circular supply chain
(L -- R): Andrew Manly, director, Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA), Amsterdam; and Dhruv Pal, marketing development manager, EM Digital Solutions, Avery Dennison. Photo PSA

The fourth panel discussion at the PACK.Nxt conference, organized by IPPStar and Packaging South Asia in Mumbai in January, was on the topic ‘Customer Experience – Trust and Transparency in the Circular Supply Chain.’

Andrew Manly, director of the Active & Intelligent Packaging Industry Association (AIPIA), Amsterdam, which supported the conference, was the moderator of the panel discussion that included Bhupesh Kumar Mittal, packaging head, Bayer Consumer Care; Dhruv Pal, marketing development manager, EM Digital Solutions, Avery Dennison; Gurpreet Singh Bhimber, head of procurement, Indo Nissin Foods; and Ravi Krishnamachari (K Ravi) former managing director, Rovema India.

Manly said the circular economy involves not just the packaging but also the product, the producer, the logistics companies, the reseller, and the consumer. “One of the recent surveys in Europe showed that the consumers are very confused about the labels and different messages that companies are communicating to them through packaging, and that doesn’t help them recycle and reuse,” he said.

The panel endeavored to answer the questions – What does the consumer expect? What do the resellers expect? How do we address the counterfeiting issues from a consumer’s point of view and the logistics companies?

Bhimber said that to a layman, the circular economy starts from ideation, moving on to sourcing based on ideation, followed by manufacturing and marketing and sales promotion of the product, shipping into the market, and reaching the consumers. The consumer then consumes the product and disposes of its packaging based on the nature of the product and its packaging. The packaging is then recycled or decomposed. When the packaging is recycled, it again comes into this circular chain and this is the basic structure of a circular economy.

During the ideation process, all the packaging professionals come into the picture. They design the packaging in such a way that the material that is sourced is either a recycled material or can be recycled once the product is consumed,” he explained.

A circular economy is a collaborative effort, he said, first at the brand owner’s end and then the chain of information that is being sent into the brand, followed by the information that is being sent to the consumers, including how to dispose of the packaging material, the dos, and don’ts with a specific type of packaging. “With a clear intent in mind, you need to collaborate with the vendors, you need to collaborate with the internal stakeholders be it procurement, be it packaging development, or be it marketing,” he added.

circular supply chain
(L — R): Dhruv Pal, marketing development manager, EM Digital Solutions, Avery Dennison; Gurpreet Singh Bhimber, head of procurement, Indo Nissin Foods; and Bhupesh Kumar Mittal, packaging lead, Bayer Customer Care. Photo PSA

The word ‘circular economy’ or ‘transparent economy’ came from the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair, Mittal said, adding that The Food Industry Association did a study in 2020, according to which more than 60% of consumers want to switch to products that talk about transparency in the supply chain. According to another study by the British Beauty Council, more than 85% of consumers want to know from where the companies are sourcing their ingredients.

R-Cycle is an international packaging company that is doing very well in the transparent supply chain, he said, adding it provides a service called Digital Passport, which involves a QR code printed on the packs. Scanning it provides consumers with all details about the packaging, starting with the manufacturing process, including polymers and other ingredients as well as the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).

When we provide the information on every part of the product, including from where we source the ingredients and packaging materials, and how it will be stored and transported, it enables us (brand owners) to share our confidence with the customers. In turn, it helps retain customer confidence in the companies’ ethical procedures and increases brand loyalty,” he added.

Circularity is designing a product in such a way that it can be reused, recycled and reutilized, Pal said, adding that tracking and recording data in the product life cycle is very critical in the circular supply chain because without recording the data, it is not possible to track a particular product. This information could include, but is not limited to, the composition of the material, its genesis, the places and hobs where it has been scanned and moved from one place to another from the manufacturer, supplier, retailer and consumer, he said.

The Digital Product Passport creates a digital twin of the product that helps one to collect, collate and contextualize the data of that product, know about it in detail, and understand where it is right now and how it can be reused, he said. “As a consumer, the foremost thing for me to understand is if the product that I am purchasing is genuine or not. I should be assured that this is not a counterfeit product. Secondly, I want to understand the composition of the product – is it the same as what has been committed,” he said.

circular supply chain
(L — R): Bhupesh Kumar Mittal, packaging lead, Bayer Customer Care; and Ravi Krishnamachari, an industry expert in filling and sealing, and founder of Raas Intellisolutions. Photo PSA

The circular supply chain has many actors where every actor has to play a specific role, he said, adding the government plays a very critical role in compliance and regulations. “The circular supply chain is something that rolls up to environment-friendliness and sustainability to provide a future-proof solution – it is something that is conceptualized today to give a positive result tomorrow,” he said.

Sustainable films are far more temperature-sensitive than multi-layer laminates, K Ravi said, adding the tolerance and the deviation from the set temperature of your equipment need to be a bare minimum, otherwise, you will face problems such as burns and improper sealing. “Machine manufacturers can play a very important role in the journey of smart and sustainable packaging if they are involved in the manufacturing process at the right time,” he added.

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