Flexible Packaging Round Table Podcast

Podcast: Episode 10 – Jonathan Quinn from Pregis



Is how we ship a product just as important as what’s inside? What effect do damaged products have on the environment? How can we avoid this or minimize the impact? Tune in to hear what Jonathan Quinn, Director of Market Development & Sustainable Packaging at Pregis has to say.


00:00:00 Sara Januszewski
Hello and welcome everyone to the Flexible Packaging Round Table. Today we will be speaking with Jonathan Quinn, Director of Market Development and Sustainability at Pregis about sustainability and environmental impacts of packaging. I am your host, Sara Januszewski. So, welcome Jonathan. Thanks for joining us on our podcast for the second time. I really appreciate you being here.

00:00:32 Jonathan Quinn
No, it’s great to be here, and it’s great to see you and I’m really excited for the conversation today.

00:00:38 Sara Januszewski
Yes, definitely. To start here, I want to mention and congratulate you on your 2022 waste360 40 under 40 award. The program recognizes inspiring and innovative professionals under the age of 40, whose work in waste, recycling, and organics have made a significant contribution to the industry, so congratulations, Jonathan.

00:01:05 Jonathan Quinn
Thanks, Sara. It’s one of those things that is really exciting to get and exciting to receive the recognition. But I think the exciting thing for me is working on being able to be a part of the circular economy and enabling it and helping to make things better and hopefully create a different perspective of flexible packaging and plastic packaging more broadly.

00:01:37 Sara Januszewski
For sure, and with that being said, can you introduce yourself and update our viewers and listeners on your new role?

00:01:47 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, I think just after we were last together, I made the transition to Pregis. It’s one that I’m incredibly excited about. It’s been an awesome ride so far to be able to be a part of that team and really, all that Pregis has been building up, and it’s also to a certain extent it’s kind of coming home for me because I once interned and co-opt for Pregis in England while I was a student at Clemson. But anyway, to kind of take a step back and introduce myself as far as who I am and how I got here. I mean I grew up around the flexible packaging industry. I have pictures of me in a box of resin when I was two and I was in the lab doing testing when I was five. So, it’s really in my blood and I’m incredibly passionate about the industry and I’m incredibly passionate about driving sustainability and sustainable solutions within the flexible packaging industry. That’s just a little bit about me, but I spent my entire career around packaging.

00:03:12 Sara Januszewski
Wonderful. Looking at Pregis’s website, I can see clear messaging around sustainability. One message that stood out to me was “sustainable shipping made easy.” And then my question, is how we ship a product just as important as what’s inside?

00:03:39 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, I mean packaging makes it all possible and traditionally Pregis has been known for the protective packaging solutions which we provide and enabling the consumer experience for all of those, call it e-commerce shipments and things of that nature and the protective packaging realm and making sure that products arrive at the consumer the way the consumer expected them to, but as far as my role and where I have a key involvement is in a newer aspect of Pregis and that is in the blown film extrusion area and enabling Pregis just to enter a new group of markets and categories and that is to be able to supply high quality, high performing, blown film to the converter market segment so we would be supplying rollstock film to our customers, which Glenroy would be. So that’s a newer aspect and that’s part of our expansions and really building out our capabilities, we’ve added a new plant in South Carolina to really bolster our capabilities and also added on some additional capacity into our plant in Grand Rapids, MI. So, it’s been a tremendous ride for me thus far, but to your previous question, we’re looking at not only the products in which we protect in traditional protective packaging realm of things, but also the products that we protect in whether it’s food packaging or medical packaging or other applications. Packaging is critical to enabling the everyday life of the consumer and the way in which we protect those products is, whether it’s through the barrier films that we provide or whether it’s the protective packaging. Whether that’s air pebbles or cushioning materials, that is, we’re involved in both sides of the spectrum there.

00:06:12 Sara Januszewski
And from your perspective, are brands concerned about the materials that they use to ship their goods? And do you see this built into 2025/2030 goals that we are seeing a lot from CPGs?

00:06:28 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, brands have an incredible amount of focus on how they’re shipping their products and the real important aspect of this selection is how the consumer perceives and what the consumer sees, and enabling the consumer to be successful in enabling a circular economy. So, when they’re selecting materials, they have to be incredibly in tune with what’s going to happen and what’s the end of life of those materials, making sure that they’re incorporating whether it’s recycled content or whether they’re enabling the consumer to be able to recycle those materials, so there’s a very broad interaction with material selection and material selection is critical from a performance characteristic. So, swapping out with different materials, there can be a cost of doing that as far as product damage or overall product weight or from a package overall weight conversation. So, there’s multiple things that are at play and when making material selection, they have to be looking at it from that performance, but also the consumer perspective and making sure that they are also making the right material choice from an environmental impact, and it can come at multiple different ways.

00:08:12 Sara Januszewski
And as we know, packaging is extremely important. Another message I see from Pregis is “damaged products, damaged planet” and that is a super powerful statement. Can you further explain the ripple effect that damaged products have on the environment? And what can we do to avoid this or minimize the impact?

