Food processing and packaging multinational Tetra Pak South Africa has announced a R500-million investment to upgrade its aseptic packaging materials factory in Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal, to ensure the factory continues to meet global safety and sustainability standards.
The investment also supports the company's commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 and its ability to serve the Southern African market, says Tetra Pak South Africa MD Stefan Fagerang.
Tetra Pak Pinetown factory director Muhammad Waqas Ali adds that the factory upgrade will position Tetra Pak to produce the full range of its products and packaging, increase job opportunities in the local community, assist the local supply chain and improve lead times considerably.
Customers will have the additional benefit not only of a broader range, but the factory will also be responsive to the evolving needs in the market and will be able to accommodate changes requested by customers with quick turnaround times, he says.
"This investment is a commitment by Tetra Pak to the development of the Southern African market, which is exciting for us. Work on the upgrade will start later this year and continue into 2023," says Ali.
The investment will increase capacity, as well as allow the factory to run all the company's latest technology packages, Fagerang points out.
"Tetra Pak has committed to be carbon neutral by 2030. We have been investing in a new generation of sustainable packaging made from entirely renewable materials and we are preparing the Pinetown factory to be part of the journey," he says.
The environment and health are the top two concerns of consumers globally, as well as in South Africa, and in terms of its goal to become carbon neutral, Tetra Pak sees itself as being in a good position, with 80% of its packaging made from renewable materials.
Similarly, in combating food waste, the company views itself as being in a good position because its long-life packaging, produced without preservatives, is helping to reduce food waste and keep food products safe, says Fagerang.
"Our global experiences teach us that it is vital to be local to be successful in a market. In each of the markets we operate, local businesses outgrow multinational businesses. Further, the past five years, accelerated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months, have taught us that a purely global supply chain is not the perfect solution."
He highlights that, as the company increases its use of renewable materials, such as sugarcane-derived bio-based plastics from Brazil, it will look to identify a local source, as South Africa is a big producer of sugarcane.
"We are committed for the long term and we can serve as a platform for many local businesses, specifically in the supply chain and in the circular economy, to generate stronger local economies in the region and country," Fagerang adds.
The Pinetown factory will be part of the global best practices and have the same capacity as any other Tetra Pak factory in the world. It is Tetra Pak's policy that its factories around the world adhere to the same high standards.
"We feel the investment represents a vote of confidence in Africa and South Africa in particular. However, as we significantly increase production in South Africa, we hope we will receive support from the country to ensure that trade rules enable Tetra Pak to export its packaging to the rest of Africa," Fagerang says.
Meanwhile, Ali says the factory is dedicated to quality, which is embodied by its people, from factory managers to all employees.
"Innovation comes from operational staff and we spend significant resources and time on the training and development of our staff to enable them to support innovation. The factory adheres to world-class manufacturing methodologies and practices the continuous improvement process," he says.
Solutions and products are becoming increasingly digital and the Pinetown factory is also becoming more digital and automated, which will enable it to produce defect-free products for consumers, Ali points out.
"Customer needs are steadily shifting and the upgrade of the Pinetown factory will improve quality through the use of state-of-the-art technology and methodology to ensure its products and processes remain as efficient as possible," he adds.
Additionally, Tetra Pak South Africa has a customer services team that works closely with customers to ensure their needs and voices are heard, and ensure that the company's solutions are aligned with customers' needs, says Ali.
"Innovation has to deliver better profit margins and ensure Tetra Pak can meet customer expectations of protecting the planet's resources. The upgrade will ensure the Tetra Pak Pinetown factory is resilient and fully able to deliver products that are proudly South African," he says.