Since its inception in 1997, the European Carton Excellence Award has been one of the most important and prestigious packaging design prizes in Europe honouring striking, future-oriented, fibre-based packaging concepts.

Pro Carton President Horst Bittermann commented: “A lot has changed in the past 25 years. Environmental awareness has increased strongly and with it, the importance of fibre-based packaging. However, our industry is forward looking, and tomorrow’s packaging must have it all – be sustainable, offer maximum functionality with optimum product protection, have a minimal environmental impact, be as circular as possible and communicate the attributes of the packed product and brand in a visually compelling way.”

To mark the 25th anniversary, Pro Carton created a very special award, the Champions’ Trophy, given to the cartonboard mills and carton converter who won the most Carton of the Year awards in the 25 years of the competition. Congratulations, therefore, go to Westrock, Stora Enso and Iggesund who each receive this special trophy recognising their continued excellence.

In addition to this one-off award, from this year, there is also an additional trophy. The new Carton Excellence Cup goes to the winners of the Carton of the Year. The cup will remain with the victors for twelve months and then be passed on to the winner in the following year. The names of all the winners have been engraved on the trophy and it will be updated each subsequent year. The winners also gain a place on the “Board of Honour” which can be seen within the “Hall of Fame” on the Pro Carton Website, a gallery showcasing all the Carton of the Year winners since 1997. A lasting tribute for the many outstanding contributions to a better future!

Even in these difficult times, the Award has been as strong as ever. Jury chairman Satkar Gidda on this year’s competition: “We continue to see the trend of more and more entries either reducing the plastic content of their packaging or removing plastic altogether, whilst still being able to be creative and meet the consumer’s requirements. As can be seen from some of this year’s award winners, cartons don’t have to be complex creations. In fact, the entry that took home the ‘Most Innovative’ award, is a relatively simple structure and one of the smallest cartonboard concepts we have judged. The point to make here is that it has been carefully thought through, rigorously tested and well executed to deliver a tangible consumer and environmental benefit.”

The judges crowned Durero Packaging’s “Bodegas Balsamic” produced on cartonboard from Holmen Iggesund as the Carton of the Year for 2021 and they also received the new Carton Excellence Cup.

Jury member Dr. Janet Shipton: “This pack is a fine example of gift packaging. The construction presents and protects the product beautifully. I liked the dramatic effect of the outer packaging fanning out to reveal the bottle inside and the filler board used reflects high quality throughout the product. Opening the pack is a very satisfying experience as the carton protects the product really well and has an element of surprise. All in all, a beautiful and distinctive gift pack.”

european carton excellence award winners

Bodegas Balsamic

The Save the Planet Award went to “PaperSeal® MAP Tray Burger Solution” by Graphic Packaging International.

Satkar Gidda, chairman of the jury, commented: “PaperSeal Burger Solution replaces plastic trays, thereby reducing plastic compared to traditional modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) by a huge amount. The pack is aesthetically pleasing, it has excellent design detail and by keeping the rounded corners of the previous pack it remains a familiar design to its customers. The transparent inner lining of the pack, as well as the outer carton, carry product branding and consumer communication.”

european carton excellence award winners

PaperSeal® MAP Tray Burger Solution

The third big award, the Innovation Award, went to Cardbox Packaging for “Karlo Spoon”.

Jury member Jean-René Truttmann said: “I have not seen many products on the market like this spoon and we believe it will be really popular with consumers. The spoon is delivered folded so is very compact, is easy to unpack and assemble and the structural design ensures that it’s very strong and holds food really well. Disposable cutlery was previously made of plastic, sometimes of wood, but this one is 100% paper based making it recyclable and sustainable.”

european carton excellence award winners

Karlo Spoon

The category winners are:

General Packaging – Virgin Fibre

“GER Coffer” by Alzamora Group won the General Packaging Virgin Fibre category for its structural design and sophisticated finish. The packaging is made entirely of cartonboard, without any plastic elements, and is fully recyclable and biodegradable.

european carton excellence award winners

GER Coffer

General Packaging – Recycled Fibre

The “Plastic-free Toothbrush Packaging” by Karl Knauer is made from around 90% sustainably-sourced and recyclable materials. The pack features an innovative plant-based and consumer-friendly non-plastic window meaning that the consumer can still see the toothbrush head and familiar flex-zone neck.

european carton excellence award winners

Plastic-free toothbrush packaging

Food & Drink – Virgin Fibre

The “Mergulo Plant Based Butter Carton” by Graphic Packaging International is a fibre-based, recyclable alternative to plastic packs that was designed to reflect the brand’s natural, sustainable ethos. The pack combines moisture and grease barriers yet still remains recyclable and biodegradable through ordinary waste collection systems.

european carton excellence award winners

Mergulo Plant Based Butter Carton

Food & Drink – Recycled Fibre

The “Fruit Basket” was developed by MMP Neupack Austria for storing and carrying stoned fruits as an alternative to traditional plastic thermoform trays. This folding pack, made from flexible and environmentally friendly brown cartonboard, can be branded and easily adapted to fit different fruit sizes and customers’ individual requirements.

european carton excellence award winners

Fruit Basket

Public Award

The new “Smarties Giant Hexatube” by WestRock is a plastic-free pack of one-piece construction made entirely from recyclable paperboard with an integrated cartonboard lid. The pack resembles the iconic smaller hexagonal tube, but now without any of the previous plastic elements, and the on-shelf standout and branding is exceptionally strong.

european carton excellence award winners

Smarties Giant Hexatube

In addition, five Platinum and six Gold Awards were given to designs that the judges thought were particularly outstanding and deserved special recognition.

Platinum Winners

Bonduelle Bundle, Van Genechten Packaging 
Cluster-Wing™, WestRock
New Year Makeup Calendar, Durero Packaging
The Tomato Stall Punnet, Graphic Packaging International
Tērvete Beer, Van Genechten Packaging

Gold Winners

Rose Gift Box, AR Packaging Swiss
CURODONT Sensitive, AR Packaging Swiss
Dental Sticks, AR Packaging Swiss
Exentrique Facial Cleanser, Essentra Packaging
Flying Orchids, Smurfit Kappa Zedek
Picard Frozen Creation, AR Packaging Cholet

The awards ceremony took place online on September 6th 2021, and will be available for viewing on the E-vent website. Tony Hitchin, General Manager of Pro Carton, and Mike Turner, Managing Director of ECMA, hosted the virtual E-vent and spoke to the delighted winners – hear what they had to say!