Rethinking flexible plastic packaging for a circular economy – Huhtamaki India

Huhtamaki India is committed to make its packaging safe and sustainable by using resource and energy-efficient packaging materials and technology
Rethinking flexible plastic packaging for a circular economy – Huhtamaki India

Huhtamaki blueloop platform is accelerating the adoption and scaling of flexible packaging by making lightweight mono-material packaging solutions ready for the circular economy.

Photo - Huhtamaki India

Huhtamaki India is a leading provider of primary consumer packaging and decorative labeling solutions in India – and part of Huhtamaki, a key global provider of sustainable packaging solutions based in Finland. In a recent interaction with FoodTechBiz, Igor Popovic, interim chief executive officer and vice president, Flexible Packaging, Huhtamaki India, shared insights about Huhtamaki India’s journey to date, latest innovations, Blueloop collaborative platform, and the company’s commitment to make its entire range of products recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.

FTB - Tell us about the journey of Huhtamaki India so far

Igor Popovic - Packing memorable experiences together with our customers and partners since 1935, today we are a total solutions company with a country-wide presence, backed by 15 manufacturing sites and five customer support centers. The acquisitions and subsequent mergers of Webtech Labels & Positive Packaging Industries and the acquisition of the India operations of Ajanta Labels have strengthened our leadership in flexible and labeling solutions.

With our ambition to be the first choice for sustainable packaging solutions, we offer unique pack designs and formats through a comprehensive portfolio of flexible packaging solutions. Our solutions include barrier and recyclable laminates, specialized pouching like shaped, five and six-panel pouches, thermoforms, decorative labels, digitally printed laminates for pack personalization and tube laminates. Furthermore, through our Blueloop collaborative platform, we are able to speed up innovation and raise awareness while supporting brands in meeting their sustainability targets.

<div class="paragraphs"><p>Igor Popovic, interim chief executive officer and vice president, Flexible Packaging, Huhtamaki India</p></div>

Igor Popovic, interim chief executive officer and vice president, Flexible Packaging, Huhtamaki India

Photo - Huhtamaki India

Catering to domestic and global demand, our tube laminates are designed for food, oral care, skincare, pharma and other non-food items. Our leadership in labels is built on offerings across all modern technologies such as shrink sleeves, pressure-sensitive labels, metalized labels, heat transfer, in-mold and wrap-around labels. We even offer end-to-end solutions through shrink tunnels and applicators.

We believe that food packaging is essential. By ensuring hygiene and food safety, packaging keeps food edible for longer. It plays an instrumental role in driving access to affordable food for all, wherever they are in the world.

As specialists in flexible packaging, we are working on developing smart next-generation packaging that protects food, people, and the planet and embeds sustainability in everything we do.

FTB - Huhtamaki India has won awards at IFCA Star Awards 2021 for packaging design and innovations. Many congratulations! Please tell us in brief about this.

Igor Popovic - The Indian Flexible Packaging and Folding Carton Association (IFCA) has announced four packaging awards to Huhtamaki India, for the following innovations:

KitKat Celebreak Glow in Dark pack - The pack introduces fresh creativity in integrating glow-in-dark experiences for brand interaction. Launched aptly during the festival of Diwali last year, each pack features two unique printed messages, one that is read in the light while switching to a glowing surprise message in the dark! The intention was to spread smiles and refresh consumers’ perspectives about staying optimistic in new normal times.

Sticker in laminate for brand promotion - Sticker in laminate is a first-of-its-kind concept in India to combine flexible packaging and labeling into one pack solution, offering dual benefits of hassle-free and secure brand promotions. Featuring precise registration of food-safe stickers inside every pack, it improves productivity by eliminating the need for additional manpower and machine-time through automation.

The pre-fixed stickers also serve as a strong anti-counterfeit feature and help lower pack waste without the need for an outer covering. With full compatibility with existing HFFS lines, it maintains centre-seal quality and appearance while helping brands to take promotions directly to consumers (without retail intermediaries) for equal access and consistency.

