Someday there will be discussion about COVID-19 in the past tense. But that day isn't today. As the pandemic has dragged along, plastics packaging companies have pivoted again and again, dodging and dealing with issues as they arose. As they arise.
Safety. Labor. Supply chain. Consumer behavior. And some surprises.
"The beginning of the pandemic, we thought there would be a slowdown in the need or the move for sustainability," Rebecca Casey, senior vice president of marketing and strategy at TC Transcontinental Packaging, recalled during a panel discussion at the Plastics Caps & Closures 2021 conference.
But that really has not happened at the flexible packaging maker.
"When we look at our innovation pipeline, we see that the majority of our projects are around sustainability," she said. "We see big trends here, and we'll continue to see that movement."
For flexible packaging maker ProAmpac, the pandemic saw some customers put a pause on packaging innovation to focus on the crisis, said Sal Pellingra, vice president of global application and innovation department at the company's Collaboration & Innovation Center.
"Some of the development had to stop and they had to focus on feeding and getting supplies out to people," he said during the panel discussion.
At the same time, however, the pandemic also brought about a need for companies to adapt to market conditions.
"Where we saw a lot of growth also was with e-commerce. So a lot of folks now went from shopping directly to shopping online. And that has led, in some ways, to a lot of flexible packages and spouted pouches replacing rigids," Pellingra said during the conference organized by Plastics News.
"So when you think about omni channel and products going to retail, now we have a diversion of a lot of that product that went to retail now going to e-commerce. And it's not packaged the same. So whatever you can do to reduce the void fill in the packages, to reduce breakage, to reduce the amount of packaging that's been shipped around, flexible packaging does an excellent job with that," he said.