Today’s educated consumers are impacting marketplaces worldwide. This is true in overall product innovation and packaging design. As an example, in retail environments manufacturers require highly-designed packaging that doubles as on-shelf advertising. But even that is sometimes not enough. All consumers, particularly Millennials, expect more from businesses. If a business’ mission is conservationism, then the brands, products and packaging, all need to reflect that.
We chatted with Darin Tang, senior vice president of Strategic Packaging Solutions; and DeWitt Clark, vice president of food manufacturing at Veritiv, about how this company is not only changing the packaging landscape, but expertly offering material-neutral solutions and services to meet its customer needs.
Packaging Strategies: Veritiv is about to embark on its first anniversary, how is the business evolving?
Darin Tang: Our integration is going quite well. Combining two industry leaders into one company can sometimes be challenging, however, our team has worked hard to focus on bringing our customers through a seamless transition process with no lapse in service.
PS: Can you tell us what combining the two companies as Veritiv means for the business and the industry?
Tang: Both organizations had national footprints. However, and this was a surprise to us, there was little crossover in our customer base. We found our businesses were complementary. For instance, one company had a strong presence in Mexico and the other had a broad market position across Canada. Now, as Veritiv, the new organization completely spans North America. Additionally, we have strategic locations overseas to support our customers who are growing internationally, so we can also help them navigate packaging and supply chain complexities abroad.
The new Veritiv team has also created the foundation for being the packaging leader in North America. We have brought together some of the most talented packaging professionals with expertise, skills and leading-edge industry experience to make a difference for our customers.
PS: Describe the “Veritiv Difference”
Tang: It’s our people and their dedication to remain focused on the customer. At Veritiv, we believe in helping our customers solve complex packaging challenges while providing them speed-to-market – and this is very critical in the food business, for example. We concentrate on all the elements that make the entire supply chain more efficient, without losing stability. We help our customers ship smaller and lighter. For instance, in our food packaging business we are working with fiber technologies and coating technologies to create a moisture barrier in which we reduce fifty percent of the polyethylene coating. With this packaging solution, a product can actually sit inside the box without the need for an additional bag.
PS: What are some of the things that Veritiv is currently working on for the packaging industry that we can look forward to?
Tang: We have three major areas that we are expanding:
One, we continue to expand our comprehensive approach to provide customized structural packaging and graphic design to fit our customer needs. We have 13 Veritiv design centers across the country. One of the advantages with Veritiv is that we are material neutral. We are all about selling the right solutions, the right materials and the right substrates. We are becoming interlinked with our customers’ brand managers, so we can do more for them, and they don’t have to outsource to multiple vendors. In other words, our customers can consolidate and look to Veritiv to help them advance their brand, which can lead to cost savings.
Secondly, we have expanded our capabilities at our Design Centers to include full ISTA testing, including crush and vibration testing in order to ensure our customers can pass stringent freight requirements.
And finally, we are also expanding our private brand approach by offering a product called TUFflex®. We are scouring the supply base to expand into this brand, which comes with a promise: TUFflex provides enduring performance, maximum efficiency and unmatched value at an attractive price.
PS: What are some of the trends shaping the food packaging industry?
DeWitt Clark: We have seen a recent trend of consumers shopping for food in non-traditional outlets such as mass market drug stores, dollar stores, and smaller specialty shops, such as farmer’s markets and health stores. These retailers offer different shopping experiences, which affects inbound deliveries and at-the-shelf packaging. This trend, combined with ever-increasing consumer expectations for healthier, on-the-go foods, has a significant impact on packaging requirements and ultimately the packaging performance characteristics.
PS: What are some of the challenges food and beverage manufacturers face?
Clark: One of the biggest challenges we see is food safety, which is becoming increasingly complex and no longer just the responsibility of the manufacturer. Each link in the supply chain must now have ownership in food safety.
PS: How is the consumer demand for sustainable packaging impacting the food packaging industry?
Clark: Consumers are looking for sustainable options in the packaging of products they are purchasing. Veritiv works with our customers to ensure they have sustainable packaging options when appropriate. Part of our role is to lead product innovation with our suppliers, which may be finding ways to use byproducts as a resource, and reduce waste. For example, we recently launched a tree free board, Earth Pact™ – made from 100 percent sugar cane fiber – which will be used to make folding cartons.
PS: Looking forward, what are things that food packagers need to be preparing for now?
Clark: An area to consider is the potential impact of an E-commerce platform combined with the right supply chain solution that economically delivers to the home the fresh food that Millennials are demanding. To a certain degree, we are already seeing this happen, in the recipe or meal kit delivery services area. If the supply chain portion of this challenge could be solved for fresh foods, this market could increase dramatically.
About Veritiv Corporation:
Veritiv Corporation (veritivcorp.com) is a North American leader in business-to-business distribution solutions. Serving customers across virtually every industry, Veritiv provides print, packaging, facility and logistics solutions that help shape the success of its customers. Established in 2014, following the merger of International Paper Company’s xpedx division and Unisource Worldwide, the company employs approximately 8,900 team members across more than 180 distribution centers throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada.