Top 10 Topics in the Japanese Packaging Industry in 2017

1.Development of packaging robots underway to address labor shortage

In response to the rapidly advancing labor shortage, the performance of robots has attracted attention. In the packaging industry, collaborative packaging robots which work with people have been developed in succession, and robots for improving efficiency in box packing and labeling appeared. Moreover, the new fruit-sorting robot hand that clutches soft fruit was developed.

2.Rise in the prices of used corrugated board due to e-commerce

Owing to the escalating prices of used corrugated board due to the increased demand for used corrugated board paper associated with the increased e-commerce, together with increased fuel and logistics costs, all the major corrugated board manufacturers announced an increase this fall at once in the corrugated board paper prices. The increased prices influence many businesses that use it.

3.Five major convenience stores agreed to introduce electronic tags for all products by 2025

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and five major convenience stores agreed to jointly use electronic tags for all merchandise, which is estimated at 100 billion items annually. In light of this, they jointly formulated the Declaration of 100 Billion Convenience Store Electronic Tags. To realize this, it is necessary for the unit price of the electronic tag affixed to ordinary merchandise to be a maximum of one yen, for the source tagging under which manufacturers attach electronic tags to merchandise to be realized, and to create an environment where all merchandise can be managed with RFID.

4.Adoption of FSC certified corrugated board

The paper products which obtained the FSC® Certification (Forest Certification System), which is the international forest management certification system, in the Forest Management Certification (FM Certification) and the Chain of Custody Certification (CoC Certification) have begun to be introduced extensively. A beverage manufacturer switched its packaging material for natural water early in August and thereafter to corrugated board that obtained the FSC Certification. One beer manufacturer declared that it would switch its paper containers used by its group companies for six packs to FSC Certified products by the end of the year. The manufacturer says they will switch all other cartons and corrugated board by the end of 2020.

5.Six month emergency shutdown of a manufacturing facility of a major polypropylene producing company

On September 28, a problem arose at the manufacturing facility of a major polypropylene producing company and the facility was shut down immediately due to damage found in their key components. The manufacturing plant accounts for about 10% (300,000 tons) of the PP production capacity in Japan, and restoration was expected to take about six months. The PP resin, used for automobile bumpers, home electric appliances and a variety of packaging materials, is critically in short supply, which has tremendously impacted the packaging industry.

6.Development of packaging material for reducing CO2 emissions

While establishing new CO2 reduction technology is imperative, the application of food packaging material focusing on new materials with CO2 reduction agents was considered. The CO2 reduction agent made by Acteiive Corporation promotes a reaction. If added, the CO2 emissions generated when the packaging material is burnt are reduced. On this occasion, a major food company adopted food pouch packaging material which, when added to an adhesive agent for packaging material, reduces the CO2 emissions by 25%.

7.“Addressing food loss reduction through packaging is accelerated”: Cases where packaging reduced food loss made public on the MAFF website

Food loss, a term coined by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), refers to food that is still edible but is discarded due to being past the consumption date or left over. Five to eight million tons of the approximately 17 million tons of food waste annually are estimated as food loss in Japan. The MAFF (Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan) is now presenting cases on its website showing how packaging reduces food loss. The MAFF says on the website that utilizing containers and packaging technology, such as the development of new packaging material and packaging structure as well as their integration, will play an important role.

8.Multilingual product packages awarded the 41st Kinoshita Prize in Packaging Technology Area

When reading the QR code printed on the outer case of a container of spice through a smartphone, the language configured on the smartphone can automatically be recognized and merchandise information can be displayed in English, Chinese, Korean or Japanese according to the smartphone used. The user does not need to install an application in advance or configure special settings. The global package available for information browsing in the language the smartphone uses received the Japan Star Awards in the 2017 Japan Packaging Contest.

9.Continuous expansion of e-commerce (EC) sales to consumers, with EC at 5.4% and 32% via smartphone

The market scale of electronic commerce transactions for domestic consumers (B to C EC) in 2016 expanded to 15.1 trillion yen (9.9% year-on-year increase), of which that of product sales excluding services, etc. expanded to 8.0043 trillion yen (10.6% year-on-year increase), with EC at 5.43% and 31.9% of that via smartphone. The EC rates for product sales were approximately 15% in China and 7% in the U.S., and the market scale of the EC sales in Japan is estimated to continue to expand. Due to the ongoing expansion of EC sales, it is anticipated that retail stores will close, the number of goods by home-delivery services will continue to increase, more electronic payments will be made, and merchandise appeal on the smartphone screen will become more important.

10.Production and Packaging in the 2017 Daily Life Show

In October, the Production and Packaging in the 2017 Daily Life Show was held by the Japan Packaging Institute, as a meeting place for consumers and people involved in packaging, at the commercial facilities in Marunouchi, Tokyo with the theme of ‘Satisfied to know the new facts of packaging containers!’ This time, in addition to the exhibitions by eight companies and two organizations, the prize winners of the 2017 Good Packaging Project and the 41st Kinoshita Prize were exhibited, which provided an opportunity for many consumers to learn the functions and importance of packaging while enjoying them.

Selected & reported by the Institute of Packaging Professionals, Japan