Huhtamaki opens factory in Antrim as McDonald's switches to paper straws
The head of Belfast-based Huhtamaki Foodservice Delta has described how the food packaging firm moved rapidly to open a new factory in Antrim just months after McDonald's announced its plans to dump plastic straws in June.
General manager Ciaran Doherty was speaking as the firm officially opened the manufacturing facility in Kilbegs Business Park yesterday, which will roll out paper straws to 1,300 McDonald's restaurants across the UK and Ireland.
Up to 100 jobs will be created over the next five years, with the company investing £12m in the project. Invest NI has offered the company £480,000 for the move.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, he said: "We had to move really quickly to secure the machines, secure the factory, employ people, get them trained and get ourselves to speed with accreditation. We had a big undertaking from June 2018 to now."
He explained there has been a massive shift to sustainable packaging in the past few years.
"The market is moving really quickly," he said.
"We are listening to the market and moving with it. Sustainably is the future.
"Five or six years ago, sustainable products were niche, they're now mainstream."
Mr Doherty said the firm is investing in additional new machinery, with a number of products already in development, including a folded carton container to replace plastic containers.
The Belfast-based packaging firm has been owned by Finnish-based Huhtamaki since May 2016. It already makes burger boxes and French fry cartons for McDonald's.
The group, which employs some 17,700 people in 34 countries, also operates a fibre packaging operation in Lurgan.
Mr Doherty said that Brexit still remains a concern for the company, which imports its paper from Austria, Germany and Scandinavia.
"We are getting lots of reassurances from Invest NI and the ports that they have good contingencies in place," the general manager said.
"It's not a short shelf-life product, so we can build resilience to our customers by putting four to five weeks of stock ahead.
McDonald's chief financial officer John Park, who opened the new factory yesterday, said the fast food chain had made the move to paper after listening to its customers.
"We are proud to be doing the right thing in rolling out paper straws across our UK and Irish restaurants and will continue to invest in making our business as environmentally sustainable as possible - this is just one step on that journey," he added.