Transition in Packaging is the main theme of FachPack 2022. Topics such as raw material availability, supply chain security, sustainability and digitalisation are causing major changes in the packaging industry. How can these challenges be mastered, what resource-saving solutions are already available today, for example for the meat market, and how are the flexible packaging experts positioning themselves for the future? Juan Luís Martínez Arteaga (CEO) and Marek Pawlak (CSO) from the new management team of the Schur Flexibles Group will be answering these questions in time for FachPack, which takes place from 27 to 29 September in Nuremberg.
This year’s FachPack is themed Transition in Packaging. How is Schur Flexibles perceiving this theme?
JLMA: We fully identify with this statement. Schur Flexibles is using a similar motto for its trade fair presentation with #future is driven by action. With this, we are facing up to the challenges that our industry is currently facing. The growth of the last few years is expected to continue, because our industry plays an essential role in the supply of important goods. However, in order to remain ahead of the game, we have to adapt. Major changes are underway at our company, because we want to be ready to respond to the challenges of the near future – and we will be demonstrating this at FachPack.
What are the most pressing industry issues and what developments are associated with them?
MP: The top issues include securing supply chains and availability of raw materials as well as more sustainability in packaging issues. This is accompanied by the need for new materials and technologies. In the wake of the pandemic and the Ukraine war, great uncertainties have arisen. There are supply bottlenecks for materials such as aluminium and paper and in addition, all market participants are equally affected by skyrocketing prices. In the wake of global supply chain problems, a trend has emerged that can be aptly described by the term “homecoming”. Our clients are looking for local partners to ensure availability, simplify communication and have know-how close at hand. The second major topic that is changing the packaging world significantly is the quest for more sustainability. The last few years have shown that the image of plastic and plastic packaging in particular has suffered greatly in the public perception and that bans on certain types of packaging have been the result.
What advantages does this positioning of Schur Flexibles offer in relation to the pressing industry issues?
JLMA: No matter which of the current industry developments we are dealing with, our customers benefit from our strategy of vertical integration. We are responding to the “homecoming” trend with a strong local presence in many European countries, which we have strengthened in 2021 with the acquisition of two companies in Italy with Sidac and Termoplast. At the same time, we as a group have access at all times to the various competences, resources, technical know-how and portfolios of our different highly specialised companies. We are proficient in almost all technologies that exist in flexible packaging and can provide technical support quickly when needed. In contrast to our multinational competitors in the flexible packaging segment, we also see ourselves as a contact partner for smaller and medium-sized customers, for whom our expertise is available along the entire value chain. Our technology leadership status in many areas means we are very quick to develop alternatives. Also, in terms of general supply, we are fortunate to have PS Polymer Sourcing on board, which ensures access to high-quality materials.
MP: Dealing with sustainable packaging is nothing new for us. It is the foundation of our group of companies – we have underlined our commitment to this with the rethink strategy published in 2018, which includes rethinking existing packaging solutions and developing sustainable alternatives. Here, too, we benefit from our comprehensive value chain that enables us to offer our customers real added value by reacting very quickly to market developments.
What technical changes have occurred as a result of dealing with sustainable materials/products?
MP: Sustainability means a completely different way of dealing with materials. In the last 40 to 60 years, materials were used in our industry that were well known and confirmed by tests of all kinds. With the new, sustainable materials, we are entering a field where especially small and medium-sized companies need a lot of support through specialised know-how and help in the technical field. In order to expand our portfolio of sustainable solutions and continuously add new applications and specialised knowledge, we are also focusing on growth. By acquiring Schur Flexibles Termoplast for example we are able to produce high quality MDO-PE material, that is ideally suited for the production of recyclable PE stand-up pouches or flowpacks. Furthermore, we have invested in additional capacities in the area of MDO-PE films and supplemented the existing two lines with another one. We are convinced that the future belongs to recyclable films.
JLMA: However, the new materials also make our work more complex: we have to extensively test the new products made of alternative materials, e.g. for their migration behaviour, develop new processing procedures and implement them. For our customers, it is not enough just to select the appropriate material. The overall requirements – from plant technology to product marketing – must be matched to it. This is exactly where we can provide support with our extensive knowledge.
Can you give us some examples for the confectionery segment?
MP: In the confectionery segment, we rely, among other things, on recyclable solutions made of polyethylene and renewable raw materials, mainly papers that are provided with appropriate coatings. At this year’s FachPack we will provide insight into innovative sustainable solutions, e.g. for sweets and other confectionery such as ice cream.
What topics are on the agenda for Schur Flexibles in the near future?
JLMA: Many of our products are the result of customer needs. This often requires unconventional thinking in order to develop real innovations. We have prepared ourselves for this: for the challenges of the future, we need motivated and creative minds from a wide range of disciplines with a fresh outlook, who optimally complement our concentrated packaging know-how and many years of experience. Our industry still has a very conservative image, but the preoccupation with packaging revolves around contemporary issues such as sustainability, climate protection, digitalisation and more – so it is very modern and innovative. We are also continuously developing our rethink initiative. To ensure that we continue to live up to our pioneering role in sustainability, we are represented in various organisations and initiatives that deal with this topic in a forward-thinking way.
MP: Another major topic we are currently working on is the use of post-consumer recycled (PCR) material, i.e. material from household recycling collections. In order to be able to control these processes, to offer maximum safety to the end consumers and to make the valuable raw materials usable again for food packaging in the future. Within our research we cooperate with the hygiene business and science, e.g. with universities. This goes hand in hand with the important task of educating consumers. Unfortunately, the understanding that plastic is, on balance, the most efficient packaging material in terms of CO2 footprint has not yet taken hold. A major challenge is the lack of recycling loops to recover the material after use. We need to make it easy for end-users to recycle plastics or flexible packaging as a matter of course, separated into the different types of plastics. We will work on developing new concepts for this.
What can trade fair visitors expect at the FachPack stand of Schur Flexibles?
JLMA: We invite trade visitors to see for themselves how we are actively tackling pressing industry issues under the motto #future is driven by action. At FachPack, we will provide insights into innovative sustainable solutions for sweets and other confectionery products. Under the keyword “Digital Packaging”, we are also looking beyond pure packaging: we have been working intensively on groundbreaking concepts for the digitalisation of packaging, which we will give a first insight into at the trade fair. The first day of the fair will be a special moment: At 10:00 a.m., we will make our new strategy tangible for all visitors and unveil news with which we will write company history. So, a visit to Schur Flexibles is definitely worthwhile!
About Schur Flexibles Gruppe
Schur Flexibles Group, headquartered in Wiener Neudorf, Austria, specialises in innovative, high-quality and customised high-barrier packaging solutions for the food, aroma protection, hygiene and pharmaceutical industries. With its integrated value chain from extrusion, printing and lamination to extensive pouch production, the group, which was founded in 2012, generates annual sales of around 690 million euros, making it one of the leading companies in the industry in Europe. Schur Flexibles employs around 2,200 people at 22 highly specialised production sites in Western and Eastern Europe, which are highly specialised according to a Centre of Excellence concept and enjoy technology leader status in their field. Sustainability is at the heart of the company’s business activities.