BMTV 37 – Manufacturer Interview with Pioneer Europe (Qualatex)


We are very pleased this week to welcome Mark Drury from Pioneer Europe Ltd. In case you weren’t aware, Pioneer are the company behind the sensational Qualatex balloons and I’m sure you’ve all heard of Qualatex! Originally founded in 1917, Pioneer got its start making latex gloves and surgical equipment as well as latex for balloons. Pioneer balloons was then bought in 1979 by current founders Ted and Betty who built the relationships and global distribution network that the Qualatex brand is enjoying today. Ted and Betty still work in the business every day and there isn’t a colour or design that doesn’t get their seal of approval!

Most people know the company as Qualatex balloons although Qualatex is the name for the brand of balloons that Pioneer produce. Mark says that they are quite comfortable with people thinking Qualatex is Pioneer as the word “Qualatex” does embody the company philosophy of quality latex balloons that Ted set all those years ago. They must be doing something right as 80% of the world’s professionals now use Qualatex products and they are widely considered the best quality latex balloon available.

Mark is the Business Development Manager at Pioneer but once upon a time he worked for BOC gases. This is where he got a start in the balloon industry, took his CBA qualification and opened his own balloon decorating shop! From there he learned the trade and received education from Pioneer and decided that he wanted to work directly for Pioneer. He has now been with them for 11 years and has worked in multiple areas within the company; he has experience of customer print balloons and wrote some of the education programs.

Biggest Challenges and changes

Mark sees the biggest change in the balloon industry over the last decade to be the uptake of independent companies such as card shops and toy stores in professional decoration. He sees the slow decline of these shops as the cause for them needed to supplement their income to stay on the high street.

From change to new challenges, Mark’s biggest bugbear facing the industry today is that professional balloon decorators are tending to under-value their services. He feels that profit is key to investing in the new technologies and equipment that will see balloon decorators prospering in the future. Often with balloon decorating, businesses may not pay themselves enough for the time it takes to put balloon decorations together. A lot of Qualatex’ products are components of a final finished gift and will take time and knowledge to put this gift together, knowledge that the end customers won’t have or can’t do themselves. Mark says it is important for decorators to pay themselves enough for their time so they can be creative and invest in their future.

On the subject of investing in the future, the essential tools that Mark recommends every decorator needs are: a decent set of Poles & Bases, this is to hold your decorations up safely and allow you to create air-fill decorations that will stay up outdoors, even in windy conditions. We do an AeroPole kit that would be great for this. Next would be a good quality helium inflator nozzle, like the auto cut-off valve or a trigger outlet. Also a decent quality digital Conwin electric inflator, like the Dual-split Second Sizer, Precision Air or the Duplicator 2. These will inflate your balloons almost instantly and to exactly the size you set every time, perfect for larger structures like columns that you need to make quickly.


Favourite Product & Bestselling Balloons


Mark’s favourite product is the Qualatex 5 inch latex balloon. While this may sound strange as they have been around for a long time and may not be overtly exciting to some people, they come in so many different colours that Mark uses them for that little bit extra to make balloon decorations look great. He says they really finish off a product and can add value for very little cost. For example, adding a collar to this Baby Minnie Bubble balloon will create a decoration that looks great but also will only cost a few pence and is something that a customer couldn’t do themselves.

While 11 inch latex will always be the biggest selling products for Qualatex, recently they have moved a lot more into latex printing. They have more ranges with printed designs and sell more now than they ever have, this includes printing onto their QuickLink balloons like with the banner packs. These are a set of 10 QuickLinks and sticky wall-tabs, in a retail pack for customers to take home and air-fill themselves. The wall tabs won’t damage paint or wall paper, making them a great stand-alone decorating kit. Another big seller for Qualatex would be their bubble range, they intended to create a balloon with the properties of a latex balloon but with the float life of a foil balloon. Mark says that they have exceeded in both those areas and bubbles have changed the industry. They are now working on growing their bubble range and including a larger license range including the Baby-Minnie as you can see here.


Next April (6th – 10th 2016) Qualatex will be holding their annual World Balloon Convention in New Orleans. This is where balloon professionals from all over the world come together and receive education on techniques and how other people are making an income with Qualatex products. The Qualatex global supply network will also be there so it will be a great opportunity for people to build relationships and shape the direction of the balloon industry in years to come! 2017 will also be Pioneer’s 100th birthday celebrations so we are promised some exciting announcements at WBC for their centenary year.

Serious, must-ask questions

Now onto the serious stuff that you are all dying to know. Mark’s ultimate dinner party! He would invite Kelly LeBrock circa 1985, Jack Nicholson, Billy Connolly, and Rebecca De Mornay; so all mid-80’s films and TV! Next up, 3 things to take on a desert island, an easy one for Mark as he is a decided Apple geek and would take 3 apple products (with connectivity) no matter what they were. Mark was struggling with his favourite chocolate bar as he says that it used to be Cadbury’s fruit and nut but they’ve changed the recipe! So now he’s unsure.

Now down to the quick-fire questions:

  • Dog or Cat – Dog
  • Rugby or Football – Rugby
  • Books or Films – Films
  • Sweet or Savoury – Savoury
  • Active or Relaxing holiday – Active
  • Friends or Big Bang – Friends
  • Air-filled or Helium-filled – Air-filled

Thanks very much to Mark for coming in for an interview and I hope you have it informative and interesting. Keep an eye out for Mark in the future as there may be some additional how-to videos in the pipeline!


As always, you can get in touch with us by commenting below, sending us an email or commenting on Facebook and Twitter. If you would like to receive these weekly video updates, you can either keeping checking this blog, subscribe to email updates in your account settings or you can subscribe to our Youtube channel.

One thought on “BMTV 37 – Manufacturer Interview with Pioneer Europe (Qualatex)

  1. Pingback: Blog : BMTV 39 – Christmas, AeroPole and Freddie Mercury! : Balloon Market Wholesale balloons and party supplies, helium and balloon accessories for the balloon and party trade,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *