The complex requirements of luxury packaging present a challenge for many manufacturers. Christer Nordman, head of product development at Pankaboard, introduces a new form of sustainable boxboard that simplifies the production process and delivers premium features.
Glossy, firm boxes tell consumers unequivocally that they're holding a high-end product. However, getting boxboard to high levels of thickness usually requires extra lamination steps in the production process, which reduces cost-effectiveness and sustainability. Since weight and an ultra-smooth finish are essential features of luxury beverage packaging, the challenge for manufacturers is to produce that premium feel while keeping costs to a minimum.
In September, Pankaboard, a specialist cartonboard producer based in Finland, launched Pankalux: a GC1 folding boxboard product designed to deliver the enhanced thickness and printing quality required by luxury beverage packaging with improved runnability, without compromising on sustainability. Unique among luxury packaging options, Pankalux can be produced at thicknesses from 285g/m² up to 1mm (560g/m²) online, eliminating the need for lamination to achieve the desired thickness.
"This is something that nobody else is able to provide with such an extensive product range," says head of product development Christer Nordman. "The smoothness is achieved by controlling the fibre flow in an advanced way so that the fibre layer is very evenly spread out. It's at such a high level that metpol lamination is like a mirror."
Pankaboard has existed in its current form since 2006, although its history as a mill dates back over 100 years. The company is privately owned, with a turnover of about €80 million. With a capacity of 110,000 per annum, its product line includes OBA-free offerings for several high value-addded niche applications, including a range of uncoated boards. This year, an investment programme prompted the development of new formation control processes that enabled the creation of Pankalux.
Reactions from clients since the launch of Pankalux at the 2016 FachPack exhibition in Nuremberg have been encouraging. "It's still early days, but the feedback is positive," says Nordman. "Customers agree that the printability and the smoothness are on a very good level."
Nordman says that uniformity was a key focus of the development process in order to achieve high-speed printability. "Stability is essential so that the smoothness is stable from one end to another to get premium print quality for luxury packaging," he explains. "It's also important in other conversion steps, such as creasing, folding and improved runnability on packaging lines."
Using high production values to cut out lamination reduces Pankalux's carbon footprint by eliminating the need to transport the product to a second converter, as well as creating an efficient value chain by removing a conversion step. Sustainability is high on Pankaboard's priority list: the pulp for Pankalux and all other Pankaboard products uses fibres sourced from renewable forests within a 50km radius of the factory in eastern Finland.
The factory's integrated biofuel steam plant provides its energy requirements, and its proximity to the European luxury beverage market also means fewer resources are needed to deliver its products - resulting in faster shipping, as well as improved green credentials.
Pankaboard is maintaining its regional emphasis in order to maintain quality for the global market. "Europe is currently the main focus area, with its whiskies, cognac and champagne products," says Nordman. "But even though the packages and product are being produced in Europe, they are distributed worldwide, which sets very high quality requirements. The distribution of ready-made products is going to increase, along with globalisation."
Consumers are gravitating towards premium products across the beverage sector, with the luxury packaging market predicted to reach $23 billion globally by 2021 according to a report by Beige Market Intelligence. "The trend in beverage is going from bulk products to more premium ones, and one way to convey a premium impression is by developing the packaging," says Nordman. "Packaging in the luxury beverage market is also becoming more varied in order to differentiate the products."
After over a century in the packaging industry, Pankaboard has developed a deep understanding of its needs, with an "efficient and solid" development process. Its latest offering ticks all the boxes for a luxury packaging product: featuring the quality markers that consumers expect while reducing the headaches of the production and conversion process.