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The label producer Viappiani Printing is facing an exciting challenge, transforming from a family led Italian company to a multinational organisation. Barbara Rossi talks to managing director Mr Ferraris who, who having joined the company last May, is eager to be part of its transformation.
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Viappiani Printing was established over 80 years ago and its range of products includes in-mould, wet-glue, self-adhesive, wrap-around, and roll-on shrink-on labels, as well as shrink sleeves.
In-mould labelling (IML) for the food and industrial (paints and chemicals) sectors is its main business (Viappiani was the first company to offer this technology in Italy). This is followed by wet-glue labels for beer and water bottles, an area in which Viappiani is the main Nestlè supplier for San Pellegrino bottles, as well as selling its products to Heineken and SABMiller-Peroni.
In 2009 Milan-based Viappiani was acquired by CTI Invest AG, as Mr Ferraris explains: "CTI Invest is owned by the Austrian Trierenberg Group, a market leader at world level in rotogravure printing of paper for cigarette filters, with production plants in Asia, Europe, as well as North and South America. Having a long-term vision, and considering the future of the tobacco industry, the Trierenberg group decided to diversify and expand its activity in a niche sector with similarities to that in which it was already operating. Because of this it set up CTI Invest in 2007, with the aim of acquiring label producing companies. CTI Invest has since acquired companies in Colombia, Brazil, Canada, Italy, Spain and, very recently, Argentina. This constitutes a great opportunity for Viappiani Printing, which with its over 100 employees and its €23 million turnover is now becoming a multinational company, where value added products are of critical importance."
Mr Ferraris further adds: "When I decided to join I was very attracted by the opportunity to be a part of this challenge. It will allow us to combine the Italian creativity brought by Viappiani in terms of problem solving with the efficient and modern organisation coming from Trierenberg."
Mr Ferraris himself is not new to operating in an international environment. In fact, after a degree in pharmaceutical chemistry in Italy and a specialisation in strategy and finance at Harvard Business School, he spent eight years in the USA as executive vice-president of a speciality chemical company. While in this role he signed an industrial agreement with Procter and Gamble for two exclusive supply contracts in North America and one contract with Colgate, as well as closing a deal for the supply of one polymer to Unilever in Europe. This experience in the US was followed by nine years as commercial director of Mondadori Printing in Italy. Parallel to this he also became the first vice-president and then, in 2011, president of the European Rotogravure Association (ERA).
Viappiani Printing's core geographical markets are currently Italy and western Europe. The latter in particular is becoming increasingly important whilst the Italian market share is currently being reduced. In the future the company is looking to win new business in geographical markets further afield, as part of the new opportunities opened up by the CTI Invest acquisition. This could mean the opening of production plants in Asia at CTI Invest level, as Trierenberg already has production plants in the area which could be converted.
There are other advantages of being part of CTI Invest: it has recently invested €5 million in Viappiani, mainly for technological updates, and is willing to invest further in this area. CTI invest, whose turnover has reached €61 million, has a centralised R&D department, but each of its production companies also carries out its own research, specific to its products (for instance Viappiani Printing is the only group company to offer IML products). Currently Viappiani Printing is working on how to increase label resistance in order to offer further added value to its customers.
"Our customers for wet-glue labels are mainly located in Italy, as transport costs can only be absorbed competitively if customers are within an 800km radius. This still leaves us with scope for growth in areas such as Switzerland, Austria, southern Germany and parts of France. Distance is not an issue with IML products, as they require a higher degree of specialised technology for their production, offering protection in terms of competition from smaller producers and emerging markets. They are thus able to easily absorb transport costs."
Mr Ferraris adds: "There is a difference in the approach to these two markets. IML is a sector which has scope for added value and where there is still a lot to be explored. The wet-glue industry, on the other hand, does not require the same type of technological investment, therefore efficiency in order to be competitive is more important in this area. IML is an area which will expand further, although wet-glue products will carry on being a valid option for water and beer bottle applications."
In terms of expansion into new segments, Mr Ferraris comments: "There are two different types of expansion that we are interested in, apart from geographical expansion: the first is supplying new sectors with our existing technologies; the other is entering new market sectors with new technologies. Obviously the latter option is feasible and interesting, but must be approached with caution considering the fleeting nature and high risk of markets nowadays."
Further growth potential
Future growth will very likely take place both organically and through acquisitions, as CTI is always open to opportunities in new markets. Mr Ferraris is sure that these opportunities will materialise, in terms of medium-sized companies experiencing growth issues. A final advantage of being part of the Trierenberg Group, according to Mr Ferraris, is the fact "Multinational clients are very interested in the financial stability of their suppliers and this is something that we can certainly offer, opening a lot of doors for us."