Patrick Heskins

Q: How did you get into the aerosol industry?

I have been in the industry a long time, but I originally started out as an analytical chemist. In 1987 I got bored of being a chemist and I saw an advert for a company I’ve never heard of – it turned into being a job about aerosol research and development, and they specialised in making aerosol valves.

As chance would have it, my father in law worked there and I didn’t know this when I applied for the job; perhaps that was an omen! From there I went to Coster Aerosols, a large Italian aerosol valve company as technical manager and then onto SeaquistPerfect Dispensing as technical sales manager. More recently, I moved to Reckitt Benckiser as aerosol innovation manager; it was my job to ‘make things spray’.

 Q: For the uninitiated, who is BAMA exactly?

I took over the role of chief executive for Bama in August last year and I’m looking forward to this challenging, but exciting role. To give you a bit of background, 2016 is Bama’s 55th anniversary and we essentially represent the aerosol industry throughout the supply chain – we have built our reputation on technical knowledge and technical excellence.

The aim of Bama is to help to spread the message of the aerosol package; the more people we get interested in the packaging the better. Many people don’t know that the UK aerosol industry is the largest in Europe and the third largest globally. The UK fills over 1.5 billion cans a year, that’s third in the world behind the USA and China.

At the moment, Bama has 80 members and they include the likes of Proctor and Gamble and Reckitt Benckiser. Our job is to support our members and maintain the reputation of the industry.

Q: What has been the biggest change to aerosol industry you have seen since you first joined it?

I started when CFCs were being phased out and I was developing valve systems when the industry moved to LPG as a propellant gas. It is worth mentioning that the aerosol industry has been CFC free for 30 years – 10 years before they had to be.

A significant change has been on the marketing side- how products have been presented to consumers. The most notable change has been the move to lots of premium based aerosols. For example, air fresheners used to be a basic functional product until Procter & Gamble came along and created Febreeze, a game-changer. Air fresheners used to be at a very basic price level, purely a functional product. Comparatively, Febreeze came in stylish packaging, nice aesthetics and was something in the £3.99 price range. It changed from functional to creating atmosphere- lifestyle as opposed to function.

Q: How do consumer tastes differ across Europe with regard to aerosol consumption?

You have to differ between the filling side and the consumer side when comparing across Europe. The consumer side doesn’t differ a huge amount but where the UK differs to say Germany (second largest in Europe), is how Germany focus on the more industrial side of the aerosol can market. The UK on the other hand, are focused more on personal aerosols and personal care and household products tends to dominate things.

What came out of a survey we did-‘ aerosol in figures’, was that as an industry we think about aerosols, but consumers buy products. We can’t narrow our view to say “this is the aerosol package”, consumers buy a hairspray not an aerosol. As an organisation we need to be aware of the product a lot more.

Q: Speaking of the survey, tell us more about it

Bama has just published Aerosols in Figures which acts as an important new factual journal noting key facts and data about the industry. It includes a chart showing the UK sector’s filling figures covering every year since 1965, providing a fascinating record not only of a changing industry, but also of changing fashions and habits amongst the population.

A number of fascinating results were found including the fact that the UK aerosol sector is worth £3 billion and that one in 10 of all aerosols in the world are filled by Bama members.

Q: What do you think to the new EU directive on sustainability?

The EU’s Directive on the Circular Economy is still in its early stages so we are in a gestation period and we are in a holding pattern to see what comes out of it. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Sustainability is something as an organisation we discuss regularly and the beauty of aerosols is that its metal – it’s sustainable and can be recycled. As an industry we have a good story to tell and we have worked with local authorities. 20 years ago aerosols weren’t recycled but now, aerosols are just put in normal authority disposal – 96 per cent of local authorities take them in kerbside recycling.

Q: Are there any developments on the filling side that have caught your eye?

Europe is a very mature market already but hopefully there are other areas the package can grow into. There has been a push for airless packaging in the beauty sector; it’s all about keeping products fresh. There was also some interesting research in France recently about putting food into aerosols. There have been tests inputting a dozen eggs into an aerosol can and other foods including pate and other olive oil dressings. There have been developments in oil which is surprising as oil is difficult to spray well.

Q: How do you see the aerosol market developing?

The aerosol market is unusual in UK manufacturing in the fact that it is a growth market at the moment. In a survey we recently conducted, 2014 saw a 2-3 per cent growth. This looks small but in 1.5 billion units and that’s very impressive.

I’ve been in the role six months now and my number one aim is to make Bama as relevant as possible to the membership. It would be remiss of me to say that it hasn’t been, but during John Morris’ (former managing director) time Bama were in a state of flux with a relocation and a number of internal changes. Now it’s time to take things back to basics and find out what are members are looking for and take them forward.

Q: How is BAMA using web-based communications?

With 80 members, each member has different levels of need from Bama but one common theme we are experiencing is the desire for ‘flexible’ learning. With members balancing a particularly heavy workload, we are seeing our members request bite-sized learning seminars and ‘lunchtime learning’ being requested rather than courses and meetings that would take a whole day out of their schedule.

Social media is obviously also an important factor and one I’m keen on for Bama to improve upon during my tenure.

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