Paint manufacturer brushes up its act to secure bright future
Kevin O'Connor: "Our focus has always been on producing high performance paints for the Irish market"
Future Proof: Kevin O'Connor, Colortrend:Developing new products has been central to longevity of Colortrend
The paint business is dominated by a small number of big brands that sell worldwide. It leaves little room for independent producers. But a cluster of indigenous paint manufacturers are dotted around Europe, including in Ireland, where Celbridge-based Colortrend has been in existence for 60 years.
The family-owned company was founded by chemical engineer Ronan O’Connor and is now run by his son Kevin.
Around 10 per cent of its 70-strong labour force works in RD and Kevin O’Connor says new product development has been central to the company’s longevity. “We have been innovators since 1953. We were the first in Ireland to introduce water-based paints, the first to introduce acrylic paints and the first to introduce tinting systems,” he says.
Colortrend is also active at the leading edge of hi-tech coatings and has launched an antimicrobial paint to kill bad bugs in health settings, an acoustic paint to suppress noise and a product called Insect-X that kills mosquitos.
The company is in talks with the United Nations about securing its endorsement for this product.
“It involves a lot of time as you are dealing with a very conservative process and there is a lot of technical documentation involved,” O’Connor says. “Of course, it’s potentially a very large market if you crack it, but it is difficult to access. It’s something we do alongside our domestic paints business, which accounts for about 90 per cent of our turnover.”
Colortrend’s primary route to market is via independent paint retailers. It also owns and operates five stores and does not sell through DIY chains. “We have looked at supplying the superstores more than once but we don’t like the fact that they control you on everything, especially price, and expect rolling discounts.
“We also passionately believe in having knowledgeable people selling our products. Most of our customers are family-owned businesses and they are prepared to put in the extra effort. Our focus has always been on producing high performance paints for the Irish market. By high performance we mean paint that is washable – even scrubbable – but that is true to colour, coats better, picks up less dirt and doesn’t look shabby after a couple of years.
“Pricewise we hold our own with the big names although we would argue that we offer superior quality. We are around 10 per cent more expensive than their cheapest paints but comparable with, or even a little less than, their more expensive ranges.