IMMER Digital: An Innovative Approach To Manufacturing Flexible Packaging

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In February 2017 a supermodern packaging manufacture was opened in Ventspils. BC met with Irina Mirochnik, President of IMMER Group, which includes Ventspils company IMMER Digital. We talked with Ms. Mirochnik about the possibilities of modern production, geography of product distribution, flexible packaging and environmental issues, innovation and company’s perspectives.

Irina Mirochnik, President of IMMER GROUP. Provided by IMMER Digital.

BC: What attracts your clients to Ventspils IMMER Digital?


I.M.: Our group of companies works with high-tech solutions. Constant development and implementation of new types of flexible packaging materials and processing capabilities is our policy. And we use the latest technologies at Ventspils plant. We offer high-quality digital printing. Thanks to the latest printing technology in combination with a software it is possible to implement the most challenging creative ideas of marketing professionals.


The New Year is not only a holiday, but also an active time for sales. In order to increase sales, products are packaged in thematic packages. Therefore, it is especially important to pack the product not only beautifully, but also profitably. And this is what we can carry out - small runs within a short time and just-in-time.


The technology of digital printing in the manufacturing of flexible packaging is becoming more popular worldwide. This method of printing provides the shortest production time, which allows manufacturers to respond to market changes as quickly as possible. Thanks to the advantages of digital printing, the product will hit the store shelves in just a few days, without the risk of large stock balances in the warehouse. Within one order, we can quickly change the design, text or type of packaging, providing the best match for market demand and adapting it to the fullest extent to the real interest of consumers.


This is important, because according to the Ogilvy Action Research "Shopper Decisions Made In-Store", 70% of all purchases occur spontaneously, and the decision to purchase a specific product is taken in the store in the first 5 seconds. That is why the product packaging, its appearance and ability to attract the buyer's attention on the shelves of the store are extremely important.

BC: What does it mean “to make a package”? What should the manufacturer know? Where to start?


I.М.: We offer a complete production cycle from the idea itself to its implementation in packaging. Having a certain idea, one can turn to our design studio IMMER Design Studio, where young creative professionals, educated in European universities, will create a design. Their knowledge and practical skills will help you to increase the speed of bringing new products to the market.


Initially, when organizing a design studio, we set the tasks to facilitate and simplify the processes of development and implementation of packaging design for our customers. Companies usually lose a lot of time at all stages of creating a design and selecting the right structure of material for a particular product. Each product has different requirements for packaging, but the goal is the same, i.e. to increase the shelf life without any additives to the product itself. Due to the packaging it is possible, for example, to store mayonnaise twice as long.


We offer our customers a comprehensive solution in order to achieve the desired result faster and without extra costs for the work of artists, marketers and other outsource specialists who sometimes do not know the finer points of the technological process of packaging production or the regulatory requirements for packaging.


And in the end, there are also ready-made solutions, for example, a 3-D package with different functions.


BC: Your company works for export. Please, outline the geography of product shipments. 


I.М.: Companies from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and the CIS countries are among our clients. There are customers from the UK, France, Algeria and Israel, because our printing and post-processing options are unique. We are also actively working to attract attention on the Scandinavian market.


By the way, we worked with the Baltic countries before. Laima is our historical client. After opening a factory in Ventspils the market share in Latvia has considerably increased. We produce packaging for the local brands such as Laima, Apsara, Baltais, Rāmkalni, Hrum Hrum, Trikātas pienotava and Cesvaines Piens and others with the utmost responsibility. Many customers, using digital printing and our packaging solutions, were able to discover new markets for themselves. Apsara has started to make deliveries to America. For  Hrum Hrum we are making packaging to nine countries, to each in its own language.

A. Lembergs, I. Mirochnik, D. Graveris. Ventspils. 01.02.2017.

BC: What is the number of personnel at the Ventspils plant and what are the prospects for its expansion?


I.М.: The plant is equipped with the most modern equipment and requires highly qualified personnel, including those with higher technical education. Specialists of our profile are unique. We invest in training of new and already working team members both in Latvia and abroad.


Today the Latvian company numbers 64 employees, basically they are young people from Ventspils whom we are training by ourselves. We highly appreciate the availability of Ventspils Higher School and Ventspils Technical College in the town. We are also glad that the work in our company caused the move of three families to the town of Ventspils.


BC: What attracts the investors to the Latvian port town? What preferences does the status of a free economic zone (FEZ)  give to your company? In what way is the relationship with the town and its leadership being established?


И.М.: The status of the SEZ company creates particularly favorable conditions for investors. They are subject to substantial tax incentives, which facilitate exports and industrial production, as well as strengthen the global competitiveness of the EU companies.


Ventspils Free Port, according to the Financial Times rating, has been called one of the best in Europe, having received recognition for supporting start-ups, upgrading infrastructure, expanding port infrastructure, marketing and developing high-tech products.


BC: What innovations are ready to be implemented  in the field of packaging manufacure and what are you planning to implement?


