Flexible food packaging firm Ultimate Group looks to expand again

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Grimsby food packaging specialist Ultimate Group is gearing up to expand again after winning more work and seeing demand soar during lockdown.

The Europarc company is preparing to add to the already substantial footprint, with more jobs being created too.

Having absorbed and then doubled the neighbouring former Lincs Doors site recently, when it relocated after a buy-out, the focus is now on a new build from wider business park developer Wykeland.

Jeremy Hodson, managing director, said: “Most of what we do is for supermarkets, 80 per cent is own-label work. A lot of fresh produce, fruit and vegetables.

“Lockdown brought the closure of a lot of foodservice, be it restaurants or fast-food establishments, and a lot of people have been scratch cooking from home when furloughed or working remotely.

“That’s driven a huge amount of requirement for fruit and vegetables, and as such our volumes have increased massively, and continue to do so.”

To handle the increase, and to further its own green credentials, a sixth flexographic press has recently been added, substantially increasing printing capacity.

The Bobst Expert CI is an eight colour unit that can use solvent and water-based inks.

An existing Bobst press at Ultimate Group's Grimsby base.
An existing Bobst press at Ultimate Group’s Grimsby base.
(Image: Ultimate Group)

Together with the Ultigreen range of films and AdaptMap shelf-life enhancement it builds scale on the sustainable flexible packaging.

“We were already growing, we have picked up some new work, and this situation has made it very challenging – our key driver in the market is service, and this offers us more capacity and flexibility.”

Ultimate is eyeing up the largest of two speculative developments now completing. It would provide a further 30,000 sq ft, taking the £50 million turnover firm to 150,000 sq ft footprint, should it be taken on.

It is hoped a further 10 to 20 jobs could be added, with the first phase by the end of August, and more once the additional work comes on line.

“We have invested in extra finishing equipment, but it won’t cope with all this additional capacity,” he said, of two Bimec slitters also ordered. 

“A new unit would give us more flexibility on the build out,” Mr Hodson said of the planned expansion, with potential to introduce further manufacturing into existing storage. “We are future-proofing a little bit,” he added.

Originally based in Brigg, with further operations in Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire, Ultimate consolidated on Pegasus Way, later adding the neighbouring former DWP call centre for its digital print arm, before the Lincs Doors swoop.

Ultimate Group's existing Europarc footprint, in the centre of the photograph, between the two spur roads off Pegasus Way, Europarc, which loops the business park, and can be seen top left.
Ultimate Group’s existing Europarc footprint, in the centre of the photograph, between the two spur roads off Pegasus Way, Europarc, which loops the business park, and can be seen top left.

And new measures to ensure a safe working environment haven’t caused the 250-strong team a problem.

“As a British Retail Consortium-accredited site a lot of the hygiene is ingrained,” Mr Hodson said. “We have laundered workwear and everyone changes their clothes and there is lots of hand-washing. It is a big space.”

Delivery of the new kit is expected in August. The press is set to be fully operational and put to work by the end of next month, with the potential new premises on a similar timeframe.

Operations director, Jon McCarthy, said: “This latest press adds even more capacity and flexibility to our production facilities. It will fit seamlessly in with the other presses, enabling us to ramp up production very quickly, and with the added benefit of also being able to print water-based inks it further enhances Ultimate’s sustainability journey.”

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