20 March 2006
Boxing Clever(HKTDC Packaging, Vol 01,2006)
Keenpack Industrial Ltd
|Keenpack Industrial Ltd has remained faithful to tin box manufacturing since being established in 2000 and focuses on the high-end of the market|
Demonstrating that specialisation can also lead to the acquisition of great knowledge in a particular industry sector, Keenpack Industrial Ltd has remained faithful to tin box manufacturing since being established in 2000.
Keenpack focuses on the high-end of the market, and has European management teams in both Hong Kong (10 staff) and the Chinese mainland. DTP, photoengraving and reproduction is carried out in Hong Kong, while production takes place at a 250-worker factory close to the port of Yantian in Guangdong Province. Tin plate is imported from Japan, Korea and Taiwan to assure the quality and to obtain soft and flexible materials that promote ease of shaping.
"We target the high-end market, and Europe is a major destination for our tin boxes," says director Jerome Martin. "France is a very big outlet for us, followed by Germany, Spain, the UK and Scandinavia, and we deal with some big-name buyers and very well-known brands."
Martin reveals that most of the company's tin boxes are used for the packaging of food stuffs (80%), followed by alcohol, chocolate and tea. "The tobacco industry is a big market, too, as it needs the airtight tins we make," he says. "Promotional items also figure large, as do pet foods and pills."
Apart from containers, tin boxes can also act as convenient promotional items. A typical example of this use comes from the pharmaceutical industry. "Regulations in Europe do not allow direct promotions to doctors," says Martin. "However, some of our clients package a useful item in a tin box and use the outside appearance or message to promote another product. This satisfies EU requirements."
He says Keenpack provides a full service for such operations and can subcontract the manufacturing of any novelty to accompany its tin boxes. "We can also do the final packaging at our plant," he advises.
Keenpack has upgraded its plant to provide 100% food-container compatibility with FDA standards. "Other manufacturers may use EN71 tests, which is a toys sector regulation ensuring safety even if a child puts the tin into its mouth," says Martin. "But we go further and obtain certification for full direct contact between the container and food. We need to do this as the tea companies we work with pack their products directly into the tin."
He adds that Keenpack can also produce these containers in smaller quantities than usual. "Whereas this level of sophistication and price usually requires huge production runs, we have our own technology that allows smaller runs at lower cost," he claims. "The operation is semi-automatic and labour-intensive, but this is an asset when manufacturing on the mainland. In Europe, for example, a buyer would have to order a minimum of one million tins for such quality."
Environmentally friendly tin also remains the metal of choice for Keenpack and many of its clients. "Metal readily participates in the environmental programmes recommended by the EU," notes Martin, "and one-third of EU members have electromagnetic sorting systems that allow easy recycling."
Keenpack often works on an exclusive basis. "When we create a design for a particular customer we protect its interests and will not use it elsewhere," Martin declares. "We will also do our utmost to protect customers' rights in Hong Kong and on the mainland, and we have registered our designs. We prosecute anyone who uses our designs illegally."
Martin says the market for tin boxes has developed rapidly in recent years. "By taking care of the raw materials, the tooling, the plate-forming and printing processes, and by maintaining tight quality control, a company can stay ahead of the field," he says.
"QC is vitally important, especially for a high-end maker with a reputation to maintain," he continues. "We would rather not ship than despatch goods that do not meet every one of our exacting standards."
Martin says that while quality is high, prices are reasonable. "On the mainland, there is always someone cheaper," he laughs. "We do not compete on that level, and sell at a fair market price - but nor are we the most expensive!"
For quality tin boxes, it seems clear that Keenpack will remain a force to contend with for a long time to come.
WRITTEN BY TONY HENDERSON