Sustainability, innovation, and partnerships key themes at The Packaging Conference

February 13, 2012

Attendees of The Packaging Conference (Feb. 6-8; Aria City Center; Las Vegas) saw a different type of green in Las Vegas, as sustainability, versus greenbacks, seemed to be on the mind of most.

In fact, almost all of the speeches touched on sustainability at point or another.

Ecologic Brands chief innovation and packaging officer Glenn May told PlasticsToday how sustainable practices are, in part, driven by consumer demand.

"Consumers are smart, and the next generation does care and read labels," he said. "We make sure we are doing our homework and are producing products that are truly better for the environment."

Yu Shi, world wide director of early research at Colgate, discussed Colgate's approach to sustainability and said while the company is a long way from 100% recyclability; they are getting there.

"What does the consumer want?" she asked. "Consumers want sustainability."

Michael Okoroafor, VP global packaging for H.J. Heinz, talked about the company's sustainability approach and mentioned how adopting green practices can provide a competitive advantage.

"Sustainability is imperative, you can make money by doing good," he said.

PepsiCo VP of global beverage packaging Denise Lefebvre mentioned Pepsi's initiative to incorporate more renewable material in its products on a wide scale, but the process must be cost effective. Last year, the company announced a 100% plant-based PET bottle that is expected to pilot this year.

"We do want PET that is 100% renewable but at a good cost," she said. "We won't get there if it is at a higher premium. We are focused on technology that gives us cost efficiency."


As expected, the importance of innovation in the industry was also discussed frequently.

Thomas Blaige, CEO of Blaige & Co., said companies that don't invest and keep up with technology are the ones that seem to be in "trouble."

"Those plastic processors with 20-year-old equipment make us nervous," he said. "When companies invest in infrastructure, it is a sign of innovation."

Okoroafor said Heinz exhibits an innovation mindset, and uses it to help break through a cluttered marketplace, and to help the brand grow. He mentioned there are a lot of insights that go into understanding consumer needs, desires and wants, and that's how the company formulates its strategy for addressing innovation.


Lefebvre said Pepsi is always on the lookout for strategic partnerships, which echoed what Okoroafor told the audience.

Okoroafor is part of the team that developed the PlantBottle at Coca-Cola Co.

"Because the companies complement one another in several ways, it was easy for us to work together," he said. "Strategic partnerships keep driving things and helps leverage us into prosperity."

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