Is there an award for companies that hang on in the face of adversity? If so, then give it to Harland Labels of Hull in East Yorkshire, England. Disregard the fact that the company was founded in 1832, although that’s a good start, or that it could rightfully be described as one of the most venerable names in European labeling. The amazing thing is that the Harland name — which is not unknown in the USA — has survived at all. After a decade of upheavals involving three separate takeovers and all that that implies, it has regained its independence following a management buy out. The former owners were Grenadier Holdings, the pan-European document printing, labels and print management arm of Moore-Paragon.
Long before this happened, Harland was a relatively stable family-run business. It specialized in producing self-adhesive labels, leaflet labels and multi-layer labels for niche sectors. It also owned Harland Machine Systems, based near Manchester, which has produced high speed self-adhesive label applicators since 1971. A North American headquarters is located in Delran, NJ.
As so often happens with old family-owned concerns, the business dynamics lose their edge, which is why in 1995 the group found itself as a small cog in the vast Sonoco empire. Four years later Sonoco UK sold it to BH Matthews (BHM) after a proposed deal with Jarvis Porter (now defunct) came to nothing. However, only seven months later BHM Packaging went into administration, placing Harland Labels and two other label companies back on the market. (Harland Machine Systems returned temporarily to the Sonoco fold before its sale to US-based LaserSoft Holdings in 2001). In December 1999 Grenadier Holdings absorbed Harland Labels and invested around $6 million of much-needed funds. A new purpose-built factory was one outcome, so let’s hope it provides a sound base for the new management to carry on the Harland name.