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Product Design
Published: 9 Mar 2018

Packaging Innovations 2018

Sustainability was top of the agenda at Birmingham’s Packaging Innovations trade show (February 28 to March 1), with some of the UK’s leading retailers making emphatic pledges to become plastic-free and eliminate waste in as little as five years. Impressive start-ups showcased the latest in sustainable packaging solutions, while designers gave a lesson on tactility through e-commerce packaging.

  • Environmental Promise: The emphasis on sustainable packaging comes in the midst of Theresa May’s January unveiling of the British government’s 25-year environmental plan. The prime minister has committed to eliminating all avoidable plastic waste by 2042 – a problem she describes as “one of the biggest environmental scourges of our time”.

    Last month, in collaboration with British environmental action group A Plastic Planet, Dutch supermarket group Ekoplaza Lab launched the world’s first plastic-free aisle in Amsterdam. It features nearly 700 organic products across fresh fish and meat, fruit and vegetables and ambient offerings such as tea and cereals, packaged instead in compostable biomaterials.

    Supermarkets following suit include British frozen food chain Iceland. Drawing a crowd on the Packaging Innovations 2018 industry stage, Ian Schofield, the company’s own-label and packaging manager, shares its ambitious plans to make its own-label range of more than 1,000 product lines plastic-free by 2023. “We must attempt to turn down the tap of plastic production,” he said.

    Schofield explained that after 40 years in the industry, the tide is turning and there’s now a need to move back to natural materials and explore plastic alternatives. The supermarket chain has already saved over 2,000 tonnes of materials by simply reverting back to pulp cartons instead of polystyrene on two of its egg lines.
Ekoplaza Lab
Ian Schofield at Packaging Innovations 2018
  • Innovation in Sustainability: The Packaging Innovations 2018 Ecopack Challenge – in association with UK retailer M&S – showcased the latest in cutting-edge sustainable packaging solutions, offering companies the chance to pitch their ideas.

    The panel of packaging experts crowned Finnish non-profit technical research centre VTT the winner for its 100% renewable and compostable bio-based food packaging solution for multi-layered plastics.

    The sustainable packaging application “looks like plastic, performs like plastic, but is made from nature’s very own raw material – cellulose”, explained VTT research scientist Anna Tenhunen. The layered mono-material design makes the product fully recyclable without impacting shelf-life. The solution – to be developed in partnership with M&S – will initially be targeted at long-shelf-life goods such as nuts, coffee, chocolates and pet food.

    Tackling hard-to-recycle coffee cups – 50 billion of which end up in landfills each year in the US alone – Californian runner-up ReCup has developed a mineral-based barrier coating that makes the entire cup easily recyclable. Meanwhile, London-based Cup Club showcased the world’s first reusable takeaway coffee-cup system which includes smart cups, drop off points and high-tech wash hubs.

    Other pitches included James Cropper’s Colourform – a renewable, recyclable moulded packaging made from natural wood fibre, launched with UK handmade cosmetics company Lush and British fragrance brand Floral Street. Finally, the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany presented BioOrmocer, a coating solution for multi-layered plastic. See Packaging Futures 17/18: Sustainability for more.
Cup Club
Lush Colourform Packaging
  • Luxury E-tail: There was an emphasis on the importance of replicating the in-store, full sensory experience through clever use of e-commerce packaging. “If you’re a digital business, it’s the only physical touchpoint,” reminded London-based luxury creative consultant Vincent Villeger.

    Villeger, designer of Burberry’s luxury e-commerce packaging, explains how the brand worked to emulate the precise texture of its iconic trench coat for its e-tail boxes. Textures, sounds – such as crispy tissue paper – and even smells can connect with the customer, giving them the full holistic experience. However, in a retail space where digital is racing to the top of the agenda, traditional brands are struggling to get it right. “You don’t have to do a lot at the moment to stand out,” Villeger said.

    Digital companies like UK start-up Packhelp are on hand to help new and small businesses create bespoke packaging to do just that – with an easy-to-use platform and augmented reality app. For more, see Packaging Futures 17/18: Luxury.
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