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“Your life should be rich with experience, laughter and adrenaline”

The PFF Packaging Group announced the appointment of Kenton Robbins as group managing director in January 2018. With an in depth understanding of the food manufacturing and supply chain, he discusses the pressure on plastic and presents for the princes.

Describe yourself in three words.

Professional, measured, mindful.

What’s your biggest professional achievement?

The one that means a lot to me personally was winning a large scale sole supply agreement in the dairy industry that secured hundreds of jobs and meant the futures of an entire region were safe.

How did you get to where you are today?

It would be remiss of me not to say hard work and determination, but the reality is those are just my natural drivers. I’ve got to where I am today thanks to the support of my family, friends and particularly my wife Julie. She’s always been the unpaid PA, confidant, advisor and supporter who’s there behind the scenes.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Typically, a day is usually a mix of time in the factory, meetings and reviewing performance, establishing improvements and driving change.

What have been the highlights of your company’s history, in your opinion?

As a truly entrepreneurial spirited business, PFF has been a real survivor and it’s fair to say this is a highlight in itself. Our competition has been swallowed, merged and acquired over the last 10 years and we continue to grow as an independent business competing in the true David & Goliath fashion.

Give us a positive prediction for the food industry over the next 12 months.

With a resounding shot rung out over the world of plastic in recent months it’s clear that we all need to reduce, reuse and recycle the natural resources we have in this world wherever possible. I’m confident the food industry will once again step up and lead this change and embrace the reality of the situation, with the development of closed loop systems for usage, and take the time to understand the total environmental footprint of any packaging solution.

We might not like it, but plastics will form a greater part of the packaging solution in the future with its ever increasing credentials of reusability and recyclability. After all, it’s the total impact and footprint a solution has on the environment that really matters – and plastic outperforms most solutions in this respect. It’s up to us to ensure we reuse it, recycle it and value it as the commodity it is, rather than throwing it away as we all too often do.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?

Being able to listen is the most important attribute a leader can have. All too often I worked for great people that lacked the ability to take on board opinions before they acted.

Who do you most admire?

I always admired Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco and author of the book Maverick, which documented his unorthodox approach to the industrial decentralisation and his radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering. He took over his father’s business at 21 and then turned Semco into the largest conglomerate in Brazil.

Which people/organisations or companies are the ones to watch right now?

I think the real value and people to watch are in the ready to go and eat in categories, where brands like Itsu, Moma and Zizzi’s are driving entrepreneurial growth through a real crossover of innovation, with clear demands of uncompromising quality for both the food and the packaging solution.

If you weren’t in your current position, what else might you be doing?

I always wanted to indulge in my love of drawing and after a less than responsive answer when asking the careers advisor at school, “should I be a graphic designer?”, I trained as an engineer.

Tell us something about yourself that few people know.

I trained as a model engineer, producing the most incredible scale steam engines, and while working for Hemmings Steam Engineering we were asked to make the Christmas presents for Prince William and Prince Harry by the Prince and Princess of Wales, which we duly did.

Any vices?

I have an inherent love of speed – cars, bikes, anything that’s fast.

How do you relax?

I swim, ride and run and occasionally do all three together in triathlons.

How would you like to be remembered?

Your life should be rich with experience, laughter and adrenaline – I’d like to be remembered for them all.

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