Northern Ireland is particularly good at creating firms which become world leaders in their field – quietly.
What started as a spin-off from one of Northern Ireland’s largest business empires, Encirc has grown into a business based in the small village of Derrylin, employing 1,600 staff and become a trailblazer in the global glass industry.
Adrian Curry, who became managing director in 2004, started back with the business – formerly Quinn Glass – in 1996.
Now, it’s grown into a business producing bottles for the likes of Jameson, Bushmills, C&C and Diageo, as well as being one of the world’s only firms to both produce bottles for the wine industry, and filling them, before distributing into a global marketplace.
It now has its main plant in England, as well as having its existing major site in Fermanagh, along with an Italian operation, after it was bought over by Spanish giant Vidrala.
“We’ve always been very disruptive,” Adrian told Ulster Business. “We have been disruptive by nature. Vidrala bought us and it has been a glass manufacturer for about 55 years.
“They were an excellent fit for us. We needed investment and they understood the industry.”
Adrian says revenue is now approaching €500m (£425m). The company has grown its reach to working with some of the world’s biggest wine producers, such as Gallo and Castello.
“We are the only site in the world doing this. When we designed our plant we built one of the biggest furnaces in the world, the newest technology, what was the largest automated in Europe, with six filling lines.”
It now products bottles for wine, fills them and then distributes across various different global hubs.
According to Adrian, the company now produces around 40% of the glass bottle market for the UK and Ireland.
“I was lucky to be involved (with the business), working in Quinn Group and having a background in engineering, coming on board in the infancy. I have grown with it – I’ve been fortunate and worked hard as well, along the way.
“We have demonstrated that we are very ambitious. We love challenges. That has grown in Vidrala.
“I spent a lot of time on the shop floor, working with customers and knowing the technical side of the business as well. We took a hard look at the business a few years ago and what sort of culture we wanted to create.”
He said that includes employee initiatives as well as developing gyms and facilities in each of its plants.
Adrian says Encirc is also a company thinking of its overall environmental and social impact. That includes an ambitious decarbonisation plan.
“We are sitting very well invested and the order book is completely full. We are heading into the future in good position.
“Glass is infinitely recyclable. We need to move away from fossil fuels – we have a very strong programme of decarbonisation.” That includes a new trial in its Derrylin base to produce 100% recycled glass powered by biofuel.
“For example, anaerobic digestion and biomethane could be a source of fuel for Derrylin,” he said. “With the plant in England, we are looking at hydrogen.”
Adrian says the company, alongside not-for-profit organisation Glass Futures, is working to develop new technology which includes the use of hydrogen as a means to power its sites. “It could be one of the first in the world,” he says.
“The green agenda is huge. When we look at the industry in the UK, we want to keep that moving and stay in front of it. We see opportunity to grow.”
He says other moves towards improving its products and services including digitising glass bottles returns. That would see a laser code on the bottle which is then scanned when deposited.
Adrian, who is originally from Enniskillen and is married with four children, is now based at its Elton plant in Cheshire, which is its main centre of business.
The company now produces more than four billion glass containers for global brands, filling many of them for retail across the UK and Europe.
And it says its “ethos is built around supporting our people and place of work, as well as our planet”. “More than 80% of our customers choose Encirc because of our unparalleled sustainable offering.” π