Sinclair manufactures produce labels and labelling equipment for produce companies around the globe. The company has label-manufacturing sites in ten different countries and labelling machines installed in more than 45. All these countries have been impacted by COVID-19 to some extent. “As the coronavirus pandemic spread, our markets have been impacted at different times and are now in various stages of lockdown or emergence from it,” says Duncan Jones, Sinclair’s Senior Marketing Manager.
Labelling demand during pandemic
The different stages of lockdown have resulted in demand for labelling showing different patterns around the globe. “In some markets, such as North America, we saw an initial increase in requirements for produce labels due to increased consumer demand,” commented Jones. In these markets it appeared to be extremely helpful to have back stock of labels for key customers. “Markets such as China and Italy were severely affected but are now beginning to recover with greater movement of people and goods. Other markets, including New Zealand and Australia, have been less affected by COVID-19 and demand for fresh produce has been steady. The impact in South America is still in its early stages and the next few weeks will be vital in determining produce demand.”
Closer partnerships with customers
The impact of COVID-19 and the different dynamics in countries around the globe have brought both opportunities and challenges for Sinclair. “We’ve been able to continue working very closely with every customer to ensure their labelling needs are met during these challenging times,” Jones shared. “It is a testament to the dedication of the Sinclair team and the partnerships that we have built with our customers that we have received many messages of support from customers worldwide. These messages have been very inspirational and motivational. I believe this period has strengthened the relationships we have with our customers.”
At the same time, the pandemic has presented Sinclair with challenges. “When the situation escalated early March, the priority was to safeguard our teams and we have been taking every precaution necessary to reduce the risk of contamination to keep our worldwide teams healthy and safe.” Simultaneously with safeguarding the teams, the company was focused on establishing ‘business as usual’ in the new ‘normal’. After that was achieved, the main commercial challenge facing the company was airfreight. “The restriction of airfreight without a parallel reduction in demand presented significant challenges to the delivery of some orders,” said Jones. Airfreight demand has eased but still offers challenges. “We are fortunate to have regional label production hubs worldwide; this has enabled the majority of customer deliveries to take place by road. We continue to work closely with shipping companies and customers to ensure timely and coordinated delivery of machine and label orders.”
Planning for the future
There is still a considerable level of uncertainty as lockdown measures ease at different rates worldwide and the COVID-19 pandemic impact remains fluid. “Therefore, after the initial lockdown phase, perhaps the most significant and ongoing challenge to our business and our industry is planning for the future.” Core to Sinclair’s future is the ongoing safeguarding of its teams and their well-being. This, combined with remaining responsive to customers’ current and future challenges, will ensure business continuity. “We have been incredibly proud of how Sinclair teams have been so dedicated and flexible to overcome challenges presented by COVID-19, enabling the company to remain focused on the goals that were set prior to the outbreak.”
Home compostable label
One point of focus is the development of a new label. Last year, Sinclair launched the OK compost certified EcoLabel. This year, continued research and development have resulted in progress being made towards a certified home compostable and food-safe fruit and vegetable label. Development is in its early stages, but the company is excited by this challenge and looks forward to providing the industry with another first.