00:08:37 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, I think it is an incredibly great message and it really speaks to the impact of making a sacrifice associated with material selection like we were previously talking about. Eliminating reshipments is incredibly critical because if the product is damaged in transit, then that product has to be shipped back, returned and then another product has to be packaged and sent back out but it’s not just about the packaging, it’s about the freight associated or shipping associated with it. It’s associated with where does that product end up? That damaged product ends up in the landfill. And that has an impact on the environment. So there’s multiple things at play there, but then if you think about when we talk about flexible packaging and the impact of food waste and product damage associated, that could happen in transit or could happen before the product even reach the consumer. And product waste that’s on the shelf. Those are incredibly important things, and that’s where flexible packaging has such a critical place to play from a barrier sense and preserving shelf life and enabling those food products to get to the consumer and eliminate any product waste before the consumer has a chance to receive those, so Pregis is really on multiple fronts involved in that conversation and it’s exciting to be able to play a role in that and know how important and impactful Pregis is today. In making sure that we eliminate the product waste and associated with product damage, whether that’s product being damaged in transit or whether that’s food waste, there’s multiple angles that were able to play a role in that and it’s incredibly critical to making sure that the positive impact that we’re able to have on the environment from the products in which we’ve produced.

00:11:04 Sara Januszewski
Right, and I’m curious from your perspective with COVID and with people staying home and shopping more online, has there been, you know, like the damaged products, has there been a greater increase or focus around that because of all the online shopping that’s going on?

00:11:32 Jonathan Quinn
Well, I think one of the key parts of the conversation because of the onset and because of COVID products were being pushed out the door out of sheer availability and it’s products that were probably not optimized from an e-commerce packaging perspective because all of those necessary evaluations hadn’t been worked out, but I think it’s we’ve gone through a progression. It’s getting better, but that primary packaging and the evolution of primary packaging, so packaging that’s in contact with the direct product, whether it’s food or whatever it may be, is going through an evolution associated with ecommerce and the optimization of packaging has to continue to evolve to support the evolution of the consumer a few years ago, uh, I did a lot of speaking at conferences and talked about how e-commerce was the end of up when it comes to packaging, because traditional primary packaging, and when I went to school for packaging it was always about designing that package to stand vertical, whether it was sitting on a shelf, whether it was sitting on a pallet. For example, a bag of chips was designed to sit in a box vertical, to go into shelf vertical, and then to sit in a pantry vertical. But now you’ve got to design packaging for 360 degrees of impact and multiple touch points and increased amounts of handling. So packaging is going to continue to evolve, and that’s one of the exciting things as well for me, being at Pregis is to be a part of that conversation, in those conversations, because we’re on both sides of the spectrum again, and that’s really the power of Pregis, I would say is how we’re involved and ingrained in so many different aspects of the consumer-packaged goods overall segment.

00:13:47 Sara Januszewski
Right, yeah, it’s just crazy to think from just being a consumer, you just think oh well, the chips are there in the grocery aisle. They’re just there. You don’t think about everything that goes into designing that package and how it’s transported to that grocery store and everything that happens behind the scenes.

00:14:10 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, it’s amazing. All that goes into making sure that your Doritos taste, smell and that you get a full chip and I’m just using that as one example, but you could pick anything out of your refrigerator or pantry, and you’d be amazed how many people put their lives into it. And that’s exciting to be on the other side, but sometimes you wish the consumer knew all the work that it took.

00:14:47 Sara Januszewski
Right! You are heavily involved with the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). Can you tell us more about the “Come Grow with Us” campaign and let our viewers and listeners know where they can learn more?

00:15:03 Jonathan Quinn
Yeah, the Flexible Packaging Association is an industry association that I’ve known of. I won the Flexible Packaging Association Scholarship while I was at Clemson, but I have been really, really, heavily involved the past few years and we’ve developed the Emerging Leadership Council and really about getting the next level or the next generation of leadership involved in the association. One of the key things that we’ve taken on as a group and collectively is really growing the talent within the industry and it’s finding ways to engage with people and get them excited about all that we have going on as an industry. So, the “Come Grow with Us” campaign is really giving people a view of the pulse of the future of the industry and the people. It’s a series of videos getting people different perspectives from people that are living, breathing it, but also really, we’re targeting this campaign. It’s not about growing just salaried employees within the industry, but it’s also creating connections and conversations with people that are looking for hourly and technical people that can work in the manufacturing setting, and so we’re building relationships with the technical schools as well so that we’re coming at this from multiple angles. I’m incredibly proud of being involved in the industry and I want to make sure that others are involved in it too, and want to be a part of the Flexible Packaging Association or our industry more broadly, I should say. So yeah, this is a campaign, and we have this on all of our social media platforms. So, whether it’s the Flexible Packaging Association on LinkedIn or on Twitter or Instagram and then we have also the Emerging Leadership Council, we have our own LinkedIn as well, where all these videos are housed. But anybody who wants to or we would love for people to share the videos and use the videos to help promote what the flexible packaging industry has to offer.

00:17:52 Sara Januszewski
Wonderful, exciting stuff. And lastly, is there anything else that you would like to add?

00:18:01 Jonathan Quinn
Well, I think the one thing that I would say is that, maybe I’ll end this one and use a line that I’ve used many times before. I didn’t use it on this before but “buy plastic, live fantastic.” I think there’s so much value that plastic and flexible plastic packaging provides for the everyday consumer. And I think we need to make sure that consumers see that value and hear that value so that’s my hashtag and I think we need to in a time where so many people I would say bash plastic. We need to really showcase the value that flexible plastic packaging can provide.

00:18:54 Sara Januszewski
Right, I totally agree and just to conclude things here, I just wanted to thank you Jonathan for joining us today. It was a pleasure having you on.

00:19:04 Jonathan Quinn
Thanks Sara.


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