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  • 21 Feb 2012

The green dream

What role do design agencies have to play in ensuring the environmental credentials of packaging? David Pittman speaks to Dane Whitehurst, creative director at Burgopak, to get his views
 
Consumers are increasingly aware of the impact the products they purchase can have on the environment, from long-standing concerns about chloro fluoro carbons (CFCs) in hairspray to food miles, the distance food is transported from the time of its production until it reaches the table.
 
Previously, companies and organizations were accused of greenwashing, described as the use of PR or marketing to deceptively promote the perception that policies or products are more environmentally friendly than in reality, but this practice is increasingly disappearing due to the growing consumer awareness of environmental issues and pressure from governments and other official sources to offer genuine solutions.
 
The green agenda has filtered through to packaging, with the likes of coffee brand Kenco pushing its Eco Refill pack, a flexible packaging alternative to glass coffee jars that claims to offer 97 percent less packaging weight, and UK supermarket giant J Sainsbury, which has pledged to massively reduce the amount of packaging used in its own-brand products.


 
At the same time, the printing industry is working hard to enhance its environmental credentials by developing more eco-friendly inks, substrates and processes. This includes work by the likes of Taghleef Industries with bio films and Flint Group Flexographic Products with BioCure F, a new UV flexo renewable ink system designed to offer properties available in other UV flexo ink systems, but using bio-renewable raw materials.
 
The print industry is even greening its own manufacturing processes. Fujifilm, as an example, has installed five wind turbines at its Tilburg manufacturing and development plant in The Netherlands with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions by 12,000 metric tonnes per year.
 
This is putting pressure on converters from both ends of the market to adopt the most environmentally friendly technologies and solutions.
 
Says Dane Whitehurst, creative director at design agency Burgopak: ‘Industry drives environmental awareness, while consumers drive environmental friendliness. Environmental design is more apparent now; greenwashing is disappearing and more genuinely environmentally friendly products are on the market.’
 
Whitehurst says this is where design agencies can have a part to play. ‘It is the design agency’s job to understand the bigger picture and the different issues and requirements from across the whole supply chain.’
 
This extends from understanding regulations and issues to the sourcing of new and existing materials, such as a new molded-fiber based containerboard and certified wood fiber products.
 
The Cradle to Cradle certified molded fiber-based material was the result of a partnership between Burgopak in the US and Be Green Packaging, a molded fiber company based in Santa Barbara, California, and was used by P&G in its Gillette Fusion ProGlide Power Razor packaging.
 
‘The molded fiber container board is grown and harvested local to the point of manufacture, so it is well sourced and a good PR story for brands.’
 
Positive PR plays an important part in the adoption of environmentally friendly products according to Whitehurst as it can help brands and converters offset the premium cost normally attached to "green" products.
 
‘Consumer PR is worth more and more, helping to offset the cost of “being green”. And if you can offer something that is a game-changer, the PR value is massive.’
 
Another tool in the design agency’s armory is its ability to temper higher costs with intelligent design. This can take longer to be implemented if working with a brand to overhaul its packaging, but step changes can be handled fairly quickly by the likes of Burgopak and can lead to gradual change. ‘Incremental improvements over time can drive change.’
 
Structural design
Burgopak is, at its heart, a structural design agency so works with its clients to integrate such principles into its designs.
 
It produces bespoke solutions to clients’ exact requirements. Whitehurst says it utilizes a fleet of software in its studio, such as ArtiosCAD and Cinema 4D, to achieve its clients’ aims. Burgopak also offers in-house prototyping, CNC machining, calibrated proofs and mockups for product testing and pre-production approval.
 
Going back to his earlier comment about understanding the whole supply chain, Whitehurst says: ‘We offer a grounded perspective with an insight into production. We produce prototypes in-house so customers can see what the end product will look like. We even have a color scientist in the team who’s doing a PhD in color management.’
 
