"Novel solutions that seemed futuristic yesterday are already becoming today’s reality."
TIPA is an Israeli firm that first started business in 2010. It has developed a unique packaging solution which is just as firm and impermeable as normal plastic alternatives. The only difference is its ability to decompose within 180 days and become an additional fertiliser for soil. The CEO Daphna Nissenbaum identified a need to create more sustainable solutions especially for food packaging. Daphna partnered with fellow co-founder Tal Neuman who had a previous career producing with top graphic and industrial designers specialising in lifestyle product media campaigns. Tal also served as a training and product manager for a leading Israeli importer of consumer products, representing international high-end brands and this has helped TIPA's business strategies. With most plastic ending up in landfill sites, Daphna wanted to investigate the market opportunities for compostable food packaging. When she asked scientists for potential solutions, they all told her this would probably be impossible which motivated her to succeed. In an industry worth $93 billion with very few bioplastic alternatives, TIPA has started their journey early in the market and their potential over the coming years is a very exciting prospect! This week we spoke to Julia Schifter, TIPA’s Business Development Manager who gave us a thorough insight into the industry and the problems the market faces.
Emily O’Dowd (EOD) ( @BioBasedEmily): What has led you to this role?
Julia Schifter (JS): Just after I had finished my MBA, I started working at TIPA ( @ ) in 2012. I was very interested in working in the clean sector and having a positive impact on the world we live in. I’ve always been very aware of the environmental problems our planet is facing today so it was my main focus to work with a company where the product could help make a difference. Whilst Israel is vibrant for the clean sector, it mostly focuses on renewable energy rather plastic consumption. I came across TIPA when reading an article about the company - I thought their business idea was great and really wanted to be part of it. I decided to email the CEO and two months later I was lucky enough to get the job! I have been working for TIPA ever since and I still feel just as fortunate.
EOD: How have you seen the plastic industry change?
JS: For TIPA, it all starts with the question of how we can change the devastating course of the plastic waste. When approaching such a big challenge to a new market, you must first learn what the companies’ needs are. Traditional plastic is so convenient, cheap and it’s functional. Therefore, for many firms it makes a lot of sense to continue using plastic. So when new sustainable solutions are brought into the industry some businesses have to consider this opportunity on many different levels. In recent years there have been developments in plastic shopping bags and basic packages, but there is almost nothing out there for sophisticated food packaging. It means that the industry is very fresh, new and exciting!
Bio-Based World News reported about a recent collaboration between Tipa and UK-based surplus food company called Snact which you can read about here.
EOD: Are there some companies that TIPA have been approached and thought sustainable packaging was too much of a risk?
JS: Well, first of all we try to be very focused on who we approach in the industry. Some businesses prefer to wait for the market to evolve before they make decisions. Naturally, at this stage, TIPA provide solutions to those who want to lead the way and become one of the first in the industry to make a positive environmental change. In meetings that I have been in, I’ve always had a positive response to our products because what we offer is just like plastic but environmentally friendly!
Of course, some companies have to assess what their main focus is at that time. Our challenge is to make sustainable plastic packaging a key focus for every business.
EOD: Whilst we have already discussed some of the challenges in the industry, what have been your personal challenges?
JS: The food industry is a very cautious industry and rightly so – after all, the packaging needs to function on many different levels and so much know-how has been built in order to create the perfect packaging per each product. Therefore, the process for the food companies to, indeed, validate any new technology such as TIPA’s is usually a thorough and lengthy one. Therefore, once we’ve validated our technology with the food brands it is such a great triumph for everyone. Another obvious challenge we face is that like any other breakthrough technology - bioplastic packaging costs more today than conventional plastic. For the visionary brands, like one of customers phrased it, it’s a small premium to pay for ‘doing the right thing’ and addresses the increasing consumer demand for eco-friendly packaging.
EOD: What advice would you give for a new start-up in the sustainable industry?
JS: Patience, patience, patience! The great thing about start-ups there is that we can make quick business decisions. So it is important to use this to your advantage because you can adjust to what the market needs in an agile fashion. This is definitely a vital benefit because along some parts of the value chain, decision making can take much longer! Therefore, it is important that you have patience especially when you are coming up with more radical solutions which will inevitably take more time to consider. Then secondly, it is important to develop a good pipeline for sales and new products that you are going to launch. This will secure yourself in terms of revenue but also prepare you for the future sales and competition to come.
EOD: What single change is likely to help the industry move forward?
JS: I believe one of the most important changes that can happen is on the regulation side. If we think about France, new legislation is really propelling the sustainable industry forward now that sustainable shopping bags are compulsory. This is tremendous help when millions of dollars are being poured into research and development for bioplastics. There has been a lot of money spent in the industry so that the world can enjoy this new type of plastic, but the market needs to adapt too. Therefore, legislation can really help link the industry and the market together. By contrast, the Netherlands have introduced tax reductions for consumers who think about their environmental responsibilities. However, regulation can take a long time, so you can’t solely depend on this.
Consumers have a lot of power in making brands change behaviour. It is important that new solutions are demonstrated through the media and Non-Governmental Organisations which play a big role in this. The industry will move forward if everyone works together – the corporate industry has to move alongside legislation.
If you would like to hear more from Tipa Corp, Daphna Nissenbaum the company's CEO will be a guest speaker at our second annual Bio-Based Live Europe conference!
EOD: Where would you like to see TIPA in 5 years’ time?
JS: As a young company just entering the market, we have aimed to work with other small/premium brands to begin with because decisions are easier to take place. Whereas, larger recognisable brands can take a lot longer – not because they don’t want to see change but because the chain of command can be a challenge.
But, like I said, the flexible packaging industry is a $93 billion market with billions of packages negatively harming our environment for many years to come. So our goal is for TIPA to change the perception that a package doesn’t have to last for 500 years in landfill sites. In the 80s we used to drink from glass bottles, but in a very quick process it became plastic. At this time, plastic used to cost more than glass and many thought it was impossible that it could ever overtake glass in the packaging industry. But it happened… So to conclude, my hope for TIPA – and the world! is that we can help to change behaviour quick enough. After all, novel solutions that seemed futuristic yesterday are already becoming today’s reality.
EOD: Thank you for your time today Julia and good luck with the on-going developments at TIPA!
Bio-Based World News will bring this new 5 minute feature to our readers every week. This will able to put a face to the brand and provide established businesses and new start-ups the crucial advise they need in this industry. If you would like to be interviewed about your own bio-based/sustainable business then please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week's 5 minutes with... Steve Hurff, Vice President for Marketing and Sales at DuPont Tate and Lyle Bio Products.
Next week's 5 minutes will feature... David Anderson, Global Vice President of Marketing at Green Biologics.
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