Packaging Industries Ltd: Award Winning Packaging Firm Eyes Growth

Packaging Industries Limited is proud of its achievements in facilitating trade and boosting the economy and creating jobs in Kenya. A leading manufacturer of high-quality packaging solutions, the company has recently received an international packaging award that adds a feather to its many years of impact.

Packaging Industries Ltd was stablished by Mr. Navin Raichand Haria from its humble beginnings in 1985, when the company founder started by investing in a monolayer extrusion machine and a bag-making machine.

The company is responsible for an extensive range of packaging from beverage, food, health care, home and personal care, pet food, agricultural packaging, and more.

With Kenya being on a developmental spree, the packaging solutions provider grew to be one of the most extensive blown film manufacturing facilities in East & Central Africa, supplying to markets in Kenya and beyond its borders.

Flexible packaging took an upturn at a drastic rate, as consumer demand for better packaged consumer goods and agricultural produce rose. PIL took the reins and invested in multilayer co-extruders and multicolor flexographic printing machines and marched ahead of others in the regional market.

In the 1990s, Kenya’s vision for supermarkets and commodity packaging grew in abundance and PIL designed, developed, and innovated packaging to meet the market demand. It was majorly involved in the transition of milk packaging from multi-material compositions to flexible pouches. “Our quick turnaround and unbeatable quality coupled with excellent customer service and technical expertise are the basis on our client’s dependency on us as their solution providers,” says Vaishali Malde, the firm’s Sales and Marketing Manager.

Employing over 250 people in the industry, Packaging Industries Limited has grown over the years, diversifying with the challenging times following the ban of plastic carrier bags, which were gazetted by the Kenyan Government in 2017. This led to their investment in the alternative material carrier bags made from non-woven polypropylene materials and the installment of a paper converting line.

Though both their assets currently lay idle due to the preference of plastic packaging over the alternatives by users, the firm constantly collaborates with the industry stakeholders to understand the life cycle assessment of various alternatives to plastics and their effect on the environment at the end of their useful life. “We are closely working with the authorities to understand the direction we as a country would like to take in addressing the plastic menace. We also actively participate in all clean-ups around the country that are accompanied by awareness creation sessions for people to understand how to dispose of plastic packaging at the end of its useful life and keep the environment clean.”

PIL strongly follows their fundamental values such as care, integrity, hygiene and safety, teamwork and collaboration, and circularity.  “We are committed to promote a circular economy in packaging to consumers by adopting recyclable packaging materials and technology. We design solutions to serve our clients more sustainably through intense and collaborative efforts with like-minded partners.”

Award winning packaging innovation

The 2020 was an exciting one for PIL, after the company bagged the Gold award in the 32nd Packaging Innovation Awards, brought by DOW, to recognize their innovative Mama Silage Bag.

The Packaging Innovation Awards recognize innovations in the packaging supply chain that excel in technological advancement, responsible packaging, and enhanced user experience.

The Mama Silage bag is a high-performance plastic bag consisting of multiple layers of polymers with a unique oxygen barrier to preserve fodder for cattle. This innovative technology ensures an anaerobic environment is provided in the bag that is perfect for silage fermentation. With no oxygen transpiration, the nutritional quality of the silage is preserved for long durations without spoilage.

The directors of the company Dip Shah, Nishit Haria, Vaishali Malde and Beju Haria with their packaging award tropy

Vaishali Malde joined the company in 2016 as a sales representative and was later made the Sales and Marketing Manager. At every step of her career, she leveraged her strong growth focus and passion for sustainable packaging solutions for clients to deliver double-digit growth for the company in sustainability projects. Vaishali has developed long-term relationships fostering a spirit of collaboration through a market and solution-oriented mindset. She has led major successful innovation adoption projects such as the Mama Silage Bag.

Vaishali has broad experience in the flexible packaging industry. She has spent intensive time learning about flexible packaging, understanding plastic packaging’s environmental issues, learning post-harvest technologies to reduce food waste by employing packaging, and understanding solid waste management to redirect packaging to recycling centers. She is focused mainly on sustainable packaging design for a circular economy.

Keeping forage for longer on the farm

“The Kenyan dairy farmers deal with erratic weather patterns, with extremely wet periods and extremely dry periods. Naturally, for a dairy farmer, it is critical to be able to feed his cows throughout its life. That is when the Mama Silage bags come into play.

The farmers can store animal feed for longer periods, ensuring the feed’s nutritional quality is preserved and giving them food security leading to constant milk production and steadier income throughout the seasons. The Mama Silage bags are not only very robust and reusable but also easy to recycle locally,” says Vaishali.

 “Being a flexible packaging supplier for pouched UHT milk, we were concerned about the fluctuation consumption of packaging throughout the year and were curious to understand the cause. With most milk processed in Kenya coming from small-scale farmers through co-operative societies, we got to the grass-roots levels to speak to farmers regarding the stability of milk production and their drawbacks. Noting that feeding the animal is the highest cost of a farmer, and erratic weather patterns make it difficult for a constant forage supply, the farmers stored silage in traditional ways to feed to animals through dry periods. The shortfalls of the traditional bunker and pit methods lead to deterioration of the silage quality, and forage waste from overfermentation and mold growth.”

