Tomorrow’s packaging: more functionalities, more sustainable

bruno-guillematBruno Guillemat
Head of Packaging Department
Pernod Ricard Research Center

For Pernod Ricard, packaging innovation is directly linked to an environmentally-friendly approach. The trend towards packaging ‘premiumization’ in the wine and spirits sector goes hand in hand with the sustainable development approach. However, packaging must also become more functional and more interactive. The development of new technologies is also involved in fighting counterfeiting and enhancing consumer experience; two topics which are particularly dear to Pernod Ricard.

In the wine and spirits sector, packaging development lies in the ‘premiumization’ of packs, with luxury packaging moving upmarket – while taking into account the environmental requirements (recyclability, choice of materials, reducing carbon footprint…). Sustainable development represents both a constraint and new innovation opportunities. Pernod Ricard has therefore started thinking abouthow to combine luxury and sustainable development; a true challenge and a source of inspiration for tomorrow’s packaging innovation.

‘Premiumizing’ glass in an environmentally friendly manner

On our markets, glass remains the material of reference. It conveys quality, preservation and purity. Studies are regularly conducted to reduce the weight of bottles. Process development makes it easier to address distribution of materials, to monitor thickness profiles, and to work on design in order to ‘premiumize’ glass.
We may however use alternatives to glass for new markets and new products, like Malibu portable pouches, with flexible packaging.
In secondary packaging, the environmentally-friendly approach is more important yet. We innovate in order to increase the product visibility in the store displays while addressing the environmental aspects. Work is done in particular on gift boxes and limited editions. The issue is to avoid combining incompatible materials and excessively complex packaging to favor recyclability.

Innovating for enhanced consumer experience

Packaging must also follow the change in consumer habits and be user-friendly It is therefore more than a mere bottle: further functions and services have to be included in it so that it becomes part of the consumer experience, i.e. help the brand connectand interact with consumers. Facilitating handling and pouring may lead to changing the cap or customizing the product depending on the consumer’s tastes. Innovating also consists in offering new ways of consuming and preparing our products.

The Pernod Ricard Research Center is working in that direction. It carries out many additional tasks: monitoring and sharing ideas to identify technological opportunities and innovative packaging solutions; providing our subsidiaries technical support to speed up the innovation process; and setting up transversal project teams to acquire new knowledge and devote it to product innovation. These three tasks allow us to identify opportunities. It should be pointed out that packaging is part of the product. Packaging innovation can only be achieved in combination with product innovation.

Adapting packaging lines

These innovations and constraints have an impact on production chains. Our suppliers’ material has to be developed, or even integrated in new equipment used in other areas of application. As premium bottles have more fragile and sophisticated gift packs, further precautions must be taken on the lines. Alternatives to glass also require specific packaging lines.

The complex new capping solutions result in modifying the tools used to position these new caps.

Although traditional caps are crimped, we are moving towards more premium caps with more complex and appealing forms, which require other capping techniques.

Faced with the increased complexity of packaging, tomorrow’s machines will have to be more flexible. Glass containers have a very specific design, forms that are no longer cylindrical, variable formats and caps that may differ depending on the country (in particular to address counterfeiting).

Fighting counterfeits

Our brands have to be protected, above all on sensitive markets. Pernod Ricard has therefore set up a specific structure to fight against counterfeits, in which the Research Center takes part at the technical level. In particular we are working on a tamper-evident capping system that ensures consumers that the packaging is tamper-free.

We use new technologies to better secure capping. Our caps are therefore difficult to copy and non-reusable. They act as a lock. We are also working on all packaging items in our bottles by including identification and authentication technologies.

Codes and marking are incorporated in the cap, the label and the bottle. QR Codes may be of interest in facilitating the interaction with consumers and involving them in the checking our products. Lastly, vision and robotics take part in quality control and the assembly of complex parts for premium packaging.

Developing increasingly functional packaging

Lastly, innovative packaging should be able to better communicate, adapt to its environment and protect it, give information and interact with consumers. Printed electronics and miniaturized energy might bring new functions – or new services – to packaging which are ideal to enhance consumer experience and interactivity with the brand.
For example, we could offer new functions incorporated into the packaging: help consumers better use our products (by providing advice on preservation and consumption), facilitating their use, suggesting recipes or giving more information on the brand. This could help go further in the brand experience through mobile and digital applications, QR Codes, or new technologies.

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