Smithers Pira: Kathy, you are going to be a panelist for Panel 1: Assessing the impact of key trends in the packaging sector on investment opportunities. What upcoming consumer, retail and / or e-commerce trends do you foresee in the packaging industry?
Kathy Bolhous: I foresee more of a push toward sustainability with Flexible Packaging - developing solutions that are 100% recyclable or film packages that contain bio-based resins or PCR (post-consumer recycled) content.
Smithers Pira: When did the shift toward sustainability start to occur?
Kathy Bolhous: I think it’s interesting to watch trends emerge. Five years ago, I would say that only a small minority in the industry were discussing this. Maybe less than 5%, and every year since then, it has built up momentum and has resulted in technical solutions being developed. One of the challenge now is cost (how to find a solution that isn’t a pricing premium). But if you think about how the plastic bottle or the can markets evolved, they didn’t have an economic recyclable solution day one. It took many years to develop solutions - and it will take a while with Flexibles.
Smithers Pira: What prevents Flexible Packaging from being recycled today and what trends or game changing technology will provide solutions?
Kathy Bolhous: The key reason that many Flexible Packages are not recyclable today is because you have an outer film (the print film) which is generally made of polyester, laminated to a polyethylene sealant film. Because the two films are made from different types of resins, the ability to create an attractive economic model for the multi-laminate substrate is limited. The solution is to make both film substrates from polyethylene, which creates a “pure” stream of recycled material. The game changer is creating a solution that allows you to get the stiffness and gloss of polyester in a polyethylene film.
Smithers Pira: What other trends do you see in packaging?
Kathy Bolhous: Consumers want more options when it comes to package size – everything from “snack size” to “party size”, as well as “on the go” convenience. I also see more creativity in packaging designs. There are so many options to create custom sizes and shapes. This gives brand owners more opportunity to showcase their products in unique ways. Another trend is greater functionality of the package as fitments/spouts are added to allow for dispensing liquids.
Smithers Pira: What are you looking forward to in the future?
Kathy Bolhous: One of the biggest issues with the food industry in general is the amount of food that spoils or gets thrown away by the consumer and goes to the landfill. Flexible packaging allows for the shelf life of food to be extended, so that the amount of food wasted can be reduced. It is surprising to learn that a lot of consumers assume that packaging is all the same, but in reality, the sealant films in packages are custom designed for the type of food that is going into the package. For example, the sealant film is custom designed for each different type of fruit or vegetable and this allows many days or weeks of extended shelf life. This ultimately results in less food spoilage and landfill waste.