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Exclusive Interview with Eli Carmeli

Eli is an accomplished Senior Executive with 30 years of success in the packaging industry, leveraging extensive experience in global operations, B2B sales, process improvement and driving innovation through the use of Customer Intimacy. His broad areas of expertise include supply chain optimization and management; strategic sourcing; change management; strategic planning and execution; business redesign; and acquisitions and integrations. 

Most recently Eli served as the CEO of Scholle IPN, a Chicago based global producer of flexible packaging including Bag in Box applications, recloseable pouches for food products, and specialty fitments. Throughout his executive career, Eli has held leadership positions at HAVI Global Solutions; Global Closure Systems; Vitex Packaging Group; and International Paper. Eli earned a B.Sc. in Industrial Engineering from Ben Gurion University in Israel; and an M.B.A. in Business and Commerce from the University of Richmond. He also served in the Israeli Defense Forces for 3 1/2 years in an Airborne Infantry unit.

Smithers Pira: Why is this event important to the packaging market?

Eli Carmeli: The Future of Packaging conference has been able to aggregate a mix of people that represent different viewpoints in the overall packaging supply chain including Brand owners, private equity firms, convertors, creative folks and more.  Each of these groups will likely provide a different perspective on current events and future trends in the packaging industry.

Smithers Pira: What are you looking forward to the most in the future?

Eli Carmeli: I’m hoping the Brand owners and consumer packaged goods companies have figured out that they need to break out new ideas and take some risks.  They’ve been so focused on managing an efficient supply chain and driving costs down that it’s come at the expense of new ideas and innovation.  With smaller start-up brands and Amazon taking away market share, the traditional CPG’s have been struggling for a few years now – hearing everyone’s input on that will be interesting.

Smithers Pira: What can you see happening over the next few years with regards to the future of packaging?

Eli Carmeli: Over the next few years, I see consolidation continuing at a strong pace both in the packaging industry and with our customer base. The smaller packaging companies are finding it more difficult to maintain a protective niche, so they’re selling to private equity or strategic buyers.

I also see a step forward with data integration - both internally and with our customers.  Internally we’re seeing real-time production data being used to manage quality and throughput at the operator level, and we’re seeing a more integrated approach between converters and customers to manage forecasts and demand planning. I think the next step in this process is for the packaging industry to start understanding key consumer trends earlier in the cycle by working more closely with their customers’ analytics teams.

Smithers Pira: What innovations would you like to see in the future of packaging?

Eli Carmeli: In regard to innovations, it would be nice to finally address the story around sustainability and improve the negative images we keep seeing about packaging. Converters are using their raw materials (fiber vs. resin for example) to compete on the basis of sustainability, but the end result is that very little of the overall packaging portfolio is actually getting recycled and reused.

There’s a start-up in Spain working on separating multi-layer laminated films that can then be recycled as a single stream material and reused.  That would have a huge impact on the flexible segment, allowing the convertors to still provide improvements in barrier properties and cost, for example, without negatively impacting the sustainability side.

Panel One: Assessing the impact of key trends in the packaging sector on investment opportunities

Smithers Pira: What upcoming consumer, retail and / or e-commerce trends do you foresee in the packaging industry?

Eli Carmeli: We’ve already seen the impact of home delivery, whether through Amazon or any other retailer. As a result of this trend plus consolidation, the corrugated industry has become a top quartile performer and their enterprise values now reflect that shift.

Clean labels and food safety concerns continue to drive modifications in components like inks, aseptic packaging is becoming more widespread, and film structures that improve barriers and/or eliminate foils at competitive price points are becoming more common.

Smithers Pira: What disruptive, breakthrough or game changing technologies should we be considering in the industry?

Eli Carmeli: I think for the folks who print, digital is on the cusp of becoming a game changer.  Up until now, the digital press makers (for example, HP Indigo) have been focused solely on small run business and they’ve been comfortable leaving the long runs to existing analog presses.  The new presses from companies such as Landa are built with an expectation that digital is a full replacement of analog – you should be able to produce all your jobs on it at the same cost point.  The key question for us, assuming  the technology delivers, is how are we going to use digital printing to help customers integrate packaging into their broader consumer interaction efforts as opposed to  presenting this as another cost reduction?

Smithers Pira: What does the future regulatory landscape look like? 

Eli Carmeli: I see the future regulatory landscape driven more by what’s in the package as opposed to the packaging itself. The definition of food contact and how we measure ink migration through certain materials, as an example, have become bigger issues. Raw material components and their stability in the finished product are receiving more scrutiny.

With budgets getting stretched at the local and country levels, waste taxes are becoming a popular way to raise money – what’s our role in solving these types of issues along with our customers?

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PANEL 1: Assessing the impact of key trends in the packaging sector and their impact on investment opportunities