Molins' history has been one of leadership in world markets through inspired innovation, precision engineering of great quality and the highest standards of customer service.
The Company had its beginnings in Cuba. Jose S Molins began making cigars and hand-rolling cigarettes in Havana in 1874. After having spent time in America, he moved to London. In 1911 his two sons, Harold and Walter, devised a machine that could make almost any kind of packet from cigarette packs to large cartons for tea. The Molins Machine Company was founded in 1912. In 1924 the first cigarette maker, the Mark 1 (Mk 1), was patented and by 1928 was running at 1,000 cigarettes per minute. Also in 1928 the Thrissell Engineering Company (later to become Masson Scott Thrissell) was acquired. In 1931 the Company opened a site in Richmond, Virginia, in the heart of the US tobacco industry.
During the Second World War, the Company focused on armaments, following which Molins was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the President of the United States. The business boomed in the post-war years, and in 1950 the Saunderton site, near High Wycombe, was opened.
The 1950s saw the introduction of the hinge-lid pack, which was originally invented and patented by Walter's son, Desmond Molins, in 1937. The hinge-lid pack was a major step forward from the previous soft packs, which allowed cigarettes to be damaged, and was used by Philip Morris in 1954 to relaunch the Marlboro brand; it was instantly successful and Marlboro sales increased 50 fold. Molins started to expand overseas with the first agent for the Far East in Hong Kong, establishing a factory in Behala near Calcutta and in 1960, a factory in Sao Paolo, Brazil.
The 1970s was a period of diversification. The Company acquired the Langston Corporation in 1974, a manufacturer of corrugated board machinery. By combining Langston with Masson Scott Thrissel, the Molins Group became a major supplier of corrugating and paper converting machinery. This business was subsequently divested in 1998.
In July 1976, the Company was listed on the London Stock Exchange. The 1980s, however, was a difficult time for the Group. No longer a private company and with a high sales and achievement record, Molins proved to be an attractive proposition for speculative "corporate raiders". This period saw many senior management changes and a series of battles to fight off predatory take-over bids. The Company emerged stronger and more focused. The mid-1990s saw a period of acquisition, spurred on by the excellent profitability of the Tobacco Machinery division. The Company began a strategy of developing a packaging machinery business by organic growth and by acquisition. In November 1994, Sandiacre Packaging Machinery Ltd, a leading manufacturer of vertical form fill and seal equipment based in Nottingham, was purchased. The business of Rose Forgrove, which was acquired in 2001, was integrated into Sandiacre's Nottingham facility. Sandiacre Rose Forgrove was subsequently sold in 2006.
Molins Technologies (previously named Molins ITCM), an R&D centre originally established in Coventry in 1985 to aid the existing businesses develop new products, began to create its own products with the introduction of the pyramid tea bag machinery, which was followed by the rapid introduction of a number of tea bag machines for Unilever. In October 1996 family firms H.J. Langen of Toronto, Canada and its sister company Langenpac N.V. of the Netherlands were acquired by Molins. For half a century Langen has supplied machinery for cartoning, case packing and palletising, now including robotic top load applications, for a diverse range of consumer products, pioneering packaging solutions for a variety of household brand names.
The late 1990s saw the Group significantly reorganise its tobacco machinery business, following a major reduction in demand for original equipment. The division re-established a strong emphasis on the servicing and support of its customer base. As part of its drive towards being a more efficient organisation, a business in Plzen, Czech Republic, was purchased in 2000 to manufacture and assemble tobacco machinery parts and machines.
In 2000 Molins made a significant strategic move by acquiring the business of Filtrona Instruments and Automation, the world leader in the development, assembly, selling and maintenance of process and quality control instruments for the cigarette industry and also for packaging machinery in certain niche markets. The business, now called Cerulean, operates from its UK headquarters in Milton Keynes as well as other offices around the world.
As part of the further development of its scientific service activities, Molins acquired Arista Laboratories of Richmond, Virginia in February 2002. Arista provides smoke constituent analytics to cigarette manufacturers and regulatory authorities. In December 2002 Molins acquired the smoke analysis business of LGC Ltd (the Laboratory of the Government Chemist), to form the basis of Arista Laboratories Europe. In 2015 following delayed implementation of the FDA testing regime in the US, Arista Laboratories was sold.
In 2003, Molins acquired Sasib S.p.A. based in Bologna, Italy, a manufacturer of packing machinery for the tobacco industry, although this business was subsequently sold in 2006.
Celsius Instruments, which offers a non-invasive thermometry system to measure the average temperature of products, was acquired in 2015 to complement the range of instruments the Group supplies for various industrial applications.
Today, Molins strategy is to become a global leader of high speed packaging solutions, focussed on growth markets and enhanced by a world class service organisation, supporting its international customer base through shared resources and infrastructure.
Shareholder approval was received on 27 June 2017 for the sale of the Instrumentation and Tobacco Machinery division to G.D.S PLC a wholly owned subsidiary of Coesia S.p.A and was competed on 1 August 2017.