In the ever-evolving world of packaging, sustainability has become a top priority for both consumers and brands alike.

Stora Enso, a leading provider of renewable materials in packaging, biomaterials, and wooden construction, stands at the forefront of this movement.

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Julian Krais, senior packaging designer at Stora Enso, leads the Packaging Materials Division Strategic Packaging Innovation team with a clear mission: to empower brands to reduce their reliance on fossil-based packaging.

Krais sheds light on Stora Enso’s innovative approach to creating sustainable packaging solutions that not only capture consumer attention and drive sales but also prioritise environmental responsibility.

Understanding the consumer: A driving force for sustainable design

Krais emphasises the importance of understanding consumer preferences when developing sustainable packaging solutions.

“Consumers, I think, have been more educated in the last years than ever,” says Krais. “What is important, we are talking about the legislation all the time, every day in the news we hear that packaging legislations are coming or already in place.”

This heightened awareness compels brands to prioritise sustainability efforts.

“Reusable packaging is here, and it is already observed in everyday applications like takeaway coffee and refillable home cleaning products,” highlights Krais.

“Considering potential changes to packaging regulations in Europe in the future, reusable packaging could feature more prominently in restaurants and retail establishments.”

Krais elaborates on Stora Enso’s design philosophy: “We as designers are constantly pushing boundaries to create packaging solutions that are not only visually appealing, functional, and convenient but also more sustainable to reduce fossil-based material where possible.”

By understanding these preferences, Stora Enso designs packaging that is both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally friendly, ensuring a win for both brands and consumers.

The power of paperboard: A natural choice for sustainable packaging

Stora Enso’s packaging solutions leverage paperboard, a natural and renewable material that resonates with sustainability-conscious consumers.

Krais explains: “The strength of natural and renewable fibre-based packaging, combined with product-specific barrier coatings, represents one of the most effective methods to reduce the proportion of plastic in packaging.”

Paperboard’s visual and tactile qualities inherently convey a sense of sustainability, further enhancing its appeal to eco-conscious consumers.

Survey insights on consumer preferences for paperboard

A recent Stora Enso survey on European consumers and food packaging revealed valuable insights into consumer preferences for paperboard packaging:

Overwhelming preference for paperboard: The survey found that seven out of ten consumers surveyed prefer cartonboard packaging over plastic and actively seek products with minimal plastic packaging. This strong preference for paperboard aligns with its inherent sustainability benefits.

Importance of clear communication: Consumers highly value clear communication on packaging design regarding recyclability and proper disposal methods.

Stora Enso emphasises the role of transparent communication, as highlighted by Krais: “I think, in general, the best thing is that the communication needs to be quite clear and not greenwashed to get this perception of the brand owners.”

Collaboration: Building a sustainable packaging future together

Krais highlights the importance of collaboration between Stora Enso, brand owners, and consumers in achieving sustainable packaging goals.

Stora Enso works closely with brand owners to educate consumers about the benefits of sustainable packaging and ensure clear communication on recyclability. The company offers expertise in various areas such as:

Material selection: Stora Enso boasts a broad cartonboard and paper portfolio, allowing it to collaborate with brands to find the perfect material fit for each product.

Design optimisation: The Stora Enso team works closely with brand owners to ensure packaging functionality and visual appeal while minimising material usage and prioritising recyclability.

Krais emphasises the importance of a holistic approach: “I think the most important technique we are using is to ask questions, a lot of questions to understand what is the aim for the whole packaging,” he explains.

“Is it cost saving? Is it sustainability aspects? Do we need to combine runnability on the machine? Does it need to be more efficient? Is it consumer friendly?”

Communication strategy: Stora Enso assists brands in developing clear and concise communication on packaging regarding recyclability and proper disposal methods.

This aligns with Krais’s belief that “the natural appearance of fibres of paper and cardboard is one of the most effective ways to transport, in the first place, sustainable packaging.”

By leveraging the inherent visual cues of paperboard and combining them with clear messaging, brands can effectively communicate their sustainability efforts to consumers.

Stora Enso’s multifaceted approach to reusability

Stora Enso addresses the reusability question with a multifaceted approach:

Understanding consumer needs: It actively conducts research to understand evolving consumer preferences for reusable packaging.

Collaboration with stakeholders: It works with brand owners and retailers to develop and implement effective reusable packaging systems that address consumer concerns about cleanliness and convenience.

Innovation for a sustainable future

Stora Enso is constantly pushing the boundaries of sustainable packaging design through innovation.

Krais highlights the increasing role of AI in optimising packaging design for sustainability and efficiency.

“There are many, many different aspects to be considered and many startups around which are looking at graphical approaches to optimise colourings, to optimise packaging size, to optimise material usage in rigid plastics or injection moulding,” says Krais.

“I think it’s a broad palette of tools, which we will get in the next months, weeks, or years, but in general, we are very curious to test these tools to bring them somehow to our daily work,” adds Krais.

Beyond design: A holistic approach to sustainability

Stora Enso’s commitment to sustainability extends beyond the design phase.

It collaborates with machine suppliers and technology providers to optimise the runnability of its materials throughout the supply chain, ensuring efficient performance during converting, erecting, filling, and transportation processes.

This holistic approach minimises waste and environmental impact.

A sustainable future for packaging

Stora Enso, through its commitment to innovative design, collaboration, and a holistic approach to sustainability, is empowering brands to create packaging solutions that resonate with eco-conscious consumers.

Its dedication to utilising renewable materials such as paperboard, combined with its focus on consumer education and clear communication, positions it as a leader in the sustainable packaging revolution.

As Krais concludes: “At Stora Enso we are aiming for a holistic view on sustainability and recyclability for packaging materials and packaging solutions.

“Our most innovative design techniques hinge on a simple yet powerful principle: asking the right questions, engage with the brand owner and consumer and truly listening.”

By prioritising sustainability across the entire packaging life cycle, Stora Enso is helping to build a more sustainable future for our planet.