James Cropper reflects on its history as it marks 175th anniversary

Print Solutions


Having survived fires, The Great Depression, two world wars and now in the midst of a global pandemic, this year marks a milestone 175th anniversary for James Cropper, one of the world’s most innovative papermakers.

As well as being globally renowned for supplying custom made and specialist paper products to well known brands such as Selfridges, Burberry and Mulberry, the papermaker is also known for its passion for innovation.

James Cropper invented the world's first technology to upcycle coffee cups. Since launching CupCycling in 2017, it has upcycled more than 120 million cups and given them a second life as beautiful paper products instead.

Continuing with its commitment to creating sustainable alternatives, the group launched Colourform, a thermoformed, plastic free, moulded fibre packaging solution meeting the needs of complex and high end design, while blazing a trail for sustainable luxury packaging. A recent partnership with Maison Ruinart saw a groundbreaking ‘Second Skin’ concept come to life; not only reducing the carbon footprint by 60% by reducing the weight of the packaging by nine times, but it amplifies the aesthetic appeal of the luxury brand too.

The company’s Technical Fibre Products division also makes a valuable contribution to the emerging hydrogen economy. Material from James Cropper can be found in fuel cells for cars, buses, trucks and trains, as well as static power generation.

With countless examples of innovations spanning three centuries in history, chairman Mark Cropper, the sixth generation of the Cropper family to be at the helm, puts the business’ longevity down to the fact that It has never stood still.


Mark said, ‘Surviving the impact of world events outside of our control for nearly two centuries is not about looking to the past, but rather to the future. We have always come up with new ideas which started with coloured papermaking, 175 years ago.

‘We made use of dyes and chemicals which were just emerging to create samples of coloured paper. At the time it was world leading and we have not stopped creating exciting things since.

‘This is why, in the midst of a global pandemic, we have continued to push our capabilities. With hygiene being front of mind for government, business leaders and the public alike, we put our papers with PaperGard antimicrobial technology to the test against a strain of Coronavirus, with favourable results. This product allows paper products exposed to high touch volumes to in effect ‘self-sanitise’, without affecting the appearance or performance of the paper itself.’

The business is still based at its location on the edge of the English Lake District where it all began in 1845, and most recently launched the Rydal Packaging Collection – a premium range of papers that can be made from 100% post mconsumer waste. The latest range aims to address the demand from brands who are looking to demonstrate the positive social and environmental impact of their products.

Mark said, ‘While we are all ready to hear more good news, we are realistic about the fact that our 175th year has been and will continue to be challenging. While we can learn from other key moments from our history, such as the devastating fires in 1886 and 1903, world wars and stock market crashes, we also recognise that each is different and requires a unique response. ‘Looking forward, our focus will be on how we grow our way out of the current economic situation in a way that respects our environment, people and communities like never before.’


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