Legally compliant innovations in the age of regulation

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In addition to the challenges that already arise when developing innovative packaging solutions, the aspect of legal certainty is increasingly coming into play. The growing number of European and national regulations complicates matters. Nevertheless, there is no way around scrutinising your own innovation work for legal certainty – even before the regulations come into force. Some companies have already set out on this path. Others will have to follow suit, even if it means considerable additional work. We look back and ahead – and give you advice on how you should proceed.


What has happened so far

Packaging was already under scrutiny in 2023 and in previous years. Since the EU Commission presented the Green Deal in 2019, the die has been cast in rapid succession.

The new Packaging and Packaging Waste Regulation (PPWR), the Green Claims Regulation, the Single Use Plastic Directive, the Food Contact Materials (FCM) Regulation and the EU Deforestation Regulation are just some of the regulations that were adopted or launched in the past year. They all aim to define the path to a circular economy with the goal of climate protection. And they all have an impact on packaging and the development of new, innovative packaging.


Excursus: The expansion of requirements

The design of packaging and the development of new innovations are historical tasks for packaging developers both among packaging manufacturers and packaging users in the branded goods industry and for retailers’ own brands.

  • Originally, the primary task was to guarantee protection for the product to be packaged.
  • Marketing then discovered packaging as a silent (and outstanding) salesperson at the point of sale. Creative design, decoration or finishing became increasingly indispensable to differentiate the product from the growing number of competitors on the shelf.
  • As a result, the range of services was expanded to include the aspect of convenience. Features such as easy opening, removal and resealing were added to the innovation agenda.
  • Finally, the packaging was given a further task: it should not only proclaim the environmental friendliness and sustainability of the product, but also credibly emphasise it.

With the expansion of requirements and the increasing range of services, the demands on packaging development also grew in parallel, both quantitatively in terms of breadth and qualitatively in terms of complexity.


New challenge: compliance

The increasing number of regulations relating to sustainability, environmental protection, climate protection and the circular economy not only influence all existing packaging requirements as a cross-cutting issue, but also add a further challenge: packaging innovations must be legally compliant in the age of regulation! And packaging development must ensure compliance.

The question that arises: Is the company organisationally prepared for this? Do you have the necessary resources, such as specialised staff and time? Or how can compliance be ensured with the resources available? It is obvious that packaging development does not yet have the necessary regulatory expertise in many cases.


Outlook and consequences

As responsibility grows, packaging development within the company becomes increasingly important.

  • It has to explain the regulations to management at board meetings and create the necessary awareness of the problem.
  • Colleagues in marketing must also realise that marketing aspects are no longer a valid performance criterion for evaluating packaging (or only to the extent that they are compliant).
  • In practical terms, however, the existing packaging portfolio must also be reviewed regarding its conformity with the regulations. This applies to both the packaging manufacturer and the packaging user.
  • At the same time, legally compliant design rules must ensure that all packaging is developed in a directly compliant manner as part of new developments.


Suspended state due to PPWR & Co.

The example of the PPWR reveals an additional challenge: The complex regulatory process, which we have frequently reported on in our newsletter, runs for several years and undergoes many changes due to the influence of lobby organisations before it is adopted. So, what do you do during this “transition period”?

Particularly since the periods between the adoption of a regulation and its entry into force are usually quite short, it is clear that waiting is not an option. Compliance cannot be achieved overnight. The risk of suddenly finding yourself without a legally compliant portfolio is far too serious.

The positive side: companies can be proactive. As the basic intention of the respective regulation often becomes clear long before it is finally adopted, suitable measures can be taken at an early stage and the course can be set in the right direction.


Conclusion + recommendation

In our experience, a pragmatic, multi-stage approach makes sense:

  1. Gain an overview of the upcoming packaging regulations.
  2. Evaluate the relevance of the regulations for your own packaging portfolio.
  3. Determine the need for action to adjust the existing portfolio.
  4. Define legally compliant design rules for packaging development.

It should not be forgotten that these tasks can usually only be mastered with better personnel resources in packaging development. Some organisational adjustments also need to be made or readjusted. Legal certainty used to cost only a fraction of the time and expertise required today.

An interesting insight into the field of legally compliant design rules and how companies deal with them is provided by Nestlé’s “Golden Design Rules”, which we have linked here as a PDF presentation.

As B+P Consultants, we are happy to assist you with any questions you may have. Get in touch with us.


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