New EU packaging rules: what’s the impact for brands?
From artisanal spirits to world-renowned fragrances, packaging is a key component of some of Europe’s most beloved products and an important part of brand identity, helping consumers differentiate between products.
But the way European brands can package their products now looks set to face major changes. Brussels policymakers are entering the latter stages of discussions on the Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), a set of updated EU-wide packaging rules. With a transformation of EU packaging rules on the cards, brands and retailers will need to adapt their approach to packaging. The coming challenge? Finding new ways to reduce packaging waste and promote reuse and recycling, while safeguarding packaging quality and their brand identity.
In our latest live Q&A, Jose Ramón Fernandez (Director of European Affairs at Pernod Ricard) and Vanessa Chesnot (Head of Public Affairs and Product Policy at FEVE) explained the European Commission’s waste reduction proposals and their impact on Europe’s brands.
A distorted packaging market could be a new business reality
The new proposals include new recyclability standards, waste prevention and reuse measures and other packaging requirements that will radically change the packaging landscape in the EU. Brands and glass manufacturers are welcoming the EU’s ambitious targets to transition to a circular economy for packaging materials. However, some of the proposals on waste reduction targets can have strong repercussions on European brands and industries.
“As European container glass manufacturing, our commitments are fully in line with the EU’s ambition to build a circular economy and advance the circularity of packaging. […] Our main concern is that these waste reduction targets are not material-specific, but have only one overarching target. This might lead to severe market distortions and to a shift from heavier but circular materials (like glass), to lighter but harder to recycle, or reuse packaging.” – Vanessa Chesnot
Although the EU’s targets were designed for environmental protection, they risk limiting the availability of packaging for essential European industries and result in adverse environmental consequences, such as an increase in plastic packaging, without reducing generation of waste.
This is why the glass industry calls for material-specific waste prevention targets to ensure each packaging material contributes fairly to waste reduction. As the industry adjusts to new EU environmental regulations, glass packaging manufacturers continue to innovate to offer brands and retailers a trusted, recyclable, and healthy packaging material that allows them to store and sell their products in a high-quality and safe packaging material.
Ensuring weight minimisation while preserving brand identity
By promoting circular designs, improving recycling, and stepping up their decarbonisation efforts, businesses are already working to reduce waste and preserve natural resources. Yet, new weight reduction requirements will also impact the opportunities for brands to use packaging design as part of their brand identity. This move towards design standardisation has far-reaching implications for brands, consumers, and packaging manufacturers, as packaging is closely connected to the product itself.
“Our company, as everyone in our industry, has devoted a great deal of time, resources, creativity and value to creating distinctive packaging that is uniquely associated with categories and brands.” – Jose Ramón Fernandez
If packaging minimisation criteria as they stand are adopted as part of the new EU PPWR, the unique and innovative packaging designs that build brands will be a thing of the past. Colours, shapes, and textures are inherent in a product’s brand identity. In fact, primary packaging is a fundamental factor in product enhancement and consumer choice that can help build consumer loyalty, according to research from the University of Parma.
“These packaging minimisation requirements risk damaging the European industry’s reputation, competitiveness and profitability. The PPWR should not force brands to standardise their packaging, but rather recognise the added value of packaging design in helping products stand out on the shelves, shaping brand identity, and building consumer loyalty.” – Vanessa Chesnot
Addressing environmental concerns through recycling and lightweighting
The glass industry is working to harness more and more of glass’s unique potential as a single-layer and infinitely recyclable material to provide brands with an inherently circular, versatile and safe packaging option that is consistent with sustainability goals and trusted by consumers.
Glass manufacturers welcome even more ambition to further promote closed-loop and high-quality recycling and ensure that all packaging is recyclable in practice, and at scale, as soon as possible. Glass production is up to meeting the growing demand for sustainable inert packaging with more recycled glass content than ever, while energy consumption is down in furnaces. Thanks to innovation and new technologies, the glass industry is able to deliver on lighter weight glass packaging that is also 70% less energy-intensive and emits 50% less CO2 than fifty years ago.
“We fully recognise the efforts going forward, but there are a couple of them we would like to highlight now. As you can imagine, package minimisation is, for us, a fundamental one. We saw the European Commission completely remove marketing and consumer acceptance amongst the criteria that could justify the choices of shapes and weights of packaging. PPWR should recognise presentation is a core functionality of packaging and preserve the ability for design differentiations that are often protected by Intellectual property rights (designs, trademarks, geographical indications and other IP rights) in Europe and internationally.” – Jose Ramón Fernandez
“Right weighting” – reducing how much glass is required for producing containers while maintaining performance criteria on strength, quality and design – is already a market reality. Glass bottles are at least 30% lighter than 20 years ago and new technologies and innovations will continue this trend.
This is why it is so important the new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation recognises product presentation as part of its packaging performance criteria. That way, brands can hold on to the value that comes with unique primary packaging that stands out on shelves. With continued innovation, our industry is ready to offer Europe’s brands eye-catching packaging that gets lighter and lighter over time.
What are your thoughts on the new EU Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation and its impact on brands? How could the PPWR impact your brand? Head over to LinkedIn and let us know! If you want to stay up to date with the latest trends in the glass industry or our next Q&A episodes, don’t forget to follow our LinkedIn account.