I didn’t know much about Scandinavian weather before heading to Sweden for a press trip at Ecolean’s headquarters.
In fact, I didn’t know anything. I figured it couldn’t be that much colder or wetter than the current UK climate when I was packing my bag, and a quick weather report check seemed to confirm my initial assumption, so I decided to pack relatively light and waterproof-free.
I began regretting my decision around four seconds after the plane I was on began its descent into Copenhagen airport. Water was lashing the aeroplane so violently, it felt like we were flying through the ocean. “Never mind,” I thought to myself. “Surely things can’t be any worse in Sweden.”
As things got increasingly worse in Sweden, our lively host did his best to raise morale during our soaked 100km drive to Helsingborg. It was only when we arrived at our hotel and were treated to a great dinner that I started to feel human again though.
Global reach and minimalism
After a refreshing sleep and a tasty breakfast, we were guided to the Ecolean production facility in Helsingborg and treated to an informative talk by Ecolean Group CEO, Peter L. Nilsson. Mr Nilsson explained that the Ecolean Group, which was founded in 1996 and manufactures stand-up pouches for liquid food, currently undertakes commercial activities in 30 countries, including Pakistan, Colombia, France, Russia, China, Malaysia and the US. The Group employs 265 people globally and has production facilities in Sweden and China.
In his presentation, Mr Nilsson was eager to convey the message that the Ecolean Group had a very clear philosophy of minimalism. This approach can be seen in the way the brand works and in the products its produces. For example, we were told that the entire Swedish site could be run by fewer than ten people; quite a low number for a global organisation. The brand’s packaging reflects this Spartan attitude too; Ecolean packages use a minimal amount of raw material to create a lightweight package with a low environmental impact. Containers in the Ecolean line weigh as little as 14g, which is “40–50% of a conventional liquid food carton or bottle”.
These minimalist packages lead to less food waste due to their flexible and foldable nature. An independent study found that traditional cartons lead to food waste levels of around 10% – consumers simply can’t squeeze the remaining product out of the pack – whereas Ecolean pouches resulted in food waste levels of around 1.5-2%, as the container can be manipulated and squeezed to force out more product.
Mr Nilsson also highlighted research from Schonwald Consulting in his presentation, which estimated that the global volume of stand-up pouches, containing products such as still beverages, liquid dairy and soups, will rise to 77 billion in 2018 – a stark increase from the 55 billion on the market in 2013 – which is fantastic news for this relatively new brand with lofty ambitions.
Helsingborg production facility extension
Following the recent opening of a new market office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Ecolean is extending its Helsingborg production facility to cope with the increasing demand of its products. We were given a thorough tour of the existing site, where hygiene and safety was taken extremely seriously, and gifted a brief visit to the new facility, which is currently under construction.
None of us were allowed to take any pictures during the factory tour, due to sensitive technology located at the site, and all visitors had to be dressed head to toe in specialised clothing. Plastic bags covered our shoes, long white coats draped over our clothes and hair nets stretched across our heads. Undoubtedly a ridiculous look, but a reassuring stance on sanitation and wellbeing on Ecolean’s behalf, which is a must when considering the application of Ecolean’s liquid food packaging.
As part of the Helsingborg site tour, we were also given a first glimpse of Ecolean’s brand new EL4+ filling machine, which is yet to be unveiled to the public. The new model, which will be capable of reaching speeds up to 33% higher than the brand’s existing EL1, EL2, EL3 and EL4 filling machines, will make its first public appearance at the Anuga FoodTec show in Cologne, Germany, which is due to be held on March 24-27.
Ecolean Air Aseptic Clear
Ecolean’s latest pouch innovation is the Air Aseptic Clear, which is available in 200ml and 250ml sizes. The creation is a lightweight package, based on the multi-layer film structure used in the brand’s white Air Aseptic packages, which is suitable for the ambient distribution of low and high acid liquid food products. This packaging features a large display area, an air filled handle for greater convenience and an ‘easy to open’ design. The pack is also microwaveable and can be accompanied by an optional straw.
Path to success
The Ecolean Group is a dynamic company, which is full of intelligent and hard-working staff. I believe the brand is targeting key demographic areas and setting itself up for nothing but success in the future. It takes time for an organisation like this to lay the groundwork required for mass success, but Ecolean is certainly going the right way about it. The group has managed its formative years very well, with a streamlined and ruthlessly efficient mindset, and it looks as if the next few years are going to be profitable, innovative and quite demanding for this exciting company.
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