Ashish Pradhan: "Siegwerk has been championing the cause of safe inks in India"

Ashish Pradhan, CEO Siegwerk India met up with the WhatPackaging? team during the IFCA and AIPIMA conference in Mumbai. He spoke of "Siegwerk having posted a strong double digit score." Plus championing the cause of food safety inks in India

19 Jun 2019 | By WhatPackaging? Team

Pradhan: “I expect packaging printing and converting to gain momentum this year.”

2019, thus far: Siegwerk has posted a strong double-digit score and we’ve had robust profitability. 2019 has started promisingly with the solvent prices easing and the demand has been steady.

Past 12 months been for Siegwerk in India: 2018 has been pretty tough because of high raw material prices and the demand has been choppy. The economy has not been in great shape and we did not get the expected price increase from the market. This came on the back of a challenging 2017 with the demonetisation and GST. 

Food safety and inks: Siegwerk has been championing the cause of safe inks in India. We have supported associations and regulatory authorities in understanding the food safety aspects of packaging inks.

FSSAI and food safety: FSSAI has been proactive in ensuring food safety and now with their focus on packaging safety. Yet again, they have raised the bar protecting consumer interests. They have released the Food Safety and Standard (Packaging) Regulations 2018 with an implementation timeframe of six months.

FSSAI regulation: The new FSSAI regulation gives a specific definition to the term "food-grade" which is a big step.  Until now the term "food-grade" packaging material was left to the interpretation of the market. I think this led to a lot of ambiguity. The new regulation has strengthened the concept of packaging safety by defining norms for glass, metal, paper as well as printing inks, thereby bringing these additional materials under the scope of FSSAI. As per the new standard, newspapers cannot be used for food packaging. Also, the applications where printed matter comes in direct contact with food is now prohibited.

Siegwerk and FSSAI: Siegwerk recognises and appreciates the efforts of FSSAI in making the lives of Indian consumers safer. We welcome the FSSAI regulations and we are ready with our diverse product portfolio meeting the requirements specified by the new regulations.

Toluene free or no? The technical committee verdict:  Everyone in the packaging supply chain is aware of the adverse effects of Toluene on the health of employees, the health of consumers as well as the impact on the environment. The industry has been working on moving away from Toluene. The acceptance has been slow due to cost implications. However, over a period of time, the industry has made technological advancements in bridging the cost gap. These persistent efforts have eventually led to a wider acceptance of Toluene-free inks in the market. While we await the final verdict, we are confident that the committee will take a strong stance towards a complete Toluene ban to protect consumer health and the environment. As a responsible organisation, Siegwerk has been 100% Toluene-free for some years.

Lessons from China. For example, some widely used photoinitiators have been reclassified as reprotoxic chemicals into category 1B forcing the phase-out of these substances. Siegwerk's view: Siegwerk is a responsible company and has the vision of supplying the safest inks worldwide. We keep ourselves updated on any potential reclassification of chemicals including the very recent classification of photoinitiators. We are committed to complying with the EuPIA exclusion policy which debars us from using any materials classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to reproduction under the provision of the policy.

Product safety: Our commitment to product safety is exercised globally, including India, although India has no chemical legislation prohibiting the use of such chemicals in packaging inks. I seriously believe that India needs to learn a lot from developed countries like Europe and neighbouring countries like China and bring out chemical legislation designed to protect consumer health as well as the environment.

The detrimental messaging around green credentials of printed matter: In India, there is a lot of buzz around sustainability and green credentials of printed matter. However, there is no policy or guideline establishing the standards in sustainability or more importantly on green inks. Just like food grade inks, the term “Green inks” has been left to the interpretation of the market. In fact, even developed countries like Europe haven’t set any criteria for “Green Inks”. Any detrimental message around green credentials of printed matter needs to be stopped and this can be done only when such topics are discussed in association forums or regulatory forums.

What is the buzz from your suppliers of photo-initiators, UV monomers, acrylic resins, pigments, isocyanates and speciality additives: Overall it’s positive and all our suppliers have given us signals supporting the trend. Siegwerk has moved ahead decisively in the journey towards safer photo-initiators. It’s a long process involving the reformulation of inks and we have begun by launching inks compliant to EuPIA exclusion policy which are more inline than the earlier versions.

India requires a holistic approach: There have been independent initiatives from several stakeholders in the packaging chain, starting from brand owners, converters, raw material suppliers and others. Likewise, Siegwerk has also initiated projects at a global level in the area of fine-tuning our ink technology. We need a more coordinated and holistic approach between all stakeholders and Siegwerk is working towards facilitating a circular economy. With the pressure from the regulators, media and the general public we’ll be able to see tangible results in the coming years.

Plastics: Plastics is a great material. It has ensured product integrity and has reached all levels of consumers at affordable prices. It has led to lessening of the carbon footprint as plastics have replaced packaging material like aluminium, tin, glass and high GSM board. The packaging weight per unit of product packed is far lower in plastic than the other packaging material. Therefore plastic has been a big boon for manufacturers as well as consumers.

The plastic paradox: Due to its inherent advantages, plastic had been a material that has been consumed in much higher quantities than the recycling chain could handle and this has resulted in excess plastic waste on land as well as sea. This is called the plastic paradox.

Plastic recycling: All plastic material can be recycled however the value of recycled plastic is not necessarily high. A lot of efforts are on to make similar polymer laminates that will increase the value of recycled plastic.  A lot of work is underway on barrier material and barrier coating which will ensure that the overall packaging will become much more environmentally friendly.

Regulations in China: In China, the government is tightening the pollution norms and is shutting down polluting chemical industries. This has affected the photoinitiators and pigments. This has led to a significant raw material price increase for all manufacturers.

Outlook: I have a very optimistic outlook of the industry. While the large FMCG companies are doing well, we are also seeing the rise of local heroes – the regional FMCG companies are doing exceedingly well. These companies are supported by SME printers and converters. I see these SMEs sharing the growth story of the packaging industry.

Siegwerk - Sales: USD 1.3-billion

Major Products: Provider of solvent-based, water-based, energy curable and oil-based inks and coatings and related point-of-use services for the packaging and label industries. Product applications include flexible packaging, labels, folding cartons, corrugated boxes, cups, tubes using flexographic, rotogravure offset and digital printing.

Number of Employees: 5,000+ in more than 35 countries

Flexo. The packaging segment is enjoying maximum growth. With the advent of 22 new CI flexo presses and a surge in the label market, flexo is on the rise.

Business: Our business fared quite well in 2018. I expect overall sales growth in 2019.

Packaging: With an eye on growing its packaging capabilities, Siegwerk has been active on the M&A front on a global level. Siegwerk is also upgrading its technological capabilities in Bhiwadi

Backward integration: Siegwerk's teams around the world are working on how we can backwards integrate where possible. For example, we produce polyurethane (PU) resins instead of purchasing them from third parties, which saves us money and allows us to create PU-based inks, which provide the exact desired result for our customers. We have PU production facilities in our Bhiwadi factory in India.

Pigment: Also, with our Technical Supply Development teams in India, we have been developing suitable pigment grades that are created directly for Siegwerk and that provide independence, less risk and lower costs at optimal performance levels.