‘India is making great strides as middle class demands it’

Thomas L Schneider, CPP, Member, Packaging Hall of Fame and President, World Packaging Organisation, will deliver a talk on the Opening Day of the World Packaging Congress on 10 October, about how the packaging community should respond to the consumer at a faster pace. Priya Raju conducted an email interview with Schneider two days before he made the trip to Mumbai for Indiapack and the World Packaging Congress

10 Oct 2015 | By Priya Raju

Schneider is pleased to report that the packaging industry, world-wide, continues to thrive and prosper. He says, “In every corner of the globe, we see more value being placed on the humble package, whether it is for consumer goods, industrial applications, food, beverage, or pharmaceuticals.”
He adds, “This fundamental value translates to steady growth across the globe as well.”
According to a new study by Smithers PIRA, the compound annual growth rate for packaging worldwide is projected at 4.1% on an annual basis through 2018. And by 2018, the sale of packaging products will approach USD 1 trillion.
Schneider states, “And within the eight distinct regions that PIRA studied, Asia has the highest rate of 6.3% per year! Finally, of all the countries in Asia included in this study, India is projected to have the highest growth rate which is 10.7% per year through 2018.  This is a phenomenal growth rate and will be difficult to sustain without more focused education for future packaging professionals and users of packaging materials and machinery.”
Priya Raju (PR): Mr Schneider, you’ve a lot of exposure to international trends. Is the Indian printing and packaging industry ready to take on the world? 
Thomas Schneider (TS): Yes, indeed it is, but I believe that “take on the world” may be a misstatement. I suggest “cooperate with the world” will reap more benefits for the Indian people.
PR: What are the latest trends in packaging products in terms of design and service?
TS: Thinner films; intelligent inks for security; digital printing; methods for saving food. These are all positive trends.
PR: What according to you are the shortcomings?
TS: Shortcomings include not listening enough to the consumer yet; not recognising regional differences in terms of packaging methods.
PR: As President of WPO, are you actively involved in formation of policies, standards and specifications on packaging...
TS: WPO is not actively involved in setting policies or standards, although some of our members are.
PR: What is your definition of safe and effective packaging?
TS: Packaging that gets the product from point A to point B to point C, ready to sell and safe for the consumer to use. Packaging that is “fit for purpose” at the lowest possible cost and easily recyclable.
PR: According to estimates, the Indian packaging industry is expected to become the fourth largest packaging market in the world with a revenue of USD 43.7 billion in 2016. Are these numbers in line with WPO’s survey?
TS: Actually, Smithers PIRA estimates the growth of packaging in India, through 2018, to be on the order of 10% per year, still the fastest growth for a major population on the planet. WPO does not collect its own statistics.
PR: Volume-wise, India might reach the top ranks. How about the quality of packaging? 
TS: Quality in every market can always be improved, but India is making great strides because the growing middle class demands it.
PR: What sort of technology innovations and packaging plants do you expect will be developed in India in order to capitalise on the potential? 
TS: Higher speed machinery is the key to meet accelerated demand. Materials must be developed for use in this new machinery. Plants will have to become larger as well.
PR: You’ve seen the work by the Indian Institute of Packaging for the development of Indian packaging industry and you are aware of Dr NC Saha’s ambitious plans for the future. Your view? 
TS: Professor NC Saha has indeed done an outstanding job, along with his fine team. He must (and will) stay the course. He must also entice more people to become packaging professionals as India will need many, many more going forward to meet higher demand.
PR: What should be some of the key areas in R&D? 
TS: Every corner of packaging requires R&D, including materials, machinery, and software. The list is very long.
PR: How do you define innovation?
TS: Innovation is a new idea, more effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, articulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas.
PR: Final question, the packaging innovations that have impressed you?
TS: Innovations include, shelf-stable packaging, safer packaging for pharmaceuticals, infra-red and UV readable inks for products security, cross-border tracking software for food and beverage products, intelligent films for meats. Too many to mention really.