Innovation and research in packaging are essential to respond to market needs and to guarantee the sustainability of the supply chain, as also required by the most recent European regulations. These are not the usual catchphrases: we are facing a turning point in the packaging sector, which requires us to rethink many of the paradigms that have guided the packaging industry to date.
But it is one thing to talk in theory; quite another to turn to practice. Everything starts with a consideration: what are the challenges facing packaging, today? And what answers can be given, realistically, in the upcoming years?
- Innovation and research in packaging: environmental sustainability
- Innovation and research in packaging: classic and innovative materials
- Innovation and research in packaging: corporate sustainability
- Innovation and research in packaging: a change of vision
- Innovation and research in packaging: new production requirements
- Innovation and research in packaging: product innovation
From our experience, these are the five points around which most packaging innovation and research projects will focus in the coming years; worldwide, but particularly in the EU. Let us take a closer look at them:
Innovation and research in packaging: environmental sustainability
The new ‘buzzword’ in the industry is undoubtedly ‘sustainable packaging’.
The growing focus on environmental protection calls for increasingly eco-friendly solutions that reduce the environmental impact of packaging. European institutions have an important weight in the management of this delicate phase of transition: just think of the EU’s decision to ban single-use plastic or the recent introduction of new rules on the labelling of packaging that oblige the composition of each package and instructions for proper disposal to be indicated on the label. This also has major repercussions at company level: today, if you are not sustainable, you are simply out of business. One of the main focuses of the packaging industry‘s R&D departments is therefore undoubtedly the search for more sustainable solutions.
Innovation and research in packaging: classic and innovative materials
The drive for sustainability is realized in 3 different ways:
A – adopt an ‘eco-friendly’ version of the same packaging, e.g. switching from non-PET plastic to PET plastic (the most recyclable type of plastic);
B – replace the most polluting materials, such as non-PET plastics, with known and proven ‘green’ materials, such as glass, paper, aluminium;
C – opening up to new materials, such as bio-polymers obtained from food industry waste (pineapple and apple peels etc.).
In all three cases, but especially in the last one, scrupulous control is necessary to make sure that control and quality go hand in hand and to make the necessary adjustments to production processes.
Innovation and research in packaging: corporate sustainability
No environmental sustainability is possible without corporate sustainability. A packaging can be super-sustainable, but if its price or production time is out of the market, it will have no way of constituting a real alternative to consumers. Careful study is needed to adapt the existing reality to the innovative drive, which also passes through adequate process management, personnel training and the necessary evaluations on the economic front. Innovation also passes through a new corporate organizational structure.
Innovation and research in packaging: a change of vision
This is perhaps the point that will be the most complex to work on, but also the most indispensable: changing the current mentality associated with packaging, going from the concept of “disposable” to the concept of recyclable, or reusable (think about glass jars or hard plastic boxes). A change that not only concerns the corporate mentality, but also, and above all, that of consumers. This is why it is also necessary to innovate in communication, shining the spotlight on the importance of packaging in evaluating the purchase choice. In our own small way, we wanted to make a contribution to this vision with the 8 rules of conscious packaging.
Innovation and research in packaging: new production requirements
Market dynamics have changed a great deal in recent years, and consequently so have those of the large-scale retail trade. For packaging companies, this has meant radically reviewing their processes to meet changing business needs, which often require smaller batches and more flexibility in scheduling deliveries. The challenge, for them, is to maintain business continuity without suffering shocks but working on real market demand, to contain investment in production and distribution in an era of consumption that is still so uncertain: the motto on time, on budget has never been more relevant. Some sectors, such as cosmetics, are more affected by this trend than others. The packaging industry’s task is therefore to innovate its processes in this respect as well: a necessary effort to overcome the mentality of mere ‘supply’ in order to be seen as a real strategic partner.
Innovation and research in packaging: product innovation
Closely linked to all this is product innovation in packaging, i.e. the need to design and realize new and original solutions capable of enhancing the product, to the point of constituting an incentive towards the purchase decision. A challenge that is fought on two fields: that of brand awareness and that of functionality of use. Winning packaging offers a solution on both fronts. A perfect example of this is our ophthalmic tube with a soft nozzle, designed to facilitate the application of ointments in the periocular area: unlike the classic hard plastic nozzle, it offers perfect control of dispensing and protects even the most sensitive individuals. A solution designed for the patient that can be excellently translated into the communication of brand values.
Innovation and research do not constitute an easy path, especially in packaging; but it is from the paths less travelled that the most beautiful views can be seen. With this in mind, we continue and will continue to innovate!