Charter Avenue Industrial Estate
Tel: +44(0)24 7647 1894
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Paul Brownhill, a former diver in the U.K.’s Royal Navy, started his career in the wipes business working in sales with Johnson & Johnson (Chicopee), where he sold and marketed spunlace cleaning cloths in the U.K. He spent seven years with Chicopee prior to its purchase by Polymer Group Inc. (now Avintiv/Berry Plastics), and at that point, he decided to move on and start his own wipes business, EcoTech (Europe) Limited.
“I decided it was time to leave and start my own company as I was being asked for nonwoven products that Chicopee could not provide,” says Brownhill, CEO and managing director.
Brownhill started EcoTech in 1997, with his wife Hazel, at a small desk in their kitchen in Coventry, U.K., manually cutting up spunlace nonwovens using scissors from slit reels and folding them by hand to turn into manageable size cleaning cloths. The Brownhills sent out their first samples to prospective customers in the U.K., and picked up their very first major customer in January 1998—Burger King U.K.
Soon after, they were able to negotiate favorable terms to have their products converted by a contract converter, and from then on their business continued to grow. At the end of 1998, the company’s contract converters were unable to keep up with its supply needs and were also approaching their customers directly, so they decided to rent a 10,000 sq. ft. building at which point they purchased their very first production line—a Perini quarter folder.
The company continued to make investments, as its growing customer base was requesting wet wipes and other technologies, and in 2002, EcoTech purchased a 30,000 sq. ft. factory. Additional investments included more production lines, another folding machine, slitter rewinder perforators, liquid filling lines for wet wipes and a flow pack filling line for reseal pack baby wipes, taking EcoTech’s total product offering to over 350 products.
Using a variety of nonwoven technologies such as spunlace, hydroentanglement, needlepunch, meltblown, airlaid and spunbond DRC, EcoTech today converts and manufactures nearly 600 products in house, including dry and impregnated wipes and cloths, disinfectant wipes and baby wipes.
Most of the wipes—about 70%—are produced under the EcoTech brand under different registered trademarks, and 30% of its business is produced for clients’ own private label brands, a few of which are some of the largest FTSE 100 companies, Brownhill points out.
EcoTech’s key markets are hygiene, janitorial, healthcare, food service and industrial. An ever-increasing trade distributor network that is spread throughout the U.K., Northern Europe and the Middle East, in particular the United Arab Emirates, services these markets. EcoTech is also now starting to break into selective retail customers in the U.K.
“With such a vast range of products in our portfolio our market penetration has grown over the last few years,” Brownhill says. “Also, with the recent decision that the U.K. leaves the European Union (BREXIT), we are already seeing an upturn in interest with our products throughout the rest of Europe and the U.S. markets, this is helped very much with the weak GBP (British Pound) and the strong brands we have to offer.”
To keep up with growth, the company recently made a £6 million ($7.4 million) investment in a brand new 85,000 sq. ft. factory, which they have moved into this month. A new perforated roll production line has been purchased for the factory, which will produce both nonwoven rolls for wiping, paper maxi rolls and commercial toilet rolls. “This investment will ensure the growth plans of the business will be easily achieved,” Brownhill says.