Burgopak’s champion product is a sliding mechanism design, for which it holds global patents, and which has been used by a number of international brands as a versatile packaging solution with an 'intriguing and playful opening experience'. This design features a central core from which two additional sections slide out and retract when the manual mechanism is engaged.


 
Those that have deployed the sliding mechanism include renowned US department store Bloomingdale’s, sports brand Nike and boutique hotel directory Mr & Mrs Smith, who each used the slider in gift card packaging; Italian beer brand Peroni, for the launch of its new light beer range; mobile phone network operator Vodafone, to deliver SIM cards to consumers; and motor racing’s Formula One, for its Global Broadcast Reports. Burgopak also designed and produced Formula One management’s official pit pass holders for the 2010 F1 Grand Prix season.
 

Working with the Formula One brand presented the sliding mechanism packaging solution to a global audience, none more so than when Whitehurst recalls Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone handing Prince Harry one of its pit pass packs live on television.
 
Whitehurst also recalls the time TV comedian Harry Hill demonstrated the sliding mechanism on stage after Burgopak had supplied the British Academy of Film and Television Arts with the design for its invitation for the 2009 BAFTA Awards night.
 
Accepting the Best Entertainment Performance award in front of a crowd of film and television personalities, Hill played with the mechanism and said: ‘If that’s not entertainment, I don’t know what is.’ You can see the clip online here.
 
The sliding mechanism has other applications, especially in the healthcare market according to Whitehurst. Here, the functionality of the packaging allows medical companies to adhere to strict compliance regulations from organization’s such as the Food and Drug Administration in the US that require the medication, patient information leaflet and packaging to remain together.
 
In addition, Whitehurst says the design offers a more consumer friendly, streamlined solution that is better suited to modern lifestyles, as opposed to traditional healthcare packaging that can become intrusive and easily damaged if carried on the person, as is often the case with the packaging for paracetamol or ibuprofen, as an example.
 
Designs 2GO
To supplement its bespoke design work, Burgopak has put together a dozen solutions that it is offering as a largely off-the-shelf series called the 2GO range.
 
This, Whitehurst says, is designed to provide a standardized solution that is easier to manage, streamlines the design process and affords Burgopak the time to work on projects it may otherwise have had to turn down.
 
The range is based around the sliding mechanism functionality and offers a more cost efficient solution than from-scratch designs. In addition, die tools are maintained by Burgopak’s partner manufacturing plants so turnaround is quicker than normal, according to Whitehurst. ‘It changes the way we do business as it allows us to effectively offer current price lists upon request, which we wouldn’t normally be able to do.’
 
The sliding mechanism is at the heart of much that Burgopak does, and has been repatriated in different ways to enable it to offer tailored solutions for different applications, as well as facilitating other developments in design since.
 
Whitehurst says research and development is ongoing into new mechanisms and solutions for its existing and potential client base. ‘Quality is everything and with patented products that extends to us as well as our customers. What we offer is memorable brand equity; brands and consumers are demanding more from packaging.’
 

This extends beyond its structural and creative services, which are supported by global teams of project managers dedicated to meeting every challenge and finding a solution to a client’s packaging needs. From initial concept brief to delivery, Burgopak’s project managers liaise with design studios, licensed manufacturers and extensive logistics networks to offer clients a closed-loop service.
 
In addition, Burgopak has licensed production facilities in a number of locations in Europe and Asia that collectively hold: ISO 9000:2001; BS EN ISO 9001:2000; ISO 22000:2005; BS EN ISO 14001:1996 accreditations.
 
As part of this ethos, Burgopak itself has undergone a rebrand. ‘The brand strategy is a way of communicating what we are and what we do,’ says Whitehurst.
 
‘It’s easier to engage with the market if everyone in the company is clear about who we are, with a creative side complemented by a strategic vision of what we are and hope to be. It’s a common and a unified message that will help our customers better understand Burgopak.’