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James Cropper maps out plans for luxury packaging business

Katie Nichol
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James Cropper maps out plans for luxury packaging business

Tricia Hartmann, James Cropper’s newly appointed Luxury Packaging Global Lead, talks to Luxe Packaging Insight about the UK-based specialist papermaker’s luxury packaging ambitions, sustainability and upcoming investments.

You joined James Cropper earlier this year. What are your ambitions for the luxury packaging business?

We are looking to increase the weight of the luxury business in our portfolio; it currently represents 37% of James Cropper’s sales, with around 30% coming from Fragrance & Cosmetics and 10% from Wines, Spirits and Fine Foods.

Export accounts for 60% of our overall business. Many of our clients are global brands and we supply material to packaging manufacturers in Europe, Asia and the US.

You recently launched the Rydal Packaging Collection of recycled papers for premium packaging.

Yes, we are seeing increased demand for paper with recycled content across the board, and recycled materials are a big focus for James Cropper.

As a result, we have developed the Rydal collection of papers for premium packaging applications, which includes an option with 100% post-consumer waste recycled fiber, including fiber from CupCycling–our recycling process dedicated to upcycling takeaway cups.

The idea behind the Rydal collection is also to give the market access to a choice of specific packaging papers. There are many paper collections that are designed for multi-applications, of which packaging is one. Rydal, on the other hand, is a product range designed specifically for packaging.

Our Rydal collection can be used for folding boxes, shopping bags and box covering applications. We also wanted to give brands the opportunity to align their choice to their marketing, so we offer three paper grades made on a regular basis: 100% post-consumer waste recycled, 40% post-consumer waste recycled and 100% fresh fiber from responsible forestry sources (FSC).

The Rydal collection comes in three shades of white and three shades of black and can be combined with our Tailor Made service to enable bespoke colors and textural finishes.

What are your other initiatives in the sustainability realm?

James Cropper has an on-site facility to turn used coffee cups into beautiful paper. Since launching CupCycling in 2017 we have upcycled more than 120 million cups into new paper products. The demand has been mainly from forward thinking brands who want to include the CupCycling story in their packaging DNA including Selfridges, Mulberry and Lush Cosmetics. Burberry, for instance, have designed shopping bags with paper made from 40% CupCycling fiber.

We also launched COLOURFORM, thermoformed, plastic free, molded fiber packaging, in 2018. This has provided sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics for beauty brands, such as Floral Street and the L’Oreal Group, and also a contemporary new eco-responsible secondary packaging for champagne house Maison Ruinart in partnership with Pusterla. This new champagne case is plastic-free, 100% recyclable and nine times lighter than the previous box.

What are your luxury clients asking for when it comes to sustainability?

In the past, brands were looking for FSC, then about three years ago it became all about recycled content. Last year demand accelerated for paper incorporating post-consumer waste, and in the last few months we’ve seen more requests for CupCycling. The more we advance in sustainable products and the more the mindset of our customers and the end consumer evolves, the more selective the demand becomes.

FSC is no longer a differentiator in itself; all of our papers are FSC-certified and it’s a standard that has now been democratized. Recycled gets more complicated, so we are discerning in the recycled fibers that we process as you can have different quality content. One of the best post-consumer waste fibers for packaging comes from CupCycling, as the fibers are long and have the strength characteristics that suit luxury packaging papers–the recycled fibers in the Rydal range always include CupCycling. We also use other PCW sources such as recycled office waste.

Are luxury brands ready to pay a premium for greener papers?

The cost differential on fiber type is often minimal. Our luxury clients often look for something that is unique, in terms of a Tailor Made color and often a textural finish, and it is this dye selection and creation of a bespoke textural effect on the surface that will have a more significant impact on the cost.

At the beginning of the health crisis you launched PaperGard by James Cropper, a paper with antimicrobial protection. What is the demand in the luxury space?

For those brands wanting the added assurance of antimicrobial product protection, James Cropper’s PaperGard incorporating silver ion technology can be included for all Rydal packaging options.

The technology, when applied to paper, is known to be effective against certain pathogens such as MRSA and E-coli. We’ve mainly had requests for PaperGard in the luxury space for shopping bags and rigid boxes. It’s less of a problem for folding boxes as if you purchase a perfume for example, it usually comes with a protective film.

The antimicrobial papers have been a part of the product portfolio since 2006. We’ve made paper for the medical industry for years, so this helped us to quickly launch this offer. I believe we are the only company in Europe providing the PaperGard technology.

What investments are planned for the next 12-24 months? Have these been impacted by the health crisis?

Going forward, we are planning a significant investment to expand our in-house embossing facilities. This is also linked to sustainability as shopping bags often used to be laminated with plastic, but brands are increasingly asking for embossing because in addition to the visual benefits it helps in resistance to finger-marks and scuffing. This commitment hasn’t been affected by the health crisis, but progress has been delayed a few months as we look to manage immediate demand.

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