Dr Benjamin Punchard

Global Packaging Insights Director, Mintel

Benjamin brings over 13 years of experience in the packaging world, and 10 years creating and delivering packaging based market insight. During this time, Benjamin has worked with global clients big and small, and has been a regular speaker at international conferences. Benjamin has been with Mintel since 2012. In his current role as Global Packaging Insights Director, he is responsible for creating and delivering Mintel’s packaging content. Benjamin also leads the delivery of bespoke packaging insights, focusing on the specific packaging needs of Mintel’s clients. Prior to Mintel, he worked at Euromonitor International, initially as a researcher and client manager, which enabled him to forge strong links to the industry and grow his understanding of market research and insight needs. Subsequently, he was promoted to Head of Global Packaging Research, a role in which he led a significant revision in data collection, analysis and presentation that delivered a step change increase in data quality. Before joining the world of market research, Benjamin was Science Manager for Faraday Packaging Partnership. Working as a technology translator in this government funded initiative, he forged links between the packaging industry and academic excellence in fields as diverse as material science, decision making, engineering, psychology and design. Benjamin holds a Ph. D. in Polymer Physics from The University of Leeds where he investigated the pressure dependence of segmental polymer dynamics.

Why did you choose a career in packaging?

Before I started my professional career I studied for a PhD in polymer physics at Leeds University. That great background in the science of plastic was the perfect preparation for my first role, which was as a technology translator for the Faraday Packaging Partnership. My role started out very much focused on how the material science being researched in UK universities could benefit the packaging industry, but very soon it became clear that university research could shine a light on much more - such as decision-making research or the psychology of colour. Since then, I’ve become immersed in packaging and particularly focusing on how it can improve the consumer experience.

What are the main responsibilities in your role?

Along with my US counterpart, David Luttenberger, who is Mintel’s Global Packaging Director, my role can be summarised as ensuring that all the great innovations, consumer and purchase intelligence packaging data that Mintel collects is turned into actionable insight. That might be spotting an emerging trend to share with our clients, or keeping tabs on how the functionality of a pack type is changing over time. Alongside this general packaging trends tracking, I also assist our clients - be they designer, material producers, converters or brand owners - with specific bespoke insight to drive their innovation creation.

What do you predict to be the biggest game changer in the industry in the next 5 years?

We are all painfully aware of the environmental impact of plastic pollution, and there is no denying that packaging has been a source of this problem. I see this as a great opportunity to refresh the way we think about the circularity packaging and the value of packaging materials, plastic included. In particular, consumers themselves are now considering the environmental impact of packaging in new ways. For example, recyclability is no longer just considered when it comes to disposing of an empty pack, but at the point of purchase. And going forward a brand’s eco-commitment will not just rest upon its ability to provide recyclable packaging, but the actions and support the brand can offer in ensuring a positive end of life for used packaging.

What is the biggest impact Ecommerce is having on packaging?

Ecommerce is undeniably going to be a huge influencer on packaging, and in particular the consumer goods packaging that I’m interested in. With an increasing number of online only grocery e-tailers such as Amazon Fresh, brands now have opportunities to create packaging optimised solely for the ecommerce supply chain. But beyond supply chain optimisation, I’m most excited about how this can improve the consumer experience. For example, could we combine technologies such as digital print and the vast wealth of consumer information that can be collected online to create bespoke packaging at the moment of purchase. Amazon has already created an online expectation that packaging is part of the purchase choice with its frustration free vs ship in own container options.

Plastic waste is a hot topic among the packaging community: what's your position?

As I’ve said already, plastic pollution is a topic that’s here to stay. My honest opinion is that plastic is a fantastic material that used wisely can be the correct environmentally friendly choice. Plastic has enabled a supply chain that gets fresh foods from the factory to your door with minimal waste. However, the era of single use plastic is coming to an end, and not a moment too soon. I would like to see a future in which every single item of packaging, plastic or any other material, has a clear end of life solution that recoups the value of that material. That could be recycling, reuse, or composting into valuable organic material. The only completely sustainable future is one in which no packaging is expected to end up in landfill.

Can you give us a few insights into some of the issues you’ll be covering in your presentation in June?

I’m going to be focusing on this great sustainability debate that is so much in the news. Mintel’s consumer data shows that consumers have strong, but not always correct, views around sustainable packaging. So I’ll be aiming to give a window into the mind of the consumer, and compare this insight to what we’ve actually seen in terms of sustainable packaging innovation in the marketplace. We’ll explore the different environmental claims we see on pack, highlight some good case studies, and explore opportunity gaps where brands and packaging converters can create differentiation

Don't miss Benjamin Punchard's session at the 8th Global Packaged Summit in Amsterdam (24 - 25 June 2019). Find out more about Mintel's session "Does Plastic have a Role in the New World of Sustainable Packaging?" here.