The winners of the 2023 European Carton Excellence Award (ECEA) were unveiled in Seville, Spain, on 21 September, recognizing the innovation of the sustainable carton packaging industry over the last year. Hosted by Pro Carton – the European Association of Carton and Cartonboard Manufacturers – and the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA), the coveted awards celebrate the crème de la crème of sustainable packaging.
Spain-based Alzamora Group’s luxurious three-dimensional spherical packaging solution for beauty brand GERnétic was crowned Carton of the Year, whilst Graphic Packaging International’s innovative Boardio fiber-based pack for Perfetti Van Melle Mentos gum won consumers over in the Public Award, as well as taking home the Sustainability Award.
All ECEA entries were judged according to various criteria, spanning graphic and structural design, production techniques, cost-efficiency, ecology, sustainability, innovation, safety and convenience. The jury panel consisted of Satkar Gidda, chair of the judges and consultant for branding and design; Susanne Lippitsch of SL Design and leading packaging designer; and Unilever’s Sanjeev Das, global packaging director in the foods and ice cream business. Presenting the awards in Seville were Michele Bianchi, president of Pro Carton; Jean-François Roche, president of ECMA, and Horst Bittermann, director general of Pro Carton.
Advancing sustainable packaging solutions
The Carton of the Year winner combined high-end luxury with a unique and structural design. Alzamora Group skilfully crafted the elegant GERnétic packaging solution from a single piece of Stora Enso virgin fiber cartonboard. It not only protects the product, but also presents it as a beautiful gift.
Commenting on the Carton of the Year, the jury panel said, “GERnétic is an expertly designed package: a lot of skill is required to create a three-dimensional spherical shape from just a single piece of cartonboard without the use of any glue. This is the perfect demonstration of how you can achieve incredible results with cartonboard.”
Taking home both the Public Award and Sustainability Award, the Boardio fiber-based pack developed by Graphic Packaging International marks a significant breakthrough in the confectionery industry. This innovative design – crafted from Holmen Iggesund and Stora Enso virgin fiber cartonboard – introduces the concept of a paperboard bottle within the chewing gum category. The judges were pleased to see such a groundbreaking move that demonstrates the confectionery giant’s dedication to reducing its environmental footprint.
In addition to the Carton of the Year, Sustainability Award and Public Award, winners were also selected across several other categories, including Innovation; General Packaging Virgin Fibre; General Packaging Recycled Fibre; Food & Drink Virgin Fibre and Food & Drink Recycled Fibre. Platinum and Gold awards were also given to designs that the judges deemed particularly outstanding and deserved special recognition.
Innovation continues to flourish
Recent regulations on plastic reduction in premium beauty products – such as transparent film – prompted Edelmann Group to develop Mary Cohr. It took home the coveted Innovation Award thanks to its unique opening that demonstrates tamper evidence using only Sappi virgin fibre cartonboard.
The ingenious pack eliminates the need for film wrapping through its colored dot system on each flap, ensuring protection whilst enhancing shelf appeal. “Ingenious in its kind, it will change the future of tamperproof packaging and remove the need for non-recyclable packaging,” said the jury.
Elsewhere, Lucaprint collected the General Packaging Virgin Fibre award for its Dainese Packaging Kit Replacement. Using Stora Enso virgin fiber cartonboard, Lucaprint developed a specialized packaging solution for three types of its sports protection replacement products that exhibits a clean and minimalistic appearance. According to the judges, the intelligent pack “can be easily transported in the mail, as well as being environmentally friendly – with no use of glue – so it can be recycled effortlessly.”
Driving positive change in the industry
Successfully demonstrating that sustainability and functionality is achievable, Van Genechten Packaging’s ECOCLIC folding carton for Procter & Gamble won the General Packaging Recycled Fibre award. This innovative design, formed from MM BOARD & PAPER recycled cartonboard, successfully tackles the challenge of replacing a plastic tub, with a sustainable alternative.
The ECOCLIC design not only optimizes logistics by being delivered in a flat, pre-glued state but also comprises of just two components – the tray and hood – to reduce complexity in the supply chain. Additionally, the clever integration of the child-safe closure provides a satisfying ‘click’ sound, serving as confirmation when closing the packaging.
Posson Packaging’s Kevas – Rhum Aarrange cube rum case is, according to the judges, “an impressive design which perfectly and elegantly displays the products within while simultaneously telling a story about its contents.” Scooping the Food & Drink Virgin Fibre award, the pack is made entirely from FOLBB virgin fiber cartonboard and can hold up to four glass bottles of rum. The design offers multiple displays through plastic-free windows and strong communication options to cater to brand, retailer and consumer demands.
McDonald’s Delivery Cuff, developed by Huhtamaki using recycled MM Board & Paper cartonboard, won the Food & Drink Recycled Fibre award. The innovative and effective solution for the secure delivery of McDelivery items offers a “creative, fresh and cohesive sustainable solution to ensure safe uncontaminated delivery.”
Winfried Muehling, head of marketing & communications at Pro Carton, said, “The European Carton Excellence Award continues to recognize excellence in packaging design, innovation, and sustainability, and I wish to personally thank and congratulate everyone who submitted their creative designs. We received a record number of submissions, over one hundred! This makes the ECEA the most relevant carton packaging competition in Europe, where you truly compete with the best of the industry. This year’s winners have created pioneering packaging solutions for products that resonate with consumers, who are now prioritizing sustainable choices when purchasing products.
“Alzamora Group’s GERnétic secured its place as the 2023 Carton of the Year winner through its innovative approach to packaging design. It also clearly aligns with the growing demand for environmentally friendly alternatives for cosmetic and personal care packaging. The awards gala in Seville has been another resounding success and we urge all companies to enter again next year. We’re looking forward to seeing the innovations support a sustainable future using carton and cartonboard.”