Jocelyne Ehret, Director, Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions (Europe) speaks to Retail Gazette about the importance of innovative and sustainable packaging in the retail business.
What are your views on food waste and what is the primary focus of your role?
Food waste is a really important subject in Europe because when people speak about packaging they always speak about the fact that there is a lot of packaging waste. At the end of the day people usually forget that we actually avoid a lot of food waste which is economical and healthy. I can’t go into specifics, but the projects I’m working on at the moment have a focus on material innovation around more sustainable products and how to master and better control the entire packaging value chain.
You focus on Europe, but what is your message to retailers hoping to break into the international market?
There is a message that concerns all the new technology, especially regarding digital and social media as well as emerging markets, which was a focus of my pitch at the Pira Packaging Summit in London last month. Two billion people will move from the poor class into the middle class and this will affect and impact their behaviour. The retailer will have to adapt to this with choreographed messages across different geographical zones and these emerging markets will impact the retail market in the what-we-call ‘Next Eleven Nations.’ In terms of new technology and social media, there is now a lot of interaction between the retailer and the consumer through social media, websites, barcode and QR codes - basically everything you can put on packaging directly.
Digital printing is coming as well and all the things relating to mass customisation. I understand mass customisation is still a niche market but digital printing really has a huge impact on the packaging. The fact that there is no more need for stock when you are doing a promotion so the leftover stock will be reduced is an important change. If the retailer wanted to do a special promotion for one week it would be impossible. So these are some great things that I see now which will impact the retailer.
Is the digital revolution the biggest challenge for retailers?
I would not say digital technology will be a challenge but I think it’s really an opportunity for retailers to come in this new world because this is reality now. Regarding the emerging market, this is a challenge because it will be quite difficult to adapt to this new behaviour and have the right distribution and logistics also.
Why do you think retailers are waking up to the food waste problem now and how long do you think it will take for real change to happen?
It’s a very good question; I do not know exactly how long it will take to change the thinking because it’s all about thinking in how we perceive packaging. It’s difficult to predict something but it will be achieved through education. Communication is key, because when you look at the government and green activists they all communicate about the negative aspects of packaging. There are a lot of positive aspects of packaging, not only that it protects and preserves the food and the item that is packaged, but also because it has a huge impact on this food waste. This is the primary role of the packaging – to preserve food waste. I think we forgot about this for political reasons.
What do you make of Amazon’ frustration-free packaging?
Their idea is great because it gives a choice to the consumer to have normal packaging or something which is easy to use and is somehow more relevant when you buy online. With all this e-commerce growth, at the end of the day we do not care about packaging because we do not see it on the shelf. So what is important is that when we receive the product which is packed, we are not disappointed by the way it is packed and protected during the transport so I really think it’s a big trend. I absolutely expect to see Amazon’s idea copied by other companies.