What are packaging firms expecting for 2021?
A slew of developments that will affect packaging companies globally are set to occur in 2021. Jessie Paige finds out how two of the industry’s leading companies are planning to progress their offerings and address some of the biggest industry themes predicted for the coming year.
A slew of developments that will impact packaging companies globally are set to occur in 2021. Jessie Paige finds out how two of the industry’s leading companies are planning to progress their offerings and address some of the biggest industry themes predicted for the coming year.
ith 2021 just around the corner, packaging companies are already setting new ideas and products into motion to remain on top of the biggest trends, from sustainable packaging to smart packaging.
Stora Enso is a Finland-headquartered pulp and paper manufacturer; and Tetra Pak is a Sweden-based multinational food packaging and processing company. Stora Enso’s head of sustainability, Johan Lunabba, and Tetra Pak’s vice president of marketing, Libby Costin, explain their plans for 2021.
Johan Lunabba, head of sustainability, Stora Enso
Libby Costin, vice president of marketing, Tetra Pak
At the start of 2020, data analytics specialist GlobalData named sustainability the key trend for the year. This will remain true for 2021 in the packaging industry and many companies are continuing to focus on reusable packaging, plastic alternatives, and other eco-friendly packaging to protect the environment.
The pay off between food, safety and low carbon emphasises the need for innovation.
Johan Lunabba: Stora Enso has started the production of formed-fibre foodservice products which are plastic-free, Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) free, renewable, recyclable and biodegradable. To meet the growing demand for formed fibre, we are investing in additional production capacity in Hylte Mill in Sweden and Qian’an Mill in China. The annual capacity at both mills will be approximately 115 million units of products.
Libby Costin: For Tetra Pak, sustainability is more than a trend – it is core to how we operate as a business and is central to our 2030 Strategy. We recognise that it's not enough to focus only on recycling and reuse: it’s also important to consider the climate impact of the raw materials that are used in the first place. We are on a journey with our customers, suppliers and stakeholders across the value chain to create the ultimate sustainable food package.
To achieve this, we are currently testing a package where we have replaced aluminium-foil with a specific polymer film, which applies a Tetra Pak proprietary technology for coating and offers a very robust barrier solution. This trial will be followed by a number of tests and the introductions of packages with increased renewable and fibre content. We will invest approximately €100m per year over the next five-ten years to develop such solutions.
The craft can market grew by 59% in 2018.
Temperature control has been a key topic this year, with companies thinking of new and innovative ways to protect frozen food and pharmaceuticals. This will be even more important next year as the world focuses on curing Covid-19, with the vaccine for the virus dependent on being stored at a temperature of around -70°C.
JL: We have our own solutions for this; for example, cool boxes for food delivery. We also have solutions for sustainable cool chain packaging e.g. air cargo and we are discussing how to ensure an uninterrupted cool chain end-to-end with potential partners. We’re also exploring how our new renewable materials can compete with e.g. Styrofoam/EPS with regards to insulating properties. Our example of a packaging solution tailored for this is our EcoFishBox.
LC: By enabling the safe and economical distribution of food and beverage products through high-performance packaging, we contribute to solving the problem of food waste. This appetite for responsible food packaging is very well echoed by the latest Tetra Pak Index – an in-depth, global consumer survey about what’s shaping the food and beverage industry, that we have been publishing annually since 2008. The findings point towards a dilemma in the consumers’ minds as they try to balance the critical priorities of human existence through safe food and sustainability of the planet we live on.
Smart packaging, such as interactive packaging, near field communication (NFC) packaging, and packaging implementing quick response (QR) codes, has seen a surge in popularity this year, as it offers enhanced security, better consumer safety, and a smoother path through the supply chain. How will packaging companies be developing on this trend?
JL: Our Eco radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag is the most sustainable RFID tag on the market. It’s less material, paper instead of plastic and more sustainable production of the antenna. For example, we see great interest and potential in the clothing retail industry for using the tag in hang tags and stickers.
LC: We are developing end-to-end full traceability from raw material intake throughout the production and distribution process. This can be enabled by QR codes – starting from the raw materials that enter the production line, to the journey of the package to the supermarket shelf and then into the hands of the consumer.
We are also developing intelligent ‘best before’ labelling for our packages that builds on the connected packaging platform. With ‘smart packaging’ it will be possible to track the conditions of transportation to inform the best before date, for example, it will also enable the synchronisation of materials and raw ingredients intelligently so that everything arrives and is processed at the same time.
This is particularly key in the developing world where 40% of food loss occurs. Using NFC or RFID technology, similar to contactless card payments, it creates a digital twin transfer between the package and its touchpoints through the value chain.
What will be the most important trend in 2021?
The packaging industry is likely to see many emerging trends next year and companies are ready to rise to the challenge. What do Stora Enso and Tetra Pak think the biggest trend will be in 2021?
JL: Consumers’ demand for more eco-friendly solutions: reducing plastics and carbon footprint, circular bioeconomy and sustainable raw material, including biodiversity aspects. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of the products they purchase. This drives demand for climate-friendly packaging designed for minimum waste.
LC: According to our latest Index, concern for the environment remains strikingly powerful; it is still ahead of everything else except the pandemic. Over six in ten consumers agree that “we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our daily habits”, while 63% say that pandemic lockdowns have brought environmental improvements that they would like to see maintained.
Also, in the wake of the pandemic and its economic impact, many consumers around the world are facing immediate pressures on immediate needs. This is resulting in new purchasing patterns that we believe will stay relevant in the next year, such as growing preference for preventive health products and increased demand for packaged food – especially when the packaging is able to reassure consumers on the safety of the content, such as by being “tamper-proof” sealed.
Packaging companies are ready for 2021
Tetra Pak and Stora Enso are prepared for the most important trends that will drive the packaging industry in 2021. Whether working on existing ranges or developing new packaging, the year ahead holds promise for progress and opportunity for growth, and packaging companies are prepared.