Ansapack invests in Esko Automation Engine

Optimizing the packaging supply chain

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Gautam Agarwal, joint managing director, Ansapack. Photo PSA

Our industry leaders need to leadThe Noodle MuddleIn its issue dated 20 June 2015, The Economic and Political Weekly wrote in its editorial ‘The Noodle Muddle’ in part: “The Maggi Noodles controversy has triggered a much-needed debate on food safety standards in India. Unfortunately, as with most such debates, attention tends to focus on the specifics, in this instance the culpability of the multinational company Nestle in marketing a product that allegedly contained not just monosodium glutamate (MSG) but also contained lead above permissible levels, instead of discussing how and why this happens.“The question of whether Nestle was negligent about the quality of its product, and deliberately mislabelled it as not containing MSG when it apparently did, is still being debated as the tests on the product varied from one government certified laboratory to another. Rather than establish conclusively that its product was safe, the company chose to withdraw it. Yet, the problem is far from resolved and many questions remain unanswered. If, as some laboratory tests proved, the noodles did have higher than permissible levels of lead, how did this happen? Was it through the wrapping, which is outsourced by Nestle to another company, was it due to the water used in manufacturing the product or from the machines used to manufacture it? Apart from the lead, did the company add MSG to the product but claim it did not, knowing India’s lax regulatory regime? Or did the tests show up other types of glutamate that are present in the ingredients but are not necessarily MSG? These are questions that need to be answered as the issue is not just about the culpability of this one multinational but any number of other companies, including Indian companies, that could face similar challenges if their products are tested.”

The E&P Weekly editorial raises the issue of food packaging safety and we should get ready for the focus to shift from the processed food inside, to the packaging, especially packaging which is in direct contact with food products. Of particular concern is the use of inferior paper and film substrates and inks that can lead to the migration of the unsafe ingredients of the inks, the substrates or even the chemicals used in the printing, converting and filling and sealing process. The cleanliness from unsafe chemicals and volatile compounds in the environment of the pressrooms is an issue just not for the packaging but also for the production personnel in packaging plants. Another concern is the integrity of both the contents and the packaging in the distribution and retail process – in other words safety throughout the supply chain – from farm to fork.

Unfortunately, as we have seen in the recent noodle muddle, there is a disconnect between global, national and state standards and laws and their testing and enforcement agencies. However, these issues cannot be swept under the carpet. While on the one hand the packaging industry is rooting for the food processing, consumer product and organized retail industries it needs to step up and speak collectively on the safety, health and environment issues. These are connected and the organizations and individuals who have spoken in responsible and even futuristic and holistic terms need to get together and reassure the food and consumer product companies that they will not supply unsafe packaging at any price. Subsequently we need to reassure the end-users and consumers as well.

The ingredients, the materials, technology and even the testing instruments and labs are available. As in many things it is a matter of will and our industry has always contained organizations and individuals who act and speak in responsible and even futuristic ways. This is their time. After all, there is huge bias amongst Indian consumers for ‘fresh’ food. If we cannot clean up our act how can we call it a bias or say that this thinking is unjustified?

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.

It is the right time to support our high-impact reporting and authoritative and technical information with some of the best correspondents in the industry. Readers can power Packaging South Asia’s balanced industry journalism and help sustain us by subscribing.

– Naresh Khanna

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