John Roberts, chairman at Leeds-based flexible packaging manufacturer Roberts Mart, is celebrating 60 years of service with the family firm.

The UK company, founded in 1852 by William Roberts, is a sixth-generation business. Joining in 1964 at the age of 20, and taking operational control in 1974 – working 30 years with his father Peter Roberts – John has seen many changes over the past six decades, he said.

‘In the sixties Roberts Mart was essentially a letterpress and litho printers,’ explained John. ‘We set type by hand, we were binders, we made paper bags – all that’s gone. Now we print flexographically reel to reel on big, huge presses that run 24 hours a day at high speed.’

Decisions made by John have modernised the firm, with investments in both plant and equipment. In the mid-70s he introduced the production of polythene bags with the company’s first polythene bag making machine, followed in 1983 by the purchase of a polythene extrusion business. John also aided the company’s transition from its headquarters of 120 years at Bank Mills to a new purpose-built facility on the outskirts of Leeds.

In 2009, after 45 years at the helm, John handed over the day-to-day management of the firm to his two sons, William and Ben Roberts, beginning a new chapter as chairman of the business.

William Roberts, managing director at Roberts Mart, commented, ‘This is a remarkable achievement for my father. His dedication and forethought have made the company what it is today. Both Ben and I are proud to follow in his footsteps.’

In 2016 John was handed the British Printing Industries Federation’s (BPIF) Outstanding Contribution Award. 

Roberts Mart said it is expecting turnover of £50m by the end of 2024. The current directors have recently invested over £11 million in new machinery and a facility expansion to allow the firm to operate more efficiently, future-proof the business and better support a growing customer base.