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24 April 2012
While the UK corrugated packaging sector is at the forefront of innovation, it must continue to invest in new technology if it is to remain competitive. That was the message from a recent Europe-wide industry conference held in Austria.
More than 250 top packaging professionals from across Europe attended the prestigious European Federation of Corrugated Board Manufacturers (FEFCO) Summit in Vienna from April 18-20, including Andy Barnetson, Director of Packaging Affairs at the UK’s Confederation of Paper Industries (CPI).
FEFCO’s two-day conference heard from several guest speakers, including keynote speeches from Farquhar Ogilvie, Associate Director of consumer product giant Procter & Gamble, and Peter Oswald, Chief Executive Officer of Mondi’s Europe & International Division.
Many important topics were discussed during the event including the availability of raw materials, rising energy prices, water management, the impact of EU legislation on retail packaging and the economic situation in Europe, but it was the emphasis on innovation from Proctor & Gamble’s speaker that hit home, according to Andy Barnetson.
Mr Ogilvie told the audience that while the industry’s record on innovation was good, European companies must not be complacent if they are to compete effectively in the global market.
Andy Barnetson said: “I am pleased to say the UK is leading the way in innovation. The corrugated packaging sector in the UK is a pioneering force in sustainable lightweight recyclable container board for shelf ready packaging and is investing heavily in new equipment. The UK packaging industry is more innovative than many other countries.
“Multinational product companies like Proctor & Gamble want more from corrugated packaging such as value for money, guaranteed supply and innovation. It is clear that if the European industry does not have innovation as one of its key messages then we need to make it one.”
Companies including DS Smith (Kemsley Mill, Kent), Smurfit Kappa (Townsend Hook, Kent) and Saica (Partington, Manchester) are spending hundreds of millions of pounds upgrading their plants in the UK, investments which Mr Barnetson hails as a significant sign of commitment by CPI Members to giving customers what they want.
The importance of innovation in the sector was emphasised by a speech from a leading figure in the Chinese industry. Mr Zhang Yaoquan, Vice-Chairman of the China Packaging Federation, said that paper-based packaging makes up 36% of the huge Chinese market, but despite the number of corrugated factories in the country – more than 5,000 in one province alone – the industry is not as consolidated as it is in Europe and sees the opportunities for new technology and innovation.
As well as organising influential speakers for the conference, FEFCO also arranged trips to highlight the importance of corrugated in production and logistics. Members were taken to three sites to see the significant role the material plays, these were; a logistics centre for Austrian Post, a warehouse for LGV, a leading Austrian vegetable packer, and at REWE a major European retailer.
Andy Barnetson concluded: “It was a very successful conference in Vienna. It is clear that packaging solutions for the supply chain, such as retail ready packaging, quality printing and space efficiency in trucks, are becomingmuch more vital rather than just turning out standard boxes. There are very good examples of innovation within the industry, but there is lots more to do.”
The corrugated sector is vitally important to manufacturing, protecting around 75% of the UK’s packaged goods in transit. It is sustainable – more than 80% of all corrugated consumed in the UK is recycled – and extremely cost-effective. Corrugated packaging makes up some 30% of the UK Packaging Industry and remains the nation’s favourite packaging material.