WestRock is a one-stop shop for your packaging and machine needs. Senior director, global creative and marketing Suzanne Abbot tells Beverage Packaging Innovation how its broad portfolio and cross-functional expertise enable the company to meet the needs of brands at every stage of development.
Suzanne Abbot: WestRock Beverage offers a range of secondary packaging and machine solutions to customers large and small. It has been at this more than 50 years, and so has a deep understanding of the global beverage markets, the supply chains, the retail channels, the consumers and the brands it works with. The company uses these insights to develop award-winning packaging solutions and leading-edge filling line automation, enabling its customers to bring high-impact packaging to market quickly and efficiently.
WestRock is at the early stages of this journey, but is really excited about the expanded breadth of products and capabilities it now offers. It has created a one-stop shop for packaging solutions and can supply customers with every fibre-based product they needs to run their operations: from labels to folding cartons; tertiary packaging for transit; in-store displays; and waste-management services.
The firm's breadth of capabilities is of huge value to its customers and, as a substrate-agnostic partner, it can identify ideal solutions for specific problems. It understands the requirements of different primary formats, shapes, sizes and counts, supply chains, channels and consumer usage occasions, and knows which combinations of substrates and designs will best meet those needs. It further validates these recommendations through performance testing in its in-house labs or store trials in partnership with Wake Forest University's Center for Retail Innovation. Finally, its recycling group closes the loop, offering customers best-in-class waste management services, while securing a reliable source of recovered fibre for its paper mills.
The 1210 Combo machine was developed specifically for the craft beer segment, and it meets the unique needs of small and mid-sized brewers. It's the first machine for this market to combine the functions of an end-load continuous motion cartoner, a rotator/divider and a tray packer into one unit, yet only requires one employee to operate. It is built to pair with can fillers of 300-600 cans a minute and has a relatively compact footprint, so doesn't take up a huge amount of space.
WestRock drew on its cross-functional capabilities and deep expertise to build a tightly linked model that delivers unmatched value to customers. The company's deep grounding in its understanding of its customers' brand goals enables it to bring an agency-esque perspective to the creative process, as well as the technical knowledge to execute the final package design on spec.
Traditionally, the only option was for brands to go to a creative agency for the design piece, and a manufacturer for the execution piece. WestRock offers a seamless interaction between the two, saving time and money while delivering a more effective package.
The i2i model is fully customisable, and starts with identifying customers' precise needs. These can vary widely depending on the stage their business is in, their brand objectives, market challenges and operating model. That insight then shapes which components of WestRock's model are tapped into to develop the best possible solution.
Can you give a few examples of solutions WestRock has developed using this model, and the value brought to its customers?
WestRock recently placed a customised machine with a bottler in the US that optimised extremely limited space, while providing the flexibility required to run the various pack formats they needed. The company's latest installation - at one of its largest customers in Asia - started up with 100% efficiency, which was not easy at the high speeds required, but was a key metric for the client.
Most recently, WestRock developed Duralift, a strap-style handle that improves performance, eliminates carton deformation and delivers a more premium consumer experience, which were key objectives for the customer. At the same time, it reduced material usage and achieved parity on cost and operational performance.
Whether it's carton design, machine technology or substrate innovation, it all starts with understanding the customer's needs.