The Delta Group – Fit to Print

The Delta Group is one of the most established and well-equipped names in the print industry, but it is also so much more than that.

The Delta Group started as a small print business in 1991, founded by the company’s current Executive Chairman, Mike Phillips and his co-founder, Jason Auluk who still holds a non-executive role on the board. The pair had both worked for companies in the print sector before and had concluded that they could do what their erstwhile employers had been doing, but better.

“The company developed its service offering over the coming years, to meet the needs of our clients broadening marketing services requirements. We have expanded and developed various other divisions including distribution, creativity, experiential events, installation, in-store screens, and Out-of-Home,” Phillips tells us today. “We have expanded through all aspects of the marketing budget, increasingly in online advertising and social. We have worked on everything, including aspects of above the line spend like TV.”

As the company developed, Phillips brought on board the Delta Group’s new Group CEO, Jason Hammond, who has now been with the company for five years. The pair enjoy a close and collaborative working relationship.

“You can do a whole lot more when sharing responsibilities,” Hammond points out. “Jason’s a good CEO. He has been involved in the process of buying and selling businesses more than anyone else on the Board. He has also been instrumental in recruiting the necessary talent to ensure we deliver on growth and the broad range of end-to-end services. Meanwhile, I am more of an entrepreneur. I have ideas in terms of investment, vision, and direction. So, it is a great combination of how our respective strengths complement each other.”

While Phillips, Hammond, and the rest of the Board each take responsibility for relationships with the Delta Group’s major clients, Phillips is also happy to step back and take a more strategic role.

“It is difficult for a founder still involved in the business not to get involved in all the details, but Mike will take a strategic approach, while we roll it out. This provides the exec team with his entrepreneurial perspective and commercial acumen. It is a very successful balance of my Exec team’s skillset and Mike’s experience,” Hammond says.

Today the Delta Group has a turnover of £100 million and a staff of 680 people working across five manufacturing plants in the UK and Ireland. Historically the company is known for its large format point of sale.

The key sectors that Delta operate within are Retail (grocery, fashion, DIY, tech, clothing, and home), FMCG (food and beverage, health and beauty) and Film / Entertainment / Media and Gaming.

As Hammond tells us, “If you walked into a retail store, whether it is a Sainsbury’s, M&S, Lidl, Fat Face, or Burger King, you will have seen our products. But we do a whole lot more than that.”

The Delta Group’s services also include out-of-home (OOH) advertising across all London transport, including bus sides and the Underground, not only in terms of printing the materials but also doing all the creative work that leads up to it, and experiential activations.

Delta’s in-house creative agency employs a diverse pool of creatives capable of supporting global household brands with multi-channel campaign concept and design, event management, and experiential activations.

On the digital front, the Delta Group has also been very active.

“We provide a full turn-key solution for instore digital screens on the high street, offering hardware, installation, content creation and an innovative content management system to manage and publish content nationally across a store portfolio,” Hammond says. “Underpinning all the campaign activation we execute is our market-leading technology patent called WorkstreamX. Our bespoke, in-house technology platform has been deployed globally in over 70 countries and has over 30,000 active users. It has been specifically designed and developed to support leading retailers and brands with everything from store allocations, artwork automation, online approvals, asset management, compliance, screens management, inventory management to delivery.”

Pushing Frontiers

The Delta Group has built a hard-earned reputation for agility and speed to market, supported by a unique manufacturing base that is huge in scale and capacity. The company is keen to invest in the latest developments in the sector and is typically the first to invest in the latest machinery to enable growth and yet at its core deliver value to clients. It is a quality that sets Delta apart from the industry.

“The print industry is renowned for not being very well invested, but to remain market-leading we’re constantly pushing for new technology and services, to deliver efficiency, return on investment to both Delta and our clients,” Hammond points out. “In the digital sector, we’re well aligned on environmentally friendly production, and green energy across the whole Group, we’ve essentially built a platform that is aligned to our clients’ demands and supply chain requirements.”

