Paarl Media Group: Innovation and environmental awareness equals a sustainable printing future

The future of printing has been questioned in so many quarters over the last decade, but demand continues and for some businesses, print remains a lucrative industry. Paarl Media Group has certainly shone despite the purported doom and gloom – and a series of acquisitions and a focus on environmental aspects, has made the Group a big success story.


In August 2013, Paarl Media Group made a further investment into the KwaZulu-Natal region through the acquisition of Intrepid Printers.

Having completed the transaction, the company announced: “Paarl Media is excited about the future possibilities of this printing facility together with the combined offerings of the Paarl Media Group in the KwaZulu-Natal area.

The acquisition of Intrepid Printers will allow the Paarl Media Group to improve its ability to provide a wider range of printing options to customers in KwaZulu-Natal. Intrepid Printers’ printing presses are suited for the production of books, niche magazines, specialised catalogues and other commercial printed material. This will complement the web offset facilities that Paarl Media has in KwaZulu-Natal through Paarl Coldset Pietermaritzburg and Paarl Media KwaZulu-Natal, therefore allowing Paarl Media to provide a greater scope of printing and services to clients in the region.

The acquisition forms part of the Paarl Media Group’s commitment towards book publishers and the printing industry as a whole in South Africa.”

The acquisition followed hot on the heels of news that the company had been selected as a finalist in the 2013 Eco-Logic Awards. These awards, hosted by The Enviropaedia, in association with SABC3 identify and give recognition to individuals, organisations, products and services that are making a real and measurable difference in creating a more sustainable world to live in.

Paarl Media was nominated as one of 5 finalists in the Recycling Award category and its entry was centred around efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the printing process, through the implementation of a number of sustainable business practices, such as the Regenerative Thermal Oxidisers on all heatset web offset presses which eliminates emissions.

Being named a finalist in the recycling category is an achievement all on its own and we are very proud of it,” stated Christoff Botha, executive director of Paarl Media Western Cape.

In July the company announced that it had made a commitment to reduce the environmental impact of the printing process which the company sees as a benefit to all involved – customers, employees of Paarl Media Group and the community in which it operates.

As part of this initiative, Paarl Media announced it would be installing a new biomass boiler by the end of the year, at its Cape Town plant, Paarl Media Cape.

The boiler works on the principle of combustion and is fuelled by sustainable biomass that burns at intense heat to generate the steam required in the gravure process. The gravure presses include the plant’s newly acquired Cerutti Aurora press which is also arguably the most energy efficient presses in the world,” said Christoff Botha, executive director of Paarl Media Western Cape.

Whilst electricity, oil and coal are traditional sources for generating steam, Paarl Media’s biomass boiler creates steam energy by burning wood chips produced from alien vegetation, such as Port Jackson and Black Wattle. Neither species are indigenous to the Western Cape with both being extremely high consumers of water.

In addition to being a greener process, the new biomass boiler system will assist in creating jobs within the local community through the collection of natural material for the production of the chips needed to fuel the boiler,” added Botha.

The biomass boiler works towards creating a carbon neutral footprint for the company while reducing the plant’s electricity consumption and resultant medium term production costs.

Despite the biomass boiler using large amounts of alien woodchips and capital cost being significant and dollar-based, the overall running costs are markedly lower than that of an electric boiler,” said project head and operations director for Paarl Media Western Cape, Johan von Wielligh.

Whilst the modern approach of Paarl Media comfortably supports the credence that this is a forward-thinking business, it should not be forgotten that the company has in fact been in operation for well over a century, having been founded in 1905.

Paarl Media has built up a long-standing and loyal customer base which has helped it to evolve into the most comprehensive commercial printing operation in South Africa today. Technological help and astute acquisitions have played an important role in establishing such a lofty standing.

However, the road to business success has not always been smooth and the tragic events of April 2009 saw fire not only destroy Paarl Print’s Dal Josafat facility, but claim the lives of 13 workers. Rebuilding was a long and painful process and the company quickly announced that Paarl Print would be re-established in Paarl, albeit at a different site.

A series of subsequent investments and acquisitions (most notably that of [email protected] in early 2011), not only consolidated Paarl Media, but helped to broaden its customer base and job opportunities.

[email protected] was South Africa’s leading direct-to-home advertising distributor, targeting defined audiences with maximum precision. Their national footprint included over 34 outlets throughout Southern Africa, giving Paarl Media Group a golden opportunity to enhance its existing distribution services – in particular to retailers.

Paarl Media, an indirect subsidiary of Media 24, which is ultimately controlled by Naspers Ltd [JSE:NPN], has kept up with the times and today serves customers from 10 facilities across the country, equipped with state of the art technology.

The commitment to innovation and improving its environmental impact also saw the launch of a new wine label called ‘Treefree’ in 2010, as the company’s Paarl Labels brands began to produce a paper containing no wood fibre, being made instead from the 100 per cent renewable bagasse, otherwise known as sugar cane fibre.

Such innovation is not only in keeping with the current ever-changing governance of the environment, but also helps to propel Paarl Media forwards. Acquisitions and environmental consideration continue to wield a driving force for business.

It has at times been a rocky road, but Paarl Media Group has fought back and is primed to play a continuing major role in South Africa’s media and print futures.