His role at Benson Box had been to grow the business through acquisition, which included Medica Packaging, before ensuring the continuity of the family owned business through a trade sale. The appointment was announced in a statement which explained it “will allow managing director Andrew Hartwig to gradually step back from the day to day running of Firstan, while enabling him to continue to provide invaluable support and guidance to the team”.
While Firstan is also a family owned carton printer, founded more than 40 years ago, Kerridge has not joined the business, he says, intending to sell it on to one of the major packaging groups. “My role is not a full time role, but I’m here to help Andrew with the future development of his business,” says Kerridge. “It is very much a support role.”
In 2010 the company moved to a purpose built site at Godmanchester, investing in a brace of six-colour Komori presses and Bobst platens. These help it generate sales of £22.4 million in 2019 with a pretax profit of £2.1 million. This comes from FMCG and pharmaceutical cartons.
The target this year is a turnover in excess of £26 million, and this increase comes despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Business from food and some sectors of the pharmaceutical market has been strong, with “a very small decline in the luxury goods market, which represents less than 5% of total sales”.
“The nice thing is that I understand cartons and it is exciting to be back in cartons again,” he adds. “Andrew and Paul have run the business very well. Now Andrew wants to step back and he wanted someone on the board to help build the future strategy. But we are not going to do what happened at Benson: the folding carton market was in a different state then to how it is today. In 2002 the market was very much more fragmented.”