“Virtuous and healthy: those are the attributes of tomorrow’s packaging.” That proposition keynotes Packaging trends / The future of manufacturing, a white paper addressing the ethical as well as the technical mandates that packaging manufacturers must uphold in changing consumer cultures.

The 130-page e-document, downloadable here, is a publication of GEPPIA, a French trade association representing more than 80 processing and packaging technology suppliers and 4,000 packaging professionals. A writing team of 23 manufacturing executives, journalists, and consultants explore the philosophy of modern packaging in articles on sustainability, materials, health protection, distribution, food channels, cost efficiency, and food waste reduction.

“General opinion believes there is an excess in packaging,” writes Henri Saporta, chief editor of Emballages magazine. “Quite on the contrary, there is not enough! The industry’s future is however forever intertwined with recycling and sustainability.” Other contributors expand upon the theme of making packaging more responsive both to consumer demand and to social issues linked to the production and delivery of packaged goods.

“Packaging must not only preserve the product it contains but also ensure handling the product is an enjoyable experience, blending in interaction and emotion. The environmental impact must be as small as possible,” observe Daniel Magnin and Pierre-Etienne Hannecart, senior packaging executives for Nestlé. Vincent Ferry, a packaging manager for Danone Research, reminds readers that “packaging plays a major role in the life and identity of the products. They contribute to their protection, make them easy to find on the shelves and display consumer information.”

Manufacturing efficiency at every stage will be the make-or-break factor in meeting these requirements. Pat Reynolds, vice president and editor of Packaging World, writes that “real time visibility into packaging operations is becoming crucial. If manufacturers cannot see and get data from their packaging lines in real time they do not know if their assets are properly used.” That is why flexibility and OEE (overall equipment effectiveness, a.k.a. machine uptime) must be the yardsticks for packagers who want to keep pace with market trends.

The social urgency of good packaging is seen in the white paper’s essays on food waste, which the writers say can be curbed by packages designed to encourage consumers to use all the food contained in them. The fact that consumers in developed countries waste 661 lbs. of food annually per individual “is both a curse and a global scandal” in a hunger-wracked world, declares Saporta.