Huhtamaki India responds swiftly to COVID challenge

Working closely with its customers

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Sudip Mall, Managing Director of Huhtamaki India
Sudip Mall, Managing Director of Huhtamaki India

Packaging major Huhtamaki India’s operations were impacted by the COVID-19 and adapted to the situation by safeguarding its employees and their health and safety, introducing a specific management process, and providing daily guidance for employees on sites such as those working remotely. On the financial front, it saw a good performance because of the increase in demand for packaged products during the pandemic. 

Managing Director of Huhtamaki India Sudip Mall discussed last year’s developments with Packaging South Asia in a detailed interview. 

  1. How did the pandemic impact your flexible packaging business? 

The unusual nature of the pandemic created significant shocks for individuals, societies, and industries, impacting national and global economies. At Huhtamaki India, we responded to the challenges, immediately implementing COVID-19 protocols to keep our teams safe and working with our customers to understand their challenges and requirements.

Huhtamaki manufactures packaging, which is an essential part of the food and healthcare systems. We, therefore, had a responsibility to keep factories running to support food supply and security and ensure the healthcare industry was able to meet its demands. Safety assumed paramount importance, and consumer demand for packaged food and other essentials continued to increase. We, therefore, took all the necessary steps to continue producing high-quality packaging materials to ensure continuity of supply and the safety and hygiene of food. 

Demand for take-aways, ready-to-eat meals, and medical supplies increased. This required us to adapt packaging to meet the new requirements. For example, in India, we began manufacturing smaller pocket-sized packs for sanitizers to meet consumer needs. 

Our passion for innovation, supported by our state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and R&D center, ensures that we are ready for future challenges. This has enabled us to provide our customers with innovative solutions to meet their needs. 

Our combination of talented people, unique capabilities, scale, and reach, ensures that we deliver solutions that protect food, people, and the planet while creating sustainable value for our stakeholders. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of our values of Care, Dare, Deliver. We are focused on safeguarding our employees and their health and safety, introducing a specific management process, and providing daily guidance for employees on sites and those working remotely. Security, especially in a time of crisis, is of utmost importance. 

At Huhtamaki India, we adhered to all safety norms and COVID-19 protocols, with a blend of measures such as Work from Home (WFH), social distancing, sanitization, and continuous monitoring of the health and safety of our workforce.  

  1. If growth or loss, by what percentage?

The global pandemic had an adverse effect on every industry, and while we, at Huhtamaki India, did see a minor slowdown, our Unaudited Financial Results (UFR) for Quarter 1 (ending March 31, 2021) has seen a growth of Revenue from Operations standing at INR 6,384 million, up from INR 5,604.6 million in the last quarter. (Q4, ending December 31, 2020). During the quarter of March 31, 2021, revenue from operations increased by 9.3% over the corresponding quarter of the previous year, driven by growth in volume. 

Profit for the same period was INR 161.7 million (Quarter 1 ending March 31, 2021), up from INR 50.8 million (Q4, ending December 31, 2020). 

At Huhtamaki India Limited, we used the crisis as an opportunity to ‘reset for the future’ by recalibrating our business to be ready for both challenges and opportunities. 

  1. How do you see the performance of your company and the flexible packaging industry?

What sets us apart is our commitment to make our packaging consistently safe and sustainable ─ by using resource and energy-efficient packaging materials and technology. The business environment is in a period of change, but food packaging, medical supplies packaging, and other crucial essential items are rising. We see this as an impetus to grow our manufacturing and R&D facilities to support the increase in demand. We cater to our consumers, keeping in mind recyclability, biodegradability, and sustainability in all we do. Our packaging offers consumers convenience, food safety, food availability, and food waste reduction while keeping in mind the protection of the planet. 

Huhtamaki is focused on customer-centricity. Our priority will always be our customers and their satisfaction. We work closely with them to develop innovative and environment-friendly packaging. Flexible packaging can contribute to overarching sustainability goals and drive circularity. At Huhtamaki, we partner with our key customers to deliver these ground-breaking solutions. We collaborate throughout the entire value chain with leading industry stakeholders who share the same values and vision in terms of how flexible packaging can make a real difference. 

