Eating ice cream may seem like child’s play. Running an ice cream business certainly is not!
Mondi plunged head first into that market via its July 2016 acquisition of Turkish flexible packaging manufacturer Kalenobel, with that firm’s Istanbul headquarters and pair of production facilities in the northern Turkish city of Kirklareli.
Key factors such as seasonality, varied consumer behaviour, and novel production technology tend to make the ice cream packaging business a different animal from other consumer packaging sectors, and it takes some time to fully absorb all of the sector’s intricacies, according to Christian Hoeglund, Mondi business development manager for ice cream packaging. In a way, he muses, it required Mondi’s Consumer Goods Packaging group to take ‘an Ice Cream 101’ crash course.
The sector’s peculiarities are underscored by some recent findings by the independent market consultancy Euromonitor International, which in July published a report titled ‘Brand Disruption in Ice Cream’. It cited growth in healthier alternatives to standard ice cream, as well as the rise of new niche products such as alcohol infused ice cream, and even vegan ice cream.
There also tend to be country specific trends. In Italy, for example, ice cream consumption is among the highest in Europe, but consumers there tend to buy the product from local kiosks, which means that Mondi sells more paper cups in Italy than cone sleeves. Eastern European markets, on the other hand, want a more diverse product offering from country to country. Additionally, noted Euromonitor, there is evidence that new players in emerging markets such as Georgia, Ukraine and Thailand can rise rapidly and seize market share.
It takes close monitoring to stay one step ahead of such a fast changing consumer market.
Mondi Kalenobel has been careful and deliberate in taking on this new challenge, learning about the market and creating a managerial and sales structure to properly handle the business. At the same time, it has continued to take steps to establish itself as a packaging innovator in the ice cream world – but more on that later.
What is clear is that Mondi now has a new, dedicated focus on serving the ice cream packaging sector, and that is reflected in the steps the company is taking to put a suitable organisation in place to staff and build that business.
First, some perspective: Euromonitor in 2017 estimated retail sales in the global ice cream market to be about US$74 billion, and growing. Europe accounts for roughly 30% of the global market, and consumption growth in the region is particularly driven by impulse purchases of the sweet treat.
Mondi currently has a significant chunk of the overall European market, and understands the growth opportunities for forward looking, innovative, well run packaging operations serving the sector. Mondi intends to be at the front of that pack by harvesting the strategic geographic advantages Kalenobel provides. At the same time, Mondi will support the plant with its financially stable, multinational plant network
Mondi Kalenobel is engaged in trials to make plastic free ice cream packaging that does not require a polymer coating. It is testing use of different materials for making push up tubes and squeeze up tubes. Technical trials are due to begin soon, and, if successful, will offer a more environmentally friendly specialty product.