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Design at the heart of sustainability for Charpak

Charpak is returning to Birmingham's NEC for Packaging Innovations and Ecopack 2020. Paul Smith, managing director, discusses the importance of value-added packaging

Paul Smith Charpak

Packaging Innovations 2020 is set to return to Birmingham’s NEC on 26 and 27 February, alongside it’s co-located shows, Ecopack, Contract Pack & Fulfilment, Label&Print and Empack. Many of the event’s exhibitors will launch cutting-edge solutions for use across the supply chain, including Charpak. Managing director, Paul Smith, at the company, will be exhibiting at Ecopack, talks about the importance of value-added packaging. 


Can you tell me a little bit about Charpak, its history and who started the company?

Charpak was founded by myself and my brother Gary over 30 years ago and is now a multi-million-pound company. We value our heritage and reputation and pride ourselves on delivering an exceptional packaging service to our clients.

We started the company with our technical and engineering expertise. Our single-minded focus has always been to develop custom-designed packaging, new innovations, and high-quality production so we can add client value. We love to make the impossible possible.  

The expertise we have internally spans our dedicated in-house design team, our highly skilled packaging sector specialists and technically brilliant engineers. This means we can effectively take a blank brief, and design packaging that’s fit for purpose. 

We’re so proud of the team. Their combined efforts and expertise have gained recognition within the industry, winning SME of the Year 2018, and Innovation of the Year 2019.  Finding new solutions is what energises us every day.


Why is value added packaging so important in the drinks sector?

We know value added packaging is essential to enable drinks brands, producers and distillers to stand out from the crowd. The ability to offer consumers additional items such as mixers, chocolates, branded glasses, stirrers or jiggers, for example, is an essential part of global drinks brands’ product mix. Displaying drinks and add-on products to create the ‘wow factor’ and showcase all to their full potential is paramount.  

It’s key to differentiate, add value, and continually innovate. From regionalisation, to emerging global markets, into retail, duty-free and export, value added packaging helps to differentiate a brand from the crowd.

Beautiful products in pristine packaging adds a luxury feel to end consumers’ experiences with the brands themselves; and creates that essential stand-out quality on shelf. Just like Apple and its infamous packaging – we believe packaging is an essential part of the drinks brand experience. 

Considering the amount of time, resources, effort and passion put into the development of new flavour innovations, incredible bottle designs, outer packaging and gorgeous end products, product protection is vital. 

Particularly with the aging time required for distilled spirits, to run the risk of products being damaged, or not presented “properly” can put a drinks brand in jeopardy. Our value-added packaging (VAP) is precision-engineered and manufactured, which not only adds value, but offers cost savings because it reduces the risk of product damage. Our packaging is also pre-formed to exact specifications, helping to tackle challenges around waste prevention, and efficient use of resources to reduce environmental impact. 


Can you guide me through the creative process and explain how you begin creating a packaging concept?

The creative process is tailored to each client’s specific requirements because we control the entire design to manufacture process in-house. This also allows us to be incredibly agile.  From design brief to full manufacture, finished packaging products can be with clients within 29 days.   

Our packaging specialists liaise with customers to get an initial design brief, which is either based on what the client is trying to achieve, the issue they’re trying to solve or both. We then brief our in-house packaging designers.  

Next, our packaging designers develop the initial concept designs and 3D visual presentations to share with customers. This not only gives clients the true understanding of how the end product will look on shelf, but also offers them a range of design options to choose from. This is also highly efficient during the NPD process as any measurements, technical specifications or design tweaks are finetuned and re-engineered, even before sample production. 

Essential technical specifications and materials requirements are key at the outset of any brief, along with any additional considerations with outer packaging, boxing, distribution, and packaging minimisation. There’s nothing worse than being included at the end of the NPD process and trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

Samples are produced following client approval of the concept designs. These are then thermoformed (or vac-formed) in different materials, colours and thicknesses for our clients to review, to run feasibility trials or put into consumer research for example. The next step is client approval, before we proceed to tooling and into full production which takes place in our UK manufacturing facility.

It may sound a lengthy process, but it’s not. This can all be achieved in 29 days; it all depends on the speed of the decision-making and the clients’ needs.


What will you be showcasing at Packaging Innovations?

We will be bringing new materials and new packaging designs to Packaging Innovations 2020. We look forward to discussing the new rPET flock material. This new material looks amazing, and the quality is superb. It’s manufactured from recycled PET material so it can be recycled, which is a new innovation for flock material. For value added packaging and the drinks sector, it’s a less damaging solution than many others in the market today.  

We want to develop sustainable packaging that doesn’t cost the earth and 360o circular solutions. Charpak is serious about sustainability. You’ll have to come and see us at EcoPack on 26 – 27 February 2020 to find out more about the solutions we’re working on.  


Are there any trends that you’ve noticed in drinks packaging lately?

As well as product innovations themselves, we’re seeing a compete awakening of the industry to sustainability and recyclability. With Net Zero 2050 targets, greenhouse gas emissions and global concerns about carbon footprint growing ever-more pressing, we welcome the drinks sector taking greater responsibility and re-examining its packaging.  

Whilst food and packaging waste has been at the forefront of the media, drinks packaging has been less so. Sustainability, recyclability, carbon footprint and ethical sourcing must be higher on the drinks sector’s agenda. This is a huge consideration for brands, and particularly with additional global distribution and import/export taxation implications. 

We would like to see greater heed paid to both the energy and water resources used in different types of packaging.  The environmental impact of international sourcing and shipping, only for drinks products to be re-exported again almost doesn’t bear thinking about, except we think about that and much more.  


Finally, is there anything in the pipeline for the brand? What can we look forward to seeing from you in 2020?

There’s always something new in the pipeline from Charpak. We want to utilise our circular economy as much as possible and we will continue to use as much recycled content as is feasible in every pack without jeopardising the integrity of the product or brand.  

We aim to drive more recycled content and reuse of circular economy resources within the drinks sector.  The Charpak team will be at Ecopack on STAND K24, where our sector specialists will help new and existing customers find their best solution.

For any further information, please visit the Packaging Innovations NEC 2020 website or contact the show team on +44 (0) 208 843 8800 or

29 November 2019