30 years of innovation – the Tetra Pak India story7 min read . Updated: 28 Sep 2017, 02:56 PM IST
For over three decades now, the brand has been pioneering innovations to ensure that our food is safe and accessible even in the remotest regions of the country
Every year India loses tonnes of perishable food to spoilage. Between supply chain inefficiencies and unfriendly weather conditions, an alarmingly large quantity of food is rendered uneatable before it reaches the consumer. Needless to say, in a country grappling with food security, hunger and malnutrition, preventing food wastage is serious business.
For 30 years now, Tetra Pak has been pioneering innovations to make food safe and available everywhere. If anytime in the past three decades we have enjoyed a carton of unspoiled milk or a pack of coconut water, all year round and literally anywhere, it is very likely that Tetra Pak was behind that experience.
Innovating for India
From the farm to the factories, and finally to the consumer, food in India travels vast distances. And to keep it from spoilage is no mean feat. That’s the journey Tetra Pak is helping brands make. From its first manufacturing unit in Takwe near Pune in 1997, to their ultramodern facility at Chakan, Pune, Tetra Pak has catered to and innovated for a fast-changing market. The Chakan facility was named the best performing factory in 2015 among 37 Tetra Pak factories worldwide. It is also an IGBC-certified facility that has Platinum status (the Indian Green Building Council being the local equivalent of the internationally-recognised LEED certification) – the only Tetra Pak site in the world to be conferred so. And when it comes to maintaining and improving the integrity of production and quality systems, the Chakan factory has achieved the first three of five milestones of Total Productive Maintenance accorded by the highly respected Japan Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM) through rigorous audits – TPM excellence, TPM consistency, and TPM special certifications. The factory is on track to achieving the World Class Manufacturing certification, the highest accolade, in the next few years.
In the course of these 30 years in India, Tetra Pak has partnered with some of the biggest F&B companies in the country including Amul, Coca-Cola, Dabur, Karnataka Milk Federation, Parle Agro, Pepsico and United Spirits (Diageo). It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that it has transformed the way India buys, stores and consumes food. And India continues to be a strong market for it, with great future potential. In 2016, Tetra Pak delivered the equivalent of around 7 billion packs in India and plans to sell 8 billion packs in 2017. The company delivered around 188 billion packs worldwide last year.
“India is one of our fastest growing markets and we are very upbeat about the opportunities that it offers. Our investments here underscore that point, and reflect the positive sentiment we hear from our customers, both here in India as well as in other parts of Asia," says Dennis Jonsson, President and CEO, Tetra Pak group. “India has been the market to watch. It is set to play an important role in the next phase of growth for our company," he adds.
Keeping up with change
Tetra Pak’s contribution to the food industry has far exceeded common perceptions of the role. Like its 6-layered guarantee of food safety, Tetra Pak has pioneered to become an end-to-end solutions provider from ideation/product formulations to processing, packaging, technical services and marketing services.
Starting with the ubiquitous Frooti in the 1980’s and 90s, to new favourites like Paperboat, catering nostalgia to millennials, Tetra Pak technology has ensured food and beverages remain fresh without the need for added preservatives. And in a country like India, where retail outlets and homes don’t necessarily have facilities for refrigeration, it has been a real game changer.
“Our technology has helped us Make For India products and solutions that address needs that are unique to Indian consumers, making safe food, milk and beverages accessible even in the hardest-to- reach areas across the country," says Kandarp Singh, Managing Director, South Asia Markets for Tetra Pak.
Frugal innovation and the revolution of affordability
A global leader in sustainable food packaging, the Swedish company is synonymous with the idea on innovation. Tetra Pak has successfully integrated aseptic processing and ultra-high-temperature processing (UHT) systems that allow perishable goods to be shipped long distances without refrigeration.
It ensures that packaged drinks have longevity and better shelf life without the need for preservatives. The cartons Tetra Pak makes are not just lighter than glass or metal, they can also be efficiently stacked and they take up much less space. For a country like India innovations such as these not just reduce costs, but are helping increase distribution to far-flung areas. And without efficient packaging, these areas probably wouldn’t have access to a lot of products.
“India is leading the revolution around affordability and frugal innovation. In India, for us, frugal development is not just desirable but a necessity," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said while speaking recently at a food and beverage industry leadership seminar in Gurgaon, marking 30 years of Tetra Pak in India. The celebration saw a gathering of over 100 industry leaders from the F&B sector across major countries in South Asia.
“If we can deliver a combination of quality and affordability, we can unlock vast markets. That is why I am so excited about what Tetra Pak is doing. Because I think they are creating these service and product units which are at a very affordable price point, but because of their unique technology, they have the quality which is necessary," the minister added.
Protecting what’s good
To fully understand the significance of the work that Tetra Pak does, it is important to understand the problem of food safety. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that about a third of the food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost. This means that about 1.3 billion tonnes of food each year is wasted. For a world dealing with hunger and malnutrition, that is mammoth wastage and demands immediate attention. Food losses and waste also account for around 8 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
Reducing food waste is one of the founding principles of the Tetra Pak business. More than half a century ago, it pioneered the development of aseptic technology, that enables liquid food products to be aseptically processed, packed, distributed and stored at room temperature, with a typical shelf life of six to 12 months.
The absolute importance of this technology is imminent in the future as well. It is estimated that by 2050, global population will grow 33 percent to about 10 billion people. The pressure of food resources will be immense, the demand will double and products will have to be sourced globally. Food might need to travel longer distances to reach the consumer. Food safety will become even more non-negotiable. And all these considerations imply that the need for aseptic packaging will increase manifold.
Sample this: Tetra Pak is working closely with FSSAI – complementing the regulatory authority’s effort to promote safe and nutritious food both inside and outside of the house - to launch a ground awareness activity covering over a hundred schools, RWAs and other locations to educate them about the importance of food safety and nutrition In India. Through this activity alone it aims to reach out to more than 60,000 people. If you are on social media, you may also have seen their recent digital film – Safe For Sure - which shows consumers that milk in cartons can be trusted because of the technology and care that goes into it.
As the conversation on sustainability and recyclability gathers steam, Tetra Pak has both ideas on top of their agenda. Tetra Pak cartons are leading the path to a sustainable future, long before legislations came into play and before sustainability became a ‘buzzword’.
Tetra Pak cartons are fully recyclable because they are primarily paper-based. And the company has invested ahead of the curve in setting up a robust ecosystem for the recycling of their cartons. Working with waste-pickers, NGO collection partners and recyclers, Tetra Pak truly believes in treating waste as wealth. If this is not enough of a motivation for you, please remember that the recycled cartons are used to make many useful items like school desks, notepads, exam pads, roofing sheets and more for lesser privileged schools that lack basic infrastructure.
As Pawan Agarwal, President of Kamlabai Educational and Charitable Trust, and noted speaker best known for his study on the Mumbai Dabbawalas puts it, “At our school, we have good students and dedicated teachers. But we lacked basic classroom infrastructure like chairs and desks. Thanks to Tetra Pak, now our students no longer need to sit on the floors, they have desks and a real classroom."
While Tetra Pak celebrates 30 years in India, it has constantly been innovating to meet its customers’ needs for today and tomorrow. Over the course of its India chapter, the brand has consistently changed the face of the Indian market since its entry in 1987, as it continues to do even today.