Driving change in the packaging industry

  1. Business services
  2. Case studies
  3. Case studies
  4. Driving change in the packaging industry

Driving change in the packaging industry

Premier Foods is one of the UK’s largest food producers, supplying a range of customers with their iconic brands. 

One of their packaging development apprentices, Niall Burns, has won awards at the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) awards, the North East National Apprenticeship Awards, and the UK Packaging Awards. The awards recognised his contribution to reducing the carbon footprint of Premier Foods and delivering major sustainability projects.

We spoke to Jon Wriglesworth, Head of Packaging Innovation and Julie Harris, Learning and Development Business Partner in Operations and Early Careers at Premier Foods, to find out what impact Niall’s Packaging Professional degree apprenticeship has had on their business.


Why did you choose the degree apprenticeship route to upskill your team?

Skills shortages are a real problem within the packaging sector. The skills needed are vocational, so there isn’t a traditional education route. People often fall into the industry, coming into it with quite mixed experience. 

Degree apprenticeships provide hope for the future of packaging. They allow us to grow our own talent and address skills gaps. They offer talented people an alternative way into the business - where they can learn both in the classroom and on the job.

We also find that degree apprenticeships reduce staff turnover, as apprentices tend to commit to the apprenticeship route and the company long term. 


What area of your business does Niall work in?

Niall works in Research and Development. He’s played a key role in several sustainability projects across the business.


What benefits have you seen from Niall’s degree apprenticeship?

The apprenticeship has really allowed Niall to flourish – it’s been amazing to see his confidence develop. He’s developed excellent research skills which have allowed him to deliver several successful projects for our business. 

He’s also been able to share some of his university learnings with us. For example, as part of his course he was given access to lifecycle analysis software. After some experimentation, he used the software to complete useful reports on some of our own products. 

Another great benefit of degree apprenticeships is that they allow Niall and our other apprentices to mix with learners from other industries. We find this widens their thinking, which in turn broadens our understanding as an organisation.


What successes has Niall helped you achieve?

Niall has been instrumental in delivering some major sustainability projects for us – taking his learnings from his course and applying them to deliver exceptional results. 

For example, he led a project to develop major packaging changes for the Bisto brand. This included packaging height reduction and pallet optimisation. He delivered an exceptional analysis report of existing packaging versus new solutions. This role would ordinarily be fulfilled by a senior, experienced R&D team member such as a packaging technologist, and it was a true testament to the belief that his colleagues had in the quality of his work. He also led another project testing sustainability improvements on the Bisto drum. 

As well as this, Niall has demonstrated his dedication to upskilling the team by training colleagues and future-proofing the business - focusing specifically on equipment such as the 3D printer.


What would you say to other SMEs considering higher and degree apprenticeships?

You get out of your employees what you put into them – it’s important to invest that time into them. Push them to be their best.


Would you recommend Sheffield Hallam University? If so, why?

In our experience, Sheffield Hallam are helpful, organised and switched on. The course delivery is flexible, and so are the tutors. Niall studied through block release learning which worked well. We’ve also found the University’s free recruitment service very useful.

Cancel event

Are you sure you want to cancel your place on Saturday 12 November?