From its office in the capital, the London branch of the pan-European organisation Pro Carton aggressively promotes the benefits of carton packaging under the independent direction of Jennifer Buhaenko. Rodney Abbott reports.

This promotional campaign has not always been handled independently. Saatchi first undertook it a decade or so ago and that was how Jennifer Buhaenko, as a Saatchi employee, was first introduced to the industry. Today, the UK Information Bureau is one of the 10 arms of the Association of Carton Board Makers and Carton Makers that operates throughout Europe.

To begin with it was a straightforward promotion campaign, Jennifer reflected but, as it settled in different countries, the way in which the campaign was conducted changed to suit different markets. Relevant trade associations, independents, individuals and public relations companies then picked up the campaign baton.

Jennifer has two roles. Firstly, she is an independent consultant employed by Pro Carton as part of its work in the UK and, secondly, she is employed by Pro Carton in Brussels to lobby on behalf of the organisation and protect the interests of the carton.

“Part of Pro Carton’s strength lies in its ability to network with other paper associations, like the British Carton Association, to make sure that the carton and paper packaging in general gets a fair crack of the whip when it comes to legislation,” she says.

“Our attention has really been focused on the packaging directive and now we are in the middle of the revision of the directive. And in Brussels the paper-based packaging organisations have come together very successfully in a network called the Paper Packaging Co-ordination Group.

“Together we look at the impact of the directive on the paper-based sector and we communicate pretty well with decision makers in the EU Commission, Parliament and Council of Ministers with one voice from the paper industry. Pro Carton has made sure that it plays an active role in shaping that message.

“We have gained an in-depth knowledge of the different aspects of the directive, especially as we go through the revision. With the implementation of the new regulations, we will then able to see what the impact will be.”

Colleague Michael Clark, who is chairman of Pro Carton UK and managing director – packaging division at M-real UK, says that, where membership is concerned, numbers are not totally important. “We need a membership base that properly represents the key players in the industry.

“The board industry has been consolidating for some time. What we are seeing now is the beginning of the consolidation of the carton industry. There are still numerous carton manufacturers in Europe but we are starting to see the emergence of a few powerful players. These firms have a voice in Europe which adds to the voice of the relatively small number of consolidated board members.”

Pro Carton’s key targets include retailers, brand owners, manufacturers and designers because they are the packaging decision-makers. Naturally, the industry wants the carton to be top of their mind when it comes to packaging product.