Sidel’s acquisition of PET Engineering in October presented new opportunities to the packaging sector. We discussed this move with Sidel’s CEO, Sam Strömerstén, and how the company’s acquisition also offers new avenues to educate consumers on how to handle PET in a sustainable manner.
What new ventures will PET Engineering offer Sidel?
As you know, Sidel is quite active in packaging design, but with the acquisition of PET Engineering we can now channel to market a wider set of competences when it comes to design aspects, therefore addressing a broader spectrum of customer needs.
How does this acquisition fit into your overall business plan?
Packaging design has been a strength of ours for many years: Sidel was one of the first companies to introduce PET bottles to the beverage industry, more than 35 years ago. This has an impact both on the way we deal with new capital equipment sales and the way customers invest in new production capabilities. It’s very important to give customers a range of ways in which they can update their packaging choices.
One of the great things about PET is that you can change your packaging design as the market develops, for instance by emphasising new aspects of your product to make them more clear and appealing to your target consumers.
It’s an important tool to attract new customers and their investment plans, but also is a nice opportunity to reconnect with existing customers and support them in securing the value of an investment over its life cycle; it’s quite typical that customers change the design of their packaging every other year.
In terms of changing packaging designs, have you come across the emergence of new technologies for PET plastics?
In terms of PET plastics, I think it’s very important that we don’t see all plastic packaging just as plastic packaging. So PET is the better choice when it comes to packaging due to its 100% recyclability and of course due to increasing demand for lightweight, very flexible options.
Currently, we can observe trends in the food, home and personal care markets where customers are considering moving their packaging from other plastic types into PET because of the environmental performance that it holds, alongside other advantages.
How will the acquisition of PET engineering benefit manufacturing customers?
Packaging is a crucial element of any marketing mix: it must be eye-catching to identify brands in the marketplace with dependable performance all the way from concept to consumer.
For a long time, we have been supporting customers in ensuring that packaging, as a complete system (the bottle, plus the cap, plus the label), will offer the best brand experience to consumers. This aspect of our business will be enhanced through the acquisition of PET Engineering.
It’s important for the packaging to not only look aesthetically pleasing, but that it also runs industrially. We ensure that the packaging will function in the lines so that the products can run with higher pressures.
Additionally, as a lightweight material, PET also offers considerable environmental benefits in the form of lower transport costs and reduced fuel emissions. Its unique geometric properties and inherent barrier properties, together with its design flexibility, have enabled food and beverage manufacturers to use less and less material in the packaging process, while optimising energy use. These processes help reduce waste and improve sustainability measures.
This is a nice combination of better design and high performance.
In terms of community outreach, how is Sidel involved in education about sustainability?
This is indeed very much something that is discussed on a daily basis. We are participating largely in the PET value chain – especially in Europe – and I think the total value in beverage products is something like €211 billion with PET representing 48% of units consumed. It’s a very substantial value chain, of course.
We believe that this value chain will continue to show a positive trajectory, as PET is increasingly selected as the packaging material of choice. To address the environmental concern created by this trend, we need to consider the positive properties of PET we just mentioned together with the environmental costs related to it.
Figures from Western Europe show that actual volume of PET processed for recycling purposes reflected more than 56% of what is produced.
However, the great variance in the individual country collection rates demonstrates that there is still some work to be done, to fully apply a circular economy approach to PET packaging. I’m sure that the current discussion around plastic packaging and the initiatives taken by the European community will drive high recycling rates.
Renewability and recyclability are two aspects. In order to get renewable source materials, this will take approximately another 15 years, but substantially higher recyclability rates can neutralise the issue. Then, we have all the benefits of lightweight and so on that adds up to PET being a very good proposition.
When you can dictate the design of packaging, this opens up a multitude of options for customers seeking to use PET. When you then encompass the principles of circular economy, simple designs are key, and most PET packaging is already minimalistic.
It’s clear, has a simple cap, with a label that is very easy to detach – all the elements of the bottle are recyclable. This is of course important in a world where brand image is not only a matter of look and feel, but more and more it has to be associated with the end user’s conviction that the container will be re-used and recycled.
This is why we are designing packaging systems to be a resource and to offer the right protection to the product, so that the product itself is not wasted.
Sam Strömerstén was talking to FoodBev Media’s Harriet Jachec.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020