The winners of the 2022 European Carton Excellence Awards have been revealed, with Rutgers Printing & Packaging Solutions and Stora Enso’s re-closable cherry tomato box made from renewable virgin fibre crowned the Carton of the Year.

The judges of the 2022 European Carton Excellence Awards unveiled the winners at the European Carton Makers Association (ECMA) Congress in Kraków, Poland. Consultant for branding and design Satkar Gidda, leading packaging designer Susanne Lippitsch, and global packaging director for Unilever, Sanjeev Das, were among the judges.

The Carton of the Year award went to tomato packaging developed by Rutgers Printing & Packaging Solutions. The carton is reportedly made from food-safe renewable virgin fibre cartonboard manufactured by Stora Enso, offering a folding box that the judges say balances product visibility with maintaining rigidity.

In addition, the judges say the tomato box is easily re-closable with a ‘click’ after multiple uses, offering reassurance to consumers that it is closed. The shape of the carton apparently means more boxes can be placed on a pallet than traditional plastic designs, helping to save costs, increase transport efficiency, and reduce emissions. Approximately 67 tonnes of plastic are avoided by using cartonboard for 1 million boxes and the boxes can be flattened and disposed of in the carton recycle stream after use, according to the ECMA.

The judges praised Rutgers Printing & Packaging Solutions’ carton for the simplicity of the design as a single-piece construction, the presentation of the pack, and the airflow offered by the cherry tomato-style punched-in holes, adding that these elements contributed to it being selected as Carton of the Year.

Other categories include Sustainability, where Van Genechten Packaging’s flexible solution for Herbal Essences’ Shampoo Conditioner bundle, created using cartonboard from Metsä Board, was given the top award. The judges highlighted the design, which uses minimal cartonboard to hold the products together with a sleeve that apparently creates a new communication platform and a cut-out window that enables consumers to easily read ingredients and check the scent of the product.

“The presentation is fantastic and the consumer knew exactly how it should be used as the brand and content message are very quickly conveyed,” the judges said of the Herbal Essences solution.

In the Innovation category, Westrock’s Cluster-Pak carrier for Nestlé’s Sanpellegrino Aranciata Rossa was the winner. The pack features barcode masking at the top and can-locker at the bottom, which the judges say allows for clean, 360° product visibility and billboarding while using as little material as possible. As Sanpellegrino is exported globally to markets where barcodes need to be covered at the point of sale, the pack required a folded panel at the top to avoid a single unit scan when buying a multipack.

According to the judges, the “minimalistic yet premium” pack from Westrock features a mechanical locking system that is “so amazing as it locks without glue and it’s fundamentally very stable and functional.”

Faller Packaging took home the General Packaging – Virgin Fibre top award for its PleioFlow RF Device carrier using cartonboard from Holmen Iggesund, which the judges described as “a masterpiece of plastic replacement and a simple example of cartonboard for the medical industry”. The pack is designed to keep a complex medical device in a stable position, guarantee its safety, and protect the micro-biological barrier.

The judges explained that the unprinted card allows the SterinClin pouches to be visually inspected for any particle residues in the pouches themselves, as well as in the cracks, and any other damage that may occur. It is apparently also easy for surgeons to open and unmount the product from the carrier within the sterile surrounding of the operating theatre.

Lucaprint’s Fanton Power strip Relife won the General Packaging – Recycled Fibre category for its new line of ‘Made in Italy’ multi-sockets, created with RDM’s certified recycled cartonboard material. The packaging, which replaces classic plastic wrapping with recycled cartonboard, is equipped with a tamper-evident system and the case is optimised for the industrial process, according to the judges. Additionally, the mono-material case concept does not have a lining or coating.

In the Food & Drink Packaging – Virgin Fibre category, Autajon Durero Packaging’s design for Match Tonic bottles, an e-commerce solution specifically created to house four units of the company’s square recycled glass bottles, was announced as the winner. The multi-pack unit design is meant to match the aesthetics of the bottle, with folding handles that allow it to be carried. The pack is reportedly also space-efficient for transportation, as multiple layers can be stacked on pallets without the need for additional protective sheets.

According to the judges, the pack is very clever thanks to its “optimal use of material – not too much, not too little. It perfectly wraps around the shape of the bottles and has an attractive, minimalistic graphic design.”

MM Packaging’s potato pack – winner of the Food & Drink Packaging – Recycled Fibre award – was described by the judges as “a fantastic piece of work that can be opened and closed very easily with comfortable carrying ergonomics.” The cartonboard is manufactured by MM Board & Paper, while the box also features a clear cellulose window film that is reportedly food grade, biodegradable and OK compost HOME certified, allowing the freshness of the potatoes to be inspected by consumers before purchase. The smooth, printable surface provides space for graphics and the shape of the pack is allegedly interesting for a retail environment, providing on-shelf stand-out and brand communication opportunities.

Winfried Muehling, general manager of Pro Carton, commented: “We were truly excited and proud by the quality of the entries for the European Carton Excellence Awards this year. The designs are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and diverse, with a greater focus on consumer handling and material usage.

“Over the years, the environmental value of cartons and cartonboard has become more significant. The 2022 entries clearly document the lead cartonboard and folding boxes take on the road to circularity. True symbols of change.

“We extend our congratulations to all the winners of the European Carton Excellence Awards and thank all those who entered. We look forward to hearing even more about their successes in the year to come and invite all companies to enter again next year.”