

When it came to designing the shields, we thought carefully about the needs of today and those of the foreseeable future. Frontline services are of course a priority right now, but in the months to come, once restrictions are lifted and businesses resume their operations, other people will require protection. We wanted to create a product that could be used across the population. We saw a gap in the market between the face shields worn in Covid-19 wards and what a social care worker might need for a light weight, disposable shield so they can continue their important work for all of us.

Our face shields are an effective, inexpensive, CE marked alternative to other PPE items that are recyclable and provide an extra level of protection that is suitable for medical settings, employees returning to work, and the general public as they go about their daily lives and see loved ones.

With support from the Welsh Government and Life Sciences Hub Wales, we have been able to ensure our products meet all standards required for use by NHS Wales, key workers, and businesses across the UK.

Sustainability

Transcend, like other businesses from across the UK, has been adapting and innovating our business to combat the spread of Covid-19 and help treat those affected by the virus.

We focus on sustainable packaging and serve some of the country’s largest brands. When the lockdown started, as a company, we examined what we could do to be of assistance in this crisis and help preserve jobs for our team.

Like many Welsh businesses, we felt it was important to respond to the call from the First Minister and the Economy Minister to help create a Welsh supply chain of critical PPE to help out in this crisis. The Welsh Government has been very supportive, and we have worked closely with the team at Life Sciences Hub Wales who has been appointed by Welsh Government to manage all industry enquiries to support NHS Wales.

With direct links to both industry and the health and social care sectors, Life Sciences Hub Wales understands the needs of frontline services as well as the role businesses can play in combatting Covid-19.

As a BRC certified food grade production facility, we understand the need for the highest hygiene standards and the need for the appropriate certifications in order to produce regulated products.

That’s where Life Sciences Hub Wales was very supportive, helping us understand where the needs for PPE existed and helping us navigate the appropriate certification process.

With the help of the Welsh Government and the Life Sciences Hub, we were able to produce a CE certified visor that is currently being used by the NHS and social care workers in both Wales and England and other countries around the world.

It has been an excellent partnership between government and industry to help get us through this challenging time and help lead us forward as we get back to work and emerge from the lockdown.

Compostable PPE

We launched a plastic free visor to complement our recyclable visor and introduced the first Plastic Free PPE in order to tackle the spread of Covid-19 while protecting the planet.

Transcend Packaging developed our clear plastic free visors (to protect staff without adding to plastic pollution) in partnership with International campaign group A Plastic Planet and packaging innovators Reelbrands. The visor is CE-certified, made from FSC paper board and PEFC cellulose from wood pulp for a clear, mist-free screen, the Plastic Free visor is both recyclable and home compostable.

To ensure a circular process, A Plastic Planet have partnered with Terracycle where staff can use a dedicated bin after use. Terracycle will then collect the visors and recycle or compost them. They can also be recycled by separating the paperboard and placing them in the recycling bin.

With demand for PPE set to increase as the government seeks to unlock Britain’s economy further, Plastic Free PPE provides much needed equipment which does not pollute the planet for centuries. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, images of discarded plastic PPE on beaches or in the marine environment have become increasingly common.

Made from widely recyclable materials and available in plain or printed versions, the CE Certified COVID-19 face shields can be used in conjunction with medical face masks and are available to the NHS and others at low cost.

Green future

Our core product and focus continue to be paper straws and in particular the Industrial Straw ™ for aseptic cartons produced by manufacturers such as Tetra Pack and SIG. We are the largest paper straw manufacturer in Europe. We are leading the way in replacing plastic for on-the-go items for the food service industry. We will be looking to launch new products in 2021 to replace plastic cutlery, stirrers and scoops to compliment our current range of products.

I would say that the crisis and pivot towards PPE has helped us streamline and focus our skills and management time. We have continued to grow our team and the crisis has taught us how valuable our employees are. Above all, the crisis has taught us that we need to be adaptable.

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