Glemsford: Philips Avent invests in new baby bottle launch

MILLIONS of pounds have been invested in hi-tech equipment to enable a factory in rural Suffolk to manufacture an innovative new product.

Philips Avent, which employs 650 people at its plant in Glemsford and sells its products worldwide, has just launched a revolutionary baby bottle.

Since the company started in 1936 as a family business manufacturing hot water bottles, it has come a long way. Philips acquired the firm in 2006 and it now sells more than 30 million bottles and 27 million soothers every year.

The new ‘natural bottle’ which features a twin valve anti-colic teat, is the first new bottle the company has developed in 25 years. It has been designed in response to demand for a product that allows for an easier transition from breast to bottle feeding.

Philips Avent senior operations director Steve Seal believes the investment in the new line could help secure the company’s future in the county. He said: “You hear so many doom and gloom stories about how the recession is affecting businesses, but we are in a very rural location and we are actually bucking the trend because we are growing year on year.

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“We have made significant investment in equipment and training in preparation for the new product range and, while you can’t take anything for granted, this has to bode well for the future of the business in Suffolk.”

The new bottle has a more ‘ergonomic’ shape and several design features which make it easier for the baby to ‘latch on’.

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Research conducted by Cambridge University in the lead up to the product launch suggests that 80% of babies in a trial group were able to latch on to the bottle at first attempt.

“One of the key drivers has been the increased demand for people to breast feed for longer,” Mr Seal added. “We believe our new bottle will offer a strong point of difference in the marketplace.”

More than a third of the Glemsford workforce are women, and 450 of the jobs are permanent contracts. Despite the new bottle being produced on a ‘fully automated’ production line, Mr Seal said no jobs had been lost and most employees had been given a chance to acquire more “skilled” positions.

He concluded: “We still have our old lines running in the same way, but many of the processes used in manufacture of the new line are technically challenging. The jobs have in fact become more demanding so we have been able to give people an opportunity for development.”

The company also works with local schools to encourage students to pursue careers in engineering and manufacturing.

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