Riding the wave of increasing demand for wine and spirits labels across Central Europe, Slovak converter Purgina is committed to adding value to its customers’ marketing operations. Andy Thomas reports.
Riding the wave of increasing demand for wine and spirits labels
across Central Europe, Slovak converter Purgina is committed to adding
value to its customers’ marketing operations. Andy Thomas reports
Slovak label converter Purgina was founded by Stefan Kilarsky in 1991
in the burst of creative entrepreneurism which followed the collapse of
communism in Eastern Europe.
Today the company employs 65 people and has a turnover of eight million
euros. It is very much a family business, with Stefan Kilarsky’s wife
handling the accounts and daughter Dana and son Radovan already
providing impressive technical and marketing input across the operation.
Purgina has long been a member of Finat, and both Dana and Radovan are active in the organization’s Young Managers Club.
The business is currently growing by around 10 percent after a slow
recovery from the global recession last year. Says Stefan: ‘We’re
winning new clients all the time in wine and spirits, particularly in
Slovakia, Hungary and Austria.’
Stefan Kilarsky founded Purgina with a loan of just 4,000 Deutschmarks
(2,000 euros) to buy his first machine to convert simple PS labels, and
by 1995 was in a position to buy his first professional converting
system – an 8-color waterbase flexo Nilpeter F2400, followed by a
second, 4-color machine a year later.
‘The 1990s was a time of huge expansion,’ recalls Stefan. ‘But our
company was expanding too quickly – from 1.3 million euros in 1995 to
six million euros in 2000. It was out of control. Between 1998 and 2000 I
pulled the handbrake and started to look for fewer, better qualified
people and to restructure the company.’
Part of this restructure was a move towards higher value label
production, leading to the purchase of a Gallus R250 UV letterpress in
1998. In 2000, Purgina moved into a new 3,000 sqm manufacturing facility
in Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia.
By 2004, Kilarsky had started looking beyond Purgina’s food label
business as price competition increased. ‘In 1991 there were no other
label converters in Slovakia. Today there are seven strong converters in
the country and some 27 in the Czech Republic.’
Having made the decision to move into higher margin work, in 2005
Purgina replaced the letterpress with a Gallus TCS250 intermittent UV
offset press with screen, embossing, flexo coating and hot stamping.
This immediately opened up new markets in cosmetics, wine and liquor
This was followed in 2007 by a modular Gallus RCS330 press, a prototype
machine and the first in the region to combine UV offset, flexo, screen
and cold foil. The press also has an insetting capability.
An Agfa Autolith LDT85 CTP system was installed to provide plates for the offset presses.
‘The RCS fulfilled all our requirements,’ says Stefan Kilarsky. ‘We can
change between flexo, offset, screen and cold foil modules which gives
us great flexibility. The press has eight fully interchangeable printing
Bohus Kukumberg, production manager at Purgina, adds: ‘After four
years, we are still learning about the RCS. We do both long and short
runs – down to 500 linear meters – on the press, and similarly we can do
longer runs on the TCS.’
The team’s only regret was that they did not have the space to add a
Martin automatic roll splicer. ‘It would have saved us 20,000 sq meters
of waste,’ laments Stefan’s son, Radovan.
Given the trend towards shorter runs, has Stefan Kilarsky considered
digital? ‘In fact three to four years ago we did consider digital, but
then the global crisis struck. Now we feel that our short runs are
handled better on the TCS250 and RCS330, and the quality is better than
For quality control purposes, the presses are equipped with AVT cameras
controlling the rewinders via AVT’s Workflow Link. This generates a
virtual ‘roll report’ of errors on the printed web, which is used to
automatically deliver faulty labels to the rewinder splice table. The
web is synchronized by a barcode printed on the press after the
Dana Kilarska provides the company’s expertise in this area. Her next
plan is to supply the AVT cameras their reference image from the master
PDF files held on the EskoArtwork Backstage server, via JDF. She also
plans to link the Backstage server with her Cerm management information
Die cut profiles are already downloaded directly from pre-press to
control the Digimask die cut verification system, which is particularly
useful for ultra-clear materials and complex die shapes.
Purgina employs eight sales staff, each of whom is trained technically
in the capabilities of the presses, and taught to act as consultants to
their customers. ‘We have to change our peoples’ thinking,’ says Stefan
Kilarsky. ‘In the past it was easier to sell longer runs of food labels –
now it is about quality and service. Today our strategy is to have
fewer, higher value customers.’
Currently around 20 percent of the company’s business is low value logistics labels, which Stefan is looking to replace.
‘Half our business is in food labels. We don’t want to lose our food
customers but we do want to do more wine labels. Five years ago wine
accounted for three percent of our business. Today it is 30 percent.’
Labels for spirits such as schnapps and vodka has also been a good area
for growth, with almost all the work using ultra-clear PP film.
Co-operation in wine
Stefan Kilarsky says Purgina has been ‘largely responsible’ for moving
the Slovak wine industry very quickly from wet glue to PS labels.
‘Before we entered the wine market, 95 percent of labels in the country
were wet glue. Today 97 percent of Slovakia’s wine labels are PS. We
feel that we drove this change by showing our customers the advantages
of PS and how it helps them compete in new markets like the high level
catering industry or with organic wine, and helping them deal with EU
legislation. We showed them how other wine producing countries like
Australia, the Czech Republic and Chile were using PS labels.’
Purgina is at the center of a network which brings wine makers and
label designers together. ‘This year for example, we are connecting the
five best Hungarian and Slovakian wine makers to learn about marketing
wine internationally and how to promote the industry through activities
like wine tours,’ says Stefan.
‘We explain how in Italy and France, wine makers co-operate to promote
the region. We also plan to bring in top designers from Austria and
Hungary to teach wine label designers and wine makers here the design
possibilities for narrow web presses.’
Where requested, Purgina can also provide a label design service,
supported by its EskoArtwork Visualiser 3-D tools. These now come with a
wide range of wireframes representing wine bottle shapes. The company
will also work with a client’s designers to translate flat artwork to a
‘We explain that we are not “cheap”, and what services we can offer,
and that they take the same approach. We are not trying to compete with
cheap New World wines. Our target should be medium and high quality
wines sold to specialist wine shops or directly at the cellar.’
For the future, Purgina is looking at new production facilities – plans
which were put on hold during the financial crisis. There is also a
continued push on sustainability issues. ‘Ten years ago nobody in
Slovakia cared about waste,’ confirms Stefan. Today Purgina is having
its liner waste collected and is a partner in Sony’s Green Partner
This article was published in L&L issue 4, 2011 Source