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Flexibility and efficiency are key

Despite the difficult economic environment, Mayr-Melnhof Packaging’s Andreas Blaschke, the new president of the European Carton Makers Association, sees significant opportunities for cartonboard and cartons

The financial crisis, recession, crash, has erased consumer and company confidences to a great extent. Even the supply of massive liquidity at low interest rates might not bring along big changes. Almost all industrial sectors have started to report decreasing orders, capacity utilisation and thus pricing power. Perhaps it’s rather the silence before a big stagnation than before the big storm. Yet, private consumption and folding carton demand still don’t seem that much affected. But all indicators are pointing downward.

Packaging for foodstuff is usually more stable with regards to the general economic performance, and non-food products such as electronics and other durable consumer goods will always be more exposed. Dealing with ever-increasing complexity, short lead times and high quality at continuously falling prices will stay a challenge for everyone in the industry. The highest level of flexibility linked with the best possible efficiency will stay key.

The packaging market is focusing more and more on sustainability and efficiency, and the folding carton industry is well prepared and set-up for this development.

Folding cartons have very strong sustainable arguments, being based on renewable raw materials and that the product can be recycled completely after consumption. And we hear that the general public is becoming increasingly concerned about plastics.

Innovation has always been key for entering new markets, and shelf appearance and conviction at the moment of truth are gaining more and more in importance. As a consequence, branded goods manufacturers as well as private label producers are directing a lot of attention at the final consumer decision. Innovation covering all aspects of folding cartons is paramount in winning in this crucial moment.

Regarding the future developments of ECMA and the co-operation with Pro Carton (see the full interview with Blaschke on, ECMA was set up in 1960 by 10 national carton associations in Europe. The idea was to provide a European networking and information platform for their members in the context of post-war recovery, and to stimulate technological development and standardisation at a time when supermarkets were still a curiosity and markets were mostly restricted to national territories.

Now, more than 50 years later, the situation has changed drastically. The European Union is now a mature, integrated market, customers and suppliers have become European or even global, and the playing field for carton makers, therefore, extends far beyond their national home market. To a large extent, Brussels dictates legislation relevant to the packaging sector, and customers are no longer willing to support different practices for different countries. All this demands a stronger European umbrella organisation for the carton industry.

Future objectives

Over the past 10 years, ECMA has extended its European presence by offering platforms for carton makers with a European scope, but more is needed. In our ‘Roadmap 2015’ we have defined five key objectives:

1. To encourage the European folding carton industry to raise the bar and improve its overall financial and operational performance on an international scale.

2. To establish folding cartons as the trusted ‘safe for food’ packaging.

3. To obtain recognition of cartons as the sustainable packaging of choice.

4. To upgrade the overall positioning of the sector in relation to legislative authorities, media and stakeholders.

5. To secure the recognition of ECMA as the competent pan-European umbrella for the carton sector.

In many of these areas, ECMA and Pro Carton have interests in common, for instance in the promotion of our product, in establishing a dialogue with our supply chain and representing our common interest as cartonboard packaging providers towards European authorities, media and stakeholders.

A critical condition of success in this respect is, however, that we align our efforts and that there is a sense of joint ‘ownership’ between carton makers and the board industry when we determine our common goals, programmes and actions.

My first imperative as president will be set upon turning the ECMA into a more powerful and effective organization; second, to speak with a stronger voice at the relevant European and national bodies; and third, to attract more interest from members, corporate companies and national representatives.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and may not be shared by this publication.

Andreas Blaschke Andreas Blaschke

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