The Clipper: What are currently the most important topics for Seeberger?
Joachim Mann: We are currently thinking about how to keep the Seeberger brand interesting – with new products and marketing ideas. And this both in Germany and France as well as overseas. Then, of course, there is the issue of environment and sustainability – and that is what is currently moving the entire food industry. The Seeberger company has existed since 1844, we have just celebrated our 175th birthday. This definitely includes the topic of packaging. The demands on the quality of the packaging are high in our segment. We cannot sell products that go rancid after three months. We have developed a new packaging for this: From 2020 we can offer about half of our range in packaging that has the same protective properties but is 20% thinner. It is also completely recyclable.
The Clipper: Are there no alternatives to plastic?
Joachim Mann: There are already alternatives to “plastic” such as glass or paper packaging. But can we use them for our products? Unfortunately, the answer at present is no. Each of our products has individual requirements and needs optimum protection in terms of hygiene, durability and light and oxygen impermeability. These properties cannot currently be provided by the alternative packaging variants. Even biodegradable films currently do not offer the necessary protective properties for our sensitive products (for example, oxygen barrier to protect against rancidity in nuts).
The topic of ‘bio-based film’ is also complex: Does PE (the raw material for plastic packaging, editor’s note) come from crude oil or from renewable resources? And if this refers to bio-ethanol – and this is often supplied from Brazil. So far we have not found anyone who can reliably offer sustainable bio-ethanol.
We have tested some other materials to make our packaging more sustainable. As a result we have defined the next step towards more sustainable packaging: For our flat bags, we will use a film in a mono-compound that can be 100 percent recycled via the reusable materials cycle.
We have decided on this packaging variant because we want to orient ourselves on the so-called “cradle to cradle principle”. Cradle to Cradle literally means “from the cradle to the cradle” and follows the approach of a continuous recycling management. Our packaging changeover to mono-composite film means that in future the material used can be separated and re-processed as a secondary raw material in the form of recyclates, for example, into new plastic products.
We must also take the consumer into account. When we become thinner – does the packaging still radiate the safety and value associated with our brand? Nuts also tend to store heavy metals – so we have to be very careful to ensure that recycled materials are safe. These are all factors that need to be taken into account.
We have addressed issues in our sustainability report where we are not yet where we want to be. But it is part of the process to address issues and work on them.
The Clipper: What happens in terms of product innovation? Do you have a development department?
Joachim Mann: We do this in our interdisciplinary ideas team. There are of course always thousands of innovations from other countries. Our new product is a mixture of nuts and olives, roasted almonds and cashew nuts with dried olive rings that are lightly salted. Consumer demands change, and we see trends in roasted products with little or no salt. This is a trend that we have seen in France. We have already been asked why no one came up with it earlier.
The Clipper: How does B2C communication and marketing work at Seeberger?
Joachim Mann: We do a lot ourselves – and we want to keep the expertise in-house wherever possible. We communicate strongly via social media – with recipes, other combination possibilities – for toppings for porridge or how to make milk from nuts yourself. We work with bloggers who provide us with media and inspiration.
The Clipper: Let’s talk about procurement. How do climatic influences affect the purchase of raw products? Can you already feel the change?
Joachim Mann: This is becoming increasingly evident. After all, we don’t just have to deliver the quantities – the quality must also remain constant. And climate fluctuations are becoming more and more frequent – this applies to fires, drought but also floods. This is a growing challenge that we are meeting by purchasing from different countries and both hemispheres.
The Clipper: Which requirements do you actually have to meet to become a supplier for Seeberger?
Joachim Mann: You need a lot of persistence and endurance. We look for suppliers who can shape change together. You need patience, because trust has to be built up. In our supply chain, we cannot afford to lose a container. We need quality along the entire production chain: it starts with the employee who takes care of the plants and ends with the person who puts the packaging on the shelf. We inspect every delivery that arrives at our premises. We have developed our own specifications that our suppliers must comply with. We have developed products together with our suppliers. Cranberries are one example: about 15 years ago we started with one supplier and we still work with the same supplier, with quantities we never thought possible.