CSI Thermoformage's expertise lies in the production of custom-designed thermoformed packaging. Of its three market segments, vac forms for prestige product boxes and cases (fragrance, cosmetics, champagne and spirits) account for 40% of its turnover, which reached €6.5m in 2018. We spoke with Pascal Roger, head of the French company specialized in medium production runs.
As a manufacturer of thermoformed products, sustainable development must be one of your top priorities.
When I took over the company four years ago, I had already identified the ecological pressure that was starting to build around the plastics sector, which is why I quickly launched the ISO 14001 certification. The company obtained the certificate in 2017. Processing large amounts of recycled materials is one area of development for the company. For all of our businesses combined, we've committed to using 88% recycled plastics, but this is a somewhat faulty indicator as it includes volumes where not everything is 100% recycled as there are still remnants of virgin material. But when it comes to 100% recycled, we were able to reach a rate of 75% in 2018, which is very high compared to industry benchmarks. In addition, we recycle 99% of our production waste.
How can you attain the level of quality required by luxury brands when using a high percentage of recycled materials?
If you are in sync with this ecological trend, you have to make do with at least some aesthetic defects. We are seeing quite a change from our clients in this direction, which very different to what it was like only two or three years ago. This is a perceptible dynamic, particularly in the trade-off between virgin and recycled materials and there is a much stronger propensity to move towards recycled materials, even if it means having to occasionally accept slight defects in appearance.
How can brands be convinced to choose a plastic vac form when faced with the emergence of alternatives, such as cardboard or bio-plastics?
For the moment I think there is a fashion effect around that, but if you look at life cycle analyses, other materials clearly do not come out ahead of plastic. Processes that use pulp, for example, are heavy consumers of water and energy. And as far as bioplastics are concerned, I think that it’s much more virtuous to work within a circular economy, at least for now.
Tell us about your latest innovation in vac form decoration.
Launched in 2019, ThermoDecor by CSI offers three major benefits to our brand clients: first, the aesthetic aspect, as the decoration is laser engraved (the fruit of a partnership with a French decorative laser specialist), which creates a very detailed level of decoration. In addition, it allows the inside of the recesses to be decorated, which is not possible when using traditional printing processes (screen printing, pad printing or hot stamping). The process is also competitive from a sustainability perspective as decorating via laser does not call for any consumables: no ink, no printing plates and the process is very energy efficient to boot. The technique also functions on both virgin and recycled materials. And, last but not least, ThermoDecor offers the possibility of infinite creativity without fixed costs, which is not an insignificant benefit !