Interview with Gérard Mathieu – Director of Marketing and Innovation for Smurfit Kappa

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Interview with Gérard Mathieu – Director of Marketing and Innovation for Smurfit Kappa

Could you tell us a quick word about your position at Smurfit Kappa and the group’s activities?

Smurfit Kappa counts over 45,000 employees working in 370 branches, spread out on 3 continents and 34 countries. We are leading the French and European markets in paper and cardboard packaging. Our activities involve forestry, producing corrugated paper and recycling, as well as producing paper and cardboard packaging.

As Director of Marketing and Innovation for Smurfit Kappa France (44 sites), my duties involve managing and coordinating innovation and communication, as well as operational and strategic marketing.

Smurfit Kappa took part in the CNE’s “Packaging and evolving consumer trends and distribution channels” Working Group.

  • What struck you during this collective intelligence experience to produce the final document?

This document is a prime example of cooperation between several professionals, most of whom are experts in their fields and whose expertise and points of view complete each other’s. Taking part in preliminary meetings and discussions and contributing a few paragraphs to the final document was a very rewarding experience. The final document is very thorough and educational and tackles various packaging-related topical issues.

  • We’re not asking you to go into much detail, but could you summarise Smurfit Kappa’s idea of packaging and its features when it comes to e-commerce?

On the one hand, there is the consumer; in a way, e-commerce packaging is the first “physical” link between consumer and e-commerce retailer. Packaging has to offer the best possible experience to that consumer. This includes access to the product (opening the package), tailor-made communication on the packaging, accurate volume or quantity assessment and void management, easily reusable packaging in case it is sent back, and last but not least easily discardable packaging (flattening the package, reducing its volume and waste sorting). As a consequence, packaging obviously has to protect its content through whichever distribution channel it goes through with adequate padding for instance, but it also has to make sure the consumer remembers only its positive aspects.

For the e-commerce retailer, the priority is probably packaging costs. So e-commerce requires economical packaging which can be easily assembled (manually or automatically), and most importantly adequately sized. Retailers’ most difficult task is to find the right balance between formats, dimensions, and automation requirements. These parameters are primarily set depending on day-to-day volume, seasonal trends, number of products available, packaging methods, and transport pricing.

  • As Director of Marketing and Innovation, what are the strengths and weaknesses of the CNE’s Working Groups? (attendance, debates, reports, allotted speaking time, etc.)

The Working Groups are well managed, especially given how difficult it can be to accommodate every participant’s schedules. Leaving the actual writing to the CNE is a great idea. Debate leadership is rather “modern” with the use of well-known brainstorming tools. There might be room for improvement by providing participants with detailed debate issues in advance, so they can have more time to ponder them and especially to discuss them more thoroughly.

  • Would you be eager to take part in another Working Group?

Yes, of course, provided my schedule allows for it…

  • As a Smurfit Kappa representative, can you tell us which current issues are viewed as priorities by your group and could be investigated in CNE Working Groups or other formats (morning briefing, etc.)?

 A particularly interesting subject when it comes to secondary packaging, perhaps to be tackled in partnership with ECR France, is on-shelf shortages. In what way can packaging be responsible for these shortages, which can be very costly to agri-foodstuffs businesses and generate product loss? How and why do they occur? And what could packaging manufacturers do to avoid them?

Does smart packaging have a future beyond a gadget trend phenomenon? If so, would it be as primary, secondary or tertiary packaging?