"When creating a value proposition, being able to quantify environmental benefits is important. It is also critical to consider intangible benefits such as company image and brand equity."
Tetra Pak, a multinational food packaging company was founded by Ruben Rausing and built on Erik Wallenberg’s initial innovation – a tetrahedron shaped plastic-coated paper carton, from which the company name was derived. It first established in 1952 with a different approach to the packaging process. Since then, the firm now produces packaging, filling machines and processing for prepared food and drink. Tetra Pak is currently the largest food packaging company in the world by sales, operating in more than 170 countries and with over 23,000 employees. This week our reporter Emily O'Dowd spoke to Omer Emran ahead of Bio-Based Live Europe. After joining the company in 2010 as a Marketing Manager for the Greater Middle East markets, Omer is now responsible for the development and deployment of Tetra Pak’s environmental product portfolio including all bio-based packaging material globally.
Emily O'Dowd (EOD): What has led you to this role?
Omer Emran (OE): Coming from a marketing background I understand the importance of putting the customer at the heart of what we do. This role gives me the opportunity to not only develop sustainable products, but to also create customer and consumer centric value propositions. It is a balancing act, where collaboration is key to success in order to take a complete value chain perspective, maximising the environmental benefits while also making these products commercially viable for our customers.
EOD: What do you enjoy most about your role?
OE: Interacting across multiple geographies, with multi-cultural and cross functional teams is an exciting way of working.
Omer Emran will be a guest speaker at this year's Bio-Based Live Europe conference in partnership with the University of Amsterdam! It's not too late to book your pass here.
EOD: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced in the industry?
OE: One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced at Tetra Pak on our journey to developing fully renewable packaging has been replacing all protective layers in our aseptic packaging with a renewable alternative. Unfortunately, the technology is not yet available to do so. It is important that we get this right because the aluminium foil, (which is eight times thinner than human hair), in the aseptic package provides vital protection to its contents by acting as a barrier to bacteria, sunlight, and oxygen, which enables the contents to last for months without preservatives or refrigeration. Therefore, any replacement layer will need to do the same.
However, we have already made great strides. In 2015, Tetra Pak launched the first fully renewable package Tetra Rex Bio-based and within a year we reached 100 Million packs, across 4 markets winning 9 awards.
Plus, our Tetra Brik Aseptic 1000 Edge with Bio-based LightCap 30 launched in December 2016, this is the first package with the highest percentage of renewable materials certified for an aseptic carton (more than 80%). The carton package is made from paper, aluminium and polyethylene layers. The paper is a renewable material and the polyethylene layers are made from low-density polyethylene (LDPE) sourced from sugar cane, and the cap is made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE) also sourced from sugar cane.
Our next step on the journey for the Tetra Brik Aseptic Edge 1000ml, is to add a bio-based neck for the cap, which we expect to roll this out this year.
EOD: What advice would you give for someone starting work in the sustainable/bio-based industry?
OE: To take a value chain approach, look for innovative opportunities that will bring maximum benefit starting from suppliers, customers, to end consumers.
When creating a value proposition, being able to quantify environmental benefits is important. It is also critical to consider intangible benefits such as company image and brand equity.
EOD: What single change would help develop the bio-based/sustainable industry further?
OE: The availability of sustainable raw materials needed to make bio-based plastics on a commercial scale.
Currently, Tetra Pak’s bio-based polyethylene is made from sugar cane. After being harvested, the sugar cane is crushed and its juice captured, fermented and distilled to produce ethanol. The ethanol is dehydrated to ethylene, which is then polymerised to polyethylene and made into caps and plastic layers.
Today the source of our renewable polymers is Brazilian sugar cane, the only commercially available renewable source for bio-based polyethylene.
There are many developments today with renewable materials coming from new sources. However, they are all still in the early development stage, with very few available in commercial volumes. Further research and development is needed to be able to successfully and sustainably move away from fossil fuels to renewable polymers.
EOD: Where would you like to see Tetra Pak in 5 years’ time?
OE: It would be great to realise our ambition to develop an aseptic package, in which all materials used in the package would come from renewable sources achieving a high standard of environmental performance.
EOD: What is your favourite bio-based/sustainable product aside from your own product range?
OE: The Tesla Model 3 car will launch this year, and this is an exciting step for the automotive industry, and one I am very much looking forward to.
EOD: What’s the most significant change you have noticed in the bio-based space over the last five years?
OE: The most significant change I have noticed is the increase in consumer knowledge and awareness of environmental packaging. For example, over 70% of consumers told us in 2015 that they have purchased an environmental product, even if it costs more! As a result, the development of the bio-based material market is rapidly growing.
Bio-Based World News will bring this 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... 5 minutes with... Pieter-Dave Boekel, Product Manager at Interflon BV
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