Sustainability, recyclability and innovations to lead the future

RB focusses on its visual brand language

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Basudeb Routh, regional packaging director – Asia, RB. Photo PSA

Packaging South Asia spoke to Basudeb Routh, regional packaging director – Asia, RB, about the changing role of packaging and its evolution within the company. “Whatever packaging we develop should have a unique story and a distinct personality – which is a challenge. The language and design of the product should have an emotional connect with the consumer. The visual brand language is very important nowadays and it must keep in mind the familiarity of the customer with a product. For example, consumers relate Dettol with a bottle having a green label,” says Routh.

The next big thing to impact packaging has been the delivery system which addresses the convenience of the product being used. Routh says, “Just to give an example, in a product like a hand wash, you cannot do much positioning with different variants. But, a unique delivery system with the same product can attract consumers because of different buying perspectives. Devices such as a no-touch pack or a squeeze pack can change the customer’s perception from earlier ways of using the product. And these innovations such as getting rid of the pump in a hand wash container can reduce the cost of packaging as well.”

Penetration of the rural Indian market is currently among the top priorities for all major FMCG companies in India. “We have covered a lot of ground in the rural markets over the years but there’s a long way to go. With a product like Dettol, we are already offering a liquid hand wash, a hand sanitizer, a bar soap and even a no-touch pack – there is hardly any space between these products for a new product to come in. However, what we can do is experiment with the delivery systems by making them more convenient for users and thus helping in the penetration of the product,” says Routh.

“Better design is about considering the choices we can make before our products are even launched. Packaging has emerged as proper aesthetics over the necessity of product protection and it is an excellent way of promoting the brand as well. Our objective is to continually improve the environmental and safety profile of our products, by systematically removing specific ingredients from products, where safer and more sustainable alternatives exist,” he adds.

For RB, sustainability is very important. Sustainable packaging is now a US$ 27 billion market in the US and growing at a rate of nearly 4% annually across three distinct segments – reusable, recyclables and degradables. Recycled paper and plastic constitute a majority of the sustainable packaging market and will continue to dominate for some more time because of consumer familiarity and a well-developed recycling infrastructure.

Packaging should have a unique story and a distinct personality – which is a challenge. The language and design of the product should have an emotional connect with the consumer. Photo PSA

In a developing economy such as India, consumer product companies are becoming more environmentally conscious, regulatory norms are becoming stringent and thus prompting packaging technologists to come up with smaller size packs, which are lighter and use fewer materials. Phasing out heavier materials such as glass and switching over to other environment-friendly rigid packaging are other alternatives.

“Every day millions of tonnes of waste is generated in the process of producing and transporting packaging materials. Consumers are already aware of these environmental issues through the media. The way ahead, clearly, is to switch to environment-friendly packaging materials sourced responsibly to help mitigate this impact and put brands in a better position to take pride in answering the questions consumers may raise.

“Packaging is an integral part of all three big sustainability goals; better packaging can have a lower carbon footprint and a lower water impact, and it can be the reason for a more sustainable innovation. We know that packaging is very important to our consumers, and so it’s one of our key focus areas. Last year we were able to save around 500 tonnes of packaging material through our packaging innovation for which we were awarded,” Routh says.

This is an era of smartphones and thus for obvious reasons, eCommerce is going to grow for RB feels Routh. eCommerce already accounts for a US$ 1.3 trillion global retail pile according to digital market tracker e-Marketer, INC. However, packaging for shelf and for eCommerce have got their separate challenges due to various shapes, sizes and functional requirements. Consumer expectation is different in both. Typically, if the packaging is done right, the customer does not think too much about it and concentrates on the product inside. So the packaging has to be in a proper working order. At the same time, you do not want it to look over packaged. So it is definitely a challenge in terms of how to protect the product appropriately and yet not over pack it,” according to Routh.

In the long run RB would like to reduce packaging weight, consider more sustainable materials and increase recyclability so as to encourage less packaging for a dose of the product with an increase in post-consumer recycled content along with the use of more sustainable materials. “The consumer is at the heart of everything we do and our goal is to provide safe and effective products; so, when we can, we will go above and beyond regulatory requirements in implementing our core values,” concludes Routh.

Packaging South Asia is the cooperating media partner for drupa 2016 which is scheduled to be held from 31 May to 10 June at Dusseldorf, Germany.