Exclusive interview with Abdul Jebbar PB. Group Managing Director of Hotpack Global.
While its full implications remain to be seen, it is already clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had huge consequences globally. This crisis has suddenly and dramatically altered numerous aspects of our everyday lives and behaviors, especially our way of shopping foodstuff. The single use packaging and hygiene products are in demand since the beginning of pandemic. To find out more about the impact of this crisis on packaging food industry, we spoke with Abdul Jebbar PB. Group Managing Director of Hotpack Global.
Founded in 1995, Hotpack Global is a UAE based regional leader in both the manufacture and supply of food packaging products. Today the company has a presence in 26 locations across the Middle East, UK, and a chain of network in other Gulf and African countries. The company has branches Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, India, Morocco, USA, Australia, Nigeria, Spain and UK.
Here is the complete Q & A with Mr. Abdul Jebbar:
- Coronavirus had an enormous impact on all industries, how did it affect your activities?
No doubt, COVID has impacted almost all industries. However, packaging – where we specialize, is one of the least affected industry. Although the demand in certain categories of packaging products declined during this period, other categories have higher demand due to hygiene concerns. We were fully equipped to meet these new requirements with the support of our recent expansion. Hotpack quickly recognized the serious nature of the pandemic and we immediately allocated the resources to make sure the maximum availability of our take away packaging range as well as hygiene range- which includes face masks, aprons and disposable gloves.
- Unfortunately, most packaging is designed as single-use, and is typically thrown away rather than reused, as a major supplier of disposable food packaging what can be done so these products become more environmentally friendly?
I believe there is a lot of prevalent misconceptions regarding single use packaging solutions. With the latest technological advancements in packaging, single use packaging products have much more benefits than re-using them. Recent life cycle assessment (LCA) studies show that single use packaging solutions in plastic offer significant environmental benefits than threats. These benefits are calculated considering the amounts of energy, water and other resources that are needed to wash and sanitize reusable packaging products, which result in more than double the carbon emissions than single use packaging systems. We constantly innovate and reinvest in cutting edge technologies in manufacturing practices that ensure lesser carbon emissions. On top of this, recent COVID situation has proved that single use packaging methods are safer than re- usable product.
- You offer a wide range of products including paper products, plastic products and more which one these sectors have more prospects for future growth of your company?
Although most of the product categories display robust growth, we have recently made huge investments in PET technology – which is often referred to as green plastic, owing to its recyclability. Due to its thermodynamic qualities, PET products can be heated, melted, and transformed to new products repeatedly. We now have over 200 different products manufactured in PET for various industries.
We also expect better growth in paper products. Right from tissues and napkins to kraft boxes, pizza boxes as well as different types of paper cups and wraps, our paper division is expecting huge growth in the next couple of years.
We are also focusing on the latest trends in industrial packaging from which we anticipate growth.
- How did the huge rise of E commerce and on- line shopping for food products during pandemic impacted your business?
COVID-19 has altered consumer behavior in many ways, and online shopping is now a big business. Along with this, consumer attitude towards sustainable packaging also has changed significantly, where the consumer’s sensitivity to hygiene and food safety takes priority. We at Hotpack, were quick to adapt to the new normal packaging requirements suited for E-Commerce that combine sustainability and hygiene along with added features such as performance, convenience and cost factor. Apart from our strong presence in most of the B2B and B2C online portals, Hotpack has its own e-commerce platform (www.hotpackwebstore.com) and a fully equipped team to assist the customers.
- Are you planning to diversify in other areas of packaging?
Our R&D team is very active in identifying product categories that need improvement in its properties, such as increased shelf life, retaining the temperature for a longer period, increasing the aroma barrier capability, etc. as well as further minimizes their ecological footprint. Sustainability is the current buzzword in the industry and Hotpack is looking at creating bigger opportunities in recyclable, compostable products that would help minimize CO2 emissions.
- You also offer printing services using gravure, flexo and sheet fed offset presses, are you planning to increase your printing capacity by investing more in printing equipment?
Yes of course, we keep investing in printing technology.
The Printing industry is moving fast and drastic changes from the outdated system. We, as a global leading packaging convertor, have invested in most of the high-end printing solutions such as Digital, Offset, Flexo and Gravure. We offer all types of printing services to our customers and brand owners. Our Flexible Plant/Paper and board division plant/adhesive label plant are among the largest and sophisticated plants in the MENA region. We are equipped with the latest technology globally and have added special features such as in-line screen printing and cold foiling in the machines.
Our production processes take place in a very clean and hygienic environment, which is very essential for food packaging products. The plant is equipped with European high-speed printing and converting equipment from UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and France. All our plants are BRCGS certified and have a well-equipped quality control lab. We have invested in all types of flexo machines, central impression printing machines, inline press, narrow press, stack press and sheet-fed offset presses.
For providing end to end packaging solution to our customers, we have 8 color, central impression wide-web flexo printing machine with solvent and water-based inks for all kinds of flexible packaging requirement. And for the requirement in labels, we have added 10 color narrow-web flexo printing machine with UV, cold foiling, 2 inline screen printing units and die cuts, which improve the efficiency and reduces the wastage, allowing us to offer a competitive pricing to customers. Whatever the customer requirement is whether in terms of special techniques, quality or quantity; our experts will always overcome the challenges. Above all these, keeping in mind the environmental sustainability, we use only water-based inks for the paper cup printing.
We have recently invested and purchased machineries in high-end digital pre-press technology from the leading global supplier to explore the high-end digital technology which improves the print quality and supports the short runs.
- You have branches in US, UK and Australia I assume you export your products to these countries as well. How much you rely on exports to other countries?
Hotpack currently exports its products to almost 100 countries. We have branches all over Middle East as well as in USA, UK, North Africa, Australia & most recently in Spain. Many more overseas branches are planned, all of which contribute to achieving our vision to be the premier global brand in the packaging industry. About 40% of our business revenue is generated from export business currently, and we expect this to grow over 50% soon.
- I imagine all the operation in your factories are highly automated could you explain a little bit your workflow, from receiving the order until delivery of your products?
“Hotpack Packaging has always been keen on developing impactful high-end packaging solutions at a competitive cost by implementing fully integrated ERP system which connects all the areas of the business from pre-press software to the PLC of production machines. Spanning our entire production process, from the initial RFQ until the settlement of the invoice, along with each successful delivery of the product, we have end to end control over all the processes. Traceability of each batch of raw materials and finished products is controlled by automated processes. There are two benefits from automated systems – maximize operational activities and maintain hygiene standards for packaging solutions. In 2020, we were awarded both the prestigious ‘Dubai Smart Business of the Year’ (in its inaugural year) and we received a rarely issued BRCGS certification with Grade-AA for our hygiene, compliance standards in our prestigious manufacturing plants.
With the help of packaging specialists, we have a deep understanding of the hidden costs that drive the operations and reduce the productivity of the shop floor employees. We have implemented various measures and systems to eliminate these bottlenecks in the business. These measures and systems ensure peak performance in operations and operates at maximized levels of efficiency. We also take extensive measures to provide the highest of hygiene standards to our dear customers, by using state-of-art machineries that are completely automated and formed by sealing, counting, stacking and unitizing the entire pallets of goods.”