In an interview, Horst Bittermann, president of the industry association Pro Carton, explains why the cardboard and folding carton industry has come through the crisis so well and has excellent prospects.
How has Corona fared so far for cardboard manufacturers in purely economic terms?
The Covid-19 situation has posed immense challenges for the cardboard and folding carton industry and its supply chain. Despite the tight situation along the supply and transportation chains, our industry has always been able to maintain production at a high level, ensuring a continuous supply of packaging materials for food and pharmaceuticals. Dramatic, negative effects aside, the crisis does offer opportunities to broaden our perspectives. Regarding our industry, the importance of packaging, with its indispensable protective, hygienic and transport functions, has grown. Whether it’s food, medicines, hygiene products or other consumer goods for daily use, the ongoing supply depends on the availability of suitable packaging.
How has the pandemic affected the European Carton Excellence Award (ECEA)?
The Pro Carton and ECMA associations took the current situation as an opportunity to organize their first joint virtual event, the “2020 Carton E-vent & Awards”! We have become much more aware of the importance as a “showroom” of the cardboard and folding carton industry. We therefore want to show presence and set positive examples! Thanks to digitalization, the event could be made accessible to an even larger audience, especially students and their professors, the media as well as all friends and employees of member companies. Particularly pleasing was the once again remarkably high number of participants in the Pro Carton Young Designers Award. In the competition, students and pupils from European art and design universities and schools present their innovative and sustainable cardboard solutions.
Sustainability has been a driver in retail and the consumer goods industry for years. What effect does this have on cardboard manufacturers?
Packaging plays a central role in purchasing decisions, albeit often still unconsciously. The consumers’ attitude has changed significantly in recent years: the sustainability of a package plays an essential role in the purchase decision and cardboard is perceived as the most environmentally friendly solution. This has been confirmed by a number of studies carried out on this subject in recent years.
Are there areas where the sustainability requirements are particularly challenging?
Cardboard makes it possible to package products sustainably without having to sacrifice functionality or an appealing appearance. In exchanges with our customers, we were able to determine that it is primarily a matter of removing unconscious “thinking blocks”. In order to provide customers with the best possible support in switching from non-sustainable packaging materials to cardboard, we therefore examine their existing packaging range for optimization potential on request. Often, it is sufficient to question existing packaging designs or to use existing barrier properties of cardboard.
Let’s get back to the award: what stood out to you in the submissions this year?
Sustainable packaging solutions designed to meet consumer demands, meeting market needs for retailers and brand owners, and providing more space for marketing, communication, and information. These components are embraced by all award winners. No other packaging material offers such a wide range of possibilities as cardboard. Consumer expectations are continuously growing: packaging as the brand’s “micro-showroom” and this then leads to the large “showrooms” for retailers. This has to work and evolve in both brick-and-mortar retail and digital retail.
Let’s talk about sustainability: why do you think cardboard is an indispensable packaging material?
Spontaneous: my answer is already in your question. Cardboard is the most environmentally friendly packaging. Because it is made from the renewable raw material wood, it is biodegradable, and it can be recycled many times over. A natural, perfectly functioning circular economy is indispensable. Cardboard is and remains the packaging material of the present and the future.