I.M.: Our research center has made a new material named “cotton touch”, the decorative qualities of which combine the original tactile effect and texture. The material has a visual and tactile fabric effect. It is soft and pleasant to the touch. The work on creating the new product was carried out in the laboratory of the IMMER Group Research Center.


One of the priorities in the field of innovation also lies in brand protection and restriction of counterfeit products. Our company in cooperation with our Swiss partners for the first time introduced the Track & Trace traceability technology for flexible packaging and labeling. For the modern market it is a unique solution having a number of advantages.


First, it is the verification of the product and the confirmation of its authenticity. Any consumer using the smartphone programs via encoded data on the package can receive information about the product origin.


Secondly, today the possibility of recycling of packages is of current concern and is very important. This is a global trend. Therefore, we have developed materials with all the barrier properties needed by the customers and excluded the components that clear the way to full recycling. 


Thirdly, we have implemented a complex and interesting sleeve-label technology that only few companies are able to produce qualitatively. This type of labels allows you to maximize the use of packaging space for applying  textual data, attracts the buyer's attention to an original design, and can also be recycled with a PET bottle.


BC: What distinguishes flexible packaging from other types of packaging materials?


I. М.: Flexible packaging is an alternative to traditional types of packaging like metal, glass or paper. It is 50 to 80 times lighter than glass; its production releases 5 times less carbon dioxide than paper; it consumes 14 times less energy than production of cans, for example.

Thanks to reliable multi-layer barrier films, flexible packaging protects the product better. The main advantages of flexible packaging are the ability to use it for a wide variety of products, in a variety of shapes and sizes, with additional functional solutions including handles, dispensers and zip-fasteners, allowing to use the re-opening and reclosing function.


BC: To what extent are packaging materials friendly to the environment?


I.М.: We invest in new products and technologies in order to enhance the quality of people's life. IMMER Group produces packaging products for consumer goods, develops and implements all new and new solutions. Responsibility to the environment already begins during production process of  packaging itself, bringing forward the issue of how much resources are required to produce it. Important is the fact that the polymer packaging is completely recycled. It replaces laminated materials with aluminum foil, which is used for dairy products, coffee, sauces, etc.


But, strange to say, today the greatest harm to the environment is caused by discarded food products, which account for a third of all waste. But even in Central Europe, 30% of the population is undernourished. With properly selected packaging, the shelf life of food products is increased by two to three times.


Our packaging, which does not contain aluminum foil, guarantees longer shelf life, has the ability to reopen and reclose a package  and minimizes the amount of food loss. 


IMMER Group is an active participant in the UN SAVE FOOD Initiative, an environmental program Responsible Care and is a full-fledged member of the UN Global Compact. In addition, we are participating in the CEFLEX Consortium, a large-scale association of flexible packaging manufacturers that are building a new model of its life cycle for the new European closed cycle economy.


And we are motivating our customers and partners to use environmentally friendly packaging materials that meet the principles of a closed cycle economy.


Environmental standards of our production are constantly being certified for compliance with international requirements for sustainability.

BC: How do you see the near and more distant future of your company?


I.М.: According to a new report provided by the analytical agency Smithers Pira, the global flexible packaging market will be growing by an average of 3% annually  and will reach $ 248 billion by 2020. The use of digital printing in production of flexible packaging in the years of 2017 to 2020 will grow by 30%.


So we have an occasion for further development. We have received funding from the European program of structural funds "Innovative flexible packaging product for production", thanks to which we will set up a new innovative production in Ventspils. A quarter of all equipment will be really and truly the innovative developments, in a single copy in the world that are not yet used in the market. The Ventspils Free Port Authority is going to build another building that will meet the requirements of our production.


This will allow to produce even more perfect packaging. It will be thinner, easier to use, and its production will be consuming less resources.

BC: Irina, what is your assessment of the past 20 years as the head of a large company? How do you manage to maintain such a strenuous pace of life?


I.М.: The most significant for me through all those years were people - employees, partners, clients, family. After all, without a good team and partners, the company would not have achieved what it has got now. In my work, I try to hear reason and heart, to follow my intuition. When making decisions I rely on numbers and on my knowledge and knowledge of my colleagues. We have been working together with many of them all these years. I'm happy because I love my job. What we are doing is creation. I highly appreciate my colleagues. I am madly proud of my daughters and my friendship with wonderful people.


Travel and drawing help me to support the inner harmony. And active sports and rest like tennis, dances, music give me energy for new achievements.


About company


In December, the company celebrated their 90th anniversary, whose business was continued by IMMER Group, which has become one of the world's leading manufacturers of flexible packaging. IMMER Group includes two production sites: IMMER Digital and IMMER Ukrplastic, as well as IMMER Design Studio. The IMMER Group production ranks 15th in Europe; 60% of their products are exported to 35 countries. The IMMER Group team numbers 1,500 specialists engaged in production, technical, and research groups as well as marketing.