Stuart Wilkinson, sales and marketing director from P Wilkinson Containers, manufacturers and stockists of metal and plastic containers, gives a birds eye view of the effects of the coronavirus on the market.

How has corona impacted your business?

At P Wilkinson Containers some of our usual customers including fillers have switched to hand gel production – really anybody who has a production line has been aiding the national effort.

Has production been affected, or do you expect it to be?

We are finding that the whole supply chain is having to become more flexible and order forecasting is more volatile. Our customers are having to deal with staff shortages and challenging retail conditions. Many have adapted to the times – for example we work with several paint brands and retailers who have focused their resources on upscaling their mail order and online offerings.  At William Say, our sister can manufacturer, we’ve been able to retain the flexibility we need by adapting our working conditions and our multi-skilled workforce are able to respond to fluctuating demands.

Has your supply chain been impacted, or do you envisage such challenges?

As a packaging stockist, we’ve seen a huge surge in demand for packaging formats that can be used for storing hand sanitiser, with many manufacturers getting creative with size.  Industrial drums used for a chlorine solution to wash vital equipment such as face masks, whilst industrial five litre bottles can be used for dispensing hand gel into smaller containers.  Even small 250ml 24mm neck clear PET spherical bottles usually used for luxury bath products have been ordered for sanitiser. 

We’ve also gained new clients from the craft and micro-brewery industry. With the closure of many pubs and restaurants cask beer is sat waiting around to be drunk.  

Unpasteurized craft beers and real ale has a short cellar life of six to nine weeks meaning many orders before lockdown will be nearing their sell by date before they can be drunk. 

Micro-breweries have been switching to metal five litre mini-kegs which feature an easy-to-use ‘pull handle and tilt’ tap (rather than a button or twist tap) so that consumers can access their favourite beers from their couches. 

Similarly, across the adhesive and sealants market we are seeing continued demand for metal lever lid tins, oblong tins and metal outside curl tins. Adhesives and sealants are being used in the production of equipment, including ventilators, needed on the frontline. 

What measures are you taking to ensure you meet these challenges?

As we move deeper into the lockdown, at P Wilkinson Containers we’re continuing to stock our core range in plastic and metal ready to supply manufacturers as they embrace the forced #coronacreativity.

We are prioritising the supply of plastic bottles to anyone producing sanitisers, in order to help fight the spread of the virus.  Same day dispatch and same day collection has also been made possible on occasion to support the NHS, and in particular, the Nightingale Hospital in London’s Excel Center. If you are filling sanitiser and require bottles then please speak to one of our team.

How do you see coronavirus impacting more generally on packaging / FMCG, and do you have any suggestions as to how the industry can mitigate these impacts?

P Wilkinson Containers provides a bridge between packaging manufacturers and our customers. We guarantee for our customers that they can secure the packaging formats they need within five working days – rather than the four to eight week lead time had they liaised directly with a packaging manufacturer.

We hold both general and bespoke stock at our site in Bermondsey and we have a responsibility to continue to supply our customers with what they need, in turn helping the wheels of industry turning.  Through our experience we were able to anticipate some of the upcoming difficulties and increased our stock levels of our core lines, including from some of our suppliers in Northern Italy and Spain before they entered the lock down.

Are there any broader lessons about packaging that industry – or society – should draw from the pandemic?

I think that the current situation has showcased the importance of packaging as a whole – that each packaging material, whether that’s PET, metal, glass etc. each has its own distinct qualities making it fit for purpose. I think there will be much wider appreciation of all packaging formats.