Paarl Media Group: Masters of print innovation and evolution

The print media has changed out of all recognition since the start of the 20th Century, underlining the dynamic nature of the industry and the need to evolve and adapt to survive.

Of course back in 1905, when Paarl Media started out, print was very much the most popular means for distributing news around South Africa and beyond. In the modern era, computer technology has changed the way print is produced, but also the way news travels, with digital media and the Internet competing in the same space as more traditional means.

As Paarl Media celebrates its 110th anniversary in 2015, there is time to reflect on its past but to also celebrate its success in adapting to modern techniques.

printing“Paarl Media’s success has seen us grow from our inception in 1905 to become the most comprehensive commercial printing operation in South Africa. Our extensive track record of printing, binding and distribution gives us a unique understanding and insight as to the requirements for the African market whilst offering a service comparable to standards across the globe,” states the corporate website.

Located a little way north east of Cape Town, the company’s portfolio of services reflects everything that one would expect from a leading, cutting edge printer, as the company site describes:

“Clients benefit from seamless access to volume resources and extensive print capability through the Group’s ten modern operations across the country, providing you with a single source for all your printing requirements. We offer publication gravure, heatset web offset, sheetfed, specialised book, coldset and UV flexographic self-adhesive labels printing, as well as speciality finishing, bindery, distribution and value add services.

“Through the implementation of faster, more advanced technology and highly efficient, fully automated production processes, we ensure the quick, high-quality printing of almost any format of magazines, catalogues, books, newspapers, labels and commercial work.”

Of course maintaining a leading market position requires constant upgrading of technology and Paarl Media has not lacked for investment over the years. The company’s efforts have not only maintained and grown a loyal customer base, but have yielded international recognition.

In November 2014 Paarl Media received international accolade, when it was recognised by a leading European organisation for outstanding gravure printing.

“Paarl Media Cape received the international printing award for the Clicks Health and Baby catalogue and commendation for the HomeChoice catalogue at the 2014 European Rotogravure Association Publication Gravure Awards held in Salzburg, Austria.

“The awards are organised by the European Rotogravure Association (ERA), a non-profit organisation dedicated to supporting users of the gravure printing process. Once an art form and a craft skill, gravure today is a computer controlled manufacturing process, offering outstanding print quality, output consistency, highest versatility and speed.

“The ERA is the leading international organisation of the gravure industry with members worldwide from the publication, packaging, and decorative printing sectors. The annual ERA Publication Gravure Awards aim to encourage the very best publication gravure production within Europe,” a news release explained.

“Entry categories are based on paper type and basis weight, with a further subdivision between the finishing processes of printed products. Paarl Media Cape, known for its streamlined processes and reliable technology, won first place in the Uncoated Paper category for the Clicks Health and Baby catalogue and received an ERA commendation for the HomeChoice catalogue in the Lightweight Coated Paper category,” the statement continues.

“Congratulations on the ERA commendation, it is a testament to Paarl Media’s high calibre of service and ongoing commitment to deliver excellent quality printed products on every order,” says Anthea Abrahams, ecommerce & marketing director at HomeChoice, a direct marketing homeware retailer in Southern Africa.

manual-printing“Undeniable quality and value for money is a result of our investment in refining our skills and processes. This award reflects what we strive to achieve with all of our customers: to produce the highest quality products, as efficiently as possible, using the latest technological innovations,” says Christoff Botha, executive director: heatset, Paarl Media Group.

“This accolade shows how the standard and quality of printed products in South Africa is on par with the rest of the world. Our South African consumers can be confident that they are receiving world-class service and products,” Botha continues.

 That world class feel increasingly incorporates more environmentally-friendly techniques and products, with investments always striving to improve the company’s carbon footprint.

In October the company made public its eco-friendly approach through a news statement:

“Paarl Media is changing the way South Africa’s printing industry is developing by adopting an eco-friendly approach. “The Paarl Media Group is consistently looking at the impact printing processes have on the environment and take into account energy costs,” Christoff Botha, executive director of heatset at the printing group, Paarl Media, told

The grou is reported to have invested more than 100 million rand in environmentally responsible practices to reduce, re-use and recycle.

One such significant investment was made in a biomass boiler, a system powered by sustainable biomass which burns at intense temperatures to generate the steam required to power the publication gravure printing process at the company’s flagship plant, Paarl Media Cape.  

“The carbon footprint in mining coal to produce electricity is quite large, whereas the biomass boiler allows the group the opportunity to reduce such a footprint. Naturally the benefit of generating steam with the boiler comes at a lower cost,” explained Botha.

Due to the project’s zero carbon footprint, Paarl Media was nominated at the 2014 Eco-Logic Awards under the energy saving category.

The group is also the first African printing organisation which received the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) chain of custody certification.

“We are constantly evaluating new technology with a strong focus on environmental concerns. Further eco-projects already in place include Regenerative Thermal Oxidisers (RTO) implemented on all web presses at Paarl Media Cape, Paarl Media Paarl and Paarl Media Gauteng. RTOs destroy harmful air pollutants and odorous emissions that are often discharged from industrial or manufacturing processes,” added Botha.

Such environmental considerations would never have enjoyed such consideration or commitment 110 years ago, ample evidence that Paarl Media continues to adapt and evolve as it starts its next century of innovation.