Hartwall is a leading Finnish beverage company operating for more than 150 years. The company is best-known for their refreshing soft drinks and high-quality beers, and represents a wide range of beverages under various brands. Today, Hartwall is part of the Royal Unibrew family, and their beverages can be found in countries around the world.
Hartwall has been quick to respond to market changes over the decades, including reacting to shifting consumer attitudes around packaging. We spoke to Asko Sipola, Sourcing Manager at Hartwall, about their state-of-the-art production facility, their plans going forward – and their experience with Lemtapes.
A state-of-the-art production facility
The center of Hartwall’s operations lies in Lahti, where they’ve developed a state-of-the-art production facility that can pack up to 90,000 cans per second. Further, their package quantities are optimized for rapid product changeover. The speed and efficiency of the plant is a key factor in Hartwall’s beverage success, and the path going forward is one of continuous improvement.
“Hartwall has invested heavily in the facility, and we have more investments on the way,” says Sipola. “As a result, the automation level is quite advanced – the filling machine speed is so fast that we need high-speed cameras to monitor for potential handling issues.”
This efficiency also helps to support the company’s science-backed sustainability targets. Customers are conscious of environmental issues and adapting to more sustainable product packaging can help the product stand out from the rest on the shelf – as well as being a benefit for the brand’s reputation.
For Hartwall, this means a transition to more sustainable materials and increasing energy efficiency.
“Particularly here in Finland, consumers are well aware of green values and sustainability, and their expectations are very high. In the big picture, our target is to source all of our materials from a recycled material source, or make them recyclable or reusable by 2025.”
Hartwall is also developing a new biogas plant, which will convert production side streams into a valuable source of energy for powering the facility – adding to the already robust circular economy in Lahti.
Lemtapes as a secret packaging ingredient
Hartwall works with Lemtapes through their packaging supplier to make their drink cartons easy to carry – ensuring each customer arrives home without an inconvenient spill.
Lemtapes’ reinforcement tape is integrated into Hartwall’s corrugated board recipe, and comes embedded inside each sheet of corrugated board. The reinforcement tape provides added strength, but its carefully planned positioning and light weight makes it possible to recycle normally with other corrugated board.
“A lot of development work has gone into the handle, such as its orientation, the handle material, and the total percentage weight. Our 24-pack weighs eight kilos, so without Lemtapes, the package would not last.”
In addition to improving consumer convenience and packaging functionality, the Lemtapes reinforcement tape allowed Hartwall to reduce the grammage of their 24-pack corrugated cartons – a move that has translated into less material use and significant cost savings over time. This has also improved efficiency throughout the supply chain through reduced weight.
Over a century of packaging expertise
Sipola is responsible for all of Hartwall’s packaging material sourcing. His previous experience at the company as a packaging development manager has lent him hands-on expertise in customer-centric packaging production and innovation.
“Hartwall has a lot of well-known brand products, and this means there is a certain level of expectation from the consumer about quality. In Helsinki, I work hands-on with our marketing team helping to plan and implement the next three to five years at Hartwall.”
This past year, Sipola says, has been especially interesting due to availability challenges and price increases – striking the right balance between cost and packaging performance requires a careful hand.
Despite the current challenges, Sipola anticipates the growth of packaging carton production to continue as paper mills shift away from production of fine paper.
Hartwall also continues to monitor the market for changes in consumer preferences.
“One of the key trends has been a shift towards healthier beverages such as vitamin waters and low-sugar alternatives. So the products we’re putting on the market are healthier, and new alcohol launches focus on the low-alcohol segment.”
And after a 16-year career with Hartwall, Sipola is positioned to continue innovating with a passion for packaging – with an added dose of invisible strength.
“The great thing about my work is that there are so many kinds of packages that every day is different. Working with such high volumes and varied materials – that makes life exciting.”