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Exclusive Interview with Hotpack Packaging

Dr Mike Cheetham • Global Business Development Director • Hotpack Packaging

You will deliver a presentation focusing on ‘Advances in Sustainable Food Packaging’ Please could you please give us a quick overview of what you will be sharing with our audience?

I will explore some of the next generation of food packaging solutions and cover what we need to maximise the sustainability profile of the existing ones. I will illustrate commercially viable & deliverable alternatives covering the next gen of technologies.. 

What drives the growth of the sustainable packaging market in the Middle East and Africa?

Historically, the Middle East has remained one step behind the frontline of the sustainability revolution observed in Europe & USA. However, across the last two years, especially in the light of events such as COP 28 (hosted in the UAE), packaging has been moved to the sustainability centre stage and many of the Middle Eastern countries are now invoking legislative changes that not only match but surpass the recent regulations seen in Europe. Africa, being a highly diverse continent of 54 countries, is now gaining sustainability traction. Consumer awareness continues to drive the demand for alternative choices.

What are the cornerstones of Hotpack's sustainability vision and strategies?

These are two-fold. Firstly, in terms of our internal milestones, Hotpack has recently completed a detailed ESG assessment which proved extensive and challenging considering that we operate 20 live factories around the world and produce over 4000 packaging products. That has delivered a realistic roadmap, spread across the next 6 years that will enable Hotpack to become truly carbon neutral. In terms of our external considerations, 96% of our product portfolio is either recyclable, biodegradeable, compostable or a combination of these. We firmly believe that efficient recycling is the key strategy and we continue to invest in manufacturing lines that that maximise the use of post-consumer waste.

What are the biggest challenges the packaging industry faces now and how is Hotpack planning to tackle them?

In the food packaging sector, in which Hotpack primarily operates, there is a lack of available food safe/contact grade recycled raw materials. Having invested in expensive machines, capable of taking up to 100% recycled content, we are working with industry partners and Governments to promote the focused recycling and sorting of these valuable raw materials so that we can use them once again. We already operate a number of closed loop processes.

Which exciting projects is Hotpack currently working on? 

With so many substrates used in our production processes, there are too many to list. However, I am particularly excited by advancements in mineral coating and dry moulded fibre. There are a number of new advanced polymers that demonstrate good physical properties and we eagerly await their commercial availability.

What can we expect for the future of the sustainable packaging in the Middle East and Africa? 

Many of the Middle Eastern countries have declared their intent to be the ‘best in the world’ in terms of sustainable solutions and packaging is one of the key centres of focus. Forward thinking EPR policies are also in the pipelines, many of which have tried to absorb the best from Europe, Asia & USA with the intention of going one step beyond. Africa, being so diverse, has the complete spectrum of sustainable goals, all of which are being implemented are varying rates.

Why do you feel it’s important for companies to attend the Sustainability in Packaging MENA conference in Dubai?

Today, you cannot mention ‘packaging’ without, in the same sentence, mentioning the sustainability aspects of each solution. Those in the industry know that, only by tackling the environmental challenges, will our companies survive and remain fit for purpose in the next 5 years. It is therefore critical to  listen, learn and evaluate the technologies and options available that will provide future proof products that can fulfil the ever changing demands of our clients and ever-green savvy consumers.