Experience and Expertise the Key as KM Continues on Success Path Set by Pioneers

The adage “a change is as good as a rest” rings true for the pioneers behind KM Packaging as they – and the business – prepare to embark on a new chapter.

Here, Charles Smithson and Graham Holding reflect on their journey spanning nearly three decades with the global provider of flexible packaging and lidding films. They talk about their motivations, challenges, and hopes for the future.

In 2007, Charles and Graham and their dearly missed colleague and friend, Jamie Close, spearheaded a management buyout that marked a pivotal moment in KM Packaging’s history.

When asked about the motivation for leading the buyout, Charles said: “A personal desire to shape my future, a belief in KM Packaging and the team we had, and the opportunities that I saw lying ahead.”

Their journey was also driven by a desire to maintain the company’s culture, protect the dedicated team, and seize growth opportunities. Moreover, they sought to bring in trusted manufacturing partners while ensuring continuity and stability.

Charles shared that he wouldn’t change a thing about his career, emphasising the “joy, challenges, and diverse opportunities” the flexible packaging industry has provided over the years, “while having a lot of fun with people I’ve worked alongside”.


Charles and Graham are particularly proud of building the financial strength of KM Packaging and fostering a loyal team with exceptional longevity.

Their dedication to the team was reflected last year when they guided the company towards becoming an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). Charles and Graham were securing the future of the business by empowering employees to carry forward the company’s vision.

At the time, Charles said: “KM is a proudly independent company and has achieved significant growth in both domestic and export markets. The EOT is a natural transition as it builds on the company’s values of trust, ownership, passion, and innovation that have been established over the years.

“The company’s employees are passionate about the business and its values. They are the people who should reap the future rewards for their hard work and dedication.”

Considering KM’s success under their leadership, Charles and Graham highlighted the company’s agility in the face of significant challenges. For example, they recalled the rapid adaptation to remote working during the pandemic, emphasising the commitment of their team.

Graham said: “It happened overnight. People seamlessly embraced remote work. If our customers were to look back, they probably wouldn’t have noticed our changes.”


Similarly, Charles and Graham navigated the polyester film shortage in 2012. Graham recalled: “Our business adapted swiftly and revamped its operational methods. Our primary goal was to protect our customer base from the turbulent global marketplace.”

KM’s purpose is to protect, present, and preserve customers’ products. And Charles said the company’s success is partly due to “making the process of acquiring packaging material as simple as possible”.

He said: “The process involves guiding customers through the choice of packaging materials that are the most appropriate for their objectives and then ensuring a seamless supply chain.

“KM prides itself on ensuring there is availability of packaging materials exactly when and where the customer requires them, all while upholding the utmost standards of quality.”

Graham added: “We have customer relationships older than I’ve been in this business. That says a great deal about how the KM team value their customers.”

Reflecting on changes in the industry, Charles picked out the globalisation of markets as a defining shift.


He said: “When I joined the industry in the late ’70s, there was a UK-centric flexible packaging industry. Now, the market is truly international where the acquisition and supply of flexible packaging span the entire world, offering tailored solutions to customers, regardless of their geographical location.”

Graham also highlighted the evolution of KM’s marketing efforts: “Over the years, particularly in recent times, our marketing strategies have undergone significant refinement.

“As a result, our global presence and brand recognition have substantially grown, making our products more widely recognised in the market.”

In addition, Graham shared a personal source of pleasure. He said: “One of the things that gives me a real buzz is to go thousands of miles away from home and find myself either within a factory where our packaging is in use or spotting products on the shelves of supermarkets in distant corners of the world, protecting food in the packaging we’ve supplied.”

Today, KM Packaging, originally established as an export-oriented enterprise, now caters to a global customer base. While the domestic market remains its largest single market, more than 50% of its revenue is generated from international exports.

Charles said: “We now have KM companies in the United States and Australia. That is a significant change for a business. Around four years ago, we realised that to grow our market and service our customer needs, we wanted to have commercial representation in two of our strategic long-term markets, North America and Australia.

“That has been delivered with the new leadership team getting it up and running in the last year. They’ve done a fantastic job.”

Charles and Graham also acknowledged the growing influence of sustainability on consumer choices. Charles said: “For a business like ours, change means opportunity because KM can be nimble and react to customer demand.”


As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change. For Charles and Graham, the most significant change on the horizon involves stepping back from hands-on management at the helm of KM Packaging.

They are entrusting the leadership of the business to Frances Busby, who assumed the role of Managing Director last year and will guide the company into the future.

As their legacy continues, Charles and Graham will remain on the company board, offering guidance and expertise when needed. They aim to ensure a smooth transition and support Frances and the new leadership team in maintaining KM Packaging’s values and excellence.

They have the utmost confidence in the team’s ability to lead KM Packaging into a bright future.

Charles said: “It’s not about us or what we’ve done in this business. It’s about a team. I’m excited that the KM team will do a great job. It doesn’t have to be our way; it can be their way, and that’s what we’ll let them do.”


Looking back for a moment, Charles said: “I hope our staff feel as though they were well looked after, they were treated fairly, and they had fun whilst working in this business.

“I would like to think the suppliers felt that we were respectful of them, we were loyal to them, and we always treated them fairly.

“And, for customers, our aim has always been to be reliable, honest, show integrity, and look after them well.”

Regarding other plans, Charles and Graham look forward to spending more time with their families. “Whether they want it or not!” said Graham. Both are dedicated to ensuring the smooth transition of KM Packaging and its continued success.

Charles added: “Nothing will give me greater pleasure than seeing this business become even more successful.

“And let’s not forget, we’ve got a dear departed colleague who left us too early. It’s a reminder that there are right times to make changes in your life. Sadly, Jamie isn’t making them with us.”

Charles and Graham’s unwavering dedication to their team and customers has played a pivotal role in shaping KM Packaging into a global leader in the flexible packaging industry.

As they pass the baton to the next generation of leaders, they can take pride in creating a legacy of resilience, integrity, and innovation where the customer’s needs always come first, which will undoubtedly guide the company’s future success.

And, if a change is as good as a rest, no one would deny it’s well deserved by Charles Smithson and Graham Holding.

About KM Packaging

At KM Packaging, we deliver reliable packaging solutions for the produce, ambient, chilled and frozen convenience food markets as well as for confectionery and snacks. Offering one of the most comprehensive ranges of lidding films available on the global market today, we work closely with customers to find the right packaging solution to ensure their products are protected, presented, and preserved.

For further details visit: www.kmpackaging.com