On the Spot…Christophe Nicoli

Last October global manufacturer of primary glass packaging for the pharmaceutical industry SGD Pharma was acquired by European private equity firm PAI Partners (PAI). SGD Pharma CEO Christophe Nicoli spoke exclusively to Glass Worldwide about his ambition to accelerate the company’s growth trajectory through organic and external initiatives, mobilising PAI’s resources and expertise in the packaging and healthcare industries.

On the Spot…Christophe Nicoli

GW: Since PAI acquired SGD Pharma from China Jianyin Investment Ltd (JIC) last year, what impact has the change in ownership had on the business?

The transition to PAI Partners is an exciting time for SGD Pharma. PAI is a French-based private equity firm, choosing to invest in SGD Pharma having watched the leadership team’s skilful navigation of global markets and opportunities, leveraging a growing and resilient pharma market. This investment builds on the considerable management support in SGD Pharma’s industrial and strategic plans provided by JIC since 2016.

SGD Pharma is currently market leader in moulded glass for pharmaceutical packaging, and the support of PAI is enabling the leadership to focus on new areas of growth, investment and innovation.
We expect the new strategic plan to be implemented from 2022 and will deliver on our existing global strengths.

The change in ownership gives SGD Pharma a new opportunity, particularly given the turbulent two years the world has experienced, and our executive team is now considering acquisitions and partnerships to enable SGD Pharma to expand its market share further.

GW: What are the main benefits of the new set-up and how have your customers responded?

Our business works predominantly in regulated markets, so a lot of our focus is on maintaining and continuously improving quality and services for our customers. We see the new ownership as an opportunity for further developments – as do our customers. To this end, we have focused efforts on improving customer experience by segmenting our product propositions more specifically to their needs; this enables us to improve their supply chain, making it easier for customers to access products that meet their bespoke needs.

We hope to expand our customer base, making a strong start in 2021 with the addition of our Ensiemo range [SGD Pharma’s glass dropper bottle solution with an option for a child-resistant closure and tamper-evident seal] developed especially for the cannabidiol (CBD) market. We expect to be able to expand our products into more markets, and also to add new performance to our existing product ranges. There are several new launches planned for 2022 as a result, that should be announced at CPhI 2022.

GW: Following significant investment into SGD Pharma’s operations in recent years, will this level of backing continue under PAI?

With PAI’s resources and expertise in the packaging and healthcare industries, we are well positioned to accelerate the growth trajectory, through organic and external initiatives. We will continue to strengthen our fundamental principles under PAI’s ownership, to develop the quality of our factories and customer relationships through an expanded portfolio of products and services.

GW: What are the highlights of recent upgrades to your different manufacturing facilities?

Since the construction of the Saint-Quentin-Lamotte (SQLM) site in France in 2015 we have continued to invest significantly in our plants in France. We rebuilt furnace two, an electrical furnace, in 2018, increasing the capacity for Type I moulded glass vials by 10% on top of the previous furnace’s 300 million vials per year.

In addition, last year we injected €31 million into renovating the Sucy-en-Brie site, which included the complete rebuild and upgrade of furnace two, the modification of the building itself, full revamping of the ISO 8 clean rooms, next generation IS machines, and the installation of the most advanced technologies available for automatic inspection. Collectively, SQLM and Sucy produce 4 million moulded glass vials per day, so maintaining and upgrading the plants is crucial to our business and to meeting customers’ expectations.

In India we have recently upgraded one of the furnaces in our Vemula plant, which produces both moulded and tubular Type I glass vials for parenteral applications. India has been a huge source of growth for SGD Pharma, with our local market share in moulded and tubular vials growing from 10% to 40%.

GW: How important is adopting the latest manufacturing technology to achieving the company’s goals?

SGD Pharma strives to be the best in the industry, in all aspects, including vial inspectability, dimensions, quality and chemical characteristics. Manufacturing excellence helps us to continue to service customers and keep their supply chains in place, to enable them to bring drugs to market. This is a huge responsibility, and also means that our role is contributing to global health and addresses several of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

GW: What resources is SGD Pharma devoting to R&D initiatives?

Innovation is a group matter and Carole Grassi Mirchich, as Chief Innovation and Development Officer, who has joined the Executive Committee, leads the endeavour. For the last five years, SGD Pharma has regularly increased the dedicated resources for innovation, not only for R&D, but related marketing, quality, and engineering projects.

This means that innovation is at the heart of what we do, lead[ing] from the top. As such, we use all resources from the executive team – marketing, production, quality and sales – to focus on tracking trends and identifying opportunities, to spearhead our ability to invest in R&D. This is a highly important part of our proposition for customers and the market.

We keep our finger on the pulse of the patient, so to speak: market insight and trends in the pharma market help us to assimilate what is most important to our direct customers, and to innovate products and services to meet those needs. We have some very exciting initiatives underway that will come to fruition in 2022 and beyond.

We have an innovation roadmap in place that is both short and long-term in its vision, and takes into account enhancing our existing products and services, as well as expanding into newer areas.

GW: Will the new ownership assist with SGD Pharma differentiating itself from other suppliers of glass packaging?

Of course. Differentiation has always been at the heart of SGD Pharma, from our focus on sustainability and innovation through to manufacturing excellence. SGD Pharma is focused on bringing moulded glass to the masses, and reversing negative perceptions of this material in markets dominated by tubular glass (which we also manufacture, in our plant in India). Having a foot in both markets enables us to see what others cannot, and bring the best of both worlds to customers worldwide. Additionally, we also have the advantage of being able to supply to fill capacity gaps globally, as we have ex-stock in most of our moulded lines. This means we often have vials available 12 months ahead of suppliers whose supply chains were severely impacted by Covid-19 vaccine demand.

