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  • 01 Nov 2012

ECMA maps out the future of carton

ECMA is planning to further its role in supporting the European carton market, starting with mapping out the future of the industry at its recent 2012 Congress. David Pittman was in attendance to hear from association president Andreas Blaschke and others.
 
2012 has been a year of firsts for the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA).
 
A new structure was adopted at the ECMA Congress 2011 in Barcelona, with the new executive committee named at the association’s first annual general assembly, which took place earlier this summer.
 
This saw, amongst others: Andreas Blaschke, of Mayr-Melnhof Packaging, appointed president; Arend-Jan Luten from Contego Packaging, leading the technical committee; and Christian Schiffers, of FFI, who’ll handle association development.
 
The technical committee and association development committee have been established to help execute the new strategy of ECMA, alongside the business networking committee and marketing and communications committee.
 
Under the business networking committee are a number of business-oriented forums, which now includes a suppliers forum, led by Esko’s Jan de Roeck.
 
Hans van Schaik has also taken on the role of managing director, replacing Jules Lejeune, who has spent many years leading ECMA as secretary-general.
 
The inaugural annual general assembly took place following the first-ever ECMA Folding Carton Leadership Summit, which was moderated by Package Print Worldwide editor Nick Coombes.
 
After the annual general assembly, Blaschke said: ‘The past 12 months have been crucial in the transformation of ECMA into a dynamic European network of business networks.
 
‘We are getting there step-by-step, and I am pleased with the level of support that the new organization structure is receiving from carton business, suppliers and associations with a strong European interest.’
 
2012 Congress
The ECMA Congress 2012, staged in Copenhagen in September, allowed the new structure the opportunity to present an update on its work so far, including Arend-Jan Luten from the technical committee, Jean-Francois Roche from the marketing and communications committee and Jerzy Czubak, chairman of the tobacco forum.
 
Czubak made clear changes in the law governing tobacco packaging in Australia will have a knock-on effect in the rest of the world.
 
The European Union is already proposing to introduce legislation that would limit tobacco packaging, in much the same way Australia has introduced plain packaging with no visible branding on the carton.
 
His understanding is that proposals would require packs to have 75 percent of their surface area covered with graphic health warnings, surrounded by a black frame. Coupled with tax stamps, this would account for 90 percent of the packaging, leaving just one-tenth available for branding.
 
Standardized designs and shapes could also be introduced, with a review of this new packaging five years down the line before transitioning to full plain packaging.
 
This, he said, posed a major risk as it would open the door for counterfeiting, as well as costing jobs and hitting the EU budget through a loss of trade.
 
Discussions with European politicians have revealed that there is a belief that the use of graphic images is protection against counterfeiting, however Czubak said they are surprised to find out that such images are in fact one of the easiest to replicate.
 
‘The main argument against plain packaging is risk,’ said Czubak. ‘It will open the door to counterfeiting.
 
‘ECMA is working to educate decision makers on such issues. We want a healthy society, but good intentions can have unforeseen consequences.
 
‘Printers and converters need to reach out and speak to politicians and help educate them on these possible unforeseen circumstances.’
 
Jules Lejeune also made his final presentation at an ECMA event in an official capacity, providing an outlook for the industry alongside Ben Markens, president of the North American Paperboard Packaging Council.
 
In the most recent period of study, the carton market has been performing below the levels forecasted, and to 2016 the carton market will see marginal growth in demand, with output and sales also expected to grow slowly per year.
 
Food issues
The presentations from ECMA’s own executive team came on day two of the Copenhagen event, and were supported by discussions on the work food giant McDonald’s is doing to make its packaging more sustainable and eliminate waste to landfill by 2020, and from filmmaker Werner Boote, who discussed the making of his feature “Plastic Planet”, a documentary looking at the impact of plastic on the world.
 
Food safety was a key topic as well, with Beatte Kettlitz, the director of food policy science and R&D at FoodDrinkEurope, stressing the need for the entire supply chain to take an active role in minimizing the risks of contamination and other food safety issues. Kettlitz has previously welcomed the ECMA GMP guide, but spoke of the need for converters to have a full understanding of GMP to allow them to take an active role in the supply chain.
 
She was followed on stage by Robert Davison, managing director of Alexir Packaging in the UK, and Heinz Traussnig, director of product safety and compliance at the Mayr-Melnhof Group in Austria, who discussed the work their companies have undertaken to implement GMP, and the barriers they faced in persuading customers of the need to make it an important element of their business.
 
Also speaking was author and historian Tristram Stuart, who discussed the issues of global food wastage and the role packaging can play in reducing it, and Nicholas Mockett, of Moorgate Capital, who outlined the drivers for merger and acquisition activity in the packaging market.
 
Mockett said the fractured nature of the converting market, compared to the more concentrated market of suppliers and buyers, makes it suited to M&A activity, with the addition that packaging is a derived demand so linked very closely to GDP.
 
Healthy output volume prospects will help maintain M&A activity, while a move towards a service model will create interest as companies get closer to their customers, so becoming a more attractive proposition to potential investors.
 
A similar trend has already occurred in the commercial printing market, he said, where print management allowed companies to handle the design, procurement, logistics, storage and delivery for customers.
 
Mockett said: ‘The future of the packaging market will be defined by three things: the evolution of a services culture, industry concentration and global economics.’
 
‘European companies have the potential to break into emerging markets,’ he added. ‘The fundamentals in emerging markets are good and Brazil is arguably the best opportunity for a range of packaging segments. European companies have the technology and know-how to capitalize on this, and invest in emerging markets.’
 
Inward looking
The first day of presentations featured speakers from outside the carton market, who took a more holistic look at the industry, covering the wider economic situation and business management tools, to what will drive consumer purchasing decisions in the future.
 
Johan Peter Paludan, futurist and director of the Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies, said we are now entering the state of a “dream society” where consumption habits are based on what the heart wants rather than what the brain tells us, so brands need to tell stories to attract consumers.
 
This follows the “hunter-gatherer”, “agricultural”, “industrial” and “information” societies that have come and passed, and requires stories that are directly relevant to consumers, whether related to adventure, love and belonging, peace of mind or to reinforce their convictions.
 
On the right path
‘We’ve set our sails in the right direction,’ Blaschke (pictured, left) said in his opening address to the conference.
 
‘There are new challenges and opportunities facing the carton industry: consumers have less money, customers are under increasing cost pressures and growth in established markets is minimal.
 
‘In addition, volatility is high, while predictability is low, meaning it is important for companies to be agile to respond to the market.
 
‘ECMA’s new structure allows it to be fast and efficient, and transforms it into an association of member companies and national associations, rather than just representing the national bodies.’
 
Blaschke outlined the drive to attract direct members and the bigger role suppliers will now have as an example of the way ECMA is looking to the future.
 
Participating companies at the 2012 Congress included direct converter and supplier members, indirect converter and supplier members, and prospective converter and supplier members.
 
‘ECMA is not in competition with national associations, as we are all working together to further the industry here today and beyond.’
 
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