Nottingham Post: Business Awards: The Notts tech firm that adds vital touch to your bag of crisps

25th April, 2017

Nottingham Post Business Awards

Ever wondered about the digital inkjet codes on packets of food such as crisps and sandwiches and what they mean?

There is a fair chance that the ingenuity behind the technology comes from Nottingham.

Clearmark, based at Sherwood Business Park in Annesley, is the country’s leader in high-quality digital printing systems for the packaging industry, operating in sectors such as food and beverage, pharmaceutical, printing and DIY.

The equipment is highly sophisticated and the coding relays a range of information. The company has entered the small business of the year category of the Nottingham Post Business Awards.

Managing director Chris Simpson explains: “Take a bag of crisps. The bag is manufactured, printed and laminated and transported to the company which makes the crisps.
“At the point at which the crisps are placed in the bag, there is a requirement to place information on the packaging that tells the consumer when the product was made, the date by which it should be consumed and other information such as the factory and production line.
“This has to be applied at the point at which the product and packaging are combined. The process of printing on the packaging is done digitally demanding a different technology.”

There are usually two elements of the information. The first is the need for traceability if the product is returned because of a problem. The second tells the consumer a date by which a product should be consumed safely.

And critically, the printing equipment must integrate with the packaging system.

Clearmark works closely with the manufacturers of production lines adding its own expertise drawing on the latest sophisticated thermal transfer and inkjet digital printing heads supplied by state-of-the-art manufacturers such as Videojet Technologies on the Nottingham Science Park.

Products made by Clearmark essentially draw on increasingly sophisticated digital printers developed by Videojet.

Chris says: “That business has a strong development schedule and we build them into our systems. We add value through systems by integrating them.
“The component arrives in a box and we build a complete system which meets the customers’ requirements for a digital packaging printing system. The integration process often includes the addition of mechanical and electrical hardware as well as software.”

The Clearmark journey began in 2001, when its three directors Chris Simpson, Chris Gent and Dave Bradbury had a vision to combine over 40 years of engineering expertise and create a company that could deliver unrivalled coding, print and labelling solutions for the packaging industry. The directors are each part owners.

Today, the business employs about 70 staff turning over £14 million. Last year, it made pre-tax profits of £2.4 million.

“We have a very healthy market share in the UK, possibly around 40 per cent with certain technologies,” adds Chris. “We are hoping to continue to grow at a rate of 15 to 20 per cent for the next three to five years. Best in class products and excellent customer service will be critical to this growth plan.”

Clearmark is investing in a new state-of-the-art warehouse and preparation facility as part of its continuing business development.

The additional space provided by the 11,478 square foot split-level warehouse will enable Clearmark to build, store and ship more orders, further improving its commitment to responsive service, and allow the business to expand its wide range of coding solutions into new markets.

The company has installed over 9,000 machines for more than a thousand customers since it was founded and enjoys a strong reputation for innovation and high-quality customer service across a range of technologies, including thermal transfer, thermal inkjet, large character marking, and print and apply labelling.

Article and photo credit: Courtesy of the Nottingham Post

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