Qualvis Print & Packaging – Quality & Service

Qualvis Print and Packaging is an award-winning family-owned folding carton manufacturer based in Leicester.

This year Qualvis Print and Packaging has been shortlisted for Company of the Year and Carton Pack of the Year at the UK Packaging Awards. It is a great achievement and one that is the culmination of a long journey.

“It’s a fantastic achievement as just over three years ago the company was struggling to stay solvent,” says Marcus Short, Joint Managing Director of Qualvis Print and Packaging. “The company had somewhat lost its way in recent years. It had started to lose focus on its target market and was chasing the wrong type of work. That mixed with some misjudged investments put the company in a very precarious position.”

Qualvis Print and Packaging which was founded by Short’s father, David Short and his business partner, Robert Lonsdale in 1982. Today Marcus runs the company alongside his sister, Lisa Smith.

“My father’s business partner came up with the name,” recalls Short. “It’s a blend of Quality and Service and that’s what the company prides itself on.”

In the company’s early years, it went from strength to strength. The strategy was to focus on cartons for the food industry. In the early 2000’s it had a turnover of circa £13 million with 160 plus employees spread over three facilities.

In 2006 Robert Lonsdale was bought out of the company, leading to it becoming fully owned by the Short family. Of course, not long after that, the financial crisis hit.

“The company definitely suffered after the financial crisis,” Short recalls. “We had a significant drop in turnover and were still operating over a fractured production site with a lot of machines and over a hundred employees to support. Fortunately, business began to pick up with the economy recovering and the organic growth of existing customers, along with picking up the largest single contract in the company’s history.”

The landlords of the site decided to redevelop and by 2011 Qualvis had the three facilities under one roof.

“This gave us a much better process flow and operational efficiencies,” Short points out.

A Return to Values

However, Short acknowledges, the company still had some lessons to learn.

“The problem over the following years was the company was losing its core values,” he says. “The once artisan and high-quality food brands had been taken over by much larger groups and the company’s output had increased substantially. We were slowly drifting away from our target market and were going down the high-volume low margin type of work, doing large amounts of day line products for the major retailers.”

During this period Qualvis had also invested in a lot of new equipment which had put an additional financial burden on the company.

“We were still producing quality work but finding it hard to service our customers and our finances were not looking healthy,” Short says. “We recognised we needed help.”

In 2018 the company enlisted a turnaround specialist and set to work on focussing on what they do best.

“We focussed on our target market, the customers we are best suited for. The small to medium artisan food brands, the premium food lines for the major retailers mixed with some high-quality cosmetic work,” Short says. “The company intentionally reduced its output so it could focus on these customers and brands, giving them the quality of product and service they require.”

Qualvis also created a strong Senior Management and Production Management Team.

“We’re fortunate as throughout the turbulent times we’ve retained some exceptional employees and there is a high skill level throughout the company,” Short tells us. “We know what we are good at, we pride ourselves on innovation, creativity and manufacturing a high-quality product along with a high level of service.”

The timing for this change in strategy could not have been better, as the turnaround was quickly followed by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“If the change had not happened when it did, we would not be around today,” Short says simply.

As the company serviced the food industry its staff were classed as key workers and remained operational throughout the crisis. Now on the other side of the worst of the pandemic, Qualvis is looking to the future. The family-owners have rebranded the company and put their own stamp on it.

“We wanted to be more reflective of the brands and customers we service; we want to put across that we are a family business,” Short says. “The industry is becoming more and more consolidated but we still feel there is a key role for independents who can offer a different level of service not achieved by larger competitors. We’re not looking to increase turnover dramatically, we think with the right customers this will happen organically, our key focus is to offer the best product possible with the highest level of service.”

Short is also keen that Qualvis will remain fiercely independent. He tells us, “We get asked all the time to sell but we have no plans to. Our future plans are to invest back into the people, machinery and property.”

The company is celebrating its 40th anniversary next year and is inviting all employees to join in the celebrations at Leicester Racecourse.

A Sustainable Future

As sustainability and the reduction of plastics has risen up the global agenda, Qualvis has managed to put its innovation to good use, with an exclusive substrate that has managed to remove 300 tonnes of plastic from the shelves. The company is also a World Land Trust certified printer and can offer carbon balanced paper to its customers helping to reduce the carbon impact of cartons by counterbalancing the CO2 used to make them.

Short also mentions that the company plans to undertake an energy audit in the new year.

“As a company, we promote sustainability through the product we sell, so we’re keen to understand how we can manufacture this in the most environmentally way possible,” he says.

With a story like this behind it, it is not hard to see why Qualvis has been shortlisted for the UK Packaging Awards’ Company of the Year and Carton Pack of the Year titles.

“I feel very honoured to be shortlisted but think it would be amazing to win as it confirms all the hard work the employees have undertaken has been recognised beyond Lisa and myself,” Short tells us.

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