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Innovia Films Ltd

Innovia Films is a supplier of biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP) and cellulose films for speciality packaging, labelling, graphic arts and industrial products.

With a turnover of over €350m, the business employs some 1,400 people worldwide. Total annual film capacity currently stands at more than 120,000 tonnes. Production is based on sites on three continents, with dedicated sales offices throughout Europe, the Americas and Asia along with agents and distributors across the globe.


Discovery and industrialisation of viscose

The process for manufacturing cellulose film from viscose was discovered by three English chemists, Charles Frederick Cross, Edward John Bevan and Clayton Beadle in 1898.

There followed a series of joint ventures and technology transfers among a number of companies predominantly in the UK and France. However it was not until 1913 that Dr Jacques Brandenberger brought thin transparent cellulose film into true commercial production at the 'La Cellophane SA factory in Bezons, France.

After this a whole series of ventures and factories came in to place. In 1923 DuPont Cellophane Co. was set up in the USA. In 1926 The Société Industrielle de la Cellophane (SIDAC) was founded with a factory in Ghent, Belgium. Six years later SIDAC formed a company in the UK to distribute its Ghent-produced film. This later became British Sidac Ltd which opened its first production plant at St Helens in 1934. One of the principal shareholders of this business was Baron Emmanuel Janssen who had earlier formed the business Union Chimique Belge - the early UCB SA of Switzerland.

At the same time, British New Wrap Co Ltd was formed in Wigton, Cumbria and production of cellulose film began at the site which had previously been set up to produce "artificial silk" or Rayon. In 1935, Courtaulds and La Cellophane SA joined forces to produce and sell Cellophane in the UK. This new venture, British Cellophane Ltd (BCL) began production at a new major plant in Bridgwater, Somerset in 1937. Finally in 1942, La Cellophane Espanola was founded in Burgos, Spain

Through WW2 and the 1950's

The next 30 years saw significant growth in cellulose film production across the globe. With no competitor other than paper, each production company enjoyed high levels of activity with BCL in particular, expanding rapidly with interests in production in Mexico, Canada and a new site at Dalton, Lancashire in the UK. Things, however were about to change.

Biaxially-oriented polypropylene

In 1961 ICI developed biaxially-oriented polypropylene which, because of its clarity, gloss, sparkle, crispness and grease resistance, resembled cellulose film rather than polyethylene to which it is chemically related.

It was chiefly in the markets dominated by cellulose film that this new Propafilm™ was offered and at extremely attractive prices. ICI's first bubble and coater production units were commissioned in 1962 in Dumfries, UK.

In 1963 British Rayophane and British Sidac merged under the British Sidac name and, four years later entered into a joint venture with ICI to manufacture BOPP on the Wigton site. A new £3m factory was built to be operated by this new company called Sidex Ltd.

British Cellophane Ltd


In 1935, British Cellophane Ltd, a joint venture between La Cellophane SA and Courtaulds opened a major factory producing cellophane in Bridgwater 1937. BCL products were exported worldwide post World War II, and the company won the Queen's Award to Industry in 1974. The company was bought by UCB Films in 1996.

With Viscose becoming less common because of the polluting effects of carbon disulfide and other by-products of the process. In 2004 after purchase by the consortia, Innovia decided to close one of its plants in either Bridgwater or Tecumseh, Kansas, to reduce costs and improve efficiency. Resultantly the Bridgwater factory closed in the summer of 2005.

UCB Films Ltd

In 1973 British Sidac became a wholly owned subsidiary of the UCB Group of Switzerland. There followed a period of consolidation within the European cellulose film market. In 1982 the British Sidac plant at St Helens was closed and in 1987, UCB Films acquired La Cellophane Espanola.

In 1987 the BOPP production partnership with ICI ended and UCB Films assumed full ownership of Sidex Ltd. ICI Films (Merelbeke) was formed to continue operating the Ghent plant. A little over 10 years later, UCB Films bought the ICI Propafilm business to become not only the world's largest producer of cellulose film but also of speciality BOPP films.

In 1996 UCB Films acquired British Cellophane Ltd and the trade name Cellophane. A year later the business bought the Tecumseh, Kansas plant from US cellulose film producer Flexel Inc and in 2000 the Mexican company Cydsa was bought and the plant in Burgos closed.

Wigton, Cumbria

In 1936 the British New Wrap Co Ltd was formed in Wigton, Cumbria and production of cellulose film began at the site which had previously been a jam-making facility, and then set up to produce "artificial silk" or Rayon. In 1936 the company changed its name to British Rayophane Ltd.

