Packaging Strategies spoke with mechanical engineer Misha Riveros. She is the senior VP of engineering at PAC Worldwide where she leads the engineering group's R&D, design and production operations.
What types of packaging innovations are you seeing that you find most promising and why?
First is End of Line Automation. There are claims that the packaging industry grew the equivalent of 10-plus years in the last 18 months. The hyper acceleration of e-commerce growth and continued labor shortages has lowered the economic justification bar for investment in automation … end of line automation as a competitive advantage is now in many cases a competitive necessity. I am excited about the focus we are placing on growing our position this important growth market. We have no intention to stop at developing curbside recyclable complements to our product line. We are also increasing our portfolio of automation equipment that will allow customers to make these on demand.
Second, Sustainable Materials Innovation. Demand for socially responsible-sourced materials is a global trend that will continue to grow, driven by both consumer demand as well as legislation. Innovation is leading to the discovery and development of new, natural, renewable raw materials — but we are still far from true scalable solutions and demand continues to exceed available supplies. This is an exciting market to watch — it’s a matter of time until demand driven innovation begins to yield scalable options.
Sustainability is a broad concept — can you share some insight on what makes materials/packaging sustainable by your definition?
Packaging design is sustainable when it contributes to improving or preserving quality of life for individuals and communities. It does so in three principal ways:
- Incorporating renewed or recyclable materials
- Incorporating right-size design strategy
= lower transportation costs/ emissions
= optimized use of materials
- Participating in the circular economy
What is important to today’s customers?
For consumers, replacing the instant gratification (see, buy, carry out) of the traditional retail purchase experience is important. They want the ability to develop a “relationship” with their online purchase from the moment they order until it arrives at their doorstep, and they want to know that their purchase is part of a socially responsible cycle.
What type of materials/products are able to address those customer needs?
The sweet spot for today’s packaging innovators is product development directed at smart packaging and products that are right sized, made from sustainable/circular economy materials and are curbside recyclable.
By smart packaging I am referring to active as well as intelligent packaging ... as a consumer, I can have a relationship with my purchase from the moment I order it, with the ability to track it as it is picked, packed and transported. For certain types of packaging (perishables/cold chain) I can also know what environment my package experienced on its journey from warehouse to my doorstep.