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Exclusive interview: Dekorglass' CEO on innovation, glassmaking and new patents

Magdalena Viatteau

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Exclusive interview: Dekorglass' CEO on innovation, glassmaking and new patents

© Piotr Waniorek

One of Europe's premier decorators of glass packaging for luxury brands, Dekorglass has embarked on a new stage of development with the acquisition of a glass factory in Poland. In an exclusive interview with Luxe Packaging Insight, Gabriel Chojak, founder, owner and ceo of the family-owned company, reveals the latest developments regarding this new activity and other innovations in the pipeline.

Dekorglass is already a leader in glass decoration, why embark on glass production?

Given today’s gradual rejection of plastic packaging and the fact that it is increasingly being replaced by glass, we’re facing a shortage in the European Union. While our factory will produce premium bottles using super-flint glass, this will not be our only source of glass. Some customers continue to send us their bottles to decorate, while for others we purchase bottles from other manufacturers. 

We purchased the site in Tur (200km west of Dekorglass’ site in Dzialdowo) in June 2019 and invested heavily in our own glass production. (Editor’s note: At the time of the acquisition, the glassworks operated one 10-section IS machine line (Heye). Dekorglass has since invested in two Bottero lines and hired 50 new employees to join the existing staff of 139Dekorglass’ bottle decoration is done at its Dzialdowo and Komorniki sites.)

You are also launching a new activity?

Yes, we are embarking on the production of plastic lids for cream jars, which is due to start in May. This lid is made up of three parts: the outer part, that will be gold plated using vacuum metallization (rather than liquid metallization) and can be decorated via 3D printing, the inner part made of plastic and a foam lining that ensures that the lid fits tightly onto the jar. The choice of materials was important as some creams and oils contain components that can react aggressively to plastics.

There are also new decoration innovations in the works?

Innovation has always been of primary importance at Dekorglass. In digital printing, which we began offering 12 years ago, I participated in designing machines that offer multi-pass technology, which were built at the time by a small Polish company. We also constructed an automatic machine in Poland to laser engrave decorations on bottles using 10 different lasers. 

Today we’re developing a high-speed and extremely precise carousel machine using a new technology that hardens the printing in a vertical position, thus making it possible to print an image up to 21cm high on a bottle in a single pass. We’ve already done this on a Johnnie Walker bottle, which is gilded at 630° and then decorated with UV-cured digital printing. We’re filing patents for this technology in April as the machine is put into operation.

This kind of development requires significant investments. Are you on the lookout for financial partners?

Not at the moment. We are a family business and we want to remain one. I work with my wife, my son and my son-in-law, which greatly facilitates management and decision-making.

We did have a project with a Slovenian glass manufacturer (Editor’s note: Steklarna Hrastnik), but this fell through as the company was not able to get the support they were expecting from the Polish authorities and therefore withdrew. We continue to work with them; we buy their glass and decorate their bottles.

What is your presence outside your home country?

We have a stable customer base worldwide, in more than 80 countries. In the US we are present through an Italian and a German company, for whom we make bottles for the cosmetics sector and are also in Mexico and the Dominican Republic among numerous other markets.

Dekorglass will soon celebrate its 25thanniversary. What are the roots of your expertise in glass decoration? 

Dekorglass' success comes from our mastery of digital printing, among other things. We are able to apply several different technologies to the same bottle: high-temperature printing using ceramic colors at 600 or 630°C, and low temperature, with organic colors that are fixed with UV rays. I believe we were among the first to use this technology, as well as transparent metallization. 

We currently decorate 180 million bottles a year. Fragrance bottles now account for 60% of our production and beverages 40%, but in terms of revenue, the proportion is reversed. 

I’d say that our competitive advantage is that in France, for example, a company uses one or two technologies to decorate a bottle and then has to send it to another supplier to complete the decoration with a third method. We have all the technologies on site and we’ll now also have the glass and the lids. 

What is one of your most recent and notable decoration projects?

We decorate New Zealand brand Lunatic&Lover Botanical Rum bottles with a particular combination of techniques: they are covered with two layers of color, of which we remove part of the outer layer via laser, in order to make a design. In this case, the big challenge was to follow the shape of the bottle as the laser design had to fit different diameters to create a harmonious, united whole. 

I've always bet on innovation and I think my biggest success is to have instilled this state of mind to my team.

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