Role of packaging is changing bit by bit

Magnus Wikström, SVP Technology, from BillerudKorsnäs, Sweden, defined a view of EcoDesign – The future of packaging. Photo: Markku Björkman
When it comes to cup stock consumers understand need for strong, durable and hygienic material. Photo: Billerud

An attention-grabbing conference “Biofuture for Mankind brought on second event day session up the topic 'Biomass - avenue for business' and biorefineries.

Magnus Wikström, SVP Technology, from BillerudKorsnäs, Sweden, described a fascinating outlook of EcoDesign – The future of packaging. Wikström referred to the role of packaging, which is changing bit by bit and makes it important to understand what

European consumers really think of packaging today and tomorrow.

This is the reason why his company Billerud and research group NINE initiated a research project in June 2011 focusing on the role of packaging in everyday retail stores.

– We have followed and interviewed consumers in five countries, France, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and the UK, while they are shopping, getting home with the goods, using them at home or on the go and finally recycling or disposing the packaging, told Wikström.

According this study report the packaging is still very much considered as being equal to waste among consumers.

– We could see this in the desk research as well as in the ethnographic consumer study. This is a challenge for the whole industry; how can the perception among consumers be changed? The ethnographic study offers many clues to how this could be fulfilled and that is something that has guided the work with opportunity areas and ideas, said Wikström.

Another important conclusion, according to Wikström, is that consumers seek what we have called “Intuitive Packaging”. This is equal to packaging that is easy to find, easy to use, easy to store and easy to throw away.

Wikström stressed that the whole experience during the lifetime of packaging should be characterized by reliability and ease of use. But the notion of Intuitive Packaging also includes more abstract dimensions such as how consumers’ perceive the products environmental, health and ethical impact.

-These should also be intuitive since it is difficult for consumers to sort and judge the flora of messages and “truths” related to these issues, underlined Wikström.

- Even though the interest for packaging from a sustainable development perspective varies we can still see that consumers tend to appreciate packaging that feels “good” and “friendly”, told Wikström.

Based on the result in the study he would like to broaden the expression “sustainable packaging” to packaging that is “good for me and world”.

With this, said Wikström, we take the notion of ecological/organic one-step further to include aspects that also relate to the consumer’s health and the ethical impact that packaging has on the surrounding world.

– The trick is to communicate this to consumers in an easy and trustworthy way, since many consumers are uncertain of the meaning of logos and labels. Consumers still suffer from consumer blindness.

Wikström believes that consumers are increasingly blind to what’s going on around them; especially in highly information- and product soaked environments such as the everyday retail store.

– We could see in the ethnographic study that consumers tend to buy very much the same type of products; often they could not even articulate why they had started to buy the product in the first place, Wikström alleged.  

He referred to fact that consumers are very sensitive towards changes in design and packaging. It makes it difficult for them to find their usual product and that are “pointless” in the eyes of the consumers. In other words, it is of utmost importance to communicate the reasons behind such changes to consumers

Ed de Jong from Avantium Chemicals, The Netherlands, presented his view of forest biorefinery to serve chemical industry. Thomas E. Amidon, SUNY Environmental Science and Forestry, USA, spoke about the future prospects.

At the Company and Product Presentations stage in the exhibition hall, companies informed about their latest news and innovations. Programme goes on all day.

The second Pulpaper event day ended with 100th anniversary Gala Evening. The 100th anniversary of Finnish Paper Engineers' Association - was celebrated in style with a spectacular gala evening in the Helsinki Music Centre.