In a recent interaction with Industry Outlook Magazine, Vandana Tandan, Head of Markets India and Bangladesh, SIG Combibloc, shares her insights on the evolving aseptic packaging market in India. She discusses the key trends and developments shaping the industry's growth and its impact on food and beverage safety, as well as the challenges associated with maintaining sterility during the packaging process, the integration of advanced technologies into existing production processes, and many more important aspects related to this dynamic industry.Below are some of the excerpts -
The aseptic packaging market is revolutionizing food and beverage safety by using advanced sterilization techniques to ensure longer shelf life and preserved quality. How do you see the current evolution of this market in India?
In the past few years, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for packaged foods and beverages has surged exponentially in India. The busy lifestyle, coupled with growing health consciousness, has led people to opt for packaged products that are fresh, nutritious, and free from all kinds of preservatives. As the packaging industry continues to innovate to meet the evolving demands of consumers, the markets of packaged products are expected to expand further in the future. This will create opportunities for both domestic as well as international players.
Aseptic packaging relies on maintaining a sterile environment throughout the packaging process. What are the critical challenges in ensuring the sterility of both the packaging materials and the production environment? How can the risk of contamination be addressed during packaging?
Maintaining a sterile environment throughout the packaging process is crucial to preserve the freshness and nutrient quotient of the product. Although food and beverages are packaged using cutting-edge machinery with utmost precision, there are a couple of things that may go amiss, potentially compromising product quality. Challenges such as microbial contamination, equipment sterilization, airborne contamination, and human error must be carefully managed to ensure sterility.
To mitigate the risk of contamination, we implement several measures. Our top priority remains to thoroughly train our employees in the packaging department in aseptic techniques and hygiene protocols. Additionally, we try to maintain positive air pressure, filter ventilation, and ensure airlock in production areas to minimize airborne contaminants. After the aseptic cartons are filled with products, they are ultrasonically sealed above the filling level, preventing pieces of food or fibres from getting trapped in the sealed seam and causing leakages or contamination. We also regularly monitor the packaging process and test our products for any breach. The success of aseptic packaging hinges on strict adherence to these measures to ensure product safety and longevity.
Aseptic packaging involves advanced technologies to ensure product safety and extend shelf life. What are the challenges of integrating and implementing these technologies into existing production processes?
Consumers need and preferences reign supreme in the packaging industry. So, to meet their evolving demands, we need to integrate advanced technologies into the existing production process. To some extent, it is a complex endeavour, but it is the only way to provide premium quality products to consumers. The foremost issue that keeps many small-scale businesses from upgrading is capital investment. It is challenging for them to invest in modern machinery in every 2-3 years. After this, comes meeting regulatory compliance, training the workforce, and balancing production efficiency. The successful integration of modern technologies requires detailed planning and a strategic approach to minimise any disruptions to business operations.
Different products require specific packaging materials to maintain their quality and integrity. What are the impediments in selecting and sourcing suitable packaging materials? How can the compatibility of these materials with various product formulations be ensured?
Selecting suitable packaging materials is critical for maintaining product quality and integrity. And it can be particularly challenging in current circumstances where sustainability is a top priority. Firstly, cost considerations may limit choices for premium products in many small and medium-scale industries. Furthermore, supply chain disruptions, such as shortages or price fluctuations, can make it even more difficult to procure the necessary materials.
To determine the compatibility of the packaging material with various product formulations, rigorous testing is essential. This involves tests to assess how the packaging material interacts with the product, checking for chemical reactions, leaching, or spoilage issues. Additionally, regular reviews are necessary to make adjustments accordingly.
Maintaining product quality and consistency is paramount in aseptic packaging. What are the challenges in implementing rigorous quality control and assurance procedures throughout the packaging process? How can it be ensured that every packaged product meets the required standards?
Challenges are an inherent part of any business landscape. What truly matters is how efficiently they are handled. In the packaging industry, maintaining the quality and consistency of product is crucial for retaining consumer loyalty to the brand. To deliver a quality product to consumers, we maintain a sterile environment throughout the packaging process. Through stringent cleanliness protocols and personnel training, we strive to prevent contaminants and preserve product quality, thus enhancing their shelf life.
A growing concern globally is the environmental impact of packaging materials. How can packaging companies address the challenge of reducing their carbon footprint and adopting sustainable packaging practices while maintaining the required levels of product protection?
We are in the midst of the dire climate crisis, with its impact visible across the globe. This makes it imperative to embrace sustainability to build a better and greener tomorrow. Shifting to sustainable business practices is the need of the hour, and packaging companies worldwide are slowly realizing their responsibility towards the environment. However, they need to expedite their efforts to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
To address the challenges effectively, it is crucial to innovate and adopt environmentally-friendly practices like sourcing raw materials from local sources, recycling the packages, and minimizing industrial waste.We at SIG have switched to renewable paperboard sourced from responsibly managed forests for manufacturing aseptic packages. Additionally, we are working towards increasing the share of renewable materials in our carton packs. This initiative will help to reduce our reliance on fossil-based resources and support the transition to a more sustainable packaging solution.