Packing a punch for sustainability

21 August 2018

The need for packaging is growing worldwide. And so is the need to have renewable products, which is why innovative solutions and the right kind of materials factor in making environmentally sound packaging.

We live in a world that thrives on consumption. After all, people consume a lot of products every day ranging from food and drink to goods and other materials. But they do care about the environment which is why they still prefer paper over plastic. This in turn opens up a major market for fibre-based paper packaging, a product that is both reusable and comes from renewable sources.

Urban lifestyle and pre-packed food

Paper packaging has emerged as one of the biggest end-uses of pulp, a wood-based raw material. The market is growing, especially in countries with a booming middle class. In Asia, Africa and South America for instance, more and more people are moving to cities and entering the workforce. More working people in a family means a lot more demand for pre-packed retail food.

But this consumer group is also picky about how their food is served. And thanks to rising sensitivity about the impact our lives have on the environment, there is a growing consumer interest in packaging made from renewable raw materials.

“The more populated we get, the higher the urbanisation which in turn means more and more food packaging. To meet this demand, you need high food safety standards and high recyclability. Plastic is very good when it comes to protecting the food, keeping it protected from moisture and other contaminants. But that leaves us with the problem of plastic littering, both on land and in the oceans, which affects the earth and our health,” explains Jon Haag, Director Consumer Insights at BillerudKorsnäs, a leading supplier of renewable packaging materials and solutions with 150 years’ experience in the forest and paper industry.

This is where fibre-based packaging material creates opportunities for sophisticated food and beverage packaging designs, as well as for medical packaging, meeting hygiene and barrier requirements. A solution that meets both protective and sustainability requirements.

Jon Haag
Jon Haag

It’s all in the package

This information can be a big boon for helping the cause of using sustainable packaging. But Haag believes that brand owners have not fully understood why they use special packaging designs to present their product. Consumers are prone to comment on packaging and can quickly abandon a brand using a wrong package solution.

“Toblerone is a good example of special design and choice of packaging that has led to a powerful brand. To know why and how you package something is the beauty of it. Brands need to keep the power of packaging itself in mind. It should feel natural, as the function of easy reclosing make it possible to keep food stored longer at home, so you do not have to throw food away,” says Haag.
As a result, brands have started to make their packaging more intuitive while incorporating a higher focus on human science into their creative process. The trend of portion packaging is one such solution that on one hand uses more material, but on the other hand means that the consumer throws away less food.

Being an environmentally conscious and helpful brand is going to be very important in the future.
“Consumers will reward a helpful brand with increased preference and favourable opinions, that they will then share with thousands or millions of other consumers,” says Haag.

Consumers are willing to pay

“Fibre-based paper from the Nordics, from sustainable forestry is a favourable raw material. I see a beauty in the operational cooperation between sawmills and paper mills, using the same trees, producing long-lasting materials and protective packaging in harmony,” says Haag.

In the Nordic countries, trees grow slowly and develop long fibre that can be recycled five to seven times. That makes it an excellent choice for consumers who are looking for packaging that minimizes food waste and is recyclable as it helps them follow their wish for improvements.

“Rather than sustainable packaging, we like to talk about ‘packaging sustainability’, which means the role packaging can play to create sustainable benefits for products, consumers and society. Most consumers are ready to pay a little extra because they want to be part of a solution and not of a problem,” says Haag.

According to the BillerudKorsnäs Consumer Panel 2017, as many as 72% of consumers are willing to pay more for brands with packaging that brings sustainable benefits.

Chi An Gramfors Englund

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