It is a core part of the Delta Group’s philosophy, to not only be active at the cutting edge of best practices today but to be constantly looking for how the sector might evolve tomorrow.

“We’ve always pushed boundaries through innovation and generally the first mover on new or emerging technologies,” Phillips says. “We were the first to use litho presses for window point of sale. That had always been done by silk screen, which is how everyone thought it had to be done. We changed it. It brought costs down while driving speed up. We were the first to print litho onto plastics and bus sides. We were the first to have two Roland presses on a large scale in our industry. We are very much pioneers, but we are brave on the investment front, and we tend to get it right.”

The latest big investment the Delta Group has made is in the field of digital printing. The company has invested over £3 million in acquiring a second Nozomi – the latest C18000 plus EFI press, a large format single pass digital press. This makes the Delta Group the second company in the world to have two Nozomi presses.

“It is a big feather in our cap, and innovation is embedded in our culture and strategy, but to be clear, our investments are always predicated on delivering value to our customers,” Hammond says. “We are looking forward to seeing it go into commercial production in a week’s time, and the value it delivers to our clients.”

The new digital press, when compared to the latest litho press five years previously uses 12 times less energy.

“We’re one of two companies globally and the first in Europe to do this,” Phillips says. “The other company to have two Nozomis is in the US, and that is a beta site. The presses are investments worth £3.5 million, so not many organisations are doing that right now.”

Beyond Print

The Delta Group’s efforts to stay ahead of the technical curve are more vital than ever, for as Hammond points out, the industry is changing rapidly.

“The next 12 months will be fascinating because our market is changing quite considerably,” he says. “We acquired the Odessa Print Group, and they are now using our technology on the production lines with the same direct-to-press ethos that we have across the Group. We have made some massive efficiencies in the business through that, and we are looking at acquiring two or three other companies.”

Perhaps surprisingly, these acquisitions are not specifically in the print space. The creative and events divisions of the business are growing quickly, as is the company’s team of creatives, and two acquisitions in those spaces could change the face of the Delta Group.

“A lot of that is about perception,” Phillips says. “We are Europe’s largest privately-owned point-of-sale company, and we do not want to be pigeon-holed as that. We want to expand our offering, to deliver end-to-end value. We are functioning almost as an agency rather than a print company, providing all aspects of multi-channel campaign execution, from design all the way through to the online, digital, and physical prints and working with clients to establish what works and what does not, then starting the next campaign.”

But while the Delta Group is investing in in-store digital screen activations, it is also looking at how this technology can work alongside print.

“Consumers can get screen blindness just as you can get print blindness, but by using a combination of methods we can overcome that. It is a real differentiator for us as clients can activate a multi-channel campaign with us, versus using multiple suppliers,” Hammond tells us. “The print industry is stronger than ever, our market is changing, and Delta is well positioned to take advantage, and most importantly add value to our clients.”

Indeed, while the Delta Group is a company unafraid of new technologies, Hammond is adamant the writing is not on the wall for print.

“Print is going nowhere. The market is seeing massive consolidation,” Hammond says. “We have seen it in other areas of manufacturing, and we very much want to be at the forefront of that and a leader of that consolidation. It has been our strategy and it is paying off, which is evident from the new business we have secured in the two years.”

Awarded PrintWeek 2022’s Environmental Company of the Year Award Delta’s drive towards net zero has been a key part of that, with their award-winning “Delta Net Zero” strategy. The strategy is focused on 3 pillars: collaboration, supply, and people.

Hammond says, “My brief to the business when developing our sustainability strategy was to ensure our approach covered key components such as ensuring our supply chain is sustainable and robust, yet agile, delivering quantifiable measurable objectives, to show POS is a viable channel in the marketing mix of an eco-conscious buying community. Critically, and this is how we differentiate, we align to our clients’ sustainability programmes helping them deliver on their objectives using our Product Lifecycle Calculator. Finally, we ensure our most important asset, our people, are at the centre of our strategy.”

The company measures the carbon output of everything it manufactures and transports, using that data to share with its clients and drive landfill down and provide accurate carbon calculations.