In early December, nearly 100 participants including visionary start-ups, investors, and industry experts from across the world gathered to explore innovative solutions for packaging circularity at the joint Huhtamaki and Emerald Technology Ventures workshop “The Future of Packaging: How to make packaging better, smarter and more sustainable.”
The workshop discussions covered a broad range of topics, including innovation in packaging materials, functionality and design, digital connectivity, and business models to support consumer behavior for circularity.
The event kicked off with an engaging panel discussion featuring experts in packaging manufacturing, venturing, research & development and consumer goods sharing their insights on the latest developments and challenges in their respective fields. The discussion focused on the need for systems thinking and innovation across the whole packaging life cycle, including material, technologies, design and business model innovation, to solve for packaging circularity. Panelists included Executive Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Huhtamaki Marina Madanat, Research Professor at the Technical Research Centre of Finland VTT Ali Harlin, Partner at Emerald Technology Ventures Fredrik Petit, and Vice President of Research & Development at LVMH, Bruno Bavet.
Madanat highlighted that packaging brings high value to our society and planet today, playing an essential role in securing accessibility, safety, hygiene, and affordability of food and everyday necessities. Packaging also helps to solve the problem of food waste that contributes to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions globally. The challenge that needs to be solved with innovation is packaging circularity.
“That is why we are here. Packaging circularity requires innovation across the whole packaging value chain, including materials, packaging technologies, product design, collection and recycling. It is a complex systems challenge, and it cannot be solved with one single solution or by one company alone."
She concluded, "we need partnerships across the industry borders, visionary start-ups with bold innovation ideas, and companies like us who drive packaging technology innovation and can scale solutions globally."
Packaging industry is undergoing a paradigm shift
All panelists agreed that the packaging industry is undergoing a paradigm shift, driven by sustainability. Petit acknowledged that although challenges have been discussed for a while, there has especially been visible change and movement in packaging companies over the last three years. To support packaging innovation, Emerald Ventures launched a dedicated fund, which is one of the first venture-backed investment vehicles targeting the financing of innovations across the full packaging lifecycle.
“We focus for instance on materials, how to move away from petrol-based materials to recycled, bio- or fiber-based materials, on how we can improve the functionality of packaging, and on design for end of life, but also on the digital side, for example, on smarter connected packaging, waste analysis and waste sorting”, he said.
Multiple solutions key to solving a complex challenge
The workshop participants brainstormed to find creative solutions for achieving packaging circularity. The atmosphere was focused as the workshop groups dived into topics such as innovative materials, packaging functionality, design for circularity, connected packaging, and consumer behavior, discussing short-, mid- and long-term solution opportunities. It became evident that achieving smarter and more sustainable packaging will require several solutions from developing packaging design to material innovation, systems for data sharing and consumer incentivization. Despite the complexity of the issue and multiple great ideas, many groups bet on material innovation as the winning innovation opportunity, such as renewable and biodegradable material or packaging with repulpable food-grade barrier coating. The enthusiasm in the room was contagious, and it was clear that the journey towards a more sustainable future will bring forward many new and creative solutions.
The event “The Future of Packaging Workshop – How to make packaging better, smarter and more sustainable” was organized as part of one of the world’s biggest tech and startup events, Slush.