The factory slowly expanded under the ownership of British Rayophane and then British Sidac, and as a wholly owned subsidiary of the UCB Group. In 1987 an investment program started to raise OPP capacity from 10,000 to 35,000 tonnes pa, and in 1988 an additional bubble line was commissioned, together with a new coater in 1990.

In the 1990s, around €135m was invested in the plant, including a second £10m coater plant in 1997, while a third was added in 2001 with a new bubble line to bring capacity to 15,000 tonnes pa. The production facilities at Wigton now employ 1500people, and include:

  • 10 BOPP blown film lines
  • 5 Cellophane casting lines
  • 3 coaters
  • A pilot casting line

Plus testing facilities and equipment for film finishing, slitting and packing. In 2002, Prime Minister Tony Blair opened a new R&D centre on the site for Innovia Films.

The companies main products are:

  • Labels & Graphics
  • Cellophane and Propafilm - bubble-produced BOPP film
  • Substrates for plastic banknotes - currently used for all Australian, New Zealand and Romanian currencies
  • Plastic labels - replacing paper labels due to their resistance to tearing, scuffing and water damage. Clear labels are especially popular as they give the 'upmarket' appearance of graphics printed directly onto a bottle or container
  • UV-resistant films - for promotional and POS/POP graphics.

Innovia Films Ltd

In October 2004 a UK consortium led by Dennis Matthewman bought UCB's polypropylene and cellophane films business. Matthewman, formerly MD of Hays Chemical Distribution, chairs the new company. Investment company Candover Partners is also involved. The company is exclusively focused on high quality speciality films, including biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP), used in many wrapping applications.

Production sites

The production sites are located in:

  • UK - Wigton, plus Global Head Office
  • Australia - Melbourne
  • Belgium - Merelbeke
  • USA - Tecumseh KA

Global offices

  • Australia - Melbourne
  • Benelux - Merelbeke
  • Brazil - São Paulo
  • Canada - Smyrna, Georgia
  • China - Shanghai
  • France - Nanterre
  • Germany - Köln
  • Italy - Novara
  • Mexico - Nuevo Leon
  • Russia - Moscow
  • South Africa - Edenglen
  • Spain - Burgos
  • United Kingdom - Wigton, Cumbria
  • USA - Atlanta GA, Tecumseh KA

Key dates

  • 1933 - British New Wrap Ltd begins cellulose film production
  • 1936 - Company changes its name to British RAYOPHANE Ltd
  • 1963 - Acquisition by British Sidac Ltd
  • 1969 - First polypropylene plant built in partnership with ICI PLC
  • 1971 - Polypropylene production begins at Sidex Ltd
  • 1973 - British Sidac Ltd becomes a wholly owned subsidiary of UCB
  • 1987 - OPP Production partnership with ICI ends. UCB assumes full ownership of Sidex Ltd. Start of on-going investment programme to raise OPP capacity from 10,000 to 35,000 tonnes p.a.
  • 1988 - Commissioning of additional bubble
  • 1990 - Commissioning of new coater
  • 1996 - Sidex II: second OPP bubble plant at Wigton commissioned.
  • 1996 - Acquisition of British Cellophane Ltd (BCL) Bridgwater UK. This makes business largest producer of cellulose film in Europe
  • 1997 - Joint Venture with Reserve Bank of Australia to produce polymeric material for bank notes
  • 1997 - Purchase of Tecumseh, Kansas, plant from US cellulose film producer, Flexel Inc. Now largest Cellophane producer in the world
  • 1997 - Second £10m coater installed at Wigton
  • 1998 - Acquisition of ICI Propafilm business. Now world's largest producer of speciality BOPP films
  • 1999 - £25m OPP plant in Melbourne, Australia officially opened
  • 2000 - Mexican cellophane producer Cydsa, bought and the plant in Burgos closed
  • 2001 - Commissioning of third coater plus new bubble line, Wigton. Additional coated film capacity of 15,000 tonnes
  • 2002 - Opening of new Research and Development Centre, Wigton by Tony Blair
  • 2003 - announces the creation of Surface Specialties through the integration of its Film and Chemical Sectors with Solutia's Resins, Additives and Adhesives activity.
  • 2004 - Innovia Films formed following acquisition of the business
  • 2005 - Closure of Bridgwater factory


  • Evans, Roger, (1995). "Bridgwater with and without the 'e' " . Bridgwater: R. Evans. ISBN 0-9525674-0-7
  • Lawrence, J.F., (2005). A History of Bridgwater. Chichester: Phillimore & Co Ltd. ISBN 1-86077-363-X
  • Ward-Jackson, C.H., (1977). The "Cellophane" Story: Origins of a British Industrial Group. Edinburgh: Privately Printed.
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Innovia_Films_Ltd". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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