E-commerce, environmental impact and maintaining profitability are but a few of the challenges facing the packaging industry, according to top industry practitioners gathered in Wilmington this spring to judge the 28th DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation.

Commenting on the increasing pressure and the need to juggle a wide array of demands, the commonality of concerns reported from markets worldwide was striking. While assessing nearly 200 entries and selecting this year’s top innovators, the judges answered a series of questions on packaging trends, all captured in a six-part video series. The second video in the series, in which judges were asked to name the biggest challenges facing the packaging industry, was released today.

“I think we’re at a tipping point … the intersection of e-commerce and sustainability,” says Marianne Rosner Klimchuk, associate chairperson, Fashion Institute of Technology. “I saw a lot of this in the submissions … this moment in time is that pivotal point in which sustainability and e-commerce are coming together [with] people looking to reduce use of materials and thinking about innovation in terms of e-commerce.”

Finding sustainable solutions economically is a concern felt around the globe and throughout the supply chain. Brian Rivers, engineering fellow of Strategic Sourcing at Sealed Air Corporation, said: “The biggest challenge in today’s packaging industry is to bring new innovative products to the marketplace while still targeting sustainability goals and profitability goals for both the consumer and the packaging company.”

Sanjay Ghoshal, senior director and global head of Packaging at India’s Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, agrees. “Today the biggest challenge facing the packaging industry is the environmental impact it creates and the design that it can have to lessen the burden on the environment.”

Speed to market and driving growth are deepening challenges. “We’re also asked to get to the market faster, so instead of a 12- to 18-month R&D cycle for development, we’re asked to do it in say, nine to 12 months,” says Amazon senior manager of supply chain packaging Suzanne Fisher. “That’s very challenging … making sure that you’re … trying new things but failing fast, learning from it and then going on with a good package.”

Jeff Schuetz, Sonoco’s staff vice president of Global Technology Consumer Packaging, adds, “Speaking for the markets I’m familiar with …trying to figure out how we can effectively and efficiently help them grow through packaging innovation is an ongoing challenge.”

The need for more consumer education and benefits also were top of mind. Lead judge David Luttenberger, CPP, global packaging director for the Mintel Group, says, “Helping consumers understand the importance of packaging [is a challenge], whether it’s in food, drink, medicine or just giving them economical access to the products that they need every day … to make their lives easier, more convenient, safer and make them feel more confident not only about the products they buy, but the role packaging plays in helping ensure that those products maintain their freshness, their quality and their efficacy.”

PepsiCo Brazil’s R&D Packaging Manager Eduardo Yugue cited the need to propose: “a new consumer experience [of] food packaging, new opportunities, new consumption occasions. This is what we are looking for in Brazil, not only to protect the product but also provide other benefits to the consumer.”

“Today’s biggest challenge facing the packaging industry is the number of challenges the industry has,” comments Mars global petcare packaging sustainability director Colin Yates. “We’re faced with legislation, we’re faced with NGOs and sustainability, we’re faced with cost pressures…it’s the number of different things that we have to try and juggle.”

The DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation is the industry’s longest running, global, independently judged celebration of innovation and collaboration throughout the value chain and is recognized globally as the leading packaging awards program. The international competition honors innovations in packaging design, materials, technology and processes.

The independent panel of packaging experts from across the globe evaluated nearly 200 entries from more than 25 countries, selecting a total of 22 winners. In the first of a six-part series of video interviews, the judges discussed the latest trends in packaging design.

The DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation’s Diamond Award recognizes one entry which truly excels in all three categories: technological advancement, responsible packaging and enhanced user experience. The newly inaugurated Diamond Finalist award, given to six companies, acknowledges the growing number of packaging innovations that excel in all three categories. As a result of ground-breaking, cutting-edge excellence in the packaging marketplace, judges awarded a new Leadership in Innovation Award. The judges awarded five gold winners and nine silver winners based on “excellence” in one or two categories. 

DuPont Performance Materials (DPM) is a leading innovator of thermoplastics, elastomers, renewably sourced polymers, high-performance parts and shapes, as well as resins that act as adhesives, sealants, and modifiers. DPM supports a globally linked network of regional application development experts who work with customers throughout the value chain to develop innovative solutions in automotive, packaging, construction, consumer goods, electrical/electronics and other industries.