Luxury Paperboard Has A Name: HOLMEN IGGESUND
LUXE PACK New York 20th Anniversary Pioneers
We are thrilled to be showcasing a very exclusive group of exhibitors who have been part of the 20 year LUXE PACK New York lineage. We are honored to have them continue to be part of the invaluable industry legacy that solidifies them as long-running industry packaging players. We would like to introduce them to you individually and therefore welcome you to hone on the special editorial content developed to showcase their own industry legacy and how they plan to continue to contribute to the industry’s next 20.
Articles are written by Jean-Yves Bourgeois, Co-founder, LUXE PACK & Founder of Formes de Luxe Magazine
There aren’t many brands within the premium segments who don’t know the Swedish paperboard supplier Holmen Iggesund and their iconic product brand Invercote, known for high-quality and exceptional printability. Fewer know that Invercote was born as from a direct result of the American market demands in the 60s. That was their beginning, and today Holmen Iggesund has had a consistent presence in the American market for more than forty years. We spoke to Rickard Österlindh, President Holmen Iggesund Americas, and Neal Haussel, Director, Brand Owners & Sustainability.
Question: Could you tell us a little bit about the Holmen Iggesund story and your product brand Invercote?
Rickard Osterlindh: The Holmen Iggesund Swedish operations started as early as 1685, but as an iron mill. Back then, wood from the surrounding forests was used to power the manufacturing process, but at the beginning of the 20th century, we began to produce pulp. Many tried their luck during that time producing paper pulp, and in just a few decades the northern part of the Swedish east coast was filled with a string of pulp mills.
The CEO of Holmen Iggesund, Gunnar Sundblad, realized that you must strive forward to be competitive in the long-term, and to get a glimpse of the future, he sent his son Lars to the US to capture the trends of the time. Lars was tasked with looking specifically at American tissue products, and sure enough, he could tell that the paper napkins used at the Canadian Club in New York were of fantastic quality. But his biggest impression was the rapidly emerging market for packaged food, which at the beginning of the 50s had no equivalent in Europe.
Lars summed up his impressions by saying “You have to be able to print on the paperboard with the very best quality, otherwise the consumer won’t realize the quality of the product,” and with that, the board at Holmen Iggesund took the risky decision to invest in cardboard production, largely inspired by the paperboard materials on the American market.
Being the first company to manufacture solid bleached boards in Europe was initially seen as a gamble because the market didn’t know the product and even if it did, there was no demand. However, looking back now, the venture is seen as having secured Holmen Iggesund’s future. When production started, we didn’t even have samples, and customers were shown materials from American paperboard mills.
“We’re going to make this kind of paperboard, only better,” the young Lars G Sundblad instructed the sales force in the early 1960s. Lars had now succeeded his father as CEO.
Invercote, as the paperboard was named, was an immediate success. First within the food segment, but thanks to the quality and outstanding printability, it gradually grew within the premium segment, which today dominates sales.
“Premium can of course mean many things. To us it means creating packaging that stands out due to elegance, or built-in functions that are hard to achieve with other materials. Invercote gives you a low-carbon, renewable material with exquisite color reproduction, a whiteness that lasts, and above all and above all allows for the production of packaging that does not crack on the fold,” says,” says Rickard Österlindh, President Holmen Iggesund Americas.
Invercote has now been on the American market for more than 40 years, and Rickard is proud of how its availability has developed. Today, Holmen Iggesund has warehousing and service partners that enable even the most demanding American customers to get the service they need.
“And that’s saying a lot in a country where fast and exceptional service means everything,” he adds.
The physical characteristics of the board and the service that’s included are important, but Holmen Iggesund’s commitments go far beyond the borders of the United States.
“For the brand owners we work with, it’s also extremely important to be able to offer the same products combined with sufficient service levels across global markets. Some of our customers produce packaging in the USA, Europe, and Asia, and then it’s of course a strength to be there”, Neal Haussel, Director Brand Owners & Sustainability, adds.
Question: Environmental concerns are obviously fundamental to you. What are your actions and strategy in this area?
Neal Haussel: Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. How we address this crisis will determine the future of our planet. Climate change demands real change. Companies and brands in all segments are committed to ambitious targets that challenge business models and require a transition towards sustainable solutions. Packaging solutions and materials play an important role in making the Paris Agreement a reality.
Both of our manufacturing sites have received EcoVadis’s platinum ranking, placing Holmen Iggesund in the 99th percentile of respondents.The Iggesunds Bruk plant also received the prestigious EcoVadis Leadership Award for 2021 for recognition of its sustainability performance.
“Forestry is a long-term commitment. Within Holmen, we manage the forest for almost a hundred years before it is ready to be harvested. The bigger part of the tree becomes sawn timber for building houses, and the leftover wood parts become paperboard, a climate-smart and renewable packaging material. Every year we produce close to 35 million seedlings to ensure regrowth. When customers receive our paperboard, we’ve already had in our hands for a hundred years,” Neal proudly tells us.
At a time when many forest industry companies do not own forests, the Holmen Group is an exception. They have chosen to own and manage their own forests in order to provide a long-term supply for the group’s industries, while at the same time protecting biodiversity.
“We have a unique history of sustainability. The forest provides sustainable products from renewable materials, which can also be recycled. Customers with well-organized sustainability initiatives recognize this, and this is an important reason behind our success,” underlines Neal Haussel.
In addition to paperboard manufacturing, the Holmen Group also includes forestry, hydropower, wind power, book paper, and wood construction details. All renewable.
Question: You seem to be collaborating a lot with others, can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Rickard Osterlindh: We believe in collaboration as a way to explore the possibilities with paperboard and future packaging. Joining forces with others, whether it’s customers or others, working with new solutions for sustainable packaging, gives us a better understanding of what the future will look like. It has given us the chance to work with really interesting partners and customers with a focus on fiber-based packaging solutions.
The shift from fossil to renewable is emerging, and we need to work together with others at the forefront to find packaging that helps speed up the transition.
Question: You are a regular at Luxe Pack shows around the world.
Neal Haussel: We are indeed big supporters of the Luxe Pack shows and have been part of Luxe Pack NY since the beginning, with just a short break during Covid. We are very happy to be back! It’s a highlight of the year for sure. It’s important to us to meet customers face-to-face not only from the US but also from Asia and Europe. The Luxe Pack shows provide the perfect venue for us to meet, network, and team up with customers and potential customers who are looking for the very best when it comes to packaging. It gives us an opportunity to tune into what customers are thinking about and how we can meet their expectations.