A conversation with Hery Henry

Head of Strategic Marketing and Corporate Social Responsibility, Wipak Gruppe, Walsrode/Germany

Petfood Packaging: Could you present your company briefly for our readers?

Hery Henry: With pleasure. We are a 116-year-old family-owned company in Finland. We make high-quality packaging for foods and medical applications. This includes everything - from pet food to blood transfusion bags - that can be complicated and has to be high-quality. Now we want to be the world’s first climate-neutral packaging company.

Petfood Packaging: What are your product focal points?

Hery Henry: Currently, according to our strategy, fighting climate change. Here, we have a strong partner, especially in the pet food industry. We not only have to pay attention to complete recyclability, we also have to start using renewable raw materials. We’ve already had some very good experiences with interesting solutions. 

Petfood Packaging: When did you recognize the potential of this new technology (Digimarc)?

Hery Henry: Very early on, for it’s absolutely clear that the big questions relating to sustainability will hinge on better recycling, at least in the near future. In retail, efficiency increases will also be critical in the future. Scanning packages with Digimarc is up to six times faster.

Petfood Packaging: Which criteria distinguish your packaging solutions, especially with regard to packaging for pet food?

Hery Henry: With fast delivery times and outstanding quality, we can do almost everything when it comes to sustainability, on through to being climate-neutral. From digital printing on paper to stand-up bags to Digimarc’s invisible barcodes; there’s something for everyone.

we can do almost everything when it comes to sustainability

Petfood Packaging: Innovation plays a big role at your company. How innovative is the Wipak Group with a view to these packaging solutions?

Hery Henry: We define ourselves through the topic of innovation. In comparison to the largest companies on the market, we are a boutique – and precisely with respect to innovations formulated jointly with clients, this has significant advantages. If they call me today and they really want a redesign, for example, more sustainable, attractive, lighter weight packaging – then tomorrow at the latest the customer will be on the phone not just with the office staff, but with our Head of Creative. If you visit us in our N.E.X.T. Centre for Innovative Packaging, normally you can go home that afternoon with an initial concept.

Petfood Packaging: How big is the demand among your customers; are they already requesting and producing “coded” packaging?

Hery Henry: The demand is huge. Anyone who doesn’t do this in 2020 will have to wait a long time. Together with a key partner, we planned approximately 1000 items last year. By June of this year, we’d already planned 1300 items. The Digimarc team can act very fast.

Petfood Packaging: On which materials can you already implement the codes?

Hery Henry: On all standard packaging. From stand-up bags to paper laminate, everything is possible. And medical packaging too.

Petfood Packaging: Innovation is also a motor for greater sustainability. Your company’s vision is to be the most sustainable company for flexible packaging. Can you explain this briefly?

Hery Henry: Packaging plays an important role in sustainability. If we have to throw away what’s inside the packaging, we don’t even need to talk about sustainability. For the environmental harm done by food and pet food is quickly five to 20 times as great as that of the packaging. For this, or course the packaging has to become much more sustainable; we’re pulling out all the stops to achieve this at the moment. Thinner, more recyclable, made from recycled materials, from sustainable raw materials, etc. We also measure the CO2 footprint of all products, we’ve developed an app that the customer can use to see in graphics which alternatives he might select and how much more sustainable these would be. If we really want to achieve something in the packaging industry, we really have to step on the gas. That’s why we don’t think that people who are talking about being climate-neutral by 2050 are actually doing very much. Our goals are more aggressive, our vision is clear, and we always have new topics to discuss with our customers when they ask us. Our message to our partners is clear: we can help them become more sustainable. Right now.

Petfood Packaging: Of course the customer has to be incorporated into the entire innovation process. How do you do this?

Hery Henry: For this, we have a completely new concept we call N.E.X.T. We have gathered the most creative people from within our company and outside our company. We sit down with then, and normally within 24 hours we have something concrete that you can take home. We also have the opportunity to test products under production conditions on-site. However, anyone who is interested has to act fast – for people are storming the doors and the fact that it’s possible to develop a world-class concept here quickly pleases our customers a great deal.

Petfood Packaging: With all of these aspects, packaging design cannot be neglected. Is this also a focal point for you?

Hery Henry: Recently a large (not German) retailer came to see us. Our Head of Creative arrived with a “trolley” like the ones used in chic French restaurants and presented the customer with new packaging by lifting up an elegant cheese cover. That wasn’t how things were supposed to be; the design team had just put together a few designs before the meeting. However, the customer thought that the design was much better than what he has on the shelves now – and this right from the beginning of the meeting where we wanted to talk about a possible new design.

Petfood Packaging: What trends do you see in pet food packaging in the medium term?

Hery Henry: The packaging will follow the trends in pet food itself. It will be healthier, vegetarian or even vegan. In the process, even our pets will be able to enjoy superfoods. And then, of course, the packaging will be sustainable, e.g. made from monomaterial. Hard plastics will have to give way to the flexible ones if we’re serious about the environment. And aluminum and glass will no longer be used in modern packaging.

Petfood Packaging: Where is there a need for investments so that the Digimarc code can make good on its promise to become an important factor in the circular economy?

Hery Henry: On the one hand, we finally have to come to the point where all packaging is at least recyclable. That’s a minimum condition that consumers will demand, I believe. So we have to step on the gas here. On the other hand, the recycling infrastructure has to be improved and harmonized - quickly. All across Europe.

Petfood Packaging: Mr. Henry, we thank you for this conversation.

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