The future belongs to cartonboard

"It is generally acknowledged that cartonboard is the most sustainable type of packaging. We have intensified our efforts to expound on this advantage." Roland Rex, President von Pro Carton, summarises the situation and takes a look at the future. 1. What is the status of packaging today? Packaging is at the beginning of a new era today. It has always been obvious that packaging is essential, as it protects products, for example foods, en route to the consumer. Meanwhile packaging has left this original role far behind. New distribution channels and corresponding marketing concepts have led to new challenges. Challenges for which carton packaging is ideally suited: for example, packaging needs to promote the purchasing experience at the various Points of Sale, and due to its excellent options offers a clear advantage here: in terms of functionality, logistics and sustainability. And building on this exceptional strength: cartons are acknowledged to be the most sustainable type of packaging. We, in the cartonboard and carton industry, have intensified our efforts to expound on this advantage: in forestry, manufacturing and processing, with the products themselves, and in recycling. We are a prime example of a Circular Economy. Furthermore, we are intent on increasing the application options for cartons. This is why we intensively pursue and drive innovation. Our competitions - the "Pro Carton ECMA Award" for successful packaging on the market and the "Pro Carton Young Designers Award" - highlight the best and most creative developments throughout Europe. The Awards showcase the leading packaging solutions in their respective fields. 2. How will packaging develop over the coming years? We regularly commission studies which analyse current developments and allow predictions for the future. For example, our study "Packaging: a Medium with Considerable Power" showed that the role of packaging has increased significantly in terms of market communication: it has become a key element in marketing and a central focus in marketing considerations. Or take the current study, "Touchpoint 2015: the Contribution of Packaging to the Marketing Success", which provides impressive insights on how the significance of packaging increases as a basis for dialogue with consumers the more diverse the retail channels become. In an ever increasing complexity of messages and options, packaging has become a major constant factor, a reliable partner for both the product as well as the consumer. With numbers of touchpoints other media can only dream of. For the coming year we have planned a study to provide concrete numbers on the importance of sustainability for all partners in the Packaging Supply Chain. As providers of the most sustainable type of packaging, it is also our responsibility to advance developments in this field. 3. Which opportunities do you see in general terms for cartonboard and cartons, and why? Our product has all the properties which are demanded today and even more so in the future: sustainability, functionality and attractiveness to put it in a nutshell. It is clear that packaging must be of a sustainable nature in the future. A closed Circular Economy will be just as commonplace as product stewardship; in other words, overall responsibility for a product in every phase of its lifecycle. Packaging should no longer leave any negative traces in the environment. Wherever possible, packaging should be made from renewable resources and it must be recyclable under all circumstances. Cartonboard is the packaging of choice as it already best meets all these requirements. 4. What is your opinion with regard to the effect of multi-channels on packaging? The Internet and parallel distribution via a variety of different channels have strengthened the awareness for holistic marketing concepts. All media are coordinated to result in a harmonious campaign. The focus will, however, be on packaging as a medium in its own right, one which needs to be effective in all channels, in particular in the consumer's home. Our study "Multichannel Packaging: Product Packaging and E-Commerce – Requirements, Trends, Potentials" has shown the retail trade in particular to favour cartons in the multichannel arena, and not just for logistic reasons, but also because they best support the purchasing experience at the various Points of Sale - computers, smartphones, as well as the store and product experience in-home. 5. In which business areas is cartonboard doing well, and where do you still see potential? This question is easy to answer: cartonboard is performing well to excellent in all segments of business and there is still plenty of potential left in all segments. Cartons can make the most of their communication potential in all areas. Of all the types of packaging available, cartons offer the best surface for graphic design, for codes to link to the Internet as well as for printed circuits. Take pharmaceuticals as an example: today, smart packaging already ensures that the medicines it contains are not counterfeit, it offers patients information via a smartphone link for which there is no room on the packaging , and it supports patients in taking their medication as well as the treatment plan. This is one area where there is still considerable potential: so many more products could benefit from the technologies mentioned. 6. In which areas do you still see room for improvement in terms of sustainability? There are many areas where improvement is still possible. Much can be achieved by applying creativity and state-of-the-art technologies. With regard to the lifecycle of cartons – including recycling – we already operate at a very high level, which can hardly be raised. Today virtually all cartons in Europe are collected and pass through the waste paper raw material cycle. We have also made tremendous advances in production processes, and here we continue to drive sustainability even further. The use of energy and water is becoming more efficient with every year. Something that is easily overlooked is that our raw material is not only renewable, but the cartonboard industry assures further growth of forests in Europe, and these in turn take additional CO2 from the atmosphere and store it in wood and cartonboard alike. 7. Will you be communicating the positive features of cartonboard more in future? We are continuing to grow our Internet portal Presently we are directing our efforts specifically to our target groups, to ensure that everyone can immediately find what is of particular interest. Our Awards, our studies, and our on-site presentations provide interesting news which we communicate via the website as well as via cooperation with media. Every month our E-News on the best ideas and latest trends reaches over 12,000 verified and interested readers from the entire Packaging Supply Chain – design, production, purchasing and marketing. Our message: today, packaging is already part and parcel of an integrated marketing concept. In future, packaging will take on further tasks and roles, it will not only represent the product on the Internet, but will also communicate with the buyer via smartphone in-store as well as at home: explaining the features of a product, providing operating instructions and offering additional information. It will not only stimulate purchases at the POS, but will continue to accompany the buyer after the purchase – right up to repeat purchase. And it will be entirely sustainable. This is why cartonboard has the strategic advantage.