As a high-quality supplier, we recognise that customers need more than just packaging. We differ from other packaging manufacturers in the services we provide, which augment our glass vials and other containers. A good example of this is the recent enhancement of our Type I moulded glass portfolio, providing three market-driven product and service offerings. This has seen a great response from customers, enabling us to identify the challenges that they experience with expectations of product performance. With our AXpert, AXecure, and AXess categories, we are now able to match product, service, quality and delivery expectations far more accurately. We are striving towards zero defects, and the ability to match product and customer needs better helps us to do this.

We have a strength in pharma and in moulded glass that means that SGD Pharma is able to partner, rather than just supply. The vials we manufacture in pharma, biopharma and veterinary applications become part of our customers’ ability to succeed in their own markets and sales.

We have peripheral interests in some of our geographies and plants: for example, our China plant also manufactures a range of cosmetic and beauty packaging that adheres to our global sustainability goals, and helps SGD Pharma to support wider industries with green glass packaging.

The recent introduction of Ensiemo for CBD (including beauty and nutraceuticals applications) also brings us closer to some other markets and enables our innovations in regulated, approved, compliant glass for pharma packaging to be adopted in even more industries.

GW: What did it mean to be awarded a ‘platinum’ sustainability rating by EcoVadis last year?

It was incredibly important to us, as it validated the considerable efforts being made by the whole company to reinforce our corporate social responsibility initiatives. It also differentiated us, not only within the glass industry, but also in other global manufacturing industries, since this level of recognition is only given to the top 1% of companies evaluated. This is massively important for our customers’ procurement and supply chain goals; by operating at this level SGD Pharma helps our customers to excel in sustainability too.

Sustainability in healthcare and pharmaceutical packaging is a top priority for drug manufacturers and consumers now, and we feel that our Platinum EcoVadis rating emphasises SGD Pharma’s dedication to a more environmentally friendly future. We have seen just how important the role of glass is in society as a sustainable material through the International Year of Glass 2022, which we have proudly sponsored. Our new CSR report will be published this year, spotlighting the latest advances across the company in our endless quest to lead from the front in sustainability.

GW: Are you particularly pleased with any recent product launches or innovations that are in the pipeline?

I think I speak for the entire team when I highlight our most recent extension to the Sterinity platform – the 100ml moulded glass vials in Stevenato Group’s EZ-fill Tray packaging system. We go to great lengths to listen to our customers and understand their needs, and it was clear that the pharma and biotech markets were in need of larger size pre-sterilised vials. This is the first time that a global pharmaceutical packaging manufacturer has offered this solution, so we are proud to fill that gap in the market.

We also have many exciting projects in store for 2022, in particular focusing on our added value services that distinguish SGD Pharma as a provider of high-quality glass packaging.

GW: Considering your position as a leader in the manufacture of primary pharmaceutical glass packaging, how important a contribution has SGD Pharma made to the global battle against the Covid-19 pandemic?

SGD Pharma is renowned not only for the quality of its glass packaging, but for its large global capacity. Companies know they can rely on us to provide solutions in times of disruption. When the pandemic hit, we immediately made available vast stocks of our moulded and tubular Type I glass vials and, like other packaging suppliers, allocated a proportion of our production solely to meet the needs of the vaccine manufacturers.

Not only this, but thanks to the hard work of our employees to minimise disruptions (I take this opportunity to reiterate my gratitude and admiration to all of them), our customers still received the packaging they needed to deliver life-saving therapeutics to patients.

GW: To summarise, what are the main opportunities and challenges facing SGD Pharma moving forward?

It goes without saying that a world that opens up post-pandemic will enable SGD Pharma and our customers to meet again, and exchange ideas together. Supply of pharmaceutical packaging is a long-term relationship: our customers do not easily choose to change product or suppliers. So the relationships and trust and continuity are vital to both sides.

We saw a number of opportunities emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic: an increase in demand for tubular vials put constraints on the industry supply chain, and being able to manufacture both tubular and moulded glass vials and sustain our customers with vials to meet their timeframes has put SGD Pharma in a unique position that no other vial manufacturer has been in.

There are huge opportunities for us to bring even more innovation to the industry, which in turn means our customers can depend on the vials from SGD Pharma to meet both their current and future needs, and to remove any challenges they encounter with their existing supply chains.

Our growing portfolio of vials for fill/finish is adding to the global market capacity, and puts SGD Pharma in a position of dependability for our customers. We aim to reverse their experiences of bottlenecks and quality issues encountered with other vials in the market in recent months and years.

Regarding challenges, rising manufacturing costs and shipping costs have impacted everybody, not just SGD Pharma.


EZ-fill is a registered trademark of Stevenato Group

Further Information: 

SGD Pharma, Puteaux Cedex, France
tel: +33 14090 3600
email: marketing@sgdgroup.com
web: www.sgd-pharma.com


* The full version of this article appears in the May/June issue that has been mailed globally. The digital version of this issue can also currently be read free of charge in its entirety alongside back copies in the Digital Archive (sponsored by FIC) at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/Digital-Issues. To receive the paper copy, all future issues and a free copy of the new Who’s Who / Annual Review 2022-23 yearbook, subscribe now at https://www.glassworldwide.co.uk/subscription-choice

Click here for our Hot Topics latest news round-up