BillerudKorsnäs is Redefining Paper Packaging for Food Products    

Zaheer Abbas, Director Sales, Marketing and Business Development, Billerudkorsnäs, is leading the South Asian operation from strength to strength. 

He articulates the importance of a sustainable paper packaging and the realisation by brands owners, distributors and channel partners in India about its importance.        

1. How did you start your career? How long have you been in the packaging industry?

It was a very interesting incident, I was in my MBA final semester, and wrote a long email to the World’s largest aseptic packaging company about how they can improve their position and availability in India, and this created interest and was followed up with multiple rounds of discussions, and as soon as I completed MBA, I joined them and started my career in packaging. It has been almost 2 decades of professional journey.

2 . Could you brief us about BillerudKorsnäs and its products?

BillerudKorsnäs is one of the World’s most sustainable paper packaging company. We produce packaging grade papers for virtually every segment of packaging – right from sugar in sachets to cement in 50 KG sacks, healthcare packaging to stainless steel’s industrial paper requirements,iIce cream cone Packaging, pan masala packaging, packaging for bakery products, packaging for fast food companies & recently launched fast food packaging customized for Indian snacks & Indian fast foods. We also provide liquid packaging board to the World’s best Aseptic Packaging companies

3. According to you how important  is the sustainability of  packaging material and what is its impact on environment?

Packaging material must be sustainable;  not only the brand owners, but even  channel partners such as  distribution companies, retailers and most importantly consumers are giving a lot of focus to sustainability which is good to see. We also need to see the product life cycle and ensure it is recyclable or reusable

4. What are the applications of paper based flexible packaging? Which are your main segments in food industry?    

I am spearheading flexible packaging and bakery and fast-food packaging segments in South Asia. Some of the applications are:

  1. Ice Cream Cone Packaging
  2. Chocolate / Chewing Gum Wrappers
  3. Pan Masala Pouches
  4. Paper Straws
  5. Recessed Filters for Cigarettes
  6. Take away bags without handles
  7. Bread Packaging
  8. Burger & Sandwich Wraps
  9. French Fries, Hash Brown & Samosa Wraps / Bags
  10. Poori, Dosa, Bhature, Vada, Idli Packaging Bags / Wraps
  11. Top & Bottom of the Box Covers for Sweets Packaging
  12. Fried Chicken Bags
  13. Chicken Nuggets & Chicken Strips Packaging Bags
  14. Any Many More – Space being the Constraint, have enlisted only a few applications

5. What kind of challenges did you face initially when you set-up this product in the Indian Market? What were your customers apprehensions? What has changed in all these years? 

The biggest challenge was that no one was aware of the Brand BillerudKorsnäs despite BillerudKorsnäs having a legacy of more than a century in high quality paper packaging solutions in Europe. 

The second Challenge was the resistance to change and fear of the “Unknown”

The third challenge was the lead time and establishing  sound supply chain solutions

The fourth challenge was establishing the Route to market which has its own unique challenges in India and the changes are very dramatic and ever changing

The fifth challenge was market mapping, segmentation and targeting – we cannot be everywhere at the same time

6. What has changed? 

We are now the most preferred choice of supplier when it comes to paper packaging amongst our Customers and also the prospects with whom we are working in the Indian & South Asian market

We have set up a robust supply chain which not only ensures our customers get the right paper at the right time but also addresses the challenge of ever changing dynamics of the Indian market

We are now a known Brand in the Indian Paper Packaging Market

Customers, prospects, and even new entrants contact us about their upcoming launches or new product launches to discuss and finalize paper packaging solutions before they inform or contact any other packaging company

7. Sustainable products have a higher price tag then why would customers pay more? 

It is a myth honestly that sustainable products have a higher price tag. Secondly, good quality comes at a price, but it has to be seen from an overall perspective and not just the price or cost of the material. In packaging we refer to this as Total Applied Cost Model. The fact that we have been so successful in the highly price sensitive Indian market reconfirms the fact that Indian market is more acceptable of good quality and sustainable packaging solutions

8. What is your assessment of  growth in the sustainable packaging market? 

I can only say we have just hit the tip of the Iceberg and there are tremendous and massive growth opportunities which are yet to be explored and the future is bright

9. How did Covid impact your market and what did you do differently to overcome this challenge?

Covid did have an impact initially in 2020 since for more than 3 months the entire country was under lockdown, however since then we have seen a tremendous growth in our packaging portfolio.

Fast-Food packaging has definitely suffered in 2021 due to the fact that dine in in most Fast Food Restaurants has been closed specially in the major Metro Cities but takeaway and home delivery has significantly grown and that has been helpful to a great extent in avoiding declining sales Overall we have grown even in these challenging and surreal times

10. Is brand building and awareness about sustainability targeted towards businesses or does the company try to educate consumers of end products as well? How do you do it?

We believe in reaching maximum level of audiences when it comes to sustainability and its benefits. We also undertake multiple campaigns to reach out to end consumers, governments,  policy and decision makers and talk about the significance of sustainability. The best example is our partnership with TARA which does studies in impact of plastics in the oceans

Our brand building is more focused on companies & markets since we are a B2B company. 

But we do undertake frequent social media interactions and campaigns to reach out to consumers as well and interact with them

11. Your message to agri and food entrepreneurs who are trying to experiment with innovative products. 

We are there to support you in your journey of Innovation, more importantly to understand your and your customers and products’ needs and offer solutions, so please reach out to us and help us support you in your exciting journey of Innovations and sustainability