SIG Combibloc, a leading Switzerland-based systems and solutions provider for aseptic carton packaging, started its journey in India in November 2017. The company registered its local legal entity and established its headquarters in Gurgaon. In an interaction with FoodTechBiz, Vandana Tandan, country manager, SIG Combibloc India, mentioned that the company started its journey working with two iconic customers – ITC and Coca-Cola India. Both recognized the value of the flexibility offered by SIG's high-speed filling machines and invested in its combiblocXSlim packs, produced on SIG CFA 1224 filling machines. Since then, SIG Combibloc India has made rapid expansions. Today, the company works with most of the country's leading dairy and juice brands, including Amul, Dabur, PepsiCo (through Varun Beverages), Haldirams, Milky Mist, and Godrej Creamline. Here are the excerpts of her interview with FoodTechBiz:
FTB - Tell us about the journey of SIG Combibloc in India and the way ahead.
Vandana Tandan - Our journey in India has been an exciting one. We have grown rapidly in a tough and cost-sensitive market while developing great customer relationships and ensuring that we surpass customer expectations. Our endeavor is to ensure that we don't just sell filling machines and packaging material but develop a sustainable ecosystem with our customers, working with stakeholders along the value chain – including processing partners, ingredient suppliers, our various brand partners, and used carton collection agencies, recyclers, etc.
Our portfolio has expanded from our CFA 1224 portion pack fillers to our CFA 312 family pack fillers and premium portion packs with closures, produced on our combismile CFA 1724 fillers. We continue to invest in building and developing our local team and now possess the strong local capability for sales, marketing, finance, project management, technical services, logistics, sales and service support, and more.
FTB - What makes you different from the competition in this market?
Vandana Tandan - The biggest USP of our filling machines is the high flexibility, enabling the filling of a wide range of volume sizes according to the brand's needs. Our most popular CFA1224 filling machine offers nine different volume sizes at high speed of 24000 packs per hour. Due to our unique filling technology, our machines can also fill a variety of particulates, such as fruit chunks, nuts and cereals, etc.
Our waste rates are also incredibly low due to our usage of sleeve-based packaging material instead of roll-fed. Furthermore, we continue working on next-generation platforms with enhanced environmental credentials by bringing down energy consumption and all other utilities. This helps them offer higher filling speeds, enhanced energy and resource efficiencies, reduced overall consumption of all utilities, and higher automation than ever before!
FTB - Packaging is the first point of contact for the consumer. How does your packaging stand out from the rest of the packers?
Vandana Tandan - Our combiblocXSlim packs are slimmer and taller than our competition's offerings. So, they stand out on the shelf. The combismile packs with spouts have a distinct, premium appearance, which pops out on the shelf. Many customers also opt for metallic printing, adding to the premium image.
Our range of sizes offered in the family pack segment makes us stand out because we allow brands the flexibility to introduce new sizes at new price points. All our packs are printed with rotogravure printing, which offers a very high printing quality and allows brands to get vignettes and shadows.
FTB - According to you, what are the trends expected to dominate the Indian packaging industry in 2022?
Vandana Tandan - The pandemic has changed a lot of things for the FMCG sector in India, especially packaging. Our list of the 6 top trends we expect in 2022:
Health First: The pandemic has exposed critical truths related to health and wellness and has spotlighted how consumers' dietary and lifestyle choices matter. We expect health to remain the center of consumer choices and brand launches.
Thrifty Indulgers: The pandemic has made consumers more thoughtful about their purchase decisions. Consumers are therefore looking for permissible indulgences and affordable everyday treats. This has made many brands introduce smaller pack sizes so that consumers can indulge in their favorite brands at affordable prices.
Safety obsessed: Another shift in consumer behavior has been the increased adoption of long shelf-life dairy products. The Euromonitor Dairy Packaging in India report for 2021 notes that to prevent the likelihood of contracting the virus through contact with unpackaged dairy products, many consumers switched to packaged dairy products in 2020 and 2021. This trend favored aseptic cartons and helped stimulate growth in the category in 2021, as consumers appreciated the added hygiene protection that aseptic cartons offer.
