In an exclusive interview with Cristina Dumitru, marketing communications leader, Europe & Central Asia, Tetra Pak, she discusses future packaging trends, the Internet of Things (IoT), Industry 4.0, the Circular Economy, and further expansion into cheese.
Plantmaster management system
Earlier this year, the company introduced an ice cream filler designed specifically for small to medium producers looking to lower operating costs with minimal investment and the launch of ‘the world’s largest capacity food processing homogenizer’.
There was an upgrade of its PlantMaster, plant management system that gives manufacturers end-to-end plant control by enabling them to program their entire plant through a single data management system and the introduction of new packaging shapes to differentiate customers’ products on the shelf.
Examples include Tetra Brik Aseptic Crystal, Tetra Brik Aseptic Edge, Tetra Gemina Leaf, and this week the firm launched a new version of its Tetra Brik Aseptic 1000 Edge with Bio-based LightCap 30.
This is the first aseptic carton package to receive the highest class of Vinçotte certification (Belgium-based accreditation agency recognized for assessing the renewable content of packaging products) for its use of renewable materials. It is manufactured using a bio-based plastic film and cap, made from polymers derived from sugar cane.
“Our ultimate goal is to produce all of our packages using only sustainably-managed renewable materials. Launching the Tetra Brik Aseptic 1000 Edge with Bio-based LightCap 30 package is a significant milestone for us on that journey,” said Charles Brand, executive VP, product management and commercial operations, Tetra Pak.
Dumitru said while product development and innovation remains essential for the company, in core categories where it has a strong market presence, such as milk or juice, one of its strategic initiatives is to further expand its offering for rapidly growing segments such as cheese.
“The main driver fueling our rapid development is the fact we see the food industry changing at a tremendously fast pace, with food manufacturers having to constantly address fundamental opportunities and challenges,” said Dumitru.
“These include new demographic trends and consumption patterns, rising costs and competitive pressures, increasing food safety demands, and increasing consumer awareness of environmental issues.To remain relevant and secure our future success, we permanently work to support our customers in responding to the changes by expanding our portfolio in processing (new technologies) and packaging (new packaging machines, new packages and formats).
“Food safety standards and reduced food waste is ever more helping our customers drive a strong sustainability agenda, which we see as a key consumer demand for the years to come.”
Negative image of processed beverages
She added, due to the negative image of processed beverages and UHT technology it is working with customers to take an active role in the public debate on juice and dairy e.g. by supporting the Pan-European Juice campaign driven by the European Fruit Juice Association which is focused on establishing facts on the nutritional value of 100% pure fruit juice. At the same time, it has to make sure UHT and cartons remain relevant in the market.
“Aseptic technology, described as the greatest food science innovation of the 20th Century, has been and will be a key enabler for food safety and it will play a key role in emerging segments – it increases the shelf life of products without the need to add preservatives. Meanwhile, new filtration methods and improved UHT-technologies help to further increase the quality of the products,” she said.
“Carton packaging remains the most sustainable option in the market. Its strong environmental footprint enhances its relevance with increasingly environmentally conscious consumer groups and the multi-layer carton packages offer superior protection against light ensuring the integrity and quality of the food product packed.
“We are currently in the most disruptive technology wave ever, and digital disruption can be seen as well in the food and beverage sector, which is becoming more and more dynamic and competitive.
“The food quality and safety standards required today can only be compared to those required in traditionally more demanding sectors such as the pharmaceutical sector. At the same time, the speed of introduction of new products on the market and the number of references produced require the use of automation systems, increasingly efficient and secure software and powerful information systems that store big data and serve as a tool to increase competitiveness.”
To respond to the growing needs of food manufacturers for performance optimization and food safety and quality assurance, Dumitru says Tetra Pak has invested more than 40 years of experience in delivering Tetra Pak PlantMaster technology tailored to each producer’s needs, which give total control of plant operations, and the benefits that brings.
She said at the same time, its Packaging Line Monitoring System automatically collects and presents consolidated operational data in a user-friendly interface and helps manufacturers to monitor process parameters and critical control points in their filling machines and packaging lines.
“We contribute to a circular economy by using renewables, sourcing materials responsibly, increasing recycling and doing more with less,” she added.
“As only renewables ensure an infinite supply of raw materials, we are on a journey to maximize the use of renewable materials in the packaging we supply. The average renewable content in our carton packaging material today accounts for 75%, and we aim to offer a 100% renewable, aseptic package.
“The paperboard we use in our carton packages comes from responsibly sourced wood with a FSC certified chain of custody. We were also instrumental in developing a standard for responsibly sourcing aluminum.”
According to Dumitru, Tetra Pak carton packages are recyclable and over 40bn were recycled in 2015 alone.
Consolidation in the dairy sector
“From an industry point of view, some of the key trends from recent years will continue and accelerate: the consolidation in the dairy sector with key players become bigger, more integrated and international while at the same time expanding their portfolio, as well as rapid growth of retail across Europe & Central Asia,” she said.
“At the same time, digitalization will show an increasing impact on business models, as consumers will require more information on origin of the products and demand traceability across the full production and distribution channels, while online channels will grow their share in retailers’ sales.”
She added, from a category perspective, it sees the downward trend in milk and juice being balanced by a strong trend towards so-called Healthy Drinks, such as full dairy alternative product ranges based on soy, oat, almond, or rice, or new categories and drinks such as flavored water, fruit based natural drinks, smoothies and vegetable drinks.
On the back of this, consumption trends accelerate the change with more on-the-go consumption, as more Europeans skip breakfast at home or entirely.
To sum up, Dumitru said one of the main strategic tasks for Tetra Pak is to evolve the business with or in anticipation of these trends.
“As such, we will continue to invest in product innovation, but investments in digital technologies will be a key area of engagement for us and on-pack communication technologies are only one area we have to address to enable state of the art communication for our customers,” she said.
“At the same time, we will focus on further advancement of our automation technology to help customers improve the effectiveness of their production and fast changes of production and efficient distribution systems.”