Listening to its merchant customers has resulted in a £2.6m factory investment and a new range of products for Quinn Cement.

The Irish company, which is part of Quinn Building Products, asked merchants what they wanted from it – and acted on their response.

It spent €3m (£2.6m) on a new plastic bag line and launched three new products – general purpose, master grade and premium grade cement – available in weatherproof plastic bags.

The master grade cement is only available through NBG, which is Quinn Cement’s sole UK distributor this year.

Quinn Building Products’ GB Sales Director Lee Gillman said: “It is important for us as a business to be able to react to changing customer needs, and to ensure UK merchants have the right products to offer their customers. We’ve invested heavily in our product development and in upgrading our cement facilities to deliver this new product range.”

He told Builders’ Merchants News that Quinn Cement had asked its merchant customers for their views throughout most of last year. “We listened to what they felt they needed and wanted from Quinn. We’ve been making cement for a very long time but we only made a limited range. So we asked merchants for their thoughts on what we should be doing, and they thought we should be offering plastic bags, better packaging design, more information etc.

“We listened to what they wanted and committed to it.”

Quinn Cement installed the new plastic bag line, complementing the paper bag line it has had for almost half a century, and reassessed its position in the market.

“What became apparent to us was that the market is moving towards plastic weatherproof bagging, rather than paper,” he said. “We made additional investment so we’ve got multiple products in plastic and paper – we’ve gone from one product to six.

“It’s a big leap and the change was challenging initially, but now people are starting to see the benefits of it. Over the next two or three years, we’ll need to recoup the investment and we’re quietly confident that we will do – the way the market is currently moving, we don’t see that as being too much of a challenge.

“We needed to do this. We needed to bring ourselves up to speed with the rest of the market or we could have been left behind. We’ve done what we said we’d do and it has definitely put us as the forefront as being a key supplier to the merchant industry.”