Pana Organic and Telstra have developed innovative renewable, recyclable and recoverable packaging designs that are meeting the 2025 National Packaging Targets. In the final session of the Australian Institute of Packaging virtual conference, we discovered more about their individual processes and saw how each company is following the ‘Reduce, Recover, Recycle’ principles towards becoming more sustainable.

Pana Organic drink blend packs

Pana Organic is a stand out brand with its unique designs, natural tones and striking black and silver foil finishing. Its vegan and organic product range has evolved from chocolates to frozen desserts and spreads, and more recently drink blends. Inspiringly, its composite packs won silver in the 2021 Packaging Innovation and Design Awards (PIDA) and gained entry into the WorldStar Packaging Awards.

Pana's composite packs was a i2021 PIDA silver award winner and gained entry into the WorldStar Packaging Awards.
Pana's composite packs won silver at the 2021 PIDAs and gained entry into the WorldStar
Packaging Awards.

The award-winning packs were produced by paperboard packaging business Zipform Packaging, who has been working with Pana Organic since the company launched its range of frozen desserts.

“When launching a new product range, we study the full portfolio of products, and ensure that it looks consistent on the shelf,” said Tara Anderson, marketing project manager, Pana Organic, explaining that certain elements for the drink blend’s packaging, namely the lid, repeat pattern and illustrations, were carried over from the frozen dessert.

Other considerations such as resealing had to be incorporated into the packaging, to ensure that the drink blend container would be simple to use at home, the contents would stay fresh, and on a practical level, the product would be easy to seal on a production line.

“Our drink blends have a very large diameter at the top, and include a foil topper under the lid – which we're also able to brand – and then the lid itself is co-branded with the foil top,” said Anderson.

Not only is the premium drink blend aesthetically appealing on shelf, it is also gaining attention because of its recyclability, and the brand itself has been campaigned towards a more emotive space, creatively themed around the slogan “Feed your soul.”

With a focus on sustainable packaging solutions, Zipform Packaging was well equipped to work with Pana Organic effectively to meet the company’s sustainability criteria.

Nicholas Payne, Zipform business development and marketing manager, expanded on the development of the award-winning packs.

“A dry blend is quite suitable for composite packs, given the packs themselves have an exceptional barrier to both oxygen and moisture, important in packing of dry blend powders, so our packs provide the kind of protection the product needs on shelf to ensure that it stays fresh and dry throughout the retail supply chain,” he said, pointing out that it was also critical to ensure that the print quality and finishing on the drink blend packs adhered to the brand profile to convey the product’s premium distinction.

A flexographic print process was used on the packs including silver foil and a matte varnish, which, according to Payne, provide a premium finish and soft touch effect.

In regard to the recyclability of the packs, Payne confirmed that they comprised just under 91 per cent of paperboard, and that they were manufactured using a combination of four layers of material.

“Three of those are paperboard, and the final layer is a combination of polymer and aluminium foil, which provides protection in terms of barrier, and food contacts,” he said, explaining that the recyclable quality of the pack is its paperboard base.

“Our composite packs have a paperboard base, rather than a metal end, and the packs can be crushed throughout the recycling process. This also reduces the non-fibre content of the pack and, importantly for inbound and logistics, a lighter weight pack.”

The Pana Organic pack is made up of 62 per cent post-consumer recycled content and the remaining paperboard content of the pack is 29 per cent FSC-sourced virgin paperboard material.

Over the next 18 months Zipform and Pana Organic will be looking into achieving compostable certification for the packs.

The role of design in sustainability: A Telstra-Birdstone case study

As part of a strategic repositioning of the Telstra brand towards more efficient and sustainable solutions, Birdstone Collective was challenged to reimagine the telco company’s new packaging approach. Alita McMenamin, senior marketing specialist, Telstra and Grant Davies, director, Birdstone Collective, expanded on the process, highlighting the success of their collaboration as they worked towards this aim.

When McMenamin and her team at Telstra started conceptualising the company's new brand visual identity, they realised that Telstra was using an enormous amount of packaging – in fact, a whopping 1.4 million kilograms goes out to customers, and a lot of it couldn't be recycled.