“With packaging being our strong area of expertise, we recognized the need for a better packaging and storage solution. The Mama Silage bag was innovated to address farmers’ plight and ensure the preservation of nutrition for a long period, giving them a stable source of animal food. Essentially, it is more efficient in preserving fodder when compared to conventional methods.”

“We would like to share this innovation with other countries in Africa where small-scale dairy farming is practiced. We are looking forward to collaboration through the entire dairy value chain to reach a wider network for farmers and make dairy farming more profitable to small-scale farmers. We would also be looking to leverage digitization to accelerate the adoption of the innovation.”

The flexible packaging advantage

Vaishali notes that the flexible packaging market has grown globally in all packaging industry areas and supplemented and replaced rigid packaging in many applications. She adds that it is easy to see why flexible packaging has seen growth and become the preferred packaging material, majorly in the food and beverage market. Its portability, safety, product freshness, convenience, shelf stability, and shelf-life extension make it the ideal choice. 

Flexible packaging design allows us to combine the best quality of various materials to deliver a broad range of properties while using minimal material.  With flexible packaging, functionality benefits such as such as moisture and oxygen barriers to extend a product shelf life can be achieved. These benefits are the driving demand for the increase in the use of flexible packaging and the conversion to flexible packaging from other package formats.

Flexible packaging is sustainable in many ways. The superior barrier protection, extended shelf life, and food safety ultimately benefits the consumer by providing safe, long-lasting, and cheaper products. A holistic view of the sustainability benefits of flexible packaging needs to be understood by consumers compared to other packaging types. Many people do not consider the science of plastics considering all the benefits the flexibles offer; however, it is critical to understand the science behind the various packaging materials and sustainability and end-of-life issues.

“When sustainability is an important attribute to consider when designing packaging, it needs a more holistic thought process through the product and packaging lifecycle. For example, before choosing a biodegradable material requires a thorough life cycle assessment through the supply and manufacturing chain of the packaging, including the energy used in all processes and its transportation, the unintended impacts of the bio-degradable packaging in recycling streams, and how long it would take to degrade on the roadside.”

Vaishali adds that flexible packaging is directly related to less material use, since it saves money in material sourcing and transportation, as the films are shipped in flat format or rolls, which allow more material to be shipped per square foot of transport space, contributing to sustainability. “Flexible packaging consumes fewer natural resources than many of its alternatives. Its higher product to packaging ratio allows trucks to fit more of it per load, using less fuel and fewer emissions,” she points out.

With the five years of her time at PIL, Vaishali has closely collaborated with clients and advised them on developing environmentally friendly packaging. “We interact with clients to discuss functionalities that their packaging needs to serve and after that educate them on sustainable solutions and give them the ideas and opportunities to expand their packaging ideas until the scope meets a sustainable reality. With our team’s technical expertise, we ensure the packaging serves all the clients’ required needs.”

Developing right solutions for customers

Vaishali spends much time creating awareness on the environmental upsides of packaging and better disposal of flexible packaging to improve recycling rates instead of the blanket assumption of consumers noting that plastic packaging is fundamentally bad for the environment.

 She works closely with regulatory bodies, various authorities, manufacturing organizations and advocacy groups to promote the shift to sustainable packaging, increase recycling through designing for recyclability, and drive greater use of post-consumer materials.

“A significant growth in the consumer goods space has given us growth by the migration of buying loose unpacked products to buying pre-packed products with a better, longer shelf life. Everyone is entitled to access safe and hygienically contained consumables, especially food products, no matter what income bracket they fall in. This makes our packaging development team think outside the box to provide pocket-friendly packaging to all categories of consumers. With this growth, we continue to focus on sustainability in packaging; we are making our workforce value-conscious and mission-driven and adding larger dimensions to our values by helping the environment, reducing food waste, and serving our clients’ needs in the most sustainable ways.”

With the need to join the global drive towards a circular economy for plastic packaging, Vaishali reveals that PIL is rethinking packaging designs, reducing the plastic entering the system by downgauging in applications and using recycled plastics in others. 

“Recycling packaging at the end of its useful life is not just environmentally friendly and sustainable but also a major raw material required in many industries, including ours. We ensure our clients are aware of recycling’s benefits and see the value of further educating their consumers on segregation at the source to reduce plastic contamination in the system and maximize recyclables’ value. In this way, the packaging materials flow around in a ‘closed loop’ system rather than being used once and discarded.”

She adds that flexible packaging gets bad press because of its high visibility in the environment. “If the packaging is not disposed of properly by consumers, it can easily end up in the environment as litter and becomes difficult to collect. Alternatives to plastics will also lead to a sore eye if left to litter around. A focus on educating the consumers on the correct disposal of packaging waste would reduce littering in the environment and improve the recycling rates. Driving the consumer behavior is currently the biggest challenge of all!”, she points out saliently.

“We have an exciting journey ahead at Packaging Industries Limited. The strength of our team, our capabilities and technologies will enable us to build closer relationships with our customers by contributing to innovative localized solutions while maintaining a world-class standard,” she concludes.

This feature appeared in the June 2021 edition of Africa Inc. magazine. You can access the full digital magazine HERE

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