Glemsford: Factory produces ‘royal baby’ range

Tim Yeo with Philips Avent site director Greg McGrath

Tim Yeo with Philips Avent site director Greg McGrath - Credit: Archant

A global company based in rural Suffolk has launched a range of baby products to celebrate the royal birth and to promote it’s British image.

Philips Avent, which employs 650 people at its plant in Glemsford and sells its products worldwide, has used cutting edge technology to print a union jack and crown in red, white and blue on a special royal baby bottle and soother set - one of which has been sent to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

According to site director, Greg McGrath, who showed south Suffolk MP Tim Yeo around the Glemsford plant yesterday, the company is one of the UK’s only manufacturing business to successfully export plastic based products to China. The logos on the royal baby bottles could be retained in some form to help identify the products as “British-made”.

Mr McGrath said: “Our UK exclusive range has been launched to coincide with the birth of the royal baby but also to give it a strong British brand in the world market and promote the UK production side of things.”

Quality manager Jon Powell added: “Because of the increase in volume needed to meet demand for our products, we are looking at launching additional products from our sister plant in Indonesia. However, the Chinese market only wants bottles from the UK plant. Although it is not as big as the US market, China is the fifth biggest market for childcare products and this is getting bigger.”

Mr Yeo described the plant as “very impressive”. He said: “One of the most encouraging things is the export of baby products selling into markets like China where people would think it was quite difficult to compete here in Britain.

“But it’s a great tribute to the management and workforce that they can produce and compete in a country where traditionally manufacturing costs are lower than they are in western Europe.”

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A revolutionary new ‘natural bottle’ launched last year in response to demand for a product that allows for an easier transition from breast to bottle feeding, has exceeded predicted sales.

More than a third of the Glemsford workforce are women, and 450 of the jobs are permanent contracts. Despite most of the processes in the factory being ‘fully automated’, Mr Yeo said he was hopeful that jobs would not be lost as a result.

He added: “It’s no surprise that the company is the second biggest employer on a single site in my constituency.

“Introducing automated production lines with robots means you can produce bigger volumes from the same number of people and that’s how you stay competitive in business.

“If they can do that, then there’s no reason for people to be anxious about job levels, which could well be going up rather than down.”

The company started in 1936 as a family business manufacturing hot water bottles, and Philips acquired the firm in 2006. It sells more than 30 million bottles and 27 million soothers every year, and has won numerous design and innovation awards.

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