The environmental challenges associated with upcoming trends in the paper packaging sector

The food packaging industry is subject to a range of trends and developments – from colours and materials to supply chain and sustainability. Key brand challenges across the global packaging industry remain consistent – enabling basic functionality, maintaining or reducing cost and appealing to consumers are all crucial to the success of a brand or product. However, there are changing factors, which create additional challenges and responsibilities for brands. The appetite for innovative and inventive packaging – creating something with extra wow-factor – is palpable, while consumers’ demand and desire to be ‘greener’ is putting brands under continued pressure to become more environmentally friendly.

As a supplier for the packaging industry bespoke paper manufacturer James Cropper is all too familiar with the changing face of paper packaging and, as the trend for environmentally friendly packaging solutions grows, so does the demand for sustainable paper-based packaging.

Richard Burnett, market development manager from James Cropper, explains: “As a naturally versatile material, which is easily recycled, paper is often a ‘goto’ choice for sustainable packaging. It can be recycled and reused many times, being one of the most commonly recycled materials in society, makes it an attractive choice for brands to fulfil their ‘green’ objectives.”

It’s important to remember that branding and packaging is a crucial factor to help entice and attract customers towards a specific product. ‘Shelf stand-out’ has never been more important in an ever-increasingly competitive market, with new and quirky food items launching on a daily basis. This is made even more difficult as e-tailing prevails. Making a product stand out on a screen presents an even greater challenge than being prominent in store as it’s primarily reliant on simply visual appeal.

Design trends
The importance of package design should not be underestimated as a fundamental sales tool. As brands ‘outdesign’ each other with limited editions and seasonal packaging, for example, the importance of the role of speciality papers continues to grow in preference to commodities that limit point of difference.

With the growing trend for eco-friendly packaging comes a more minimalist, raw look and design. Natural shades and textures – such as award-winning ‘Cocoa Shell’ for Barry Callebaut and ‘Obsidian’ for Nestlé editions – nod to the organic fibres used to produce the material and give an impression of ‘earthiness’. This inclination towards anchoring earth tones and pastels with gold and gold tones lending a touch of the exotic – and currently being used widely in the design world – means we can expect to see more of these hues in food contact paper packaging.

This contemporary look and feel delivers simple elegance, and the brandstory and pack messaging lends itself to a wider education and correspondence with consumers. Communicating thevalue of sustainability at all levels – to customers, retailers and manufacturers – is a key objective, which is growing daily.

Equally as important as the designand visual appeal of packaging, is itsease of use for both consumers andretailers. Functionality should not beunderestimated, particularly in the world of ‘on the go’ and ‘convenience’ food packaging, where single-serve pack sizes and re-sealable options can be important.

Richard continues: “Paper is actually very adaptable – there’s noreason why it can’t be used for many packaging items that are ordinarily made from various types of plastics and polyethylene. At James Cropper we are pushing the boundaries with the creation of a capsule collection of dyedthrough papers that are safe for primary packaging of dry, fatty and even moist foods. There is scope to do much more, but in this very competitive landscape it is also understandable that brands may select ostensibly cheaper alternatives.”

Balancing a brand’s global environmental responsibility against costs can prove challenging. There are many moving parts to the puzzle – the availability of recyclable products and processes; the consumers’ desire and ability to recycle; and packaging budgets to name a few. So, the importance of creating and maintaining a sustainable product that is commercially viable, without compromising on the look and feel is essential for the packaging industry.

Green conscience
While consumers are progressively becoming more pro-environment and creating a demand for recyclable products and packaging, the reality is that there is huge scope forimprovement with current recycling processes in the UK. As consumerswe’ve only just got used to separating plastics and cans from paper, so the idea of identifying and sorting different types of plastics, for instance, is not viable at this stage. Paper, on the other hand, is the ‘original’ recyclablematerial, requiring very little sortingbefore it can go back into the supply chain.

Richard, added: “Consumers and businesses alike are already doing their bit for the environment with a wide range of recycling programmes in place. But global companies have a duty to think innovatively about how they can do more. Projects like our trial with McDonald’s and Simply Cups to recycle post-consumer waste are a good example of how the industry can work together to create a cost-effective supply of sustainable materials.”

In an increasingly disposable society, as brands and consumers we have an environmental conscience to consider.Environmentally friendly packaging may come at what seems a higher initial cost, but there are savings to be made for those willing to commit the time and resource upfront.

James Cropper is a prestige paperinnovator based in the English Lake District, supplying distinct, custommade paper products to many of the world’s leading luxury brands, art galleries and designers. Celebrating 170 years of high quality paper production in 2015, the business has been carefully stewarded and nurtured by six generations of the Cropper family and is renowned globally for individual expertise in colour, dedicated responses to the most challenging custom projects and award-winning commitment to the highest standards of sustainability.