Efficiency & technology

Innovation management – working today on the packaging of tomorrow

To remain the market leader in the face of global competition, you have to identify trends early on, proactively embrace them and plan innovations strategically. ALPLA has initiated numerous innovation management activities in recent years and has established a vibrant culture of innovation.

ALPLA’s Innovations team analyses trends and considers the needs and future requirements of the customers and consumers, drawing among other things on the expertise of international trend scouts in the process. It collaborates not only interdisciplinarily, but also within an international network thanks to ALPLA’s global presence. Regional teams observe changes in consumer behaviour, demographic and societal developments and changes in the law, and share their experience with one another. The Innovations team coordinates this network and the exchange of knowledge. The results are used to draw up an innovation road map and identify strategic focal areas. The road map approved by the Management Board comprises all the topics that ALPLA will address over the next few years.

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Revenue generated by innovations will continue to grow over the next few years and will account for 1.1 per cent of total revenue by 2022.

‘Our access to innovations has become considerably more active in the last few years. New packaging solutions are no longer only developed on the basis of customer enquiries, but also ahead of time with foresight,’ says Christian Zmölnig, Director of Corporate Research, Development & Innovation. ‘Our customers’ requirements nevertheless have a key role to play. The end consumers’ needs are important to us too, and we are focusing on these more than ever. The latest developments within society and politics are ultimately valuable decision-making factors for me and my team.’

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„Our access to innovations has become considerably more active in the last few years.“

Christian Zmölnig, Director of Corporate Research, Development & Innovation.

 

 

Strategic focal areas and future trends

 

Examples of focal areas:

  • New markets require new solutions: development of frugal packaging for emerging markets.
  • Conserving fossil resources and bringing new materials through to market maturity: ALPLA has been working on developing bio-based materials for years.
  • New laws necessitate new packaging solutions: anticipatory adaptation of our products to new regulations, such as developing caps which are tethered to the beverage bottles for countries within the European Union.

 

Examples of trends:

  • Circular economy – design for recycling: ALPLA has set itself the goal of making all of its packaging solutions 100 per cent recyclable by 2025.
  • Demographic change – taking consumer needs into account when designing packaging.
  • Retail trends – e-commerce, digitalisation and protection from product counterfeiting have to be taken into account during the development of packaging solutions.
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We will continue to increase the number of innovations rolled out each year; by 2022, there will be three innovations a year.

Recent innovations

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Following on from the introduction of a fully recyclable rPET bottle for the Austrian mineral water producer Vöslauer, ALPLA has now developed and produced a new reusable PET bottle. It is not only sustainable, but also light, stable and visually appealing.

Of all packaging solutions, reusable PET has the best environmental footprint and causes just 70 per cent of the CO2e emissions of reusable glass, as determined by the independent consultancy firm c7-consult in 2019. The new reusable PET bottle developed together with Vöslauer is a good example of how demand, a sense of responsibility, a hunger for innovation and technological expertise can reduce the carbon footprint. Until now, bottles of this kind have been too heavy and not all that attractive. Not least because of this, the range of reusable packaging was therefore limited to glass bottles. Weighing just 55 grams, the new reusable PET bottle is around 90 per cent lighter than the glass alternative. This alone reduces the carbon footprint by approximately 30 per cent.

The reusable PET bottle which will be available in retail starting in spring 2022 is made entirely of fully recyclable PET monomaterial with a recyclate proportion of around 30 per cent. This proportion is to be continuously increased in the years to come. If it goes through twelve cycles, the bottle can likely remain in circulation for around three to four years. The investment is already good for the climate the first time the bottle is used. Vöslauer will be able to eliminate around 420 tonnes of carbon equivalents a year by introducing reusable PET packaging.

One of the best properties of The Simple One is its low weight. The idea was to use as little material as possible while nevertheless producing an attractive and functional packaging solution. The Simple One is up to 60 per cent lighter than a normal HDPE bottle. This therefore reduces the carbon emissions caused during production and transportation, and even after use during recycling.

The container does not need a cap, thus further reducing the volume of materials used. The bottle-shaped mould is welded shut and is simply cut along the edge when it needs to be opened. This also improves its recyclability as no different materials are introduced into the materials cycle.

This packaging lends itself well to e-commerce thanks to the properties outlined above, and its attractive price-performance ratio appeals in particular to customers in growth markets.

In mid-November 2018, ALPLA received the special ARA prize for The Simple One as part of the Austrian State Prize for Smart Packaging. The jury assessment summed up the benefits of the award-winning packaging solution: ‘A resource-efficient, innovative packaging solution characterised by its reduced material consumption, high versatility, top product protection and optimum suitability for recycling.’

Based on years of experience in developing technologies for the paper bottle, Paboco’s journey began back in 2015 with a small start-up in Denmark. In 2019, the joint venture between BillerudKorsnäs and ALPLA was established with the new name Paboco® – the paper bottle company.

The company aims to be part of a sustainable solution for packaging by focusing on the circular economy with paper at its core. The Paper Bottle Project is an innovation community led by Paboco, bringing together some of the world’s leading players in materials, design and technology, united by a vision to create the world’s first fully bio-based and recyclable paper bottle at scale.

The paper bottle is being implemented in a unique way, as its technological developments and market introduction are happening in parallel. This is one of the reasons why the project is supported by visionary companies such as the Carlsberg Group, The Absolut Company, L’Oréal, The Coca-Cola Company in Europe and Procter and Gamble.

‘Enabling a robust and efficient way to multiply the idea of sustainable packaging for liquid goods – that is the challenge we take on at Paboco, the paper bottle company,’ says Paboco CTO Florian Müller.

 

Development of the next generation

So far, the paper bottle has been produced in a pilot production for a select group of brand owners who form the Paboco Paper Bottle Community. The bottles represent a first generation that combines Paboco’s manufacturing technology for the strength and rigidity of paper with minimal rPET barriers for product safety. While these bottles are still in the initial production phase, Paboco and its partners are already working in parallel to develop the next generation of paper bottles that are fully dedicated to the paper recycling stream and have a much higher paper content.

https://www.paboco.com/

Refill packs are becoming increasingly popular for cleaning products. There are obvious reasons for this – they are small and light, consume significantly less plastic, reduce freight expenses by up to 90 per cent and allow sophisticated spray bottles be reused. With NOW, ALPLA presented an ideal packaging solution for concentrated cleaning agents that boasts special added value in addition to numerous environmental benefits – it is safe, easy and fun for consumers to use.

NOW is ultra lightweight. The container weighs only 10 grams when filled with 80 millilitres, which is approximately half the weight of comparable competitor products for concentrates. Compared to containers for ready-to-use cleaning products, this packaging solution saves even more than 80 per cent of the material otherwise used. Thanks to the light weight and minimal size, freight expenses are also reduced by up to 90 per cent because more than 200,000 refill packs can be carried by a single truck.

What’s more, NOW is made entirely of HDPE. The empty packaging is fully recyclable and can be disposed of in the recycling bin bag or bin. The refill pack is attached to the cleaning product bottle upside down, so the remaining contents are optimally discharged. Recycled HDPE can be used to manufacture the refill pack, making a bottle-to-bottle loop possible.

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