Stocking convenience: Demand for aseptic beverage packaging is also rising due to the growing demand for products with an extended shelf life. It offers greater convenience and reduces repeated trips to the local grocer. Aseptic packaging also does not require refrigeration, and the products can be kept at room temperature, making them convenient to store and consume. Many consumers also prefer to stockpile aseptic packs for future uncertainties.
Build Back Greener: Good for you, Good for the earth: Consumers are demanding sustainability as a prerequisite from brands. With 75% paper content and being completely recyclable, our cartons are viewed as eco-friendly and meet the government's new regulations to reduce plastic packaging.
Phygital Duality: One of the trends that the pandemic helped accelerate is the adoption of digital shopping and home delivery. Packaging, therefore, needs to be lighter, easy to transport, and yet, able to withstand the rigors of passing through various delivery channels. Cartons are probably the lightest packaging, which makes them easy to transport. We anticipate more brands looking at multipacks of cartons to help ease delivery further in the days ahead.
FTB - What is the scope and practicality of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in India?
Vandana Tandan - In the aseptic carton industry, the latest amendments to the Plastic Waste Management Rules 2016 were released on 16 Feb 2022. Beverage cartons have been classified as Category III (Multi-layered plastics). The Extended Producer Responsibility has been defined for Producers, Importers, and Brand Owners. The EPR is clearly defined with specific targets for minimum levels of collection and recycling of plastic packaging waste. The amendment also mentions the obligation of reuse and defines the minimum level of recycled plastic content to be used in packaging and end-of-life disposal.
At SIG, we have been voluntarily running collection and recycling projects for the past few years. So, we welcome the structure provided by these regulations, making it easier for the industry to work together to improve collection and recycling systems and evolve further to enhance the circularity of materials used.
FTB - Since the world has been revolving around the plastic packaging phase for years, what challenges did you face with the plastic ban in India?
Vandana Tandan – The single use plastic (SUP) ban impacts beverage cartons as many of our portion pack customers use plastic straws attached to our cartons. With the SUP ban announced, we work with our customers to migrate them to alternative straws.
SIG offers a range of paper straws. However, these are significantly more expensive than plastic straws, which is a huge challenge that we have to work on. Customers are now commercially working out their value chain and costing to ensure they can introduce the same at the earliest.
FTB - What is the packaging recyclability during the entire product life cycle for brands in India?
Vandana Tandan - The recyclability of our packaging material remains unchanged throughout the lifecycle. Factory waste is collected and sent to recyclers. Used beverage cartons are also collected, baled, and sent to recyclers for recycling. Depending on the type of recycling facility, the cartons are either recycled into craft paper and PolyAl granules or are heat compressed into strong and durable chipboards that can be used for various applications.
FTB - Tell us about your recent acquisitions and mergers and how they will impact your business?
Vandana Tandan - SIG recently agreed to acquire 100% of Scholle IPN, a privately held company, for an enterprise value of €1.36 2 billion and an equity value of €1.05 billion. SIG and Scholle IPN have many similarities and are highly complementary businesses in systems and product offerings.
This acquisition will unlock significant growth opportunities and value, diversifying SIG's exposure to growing and resilient end markets. SIG's market-leading sustainable food and beverage carton solutions will be expanded into bag-in-box and spouted pouches for retail, institutional and industrial customers.
FTB - Please share your future plans.
Vandana Tandan - With a renewed focus on the Indian market, SIG today works with most leading Indian F&B brands, especially dairy and juice brands, including Dabur, Coca-Cola, Amul, ITC, PepsiCo, and more. We are targeting strong growth and increase in market share year-on-year, penetrating both the dairy and juice segments in the country, partnering with all of our customers for new product launches, and are also in discussions with multiple new brands.