In 2015, West Sussex based contract packing company, A E Adams, celebrates its 50th anniversary.
To celebrate this milestone, Managing Director, Anthony Milner, gives a brief history of the manufacturing and contract packing experts, proving that constant evolution, changing with the market as well as with globalisation, is the secret to success.
1970s: Sachets, Shampoos and Early Success
From humble beginnings A E Adams began operation in 1965, with just two employees, founder Arthur Adams and Chris Jones, hand packing mushrooms and filling garden chemical powder products using a Hassia BM3 sachet machine.
By the early 70s, the business had grown significantly and A E Adams moved onto new and exciting products, packing aerosols and air fresheners for brands such as Airwick, shampoos for Alberto Balsam, and eau de toilette for the famous luxury perfume, Chanel no.5.
Staff numbers continued to grow and A E Adams went from employing 14 workers in the early 70s – mostly local mothers working day shifts while their children were at school – to tripling its number of employees by the end of the 70s.
In the late 70s, Health and Safety regulations were not so stringent and some less reputable companies were packing consumable goods next to non-consumables. To differentiate from the ‘cowboys’ A E Adams bought its first Bartelt machine specifically for the separate packing of weed killer sachets, in isolated cubicles. A powder filling line for composite cans with a new Morton mixer and Angelus seamer quickly followed and A E Adams was set for success.
1980s: Expansion, Airwick and More Employees
In the early 80s, A E Adams grew the business with the addition of its second Bartelt machine, blow moulders and liquid filling lines. A Serac filling machine was also installed.
The main source of business was still household goods, mostly air fresheners and household cleaners for some of the UK’s best known brands.
At the beginning of the 80s, A E Adams was running three sites and making its own deliveries and collections with two lorries and three trailers. The contract packing industry was expanding and business was booming. Despite still packing some products by hand, the company then employed over 100 staff members, now mostly from further afield than the original local part time mothers of the 70s.
1990s: Changes, Innovation and Modernisation
The success of the 70s and 80s continued into the early 90s when A E Adams started packaging carpet powders and the well-known household brand, Windowlene.
During the early 90s, A E Adams was prospering, but in 1993 Windowlene was taken back in house by Reckitt & Coleman, along with the discontinuation of another large volume liquid contract job. The withdrawal of these two products had a huge impact on business and the company was forced to make significant changes.
Despite an unlucky start to the 90s, business soon picked up again for A E Adams, with the installation of a new cooling tunnel and 8-head liquid filler to handle a wide range of new automotive products for Blue Coral, and a surge of exciting and innovative new projects.
One of the new ventures was the bizarre but ingenious ‘Project Daisy’ – a weird and wonderful, technical project to tell farmers if cows were ‘in heat’! A E Adams also secured a long-standing contract with a well-known personal care brand to create bespoke shaped sachets and started to supply one of the major supermarkets with its own label air freshener gels.
With these innovative projects underway, A E Adams modernised other parts of the business. The company moved away from hand-packing and focused more on the use of automated machines. On top of this, A E Adams was one of the first co-packers to embrace the BS5750 quality standard, setting the ideal requirements for the whole industry.
2000s: Millennium Machinery and Mouldings
The new millennium brought a wave of modernisation for A E Adams and over the decade the company introduced several new machines including a Miele vertical form, fill and seal machine from Italy, and two further second-hand Bartelt sachet machines, which A E Adams refurbished to ‘better than new’ standard, proving the technical capability to adapt and rebuild bespoke machinery.
The 2000s saw a rise in business ventures, including the start of an extensive project developing bespoke pouches for inks, which continues to evolve with the introduction of new printing technologies.
The personal care and own-label business continued to grow, with A E Adams redesigning packaging and mouldings and building bespoke multi-lane machinery. These leading developments in design and construction led to A E Adams beginning to exhibit annually at the Packaging Innovations show at the NEC.
Late 2007 saw a Management Buyout (MBO), instigated by the current four Directors, Anthony Milner, Cliff Preston, Paul Foster and Derrie Fletcher. The MBO has proved to be very successful, with planning and efficiency improving greatly and ongoing planned investment.
2010s: Recognition and Accreditation
Recognition for A E Adams grew in 2010 when the company started working with a US-based specialist cleaners company. This was at a time when liquid bottle filling requirements in the UK were at an all-time low and meant that A E Adams had succeeded in bringing the production of US products over to the UK.
Further demonstrating its technical capability, A E Adams took on the considerable challenge of developing tooling for one of its Bartelts to automatically produce a shaped and folded fabric face mask for a range of personal care products.
The company gained BRC accreditation for its gel and powder lines in 2012 and for its liquid filling line in 2014. This further reinforced A E Adams’ image of advanced technology and high industry standards.
A E Adams Today
The highs and lows of the last five decades have seen A E Adams establish itself as an expert in the contract manufacturing and packing industry and the company expects to keep achieving the same high standards for the next 50 years.