Packaging Companies Oppose Regulation

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A number of companies who produce materials such as cardboard, foil and laminate for tobacco product packaging have been actively opposed to plain (standardised) packaging proposals in the UK and the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision. These companies have lobbied against these proposals both individually and collectively.

Packaging Companies: Background

Amcor Flexibles is the world’s largest packaging company. Founded in Australia, it now has a presence in over 43 countries, nearly 30,000 employees, and over 180 worksites.[1] Initially established as ‘Australian Paper Manufacturers’ in the 1860s before becoming Amcor Limited in 1986, the company has a long-standing history in product packaging.[2]

API Group is a UK-based manufacturer and distributor of foils, films and laminates used for packaging. It employs more than 550 workers, works in 15 locations,[3] and considers itself “Europe’s longest-established and largest producer of paper and board laminates for the packaging of consumer goods.”[4]

Chesapeake Packaging Systems is a prominent supplier of specialty packaging with a global presence. It provides its clients with a comprehensive service, from “the design and build of complete packaging systems from consultancy through to installation and after-sales support.”[5]

Parkside Flexible Limited is a UK-based business "established in 2005 as a leading edge flexographic printer for the UK packaging market”.[6] According to its website, Parkside produces its packaging in both the UK and Malaysia and caters to customers in the UK, Europe, the Asia Pacific, India and South Africa.[7]

Weidenhammer Packaging Group boasts 12 production sites, more than 1,100 employees and annual sales topping 250 million Euro.[8] On its website, it states it is “the number 1 in Europe and one of the world’s two leading suppliers” of products like composite cans, composite drums, luxury tubes, and plastic containers.[8]

Links to the Tobacco Industry

All five companies list tobacco companies as clients:

  • Amcor considers itself to be “the worldwide leader in tobacco packaging”, producing packaging for the tobacco industry in over 20 different locations and employing more than 4,000 employees.[9]
  • On Chesapeake’s website, it states “Chesapeake’s packs support some of the world’s most prestigious brands in the premium spirits, fine confectionery, food, tobacco and personal care markets.”[11]
  • A company overview of Parkside on the Packaging Business Review website describes the company as catering to “a number of industries including…tobacco” and describes a series of investments made to “strengthen the company’s position in the tobacco packaging industry.”[12] Images on its website reveal that it produces packaging for BAT brands such as Pall Mall and Imperial Tobacco’s Richmond and Lambert & Butler brands.[13]
  • Weidenhammer’s clients have included Nestle, Unilever-Bestfoods, BAT and Imperial Tobacco. [14] In 2014 Weidenhammer have been acquired by Sonoco Products Company, Hartsville, S.C. [15]

Against Plain Packaging

Group Lobbying During the 2012 UK Consultation on Plain Packaging

In April 2012, when the UK Government announced its consultation on the introduction of plain packaging of tobacco products, the above packaging companies lobbied against the regulations both together and individually.

In a letter dated 2 May 2012, the senior executives of the five companies collectively sent a statement to Mark Prisk, the Minister of State for Business and Enterprise in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). A meeting was requested with the MP “at your earliest convenience to further explain the potential implications and to explore how BIS can assist us in defending the interests of industry and jobs.”[16] Additionally, the companies warned of the potential consequences of plain packaging, arguing that:

  • it could lead to the loss of jobs for skilled workers;
  • it would result in an increase in illicit trade of cigarettes, stating that if plain packaging was implemented, “counterfeit and contraband products will strengthen their position in the market which will further undermine volumes for bona fide manufactures, reduce government revenues and boost the criminal economy”;[16]
  • it is premature, given that current regulations such as health warnings and display bans were not yet fully evaluated for effectiveness;
  • such measures would set a precedent for the government regulation of other packaged products such as alcohol and food, and by doing so “devalue our industry’s contribution; stifling innovation, development, and competition.”
  • the investment of packaging companies in technologies and resources to cater to the tobacco industry would be forfeit.

Finally, the authors warned the MP that “The adoption of plain packaging would send a message to our investors and to other companies and organisations that rely or place value on brands and trademarks that the Government cannot be relied upon to protect intellectual property rights and the UK is a relatively hostile environment for doing business.”