Also, a huge bugbear was the inconsistent packaging style of Telstra’s vast portfolio of products, which were sourced from multiple suppliers, and did not represent the brand positioning for the future strategy of the company's business.

These challenges provided an opportunity for Telstra to rethink its packaging, which resulted in the consultation of Birdstone Collective to create a whole new system across all of its products.

The brief to Birdstone was to take Telstra's new brand guidelines and then apply them to the packaging of its products, and to get that consistency across all its products – from the design side of things and material, through to functionality.

"We also wanted to ensure that less packaging was sent to our customers, enhance the unboxing experience and make it simpler and easier for the packaging to be recycled," said McMenamin.

As challenging as the project turned out to be, the collaborative efforts of Telstra and Birdstone resulted in the re-creation of the Smart Modem 2 package, which sports new sustainable packaging and has seen a 75 per cent overall reduction in packaging materials.

In addition, plastic was reduced beyond the device, cable, magnet and protective film, and inks or print finishes that could impact the ability to recycle the packaging were no longer used.

Telstra's fibre-based packaging range, designed by Birdstone, won gold for Best Use of Packaging at the 2020 Transform Awards, Australia and New Zealand. It was also a finalist in two categories in the 2021 Packaging Innovation & Design (PIDA) Awards.

Telstra (Birdstone Collective and Telstra): PIDA Domestic & Household and Sustainable Packaging Award finalist.
Telstra (Birdstone Collective and Telstra): PIDA Domestic & Household and Sustainable Packaging Award finalist.

"We worked really closely with Birdstone to evolve and refine the design system," explained McMenamin.

"We learned a lot about that unboxing experience and how we could refine designs through that. There were also various challenges to overcome with our suppliers – the Birdstone team have been fantastic at helping us navigate through all of this."

According to McMenamin the re-creation of the Smart Modem 2 package became something of a 'pilot' product, and provided a good opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the packaging design, with Telstra.

"Now we're setting up processes and guidelines to roll out this new packaging system across all of our new products as well as our existing products," said McMenamin, confirming that this has led to much bigger sustainability targets for Telstra.

Davies, who worked closely with McMenamin throughout the project, explained how the design process came together.

"Consumers are a tough bunch and you need to play to many levels. Being able to create a simpler, user experience was critical to consumer engagement, particularly through the process of receiving and opening packaging that's been delivered to the home, and also importantly, the disposal of that packaging.

"For us, everything comes together in our guiding philosophies which we like to call creative 'make-able' and sustainable – this is about considering all the requirements and leveraging all our capabilities during the design phase to achieve optimised packaging," he said.

According to Davies, one of the important things the company strived for from a branding perspective during the Telstra project, was to introduce the idea of a new premium and make sustainable packaging a premium option.

This was achieved by stripping back the brand design with simple illustrations, less information on the pack, and highlighting Telstra's sustainability story to help further that message.

In addition, packaging that was easier to recycle was introduced.

"Previously with the two-piece construction, you could basically stand on the box lid and it wouldn't crush. The pack can now be folded down into a small, small footprint for recycling," explained Davies.

He said that since packaging is an evolving landscape, it requires constant strategy adjustment to suit the conditions being worked in.

"It also requires agility, so we're constantly reviewing, auditing and improving what we find in terms of developments moving forward," he added, confirming that Birdstone is embarking on a Supplier Verification programme which will allow the company to proactively certify Telstra suppliers so that they will be well versed across material, functional and print capability.

"We're also looking at a future where the design and materials of the electronics themselves will enable us to reduce packaging," added Davies.
Telstra's structural designs have achieved a significant reduction in packaging materials and plastics, positioning the company as a leader in sustainable design and saving hundreds of tonnes in packaging annually. The reduction in materials has created significant improvements in packaging costs, logistics, delivery efficiency and overall savings.

The 2021 AIP Australasian Packaging mini conference was held on 17-18 August and showcased best-practice and award-winning packaging designs that have been recognised at the Australasian Packaging Innovation & Design Awards (PIDAs).

The Women in Packaging Forum, run by PKN Packaging News and Food & Drink Business, in partnership with the AIP, was also held on 18 August. Click here for coverage on the keynote and the panel conversation.

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