Fruit packaging

Understanding the total cost of packaging

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There are several key factors to consider when choosing the right package for a product. This includes everything from deciding upon the most suitable raw materials to optimising the packaging design based on every step in the industrial value chain.
The role of the package is not just to transport and protect the product but it also helps create a perception of the product. It can communicate value and benefits to the consumer. When done right, it’s possible to add unexpected value and cut costs all the way from production to shelf.

It’s therefore important to take all factors into account when assessing the true and total cost of a package. Below is a step by step guide examining the entire process.

Step 1: Switch to renewable packaging

There has been a significant shift in recent years towards more eco-friendly packaging, sparked mainly by images of plastic waste in our seas and oceans and through the increasing understanding of the negative effects of plastic waste. Reducing carbon footprint and the transition to a circular economy are now global trends and important values to consumers. Eco-conscious consumers are demanding recyclable and renewable packaging and brands now have to meet that demand. Brand owners are faced with an important choice between fossil-based materials, such as plastics, and renewable materials, such fibre-based containerboards for corrugated packaging.

Today, cardboard boxes can match many of the technical benefits of plastics such as durability. Even fish and other challenging produce can already be packed in fibre-based packages that technically perform just as well as their fossil-based alternatives, achieving great environmental benefits.

Fibre-based packaging is also fully recyclable, and often even biodegradable. For cartonboard applications, fibres can be recycled and reused again five to seven times. Paper and board is also the most recycled packaging material in Europe, with 83.6% of all paper and board recycled in 2017 (Source: CEPI data 2017).

Perhaps most important however is that fibre-based packaging comes from a renewable source. More trees are planted than harvested in sustainably managed forests allowing brand owners to use a material that is truly circular and keeps growing back. With the finite amount of raw materials on our planet, choosing renewable is key to a sustainable future.
Fibre-based packaging can help position a brand into a more premium market and thereby help the brand command a higher price.

Step 2: Downsize and only pay for what you need

Good packaging design often comes down to using an optimal combination of materials when creating the package. In the case of corrugated packaging, the types of materials, also known as liners and flutings, and their combination of strength and weight are both very important to the overall design and performance of the finished product. Raw materials should be chosen considering the whole value chain and the challenges the packaging needs to endure along the way. Here there is never a “one-size fits all” approach. Corrugated packaging should be optimised for each product’s needs.

A heavier package is not always better. Overspecification is a pain point in packaging design. The fear of boxes collapsing and products getting ruined drive companies to produce boxes that are too strong for their intended use. Preparing for the worst, when a lighter solution with a consistent quality would do just fine, results in more costs, a bigger carbon footprint and an excessive use of materials. By choosing the optimal design and the right materials to engineer it, a brand-owner can achieve the best possible performance with less money.

Step 3: Optimise for consistency and high efficiency

From the box producer’s point of view, the chosen materials affect the time and money spent on the production of the packages. High-performing renewable materials bring better results, whereas low-quality materials may slow down the producer’s whole production line. When the production works well without unnecessary pauses, delivery times and the consistency of their boxes are not compromised. In other words, high-performing raw materials help every stakeholder to save time and avoid problems and make the most out of your processes.

Step 4: Stack and store more securely

Automated warehouses and reducing the need for manual handling in storage are growing trends today. Every metre counts in a warehouse and empty space is minimised. The better a package performs under pressure, the safer it is to stack. This means that a package should be designed to maximise its storage capability during long periods of time. Brand-owners should choose materials that perform well under different conditions.

If your product needs to be stored in an area of high humidity or an area with a constantly changing climate or other extreme conditions, then this must be taken into account in the packaging material. It means considering high-quality materials. Stora Enso’s kraftliner, for example, is designed to withstand fluctuating weather conditions with superior protection and creep resistance. These sort of materials are likely to be cost beneficial in the long run and a wise investment for your products.

High humidity risks making a box soggy and causing it to bend and buckle, resulting in loss of goods and a negative customer experience. This can be solved by adding more material to your box, which can be costly, or by choosing high-performing materials created with the right technologies, for example Stora Enso’s patent pending Tri-Ply™ technology. With stronger materials, packaging design can be optimised and the dimensions can be made to better suit the products, without having to leave extra space for protecting the goods.

Step 5: Trim your transportation costs

A huge quantity of fruits and vegetables today are ruined during transportation due to poor packaging. Another issue in transportation has arisen due to the continuous growth of e-commerce: long distance shipping and multichannel supply chains are becoming a common concern to all growing companies alike. That is why – now perhaps more than ever – durable boxes are needed in order to offer the end users a way to receive their ordered goods safe and sound and provide the intended customer experience.

Durable boxes tend to be quite heavy and the additional weight adds to the transportation costs and environmental impact. Packaging made out of durable but lightweight materials saves on both transportation costs and carbon emissions caused by long distance shipping.

Step 6: Build a stronger brand

For consumers, the packaging tells the user what to expect. At best, it communicates value to the consumer – clearly informing that it’s the choice the consumer has been looking for. This is as relevant as ever when consumers are not able to interact with brands via stores. The package tells the consumer what the brand stands for.

Renewable materials can give a different, more natural touch and feel to their products, lending themselves to those products that want to build an image of a sustainable brand. Renewable materials also allow for superior printing opportunities. The visual display possible on a fibre-based package from high-end printing gives these packages the opportunity to stand out and allow clear communication on the package about its benefits.


Oscar Duarte

Oscar Duarte

Director Oscar Duarte heads the Business Segment Kraftliners at Stora Enso Packaging Materials division. He has a background in Chemical Engineering and experience in international business in Central America and Europe. As part of Stora Enso’s cooperation with global brand owners, Oscar led a total cost of corrugated packaging stream, and shares some of the insights in this blog article. Oscar is part of Aalto University Executive education program 2019–2020. He enjoys exercising and hiking.
More on same topic

Go the distance with the Avant product family

Avant by Stora Enso product family includes a wide range of liners and fluting options for corrugated packaging, some made from virgin fibres and some from recycled materials. Avant products are all made from high-performance materials. Their quality is consistent, provides high runnability and can be adapted to your needs. These high-quality packaging materials allow for lighter boxes and less material usage thanks to their strength and performance. The raw material comes from sustainably managed forests making the material renewable. They are also fully recyclable in order to help you minimise waste and make your business more sustainable.

The AvantForte high-quality kraftliner is the newest member of the Avant product family. It is manufactured using a new patent pending Tri-Ply™ technology, which results in superior bending resistance, thanks to the material’s three strong 100% virgin fibre layers. In addition, AvantForte is also lightweight, which means less materials are needed and transportation costs and carbon emissions can be lowered.

AvantForte also performs well in different conditions from heat, cold and humidity. It’s strength, toughness and stackability ensure that it can protect your products with ease regardless of the conditions. 

The purity of the 100% virgin fibres also benefit brands that need to comply with strict food safety regulations. With AvantForte, your packaging will not only withstand the most extreme of conditions but will also fashion a more sophisticated and groomed look as its Tri-Ply™ technology reduces printing defects, such as washboarding. Simply put, this new high-quality kraftliner allows you to reduce waste, cut costs and boost your brand image.

Contact the Advance Board and Advance Productivity specialists via a sign-up form to get an appraisal on how to optimise your recipes, board combinations, production line and total cost of packaging through the whole value chain.