Interactive both side printed flow wrap - To address the customer requirement, the pack was developed as limited-edition packaging with the clever configuration of multiple print elements using a gravure press and a Unique Random Coder (URC). It incorporates a combination of surface and reverses registered printing of variable text to expand scope for brand communication further. It demonstrates excellence in print registration of varied artwork elements – outer branding, inside text and URC codes.

The pack also includes a registered cold seal that offers compatibility with high line-speeds along with good seal integrity. Overall, this pack solution offers scope for brands to enhance consumer experiences.

Coconut paste bottoms up pouch - This pack was developed to serve as a light-weight, mess-free and sustainable alternative to rigid bottles. It features an inverted format with disruptive shelf-appeal. The flat and inverted pouch closure offers superior dispensing performance with stand-up stability. The pouch is re-closable with convenient flip-top lid and built-in pull ring for tamper evidence. It is digitally printed, thus achieving complex colors and metallic look without metallic inks. It improves the eco-impact of packaging through reduction in material, energy, water usage and greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the pouch invites an eco-friendly and trendy shift.

FTB - Food packaging plays a vital role in the functioning of modern food systems. Would you please share your views on this?

Igor Popovic - The food system's impact poses one of the greatest challenges to achieving sustainability. Annually, almost 30% of food produced is lost or wasted, contributing to approximately 10% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This outcome ripples across ecosystems and populations, directly affecting living standards and quality of life.

Packaging plays a critical role in limiting the carbon impact of our food system. As well as improving its circularity and enabling the movement of food – from where it is produced to where is consumed – packaging supports portion control, facilitates affordability, and provides numerous social and economic benefits along the way. For this reason, we believe that packaging forms an integral part of our food systems.

FTB - Huhtamaki is very active in waste management. Waste is a valuable secondary material for Huhtamaki. Please explain

Igor Popovic - Our goal at Huhtamaki is to contribute to a resource-efficient circular economy. Accomplishing this feat requires wider systems and investments in collection and reprocessing infrastructure to achieve higher recycling rates. While most food packaging can be recycled, many of today’s legacy assets that were designed to recover and recycle packaging do not meet the levels of functionality, safety, and hygiene required by modern food systems. As part of Huhtamaki’s commitment to make our entire range of products recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2030.

We see waste as a valuable secondary resource, and our focus lies in keeping materials, substances, and by-products in the economy to generate value for as long as possible. To improve material circularity, the first stage requires agreement on the materials as opposed to the end product, supporting innovation and opening new possibilities. The second stage requires investments in fit-for-purpose infrastructure that physically recycle the materials needed by sustainable food systems to function. Taken together, increased circularity and carbon reduction provide our framework for action.

We are advocates for the systemic change towards low carbon circularity, which goes beyond individual brands as well as bringing value chains together for the welfare of the planet. Collaboration that involves stakeholders from the industry, civil society and government is imperative. Through this integration, we see innovation and partnerships as the way forward to building a material-positive system for fit-for-purpose food packaging. In this scenario, the materials that provide access to safe, affordable foods and support food waste prevention will continue their journey through a low carbon, circular economy. Their value to both the planet and people is maximized by efficient recycling systems.

FTB - What can we expect from Huhtamaki India in the year to come?

Igor Popovic - What sets us apart is our commitment to make our packaging safe and sustainable by using resource and energy-efficient packaging materials and technology. The business environment is changing, but the need for packaging for food, medical supplies, and other essential items is increasing. We see this as an opportunity to grow our manufacturing and R&D facilities to support the increase in demand. We cater to our customers keeping in mind recyclability, composability, and sustainability in all we do. We believe that food packaging is essential as it plays a key role in minimizing food waste. Packaging offers hygiene and safety, availability, affordability, and convenience for the consumer.

The packaging industry is at a turning point, with consumer expectations and new regulations supporting the move towards more sustainable solutions. Flexible packaging can meet the demands of this changing environment, and Huhtamaki India is rethinking flexible plastic packaging for a circular economy. By partnering on innovation and looking at the whole value chain of a product – from the design phase to end-of-life management – we are focused on making the vertical a cornerstone of the circular economy. Our trademarked Huhtamaki blueloop platform is accelerating the adoption and scaling of flexible packaging by making lightweight mono-material packaging solutions ready for the circular economy.

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