The packaging industry is at a turning point, with consumer expectations and new regulations supporting the move towards more sustainable solutions. Flexible packaging can meet the demands of this changing environment, and Huhtamaki Flexible Packaging is rethinking flexible plastic packaging for a circular economy. By partnering on innovation and looking at the whole value chain of a product – from the design phase to end-of-life management – flexible packaging is focused on becoming a cornerstone of the circular economy. Our trademarked Huhtamaki Blueloop platform is accelerating the adoption and scaling of circular flexible packaging. 

  1. Do you think recycling will be a challenge for flexible packaging? Please share your view on this.

Huhtamaki believes in protecting food, people, and the planet. Consumers and companies alike are looking for more environment-friendly and sustainable packaging solutions. To cater to their needs, we are contributing to the 2030 Sustainability Strategy of our parent company, Huhtamäki Oyj. Our ambition is to be the first choice in sustainable packaging solutions, enabling well-being and convenience for people around the world. To drive systemic change, we are:

  • Prioritizing renewable sources and recycling
  • Innovating for sustainability
  • Embedding digitalization across our processes
  • Partnering to develop collection and recycling infrastructure
  • Driving change in consumer behavior through education

We are adopting various technology and initiatives to meet the recycling challenges ensuring that our flexible packaging is recyclable. Globally and in India, we are investing and adhering to environment-friendly norms. 

We are reigniting innovation to deliver sustainable solutions. Our customers, consumers, communities, and the planet need our sustainable packaging solutions more than ever before. Our experts work closely with customers to understand consumer needs, and together, we develop more sustainable products by leveraging our innovative capabilities. 

We imagine, explore new technologies, and create solutions that reduce or eliminate barriers to recyclability. Sustainability and the planet are our focus. We know that developing innovation in sustainable packaging is paramount for the future of our planet, and we want to take a leading role within the industry in addressing the global challenges of circularity and climate change. 

The global food packaging industry is setting ambitious targets to make its operations more sustainable, working on designing for circularity across systems and products. Globally, we are shifting to renewable energy sources to reach carbon-neutral production. We are designing for circularity and partnering for change in waste management. 

Lightweight flexible packaging is resource efficient, protecting food, extending shelf life, preventing food waste, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Packaging is shifting to a circular model where materials are collected, recycled, and reused. 

One path to circularity at Huhtamaki is Huhtamaki Blueloop, the collaborative platform launched in 2019 to drive the move from a linear to a circular economy in flexible packaging. Huhtamaki Blueloop, a flexible packaging designed for recycling.

Blueloop solutions are mono-material structures made from PP, PE, and paper, building on the standard materials that are widely recycled and will have an economically viable use after collection. Huhtamaki Blueloop is more than a product range; it is a platform introducing a range of recyclable solutions with mono-material structures. 

 

The Covid-19 pandemic led to the country-wide lockdown on 25 March 2020. It will be two years tomorrow as I write this. What have we learned in this time? Maybe the meaning of resilience since small companies like us have had to rely on our resources and the forbearance of our employees as we have struggled to produce our trade platforms.

The print and packaging industries have been fortunate, although the commercial printing industry is still to recover. We have learned more about the digital transformation that affects commercial printing and packaging. Ultimately digital will help print grow in a country where we are still far behind in our paper and print consumption and where digital is a leapfrog technology that will only increase the demand for print in the foreseeable future.

Web analytics show that we now have readership in North America and Europe amongst the 90 countries where our five platforms reach. Our traffic which more than doubled in 2020, has at times gone up by another 50% in 2021. And advertising which had fallen to pieces in 2020 and 2021, has started its return since January 2022.

As the economy approaches real growth with unevenness and shortages a given, we are looking forward to the PrintPack India exhibition in Greater Noida. We are again appointed to produce the Show Daily on all five days of the show from 26 to 30 May 2022.

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– Naresh Khanna

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