Changes in the packaging market

A new aesthetic for paper hygiene packaging

The paper hygiene products market and its packaging are undergoing massive change. There are three main drivers behind this, says Oliver Rebstock, the Managing Director of Optima Nonwovens. Is there urgent need for action?

In many parts of the world, consumers are putting their consumer behavior to the test, particularly when it comes to packaging. Sustainability is one of the central issues of the future for many people, particularly in Europe and North America, as well as in South America.
Major companies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and politicians in Germany agree that the environmental impact of packaging needs to be reduced. Currently, something that does not exist is a consensus on the best solutions to use. There are new ideas out there for packaging paper hygiene products, but Oliver Rebstock, the Managing Director of Optima Nonwovens, is convinced that for the foreseeable future, the most diverse approaches will continue to coexist. “Many things are imaginable, from single-material packaging, which already exists and provides optimal conditions for recycling, to a deposit system for diaper packaging made of Plexiglas, for instance, but from the current perspective this is still a utopian idea. Nonetheless, here within the company we initially accept a wide range of ideas here, even some of the 'wilder' ones.”

Important for you
  • Diverse trends challenge manufacturers of paper hygiene products. The market is on the move.
  • Internationally, the importance of environmental protection is increasing strongly. Convincing solutions can be realized with existing Optima equipment.
  • Individualization and diversification as strategies against incipient market saturation: Innovative technologies provide answers.
  • Aesthetics win: Optima has developed new modules to make pouch packaging particularly appealing.
package with baby diapers
A new aesthetic for diaper packaging achieved by Optima with recent innovations.
Open to new things

t's clear that in many parts of the world, the paper hygiene product markets have become saturated. With saturated markets comes diversification and personalization, according to Oliver Rebstock. “Here, we benefit from the Optima Group's experience and are currently seeing a development in paper hygiene that is very reminiscent of the cosmetics industry, for example shampoos.” The range of products available is becoming more diverse, and providers want to set themselves apart and draw attention to themselves by offering specific features. This not only concerns the products themselves. Increasingly, marketing and packaging technology are now converging: special promotions, special designs, matching product add-ons and customization. The precondition here is that packaging technology – like environmental protection – is capable of performing these new tasks.

The third aspect is packaging aesthetics and quality. Classic PE bags for paper hygiene products continue to have great potential, notably in terms of aesthetic optimization. The criteria here are symmetrical film packaging, exact alignment along the side gusset, for instance, and packaging tautness. Here, too, there is a close relationship with marketing requirements. According to Oliver Rebstock, there is no question that for fast moving consumer goods, packaging aesthetics will also play an even more important role in the future. “If the price and product are comparable, when in doubt consumers will always choose nicer packaging,” is the core of his argument. User expectations rise.

Vision System Visualization
Two cameras (top left in the picture) are pointed at the welding station: a conventional camera and a thermal imaging camera. The thermal imaging camera allows differences in the weld to be detected even at high speed.
Will everything change?

These highly divergent trends are expected to “coexist.” In an ideal world, it will be possible to combine the demands of marketing with ecological objectives. Furthermore, the change is not disruptive. Classic PE bag packaging has not become obsolete, but it is being complemented by numerous variants and varieties.
Oliver Rebstock tells us that previous key performance indicators for packaging processes, such as output and machine availability, remain important. On top of that, technological options for new requirements have become a criterion that is complementary and just as important. This enables Optima customers to actively accompany change and drive it forward in the marketplace. This fundamental strategy is already being pursued by Optima Nonwovens in terms of R&D, and it will continue to do so.
The good news is also that with the equipment they already have, Optima machine operators are very well prepared for the changeover. With an additional small to medium investment, new packaging materials can be tested, or a new level of packaging aesthetics can even be attained. Optima is already making a significant contribution to positively managing this change.

Paper Hygiene ZERO - Picture of the machine
The new welding module makes for classy packaging. Additional upgrade kits are available that can be flexibly adapted to suit all packaging materials.

This changeover and the technical developments associated with it have been on the R&D radar long before 2021. One example of this is the OPTIMA ZERO concept machine. The underlying idea had been conceived over ten years ago, but at the time it was not technically feasible. The real show-stopper came at INDEX 2017 when Optima presented the OPTIMA ZERO as a leader in technology and provided a glimpse of the not-so-distant future in paper hygiene packaging. A machine that packages a varying number of products in film from cycle to cycle and can print them with different, individual motifs.
“This represents the maximum in flexibility, which of course is not yet required by the market in this format, but it shows that it works, and the things that we have learned with the OPTIMA ZERO can now be applied to serial production for what is needed today,” says Oliver Rebstock. Furthermore, as part of the Optima Group, Optima Nonwovens has access to a range of technologies that is unparalleled in the industry. Cross-links with the pharmaceutical, consumer and life science industries have lead to new, even unconventional ideas and solutions.
“Our core skill is taking paper hygiene products out of the manufacturing process at any speed, handling them smoothly and gently, and stacking and arranging them into precisely aligned, compressed configurations. For the time being, the packaging material we use to package them is only secondary for us.” Packaging in PE films – opening bags, inserting the compressed stack, sealing bags – is what Optima Nonwovens has been known for for decades as the world market leader. Developments in this area will be consistently pursued, but they are already being expanded to include innovations and new options in light of changing markets.

New technologies, functions and modules

For environmental protection

  • Existing Optima packaging machines can always be upgraded to process paper bags, as well as organic-based and/or bio-degradable films. Performance is almost identical to the level achieved when using PE bags.
  • Single materials are perfect for recycling. Patent-pending packaging from Optima combines a transparent film with an eye-catching printed paper insert that is slipped in alongside the paper hygiene products. During disposal, the two (mono-)materials separate by themselves. (Current projects related to the topic of sustainability are presented starting on page 16.)
  • The following is still a pipe dream, but a feasible one – deposit systems for diaper packaging, for example, where boxes made of metal or plastic are used. The expertise for this is available in the wet wipes sector, among others.
  • All of the packaging materials mentioned above can be conveniently combined with banding of paper hygiene products (Femcare and diapers).

For diversification

  • Custom printing: Retailers love special promotions, and not just for the holiday season. From now on, film packaging can be customized in its design – with full output. Partially printed films are used for this purpose, which make commercial sense, and are complemented by particular motifs for specific
  • Cross-selling or promotions with insert systems: Corresponding product add-ons increase the interest in purchasing. In the case of baby's diapers, this could be a changing pad, cream or wet wipes, for instance. Optima has insert systems for the automated handling of many different products in its portfolio.

For the highest levels of packaging aesthetics and quality

  • Better welding. Optima's new welding module combines numerous technical innovations for a new packaging design aesthetic. The packing's longitudinal compression has also been optimized. As a result, in the future pouch packaging will deliver uniform tightness in all dimensions. Furthermore, automated bag calibration ensures that the side gussets are aligned in a particularly precise manner. Additional innovations in sensor technology and visuals deliver a new aesthetic packaging experience. Perfect also for paper bags.
  • Optical inspection systems. It is a challenge to carry out white-to-white matching at extremely high speeds, but this is now being mastered by new vision systems. This allows optical quality criteria to be checked inline and individual packs to be rejected as necessary.
  • It can always be better. New upgrade kits address packaging quality and ensure superior packaging aesthetics.
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