Bioplastics made its official entry into the world of Luxury Packaging and I couldn’t resist the urge to attend the conference and to measure the temperature. I wanted to see how bioplastics was perceived by customers, brand owners and end-users. A real-Life test. Conclusion: it was disruptive!
The organisers described the event as follow
EDITION SPECIALE by LUXE PACK is focusing on sustainability and eco-design for tomorrow’s packaging, establishing and embracing continuous improvement.
To be honest with you, I thought it was going to be a fiasco in the sense that there would be no bioplastics, but I was wrong. Around 20% of all exhibitors were selling bioplastics. Most of them had something in common: they wanted to innovate.
The main conclusions are:
- Bioplastics will become more and more important in the luxury packaging.
- Luxury brands and products can afford to invest in more sustainable materials and bioplastics is the new kid on the block.
- The first luxury articles to use bioplastics packaging will be jewellery, watches and cosmetics (creams and perfume).
- Bio-composites will be used for the boxes (watches, jewellery).
- Bioplastics will be used for the packaging that comes into direct contact with the product (cream, perfumes etc)
The main reasons given by the sales reps when asked: why are your clients (brand owners) interested in bioplastics?
- They want sustainability;
- They want natural products (no fossil oil);
- It’s biodegradable or compostable.
- It’s clean for the environment.
- Plastic has become a forbidden word.
- It’s a new material and considered as an innovation and modern.
Here are some bioplastics examples that I saw:
BIO-COMPOSITES LUXURY PACKAGING
Bio-composite made from celluloses. Readers will recognise Finnish company Sulapac.
PP + Rice Husk
POLYLACTIC ACID – PLA
Reusable drinking cups
Bags made of 100% PLA…
PBS made from manioc
Or as ze french call it …. Faux Leather
- The only bioplastics brand sold to me proactively by a sales rep was … Durabio. Who would have thought this! Durabio… Jesus Christ. To quote his words: “this is made with Durabio”. He didn’t know that Durabio was a brand name; he thought it was a material. When I told him it was a trade mark of Japanese Company called Mitsubishi Chemical. He looked at me as if I was pulling a joke on him.
- Congratulations to cosmetic company Chanel for buying a stake in Sulapac. These samples may give us a hint as to how the future packaging of Chanel may look like. The sales rep didn’t use the brand name Sulapac in his sales pitch.
- Many sales reps sold their products as being made from bioplastics but they didn’t know much about it. Some didn’t even know that PLA was a bioplastics. Why do you call it bioplastics or what is bioplastics? They didn’t know.
- One of the sales reps told me: “My clients don’t want PLA … Everything except PLA” Why? “Because they use food to make plastics.” Interesting to note that most of the PLA is made with US corn. The fuel vs food debate found its origin in Brazil with the palm oil and Biofuel fiasco. In Brazil they use sugar cane to make bioplastics. It should be more logical to blame sugar cane bioplastics instead of US corn bioplastics for the food issue.
- Most of the sales rep didn’t know who produced PLA. Nobody knew the name “NatureWorks”. Let’s not even talk about “Ingeo”. The Americans may have lost a marketing battle here.
- Someone also mentioned that PLA was made with genetically modified corn.
- Some sales Rep knew the brand “I’m Green” but didn’t know it was Bio-PE or made by Braskem.
- Many sales reps referred to their bioplastics as sugar cane but never as corn.
- It seems as if Braskem did a good marketing and communications job:
- Some sales Rep knew the I’m Green brand;
- PLA was blamed for the food vs fuel debate but not Bio-PE. Brazil sugar cane is not linked to the food issue.
- Sales reps referred to their packaging as being made from “sugar cane” but no one referred to it as being made from corn. They’ll just say PLA.
- Last but not least: I got into a discussion regarding bio-based and biodegradable shopping bags and asked one of the sales rep if he knew the company ‘Novamont’. His answer was astonishing. “Novamont is crap (Novamont c’est du pipo), we don’t want it”. I almost fall of my chair. Why? “Because it’s not the real thing, it’s only half bio-based”. I was astonished and didn’t know what to say.
- Never loose contact with you end-customers.
- Train the full sales chain.
- Don’t hesitate to challenge the status-quo.
- Don’t stop investing in marketing and R&D.
Have you heard of the following companies? It’s just incredible what they do….