Packaging in the next decade – trends and needs

A panel discussion at the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry

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(L-R) Dr Rangaprasad; Sanjay Gupta, vice president of the DS Group; Saket Bhatia, chair, PHDCCI Packaging Committee and president, Hindustan Tin works; Praveen Bhatia, the director, of Wifag Polytype India and Himanshi Khaneja, head Packaging Development – R&D, Mother Dairy Fruits and Vegetables at the PHDCCI panel discussion. Photo PSA

To throw light on the future of packaging, the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry conducted a panel discussion on Packaging in the Next 10 years at PHD House, New Delhi on 23 September 2022. The discussion was moderated by Dr Rangaprasad. Saket Bhatia, chair, PHDCCI Packaging Committee and president, Hindustan Tin Works spoke about the significance of size and prospective growth of the packaging sector and pointed out that sustainability in packaging is dependent on multiple factors. 

Apart from the industry, these include the government’s waste management rules and its decisions such as EPR and single-use plastic ban, and the reduction targets of carbon emissions like green steel, the ban on private energy generation, the usage of green solar energy, and regulations such as FSSAI and BIS standards in packaging materials. These factors are further complemented by efforts to make products that are sustainable by design such as packaging made from PLA, monolayer, and biodegradable plastics.

There is a heavy dependence on imported packaging machinery in the country at present with high maintenance costs and difficulties in procuring spare parts. However, Covid-induced restrictions and high awareness around minimal manual intervention gave rise to automation demands both from the brand owners and the end users. Automation also helps to mitigate the impact of inflation and the cost of labor. Increased localization and technological innovations for reducing carbon emissions and using green energy are being discussed by the packaging sector.

Bhatia said that tin offers specific technical advantages in fruit and vegetable preservation. With increasing affordability, the tin packaging sector sees 7 lakh tonnes of consumption with an annual growth of 6 – 7 %. With the festive season just around the corner, premium brands such as Cadbury’s and Haldiram’s opt for tin containers for mithai and chocolate gift packs. Indian tin packaging manufacturers are trying to import innovative opening/closing systems that can transform metal packaging from single-use to multi-use. A case in point is the Rajnigandha mouth freshener can with an easy-open end and lug cap for multiple uses. Tata and Jindal are the key suppliers for tinplate in India with BIS approvals in place and with high-value additions such as BPA-free lacquer.

Praveen Bhatia, the director, of Wifag Polytype India, added that although tube packaging is still a niche market in India, it is used in cosmetics and everyday essentials such as toothpaste and shaving creams. Tube manufacturing is a capital-intensive project with complexities of wall thickness, laminates, and printing. Moreover, 99% of the tube packaging machine manufacturers are based in Europe, China, Korea, and Taiwan. The Coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in tube demand and there is an increase in manufacturing startups in the country.

Mother Dairy‘s Packaging Development – R&D head Himanshi Khaneja explained that the dairy major has come up with several eco-friendly solutions for milk, oil, fruit, and vegetables. Mother Dairy take prides in its use of the token milk dispensing model, a 100 % plastic-free packaging initiative that saves 7 lakh kilograms of plastic annually. Another example is that of reusable plastic crates for the fruit and vegetable display. Khaneja added that redesigning, reshaping, and re-innovating formats keeping in mind the storage and transport efficiencies leads to cost optimization.

Barun Banerjee, head of Packaging at Nestle India talked about what he said was the massive shift in consumer behavior in the past few years. Today, firms need to adopt consumer-centric designs such as single-serve stick packs for instant coffee to address the changing tastes of the Indian end user – keeping consumer convenience and a smaller carbon footprint in mind. Single-serve packs, portion packs, ready-to-drink (RTD) packs, ready-to-consume products, and ready-to-eat (RTE) packs will dominate the Indian market in the next few days to cater to the on-the-go consumption patterns of the younger demographic, he said. Another trend that he suggested will be more frequently observed over the next few years is the preference for natural and regional flavors. Paper Boat for instance has introduced select flavors that invoke a sense of nostalgia in the end user. 

All the speakers agreed that recycling in India is a highly disorganized segment with high levels of informal recycling and a lack of standardized recycling infrastructure in place. The over-packaging by eCommerce platforms is also wasteful. Addressing the issue, Sanjay Gupta, vice president of the DS Group said that a proper recycling industry needs to be established in the country through steps such as budget allocation and PLI schemes. FMCG companies should also undertake initiatives to reduce layers in packaging to make packaging materials more recyclable. Though this might shorten the shelf-life of certain perishable goods, it could help producers reach their sustainability goals and targets. 

Saket Bhatia pitched in that metals like tin and steel are recyclable. India has a large number of smelting units and is a scrap importer as well. Initiatives like green steel would help in upcycling the metal industry. State-of-the-art recycling technologies and designing packaging keeping the final recyclate quality in mind would create a lasting impact, added Khaneja.

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The capacity for flexible film manufacturing in India increased by 45% over the past four years. With orders in place, we expect another 20% capacity addition in 2024 and 2025. Capacities in monocartons, corrugation, aseptic liquid packaging, and labels are growing similarly. As the consumption story returns over the next six months, we expect demand to return and exceed the growth trajectory of previous years. The numbers are positive for most of the economies in the region – and as shown by our analytics, our platform increasingly reaches and influences these.

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– Naresh Khanna (25 October 2023)

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