Reaching our quarter century this year, we thought it fitting to look back at the history of FIL in celebration of Heritage Month. From humble beginnings in the Midlands of KZN, we have built our business on the foundation of offering great quality at competitive prices. This, along with providing impeccable service and investing in the latest technology has seen us grow into one of South Africa’s leading label printing companies. Let’s revisit some of the key historical moments in our journey so far.
It all began back in 1997 in the misty hills of Karkloof, KZN, when Vaughan and Sandra Cumming decided to start a printing business with just one Flexo Diecutter Press. With skill and determination they expanded their operation, purchased further machinery and relocated to Durban in 1998 to be closer to the market where First Impression Labels was growing.
The first decade of the 2000s saw FIL knuckle down to cement its place as the new kid in town and a force to reckoned with. In 2001 FIL began to partner with large Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies as products with its labels began to be seen in stores all over the country. 2005 was a busy year for FIL as it diversified into shrink sleeve and wrap around labels using unsupported film and bought the first state-of-the-art Mark Andy XP5000 press in Africa. It also received the internationally recognised ISO9001 accreditation for the consistently high standard of its Quality Management System.
The second decade of the 2000s was a quick-fire succession of upgrades and expansions as the company really began to thrive. 2011 saw FIL become the first label company in the world to have all three Performance Series Mark Andy presses: the P3, P5 and P7. Increasing production volumes necessitated a move to larger premises in Westmead in 2013. From 2014 to 2017 FIL upgraded its machinery to further diversify its offering, purchasing finishing equipment, a Screen Digital Press, a UV Inkjet digital printing system, a folding carton machine and a Wide Web Flexo machine.
Having risen through the ranks of the labelling industry by providing an array of world-class shrink sleeve, self-adhesive and wrap-around labels as well as polyrolls and coupons, 2019 brought some exciting changes to business. FIL amalgamated with two other powerhouses in the print industry when it was purchased by the Hirt & Carter Group and consolidated with Uniprint Labels. This same year saw FIL acquire three HP Indigo digital presses and another Wide Web Flexo machine whilst becoming the largest Narrow Web Flexo label manufacturer in South Africa.
With the world being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it was an extremely difficult time for everyone to endure. Adapting to these challenges whilst remaining resilient and flexible, FIL was able to survive and emerge stronger than before. In 2021 it entered the Cut & Stack Label market and achieved its FSSC 22000 food safety standard accreditation in 2022, enabling the company to supply food safe labels, lidding and packaging to the FMCG, foods and beverages markets.
Environmental responsibility has always been an important part of FIL’s business processes, with waste management and sustainability being top priorities. FIL officially conformed to the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC) standard in 2023, which certifies that FIL’s products are environmentally conscious, and their operational impact is kept to a minimum.
Having this time to reflect on our history, we are truly grateful to everyone who has shared our journey with us and contributed to our success and heritage. Thank you to all staff, partners and clients who have made the past 25 years possible, we look forward to 25 more.
Please get in touch with our team if you’d like to discuss your next labelling project.