According to a letter sent in reply to the Chief Executive of API Group from Prisk, the meeting was dismissed as “premature” and denied.[17]

Individual Lobbying

In addition to the group response, some of the companies also lobbied the MP individually against plain packaging.

On 8 February 2012, the Chief Executive Officer of API Group sent a letter to Prisk reiterating “four key points” relevant to plain packaging, reflective of the arguments outlined above.[18] On 27 July 2012, during the open period of the UK Government’s consultation on plain packaging, a similar letter was again sent to Prisk urging his support against the measure:

“Every day I read declarations in the press about the government’s priority with regard to business and the economy and I can only hope that BIS and the Treasury Department will ensure that any new policy or regulation is put to the test against that criterion. I fear that the Department of Health is far too close to the anti-tobacco movement, even channelling millions of pounds of tax-payers money to organisations lobbying the Department itself. The obligation is therefore on other parts of the government to ensure an objective and balanced process.”

Similarly, the Chief Executive of Weidenhammer also lobbied Prisk during the same period. In a letter with a very parallel message to those above from 27 October 2011, the Chief Executive raised his concerns against plain packaging and warned that “the U.K. Government would send a message to foreign investors such as myself as well as to other U.K. based companies and organisations… of the U.K.’s lack of commitment to branding rights.”[19]

The above arguments against plain packaging are classic industry arguments used to counter plain packaging and tobacco control measures in general. For information on the evidence against these arguments, see:

Mike Ridgway: A “Spokesperson” for the Packaging Companies in the 2014 Consultation

Mike Ridgway, a former packaging manager and executive at both Chesapeake and Weidenhammer, founded the Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance (CPMA) to support the packaging industry in its efforts to counter unfair regulations, such as plain packaging. The organisation aims to serve as a “spokesperson” for the industry.[20] During the UK Government’s final consultation on plain packaging, which ran from 26 June- 7 August 2014, Ridgway spoke out against and lobbied in opposition of the proposed regulation.[21] Additionally, he has an established history of directly lobbying against the EU Tobacco Products Directive Revision.

For more information on Ridgway, the CPMA, and its anti-plain packaging lobbying, see:

TobaccoTactics Resources

For more information, see:

Notes

  1. Amcor at a glance, Amcor Website, accessed August 2014
  2. Our history, Amcor Website, accessed August 2014
  3. About API, API Website, accessed March 2016
  4. Products: Laminate board and paper, API Website, accessed August 2014
  5. Enhancing product efficiency, Chesapeake Website, accessed August 2014
  6. Getting under the skin of Parkside, Parkside Website, accessed March 2016
  7. Parkside Locations, Parkside Website, accessed March 2016
  8. 8.0 8.1 Weidenhammer Packaging Group: Company, Weidenhammer Website, accessed August 2014
  9. Overview of Tobacco Packaging, Amcor Website, accessed August 2014
  10. API, Tobacco: Adding value to leading tobacco brands worldwide, API Website, accessed March 2016
  11. A passion for innovation, Chesapeake Website, accessed August 2014
  12. Parkside Flexibles Limited: Company overview, Packaging Business Review, accessed August 2014
  13. Product range: Printed film pack wrap, Parkside website, accessed March 2016
  14. Weidenhammer Packungen Gm, The Drinks Business, accessed March 2016
  15. Sonoco Products Company, accessed March 2016
  16. 16.0 16.1 API Group, Weidenhammer Packaging Group, Chesapeake Branded Packaging, Parkside Flexibles and Amcor Tobacco Packaging, Letter to Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills, Regarding Plain Packaging of Tobacco Products, 2 May 2012
  17. M. Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Letter to Chief Executive API Group Plc, 22 May 2012
  18. Chief Executive Officer of API Group Plc, Letter to Mark Prisk MP, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, 8 February 2012
  19. Chief Executive Officer of Weidenhammer Packaging Group, Letter to Mark Prisk MP, Minister of State for Business and Enterprise, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, 7 October 2011
  20. H. Jordan, New Packaging Advisory Service Launched, Print Week, 25 March 2014, accessed July 2014
  21. Consumer Packaging Manufacturers Alliance, [CPMA: Manufacturing jobs threatened by plain packaging as new consultation is launched - business groups call on Treasury & BIS to conduct thorough review of economic consequences], Politics Home, 26 June 2014,