£2m boost to upskill staff at packaging firm Huhtamaki

Minister Diane Dodds at the Huhtamaki plant in west Belfast with the company's site lead Patricia Lavery and general manager Ciaran Doherty. Included is Invest NI chief executive Kevin Holland
Gary McDonald Business Editor

GLOBAL packaging manufacturing company Huhtamaki is investing £2 million to skill up workers at its plants at West Belfast and Antrim.

The money will be used to upskill staff on how to optimise new machinery which the firm is introducing to help it meet the growing global demand for its sustainable food paper-based packaging.

Huhtamaki specialises in the design, printing and manufacturing of printed, folded carton packaging, primarily for fast food and retail outlets like McDonald’s, KFC, Kellogg’s, Nestlé, and Nando’s.

Last year it launched at operation at Kilbegs business park in Antrim making paper straws for McDonald's in a £12 million investment which was expected to eventually create 100 jobs.

The Finnish firm is renowned for its pioneering manufacturing processes, and during the pandemic repurposed part of its business to support the manufacture of NHS-approved PPE in partnership with Bloc Blinds.

Huhtamaki has 80 manufacturing units and sales offices in 34 countries, including four facilities in Northern Ireland (its other are in Lisburn and Lurgan.

The £2m skills development cash was signed off by economy minister Diane Dodds, who said: “Skills development is not only vital for sustaining business competitiveness, but it is even more essential now as we support business recovery and revive the economy.

“It's essential our companies and labour market are equipped with the skills and knowledge they need for the journey ahead.

“This significant investment at Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta facilities will focus on training its staff in using new machinery.”

The company's UK general manager Ciaran Doherty said: “To remain competitive we need to constantly be innovating. As part of our growth plans we are aiming to increase our product offering of sustainable, recyclable packaging to include paper wraps, bags and tubs, to support customer demand for packaging.

“To do this, we are upskilling our staff in team management and how to optimise the new machinery. This will help our business to innovate and expand in identified target markets, as we can react quickly to new business opportunities, and boost team morale and confidence.”

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