Case study: THIMM Group

A family company supports sustainable business decisions

Sustainability is one of the most important requirements when it comes to products nowadays − and rightly so. Sustainability has become a subject, which can no longer be ignored. Fortunately, this change is being driven by consumers themselves and must therefore be a priority for all companies, which want to remain in existence in today’s competitive world.

The demand for environmentally friendly solutions has also become greater than ever in the packaging industry. The focus is clearly on sustainable packaging. This is also confirmed by the latest Deloitte study on consumer behaviour, which shows that sustainable packaging – in addition to the product – is particularly appreciated by customers.

Today it is more important than ever to serve a market that is environmentally aware. Companies throughout the world offer innovative, more environmentally friendly alternatives and the Thimm Group is considered to be one of them.

The Thimm Group has been offering sustainable and proven packaging solutions for more than 70 years

As a family company, the Thimm Group knows how important it is to be a reliable and trustworthy partner – and this not only applies to packaging, but also to every other product. Since it was founded in 1949, its future-oriented approach has enabled the company to develop into a leading provider of solutions for packaging made from corrugated cardboard and the distribution of goods. The success of the Thimm Group speaks for itself: with thirteen sites throughout Europe, approximately 2,500 employees and an annual turnover of EUR 698 million (2021), the family company is an indispensable player in the industry.

With its focus on the consumer goods industry and the retail sector, the Thimm Group enables its customers to differentiate themselves on the market and stand out, and in doing so offers more sustainable alternatives to plastic and aluminium packaging.

Andre Kuhlmann, Senior Product Manager, says: “The Thimm Group has been producing sustainable and innovative packaging made from corrugated cardboard for decades. We are extremely familiar with the requirements consumers set for safe and effective food packaging. It was clear that we had to focus on three main factors when developing more effective packaging – protection, reuse and sustainability − and that’s precisely what we have done. Our ComBa® liner is an environmentally friendly coating, which can also be recycled when combined with corrugated cardboard and used to replace plastic packaging foil coatings and other questionable materials.”

ComBa® can be used as an inner coating on paper packaging to protect against aqueous, oily liquids and fats. The product is water-based and free from emulsifiers and solvents. In addition, it is one of the cleanest solutions in the field of barrier-coated papers, as the old paper biodegrades during the recycling process without any problems, giving the product additional added value. Another environmentally friendly alternative for food packaging is the foodWave® range by the Thimm Group – a range of corrugated cardboard packaging made from sustainable materials, which are 100 % suitable for direct contact with food.

Customer demand

In today’s market customers believe that honest advice is particularly important. The Thimm Group looked for a partner to help it keep pace with the rapidly changing market and its dynamic guidelines so that it could offer solutions quickly and reliably. It was especially important to find a partner who could offer good, honest advice, without compromising the values of the company.

The large number of regulations for packaging are challenging for many customers and they have to deal with them whether they like it or not. The market is undergoing constant change and regulations have to be adjusted on a regular basis to keep up with the changes. The Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive entering into force this year will, for example, have an effect on the way in which snack businesses work. According to European Packaging (European Organisation for Packaging and the Environment), this Directive is aimed to reducing the environmental impact of certain plastic products and supporting the transition to a circular economy. The objective of the Directive is in particular to combat rubbish accumulating in the oceans as well as plastic waste through a harmonised legal framework throughout the EU”.1 An increasing number of customers are also demanding high-quality compostable packaging.

“There are many requirements from our customers, but for us, it’s particularly important to provide honest suggestions on how the best progress can be achieved in this market”, says Kuhlmann.

The strength of partnerships

Kuhlmann continues: “Almost two years ago, the team sat down together and asked the question: how can we develop further and offer our customers even better solutions? Our customers have always been at the heart of our company and we know that the search for the right solution can be a challenging process. This is how our partnership with ACTEGA began. By combining our specialist knowledge with the powerful resource network of ACTEGA, it was possible to bundle our expertise to find ideal solutions for all those involved. Our aim was to move to more water-based varnishes and other suitable barriers and in doing so, above all, distance ourselves from materials, which contain silicon, plastic or thermoplastic polymers (PET). Water-based solutions can be adjusted to customers’ requirements more flexibly and therefore, we can find the right barrier for the desired application and produce them using as few resources as possible. After we carried out several tests and discussed our priorities, we quickly came to the conclusion that a partnership with ACTEGA is the right path for us."

The Thimm Group is focussing on coated packaging for the food industry, in particular takeaway and deep-freeze packaging. Kuhlmann says: “One of our greatest hurdles is the fact that the market and customer requirements in this field change very quickly and this ranges from customer inquiries right up to order processes. ACTEGA is a reliable partner and has helped us with technical advice and operational support to find the right solution for us. By collaborating with the team at ACTEGA, we were in a position to manufacture products with high value, including our ComBa® liner product range to make an even greater contribution to sustainability."

Markus Locher, Global Manager Barrier and Sustainable Packaging Solutions at ACTEGA, says: “Sustainability has already been an important subject for decades and many companies have been looking for sustainable solutions for a long time. This partnership has shown that companies are increasingly interested in incorporating sustainable solutions in their work. With the partnership between Thimm and ACTEGA, we have moved a step closer and have made this trend a reality. This is one of the main advantages of our partnership. Together we can drive the development of greater sustainability forward and make more progress.”

With a glance into the future, Andre Kuhlmann explains that customers increasingly want sustainable versions of today’s solutions, which they are already using, both in terms of visibility and the design of the packaging as well as the functionality and quality. “Although we have not quite reached the target, we are still on a good path. It’s clear to us that these requirements are not easy to meet. Through close collaboration with our customers and by directing our focus onto the end-consumer, we are in a position to offer solutions, which satisfy even the most complex requirements. Whether the next product is a crisp packet or freezer bag – the sector will set itself the challenge, even if it takes some time”, says Kuhlmann in conclusion.