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Riding out the

stor m Tough times are times to get creative, says Andrea Protti, marketing director of RAP International.

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RAP Products International FEATURE

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rimary packaging suppliers to the cosmetic, toiletry, pharmaceutical, food, beverage and household industries, RAP Products International has quite the history. Formed in 1988 as a specialised pump company by two ambitious brothers, it has certainly come a long way since. “RAP was formed in 1988 supplying SAR pumps. That company subsequently became EMSAR,” says Andrea Protti, marketing director. “The company was founded by me and my brother Rino – the name comes from our initials: Rino, Andrea, Protti… RAP. “Why did we form the business? We recognised the potential for a mediumsized niche player in the packaging industry and went for it. We have subsequently progressed to a full spectrum of primary packaging and now supply a number of industries. “How has that happened? Well the growth came from evolution more than design. It evolved by virtue of adding new lines and ranges: we started with pumps, we then moved to glass bottles, then perfumery glass bottles, and then plastic blow-moulded bottles, which we did ourselves. During that time, injection moulding came to pass to make the components for the actual pumps we were selling and that is really how it has evolved.” RAP today offers a “one-stop shopping opportunity” for all packaging, he says. “We draw on both imported and locally produced products, which compliment each other.”

its acquisition of RAP for R14.7 million. “The acquisition provided additional stability to the Beige portfolio and built economies of scale,” says Protti. “It improved our position and made us into the one-stop shop. “Basically, what happened was that Beige already had a company, a section of their company, which was a plastics division. And we fitted well in that niche.” That division is Crystal Pack. “By joining the two companies together we created an added value…. Primarily, RAP was in a plastics environment for cosmetics and toiletries. But adding Crystal Pack it brought in food and beverage and industrial type products. So we expanded that possibility. The other aspect is that we were just a much bigger company and a much bigger force to be reckoned with.”

We have done an enormous amount of work in the development of new products, ideas and designs of packaging

BEIGE ACQUIRES 100% STAKE A significant milestone for RAP came in 2008 when homecare products manufacturer Beige Holdings announced it had concluded

RECESSION COMES CALLING

Of course, soon after the acquisition, the credit crunch struck. The resulting recession has had a big impact on RAP. “The global recession has left no room for complacency,” says Protti, who can see positives in the resulting changes to the industry. “We decided to follow the mantra ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going.’” He says the worst thing RAP could have done is assumed it was a case of ‘business as usual’ or started slashing prices. “Successful companies and brands rest on competitive service, quality and differentiation; on captivating consumers,” Protti explains. “Price-cutting in a recession, in my opinion, is a losing strategy. At RAP Products International, instead of cutting back on ‘easy targets’ like marketing and R&D, we did the very opposite and continued to invest www.southafricamag.com

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RAP Products International FEATURE

heavily in both. Even today we continue to invest substantially in prototype designs and innovation and it is a strategy, I think, that is working and will continue to pay dividends.”

SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT

We draw on both imported and locally produced products, which compliment each other

2009 was a tough year and the effects on the packaging industry are well documented. Things have improved slightly in 2010, but not massively. “The trading environment is still very tough,” says Protti. “It is dog-eat-dog. The smallest price change can lose you a contract in the blink of an eye and customers are buying less, at the last minute.” 4

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He says end-users do not want to carry too much stock and are utilising J-I-T. “They want us to manufacture the product and put it in their stores in time for them to just sell it. Sometimes that is a very difficult task to achieve, getting that timing absolutely right.” How is RAP coping with those demands? “We have geared ourselves towards the smaller companies, being able to provide a smaller quantity at sometimes higher prices,” says Protti. Clients are currently looking for lighter packaging, reusable packaging, fun packaging, noticeable packaging and convenient packaging too, he


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adds. Value engineering is becoming more important as well. “Of course we haven’t cut R&D so we are able to do this and react to trends,” Protti explains. “The minute you start cutting in those areas, you are cutting the potential of your business. Without the logs on the fire you lose the momentum of the company and you lose the potential of picking up business.”

FUTURE GROWTH? Is the economy improving, has the government done enough to stimulate growth and has the industry turned a corner? It is the million-dollar question. “Economists have been saying we will come out of recession and we are out of it and we will see the light in the next couple of weeks. Well, I have a different view of that situation and I believe that we have still got the last legs of the recession and it is still going to

hit us,” Protti says. “The downward trend will continue before we see an upswing. I believe it will probably take another six to eight months before we see that. That is my opinion of course. Just an opinion.” Protti then comes back to the fact he hasn’t cut marketing budgets and the firm continues to focus on R&D. “We have done an enormous amount of work in the development of new products, ideas and designs of packaging. We have done it during a time when things were lean and once that upswing comes, there is a lot of those logs that have been on the fire that are going to ignite. “Cutting budgets in advertising and R&D, which competitors have done, is not a longterm fix; they are extremely short sighted,” Protti concludes. RAP is suitably prepared for an upswing, when it eventually comes. END www.southafricamag.com

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13 Jersey Drive, Unit 5 Brett Park Longmeadow East Longmeadow Business Park Johannesburg. Tel: +27 (0) 010 590 1598 Fax: +27 (0) 010 590 1599 Email: sales@rap.co.za

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RAP FEATURE