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Putting haggis in the shop window

Scottish butcher Simon Howie uses packaging and labels to make its products stand out on the shelf and to get them in the hands of consumers.

Simon Howie is a British butcher with shops in Perth and Auchterarder, Scotland, serving a range of beef, lamb, pork and poultry products, from steaks and sausages to mince and chicken kievs.

Started by its namesake in the mid-1980s, Simon Howie has grown to become a nationally recognized supplier of meat-based products in the UK, with a supermarket range that includes black pudding, burgers and the Scottish dish of haggis. Most often consumed around Burns Night, which celebrates the life and poetry of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, haggis is a meat-based savory pudding, although multiple variants are available to meet specific dietary requirements. For example, Simon Howie’s range includes vegetarian and gluten-free versions, alongside its original. 2017 was the company’s most successful Burns Night trading period to date.

In total, Simon Howie’s range extends to 43 products, with more in development. Each has its own requirements for packaging and labels, varying from top and bottom labels, and sleeves, to haggis bags (pouches) and boxes, meaning a large volume of labels and packaging is required by the company to distribute through its channels.

This includes an order of around 500,000 labels required every six to eight weeks, supplied by Bissett Printers in East Kilbride, and Reflex, with operations across the UK. Bisset Printers specializes in the manufacture of self-adhesive labels and cartons using flexo, and also offers a turnkey design to print  service. Its production floor features presses from Mark Andy and Heidelberg equipment in 4-, 6-, 7- and 8-color configurations, all with reverse print, cold foiling and laminating facilities. Reflex, with sites in Newcastle, Castleford, Mansfield, Boston, Ilkeston, Telford, Leicester and Tonbridge, as well as Reflex Label Plus sites in Keighley and Barwell, produces a range of products, including printed, plain, linerless and durable labels. It offers hot and cold foils to produce metallic effects, high and low tactile labels, and multi-page peel and read products. Printed labels are available in up to 10 colors. A recent order for five additional MPS EF multi-substrate flexo presses, for the Label Plus division, included two 10-color, 430mm-wide models with APC (automated print control) packages, in addition to one 8-color press, and two 9-color, 520mm-wide presses. The machines are also equipped with multiple screen units, cold foiling and Flowman hot foiling system from Pantec, in addition to various laminating and booklet equipment that can be moved from press to press using the MPS Ultraflex rail system.

Simon Howie’s need for sleeves, approximately 100,000 each month, is fulfilled by KennedySmith Press of Irvine in Scotland, while an order for 20-25,000 plain boxes for haggis is serviced by Boxshop every month, also operating out of East Kilbride. Shelf-ready boxes – 20-30,000 a month – and trays are provided by Saica and Linpac/DBM Packaging, respectively. The company has also directly purchased two Ravenwood machines that facilitate the use of linerless labels, and is in the process of bringing in a flow wrapper.

Staying fresh

While packaging plays an integral role in helping Simon Howie gets its products into the hands of consumers in optimum quality, as important to it is keeping the brand ‘fresh’ and elevating its appearance on-shelf. The company, in general, refreshes its branding every four years or so, although product alterations and recipe tweaks can see changes made in between.

To this end, Simon Howie has introduced new packaging designs this year, being introduced in two stages and using a matte, soft touch finish. This is evidenced initially through a new premium BBQ range, launched for the summer that uses cartonboard sleeves printed with high-quality graphics, a color palette and lettering to evoke memories of BBQs, and summer foods and flavors.

‘Packaging is very important and we are working hard to achieve cost-neutral premiumization of all our lines,’ comments Simon Howie brand marketing manager Clair Howison. ‘We regularly meet with suppliers to discuss new products and explore new ideas. We need to ensure we look our best.’


David Pittman is deputy editor at Labels & Labeling.

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