Varsity Packaging

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Varsity Packaging's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Varsity Packaging is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Andrew Latimer, managing
Unparalleled range
of stock
The sale of cartonboard wouldn’t be described by many as
particularly exciting or salacious, but for Varsity Packaging,
specialising in this product has provided them with a highly
successful and, above all, sustainable business for over 30 years.
Indeed, there still lies in front of them a long and bright future.
That is not to say, however, that there will be an absence of
obstacles or challenges to come, especially in light of the heavy
push towards recyclables and the diminution of plastic waste.
Nevertheless, their managing director, Andrew Latimer, is
confident in Varsity Packaging’s ability to surmount these – not
least because he has done so before. Nowadays, Varsity is the
largest cartonboard stockist in the UK. The following Review
article is a more thorough exposition of how the company
exemplifies best practice, written by Andrew himself.
The context
Varsity Packaging emerged as a viable business in 1987, and was formed as an
autonomous company taking over-make and side-run cartonboard stock lots,
predominantly from its Austrian parent company Mayr-Melnhof Karton AG. We
offered local storage and quick delivery in the UK to carton printers. European
cartonboard mills, by contrast, prefer to deliver much larger volumes direct to
the larger carton makers, and smaller orders were difficult for them to service
quickly and economically. Thus, Varsity quickly established itself as a professional,
specialised localalternative.
»Managing director:
»Established in 1987
»Based in Reading, Berkshire
»Services: Distributor of
cartonboard (folding box
board, white-lined chipboard,
unlined greyboard)
»No. of employees: 10
»The largest stockist of
cartonboard in the UK
Varsity Packaging
Cartonboard has a great many functions
to perform, with food safety and product
protection being the most important.
In manufacturing, however, it must
be produced from environmentally
sustainable resources and be easy to
recycle on top of that. The end goal,
of course, is for packaging to have
minimal environmental impact. In this
regard, we only sourced from highly
responsible and sustainable producers.
Over time, as sales grew, we also
gathered a highly experienced team of
professionals who gained the trust of
cartonboard converters throughout the
UK. By talking to our customers and
establishing their exact requirements,
we tailor-made a range of qualities and
sizes. This enabled customers to source
cartonboard quickly, competitively and
with minimum waste during conversion.
Growth and areas of best
Varsity grew rapidly throughout the
1990s and early 2000s by being a
“specialised” cartonboard merchant,
having the best product knowledge
and providing the best technical back-
up available on the market. Carton
converters relied upon us to know
exactly what they needed to fulfil the
growing demands from supermarkets,
food outlets and retailers. We held
custom sheet sizes for quick delivery
in full mill pallets. Customers grew
accustomed to the fact that Varsity
always provided them solutions,
without fuss or delay. This ethos meant
that trust was the byword that ran
through the spine of thebusiness.
We now source our products from
a large number of market-leading
mills from around the world. We pick
our product range of boards to suit
all carton requirements, including
food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals
and everyday household products.
These grades are renowned for their
outstanding reliability. They also perform
throughout the supply chain, improving
efficiencies for converters, packer fillers
and – eventually – the end users and
consumers who receive the product
with minimal damage orwastage.
During the 2000s just in time (JIT)
requirements have become the
norm, and Varsity deliver on that in
every respect. Customers receive fast
responses from the well-established
and trusted Varsity team, many of
whom have been with the business
for over 20 years. In a world where
communication is key, Varsity can
perform, with the philosophy that
talking to customers brings about a far
better engagement and understanding
of their needs. That way, customers
only have to ask once and we
immediately know what they want. In a
fast-moving world, this has huge value.
Frohnleiten Mill, Austria
Reliable products that
customers trust
The end goal,
of course, is
for packaging
to have
Highlighting best practice
Over time, packaging has become
far more technical, with the need
for boards to print and pack on the
fastest and most technically efficient
machinery in the world. Being a
natural product derived from either
virgin or recovered fibres, this is quite a
challenge, so converters must get the
right advice – first time, every time, an
area in which Varsity stands out.
Political commentary
Packaging has become a hot political
issue in the last 20 years, as a result of
which extra pressure is placed on the
supply chain to ensure that optimal
efficiency is maintained, while also
being environmentally responsible.
Fortunately, cartonboard has an
excellent story to tell in that respect:
being derived from a sustainable crop
and produced on some of the most
efficient board machines in the world,
cartonboard beats all other forms of
packaging in its environmental and
sustainability credentials.
Replacing plastics, where possible, is
a subject that has now become front
and centre in recent years. In this
regard, the cartonboard industry is
already producing some alternatives
that can easily be recycled with
minimal impact. Further innovations
are rapidly emerging which will help
this issue, sometimes incorporating
natural, water-based functional barriers
into the back of cartonboard, thereby
eliminating the need for plastics for
certain end uses. This, however,
will take time, and further impetus
is needed from the public to ask
supermarkets and producers to initiate
trials of the new grades to speed up
their roll-out.
Brexit is also something over which we
must keep a watchful eye. As we only
have one cartonboard mill remaining
in the UK, it is important to keep the
current choice of materials from Europe
and overseas tariff-free; that way,
we can keep up with the increasing
volume requirements and technical
demands and maintain a healthy and
competitive cartonboardmarket.
Having been with Varsity now for
over 28 years, I feel that I have led by
example, treating both my staff and
my customers fairly, involving myself
with every aspect of the business.
This entails empowering my team to
give them the confidence to make
autonomous decisions and back them
to the hilt so long as they can justify
them. The end result is that my staff
trust me to look after them and our
customers are wholly confident in us.
has an
excellent story
to tell in that
Sustainable products
from environmentally
responsible sources
Varsity, driven to succeed

This article was sponsored by Varsity Packaging. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister