Quick moves fill paper cup gap in market

Printing company boss Terry Fox picked up a throwaway idea in 2007 and began making disposable paper cups. This year his quick turnaround products will be available on the US market, writes Trish Dromey.

Billed as the fastest paper cup manufacturer in the world, Co Clare company Cupprint is planning to take on the US, a mega-sized market which uses billions of disposable cups every year.

The only paper cup manufacturing company in Ireland, it was set up in the depths of recession in 2009 when Cupprint founder and managing director Terry Fox identified a gap in the market for fast turnaround, bespoke paper cups in small and medium-sized quantities.

Now nominated for the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Awards in the emerging category, the Ennis-based company employs a staff of 55 and manufactures 8 million paper cups a month. Exporting to the UK, Germany and Europe it sells through distributors to independent coffee shops as well as to marketing companies and has produced bespoke cups for brands such as Audi, Mercedes, Mars Foods and Kraft Foods.

Mr Fox was running a commercial printing company in 2007 when he was asked to investigate the possibility of manufacturing paper cups in Ireland instead of importing them from the Far East or Europe.

“In the commercial print world you have 24 hours to turn around an order but I discovered that the norm for cup printing was 16 weeks and that it could take three weeks just to get a quote. This seemed ridiculously long”

He also discovered that the large companies operating in this space were offering a minimum bespoke cup order size of 50,000.

&Mr Fox set up Cupprint in 2009. “We started trading from scratch with seven people with very little investment, in the hope of earning a living.”

The company received some support from the Clare Enterprise Board and began knocking on doors. The Cupprint website also attracted some international interest because of the unique printing technology it had developed.

“Our key selling points are order size and fast turnaround. We offer a minimum order quantity of 1,000 cups for marketing companies and 5,000 for retail and cafes in a turnaround time of 15 days anywhere in Europe.’’

In late 2009 the Bunzl distribution group in Ireland took on Cupprint products and began to work on developing sales in Ireland.

The company’s first customer was in the UK and in 2010 it won a best new product café award in the UK, which proved a boost to sales. It also set up a partnership arrangement in the German market and established a sales office which now employs a staff of five.

By 2011 the company had turned the corner. “Volumes were twice what I had anticipated they would be and business began to take off,’’ he says, adding that the company has added around 10 staff a year since then.

In 2011 Enterprise Ireland became an investor and provided assistance in developing exports. The funding was used for new equipment. To secure Enterprise Ireland funding Cupprint needed to demonstrate that it was a technology company, and did so using a cup, which changes colour when filled with coffee.

Now the company sells through distributors primarily to independent cafes. ” These are our sweet spot customers — in terms of retail outlets they make up 66% of the market and our product is perfect for smaller cafes which require branding just like the big chains,” says Mr Fox.

Some 70% of Cupprint’s business is with distributors selling to cafes and the remaining 30% is with advertising and marketing companies. The UK is the largest market with 40% of sales.

This year sales for the first quarter are up 50% on the same period last year and Mr Fox anticipates that the company will continue growing at a steady rate.

Cupprint is working on plans to enter the US market later. This will involve setting up a manufacturing operation there to provide cups within a 15-day order period and a sales office. The company expect this market to develop significantly over the next few years.

Mr Fox is also making plans to launch a business to customer service, supplying smaller quantities of bespoke cups to individuals for parties, birthdays and events. ” This is very exciting for us as we will be the first cup company in the world to offer this”

Through developing sales in the US and other markets, the company aims to achieve a turnover of €13m within three years.

Profile

* Company: Cupprint.

* Location: Ennis, Co Clare.

* Managing director: Terry Fox.

* Set-up: 2009.

* Staff: 55.

* Business: Manufactures bespoke paper cups.

* Main markets: UK; Germany; Ireland.

* Website: www.cupprint.ie


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