Located in Kulmbach, Germany, Töpfer Kulmbach has specialized in the production of labels and packaging for the international beverage industry for 100 years.
The company has more than 300 employees and uses offset, flexo and rotogravure for high volume production of labels and packaging. The company exports about 45% of its production. Its primary market is Europe, followed by Africa, Latin America and Asia.
“Sustainability is a primary strategic pillar for our company, and has been for many years,” said Mark Töpfer, the company’s Managing Director. “With our certifications and competency with ink and paper, we can deliver the right sustainable solution for our customers.”
Carlsberg, the world’s third largest brewing company, has been a satisfied Töpfer customer for 30 years. “When Carlsberg came to us with a project to print with Cradle to Cradle inks,” Töpfer added, “we already had a Cradle to Cradle ink system in place along with all the competencies needed to meet these requirements. Although Carlsberg was using another ink supplier, we convinced them to switch to inks from hubergroup, because our experience has proven that these inks are not only Cradle to Cradle certified, but they comply with other technical requirements within the lifecycle of returnable labels, including ink retention, abrasion resistance, caustic soda retention and more. We had already successfully tested all these things with the hubergroup inks and had established a stable process.”
Defining Cradle to Cradle
In the Cradle to Cradle model, as opposed to the more commonly known Cradle-to-Grave, waste materials in an old product become the ‘food’ for a new product, by either composting or reprocessing them. It creates a circular economy that goes beyond conventional sustainability efforts. It is a design concept inspired by nature, in which products are created according to the principles of an ideal circular economy. This differentiates Cradle to Cradle from conventional recycling (cradle to grave) and the concept of eco-efficiency. It is about eco-effectiveness and goes beyond conventional sustainability tools and approaches, which primarily show the negative influence of humans on the environment.
hubergroup was the first manufacturer to receive the EPEA Cradle to Cradle certification for conventional sheetfed products, and its Gecko Green Line Premium for flexible packaging, were also awarded the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute’s Silver Level Material Health Certificate, respectively.
The Töpfer Sustainability Promise
Mark Töpfer states that currently, its Cradle to Cradle certified inks are somewhat of a specialty offering. “We have a new-launched brand ‘NatureLine’,” he says, “under which we produce with Cradle to Cradle inks, recycled paper and completely renewable energy across the entire production process. Under this product line, we supply our customers, who want to have a sustainable labeling solution. Today, we have already 10 customers taking advantage of this brand –new innovative solution. But simply specializing in this area is not enough. Our goal is to switch 100% of our inks to Cradle to Cradle. I personally believe that the Cradle-to-Cradle principle is definitely a system which scales to industrial volumes, and we are working to educate our customers about the benefits.”
Driving Growth in a Commodity Market
While the Carlsberg opportunity provided Töpfer with added incentive to accelerate development of its Cradle to Cradle solutions, the company believes that this approach is ultimately the most important driver for growth in what has increasingly become a commodity market for beverage labels. “Cradle to Cradle solutions, including the hubergroup inks, provide us with the ability to diversify our client base and differentiate ourselves in the marketplace,” Töpfer commented. “Particularly in markets like Latin America, a strategic growth opportunity for us, this approach is gaining traction. Plus, many of our customers, like Carlsberg, are global companies that want to ensure regulatory compliance no matter where their products are sold. Our Cradle to Cradle approach ensures they are using labeling solutions that meet these objectives.”
Partnering with hubergroup
“We appreciate the partnership approach hubergroup has,” Töpfer noted. “They are the primary ink supplier for our company, and they wouldn’t be in that position if they didn’t offer us exceptional customer service. They are very flexible, and they help us with application engineering as we encounter new opportunities. The Carlsberg project, as an example, developed very quickly, taking only a few weeks to provide them with a Cradle to Cradle solution, a speed that is almost unheard of in the industry. In my opinion, hubergroup is one of the top suppliers, and we look forward to an ongoing partnership as we both strive to address many of the ecological issues facing the world today within our respective spheres of influence.”
In addition to working towards a goal of 100% Cradle to Cradle production of beverage labels using offset printing, Töpfer is also close to being Cradle to Cradle certified for rotogravure. “This makes production of very high volumes feasible in compliance with Cradle to Cradle strategies, and hubergroup has worked with us to ensure our success – and that of our customers – in this arena as well,” Töpfer stated.