In 2019, after three successful editions at Oulton Hall, in Leeds, BAMA decided that a bigger venue was needed to accommodate the ever-increasing number of attendees.
Scouring venues up and down the country, BAMA’s Event Manager, Sally, set her eyes on a splendid location in Cheshire, with plenty of space to allow for any future growth. Then the pandemic hit, and suddenly there was no need for extra capacity.
Luckily, under the circumstances, the 2021 edition was well attended with about 100 people and a programme with a strong focus on environmental issues and consumer habits, as well as a critical regulatory update.
Patrick Heskins opened the event in the absence of the Association’s Chair and gave an update on BAMA’s activities in the previous 18 months, highlighting how members have been at the core of BAMA development throughout the 60 years since its inception. A special recognition was given to those who had been members the longest, albeit under different names: KDC/ ONE Swallowfield, Metal Box then Crown Cork and now Eviosys, and finally Osmond Aerosol aka Colep UK, all celebrate 60 years of involvement with BAMA. Church & Dwight and Summit Valve, originally Carter Wallace and Scoville Valve respectively, also had their 50th anniversary applauded.
Patrick also highlighted the changes in the association’s structure, from Committees to Technical Panels, the forthcoming interactive training and the enhanced support available on EU regulation.
After a brief appearance by Ben Fletcher, Chief Operating Officer at MAKE UK, it was the turn of Defra’s Air Quality and Emission manager Jonathan Sturdy to take the stage and give an update on the UK targets for a number of pollutant substances, including Non Methane VOCs. Defra’s Air Quality Strategy identifies five key substances that must be significantly reduced in order to cut by 50% the number of early deaths from poor air quality. One of these substances are Volatile Organic Compounds: they can react with other pollutant and generate both ground level ozone and particulate matter, which creates inflammation of the respiratory tract and eyes, as well as affecting the growth of plants. The UK target is a 39% reduction of the 2005 baseline of VOCs emissions by 2030. As household and aerosols products are a significant source of VOCs BAMA has been working with its members to develop and adopt a range of measures to reduce emissions from our sector.
Grace Abamba, a cosmetic scientist with a background that ranges from aerosols to retail, via product quality standards, took the delegates through the Covid-accelerated changes in consumers’ purchasing habits.
Since the start of the pandemic, the UK experienced a net loss of eleven thousand chain stores, due to a combination of lockdowns and a shift to online shopping. Grace revealed the extent of the increased digitalisation in retail, with SMSs and emails as the top communication channels for consumer engagement. The consumers started displaying new habits and preferences, with more conscious choices of products, increased attention to health and wellbeing, and time for ‘do-it-at-home’ options. Conkers-based detergents, shampoo in bars and powder toothpaste were just some of the products that saw a sudden increase in consumers’ internet searches and at the online check-out.
Manufacturers and distributors have had to swiftly follow the novel patterns and model of spending with capital investment in digitalisation and revised logistics. With more and more people opting to work remotely and relying on the internet to source knowledge as well as goods, the retailers’ sites had to become easier to navigate, optimised for maximum visibility, be hacker-proof and offer swift delivery with free-returns. Consumers know what they want, they spend time checking and comparing and are less inclined to compromise. Those retailers who can fulfil the requirements and meet the service expectations will survive and come out on top, with the brick-and-mortar stores focussing on ambience and experience instead.
Having left the audience mulling over the possible impact of online shopping on their products, the programme moved to EU policymaking and how to influence it in an after-Brexit landscape. Viviana Spaghetti, COO at Whitehouse Communications, delivered an overview of the EU environmental agenda, and explained the approaches available to influence it.
On the horizon, there are a few looming initiatives of relevance for the aerosol sector: the European Green Deal, the Zero Pollution Ambition, the Fit for 55 and the Chemical Strategy toward a toxic-free environment. The detailed proposals are to be enacted between now and 2024, including a uniform hazard assessment for chemicals, reviews of REACH and CLP and a target of 55% reduction in health impact (measured as premature deaths). A Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM) will also introduce a levy on specific goods imported into the EU.
UK companies can adopt one of three approaches in the face of changing policy: reactive, proactive or innovative. In other words, they can respond to regulatory pressures, work to influence and shape legislation, or anticipate change by self-regulating and driving the change. Acting early is essential to be able to exercise one’s influence to the extent possible.
The event closed for the day, and Patrick thanked all the speakers, inviting the audience to reconvene the following day. To help with networking and generate a team spirit, the second day started with an interactive, aerosol-themed session.
The attendees had a go at a number of classic British pub games, revisited, and gained points for their team. There was: Shove-a-mounting-cup, Skittles, Hook-a-can, Quoits and Can-pong. Competition soon raged between teams and, to keep things fair, the BAMA staff divided each team’s total score by the number of people in it. The proud winners won boxes of chocolates; the lowest scorers received a wooden spoon.
With the level of adrenaline still high from playing, the audience was ready to learn about the use of blockchain technology to monitor and reward recycling through a deposit return App called Reward4Waste. Steve Clarke, CEO of Cryptocycle, showed how their zero carbon footprint blockchain could be a cost-effective alternative to EPR for manufacturers of FMCG. Some of the many inbuilt benefits are: immutable and reliable data, protection of end-users personal data, fraud protection against multiple redemptions of the same product, no additional infrastructure required where curbside collection is already in place. As if that wasn’t good enough, the software can simplify cross-border and cross-currency transactions, while having the lowest possible energy consumption compared to other DRS options.
All the manufacturers would have to set up is an individual coding for each container, with a range of options and providers already available. From the participating councils, a sticker with a code for each home recycling bin, and from the consumer, the download of the App on their smartphone and the scanning of the codes as the products go in the bin.
The data by area, including recycling rate by product, take up, percentage of overall redemptions, would be available pretty much in real-time. Deposit returns would also be easily credited as either cash or vouchers.
The scheme clearly intrigued the audience, with several questions put to the speaker.
In a sharp deviation from technology, Tiziana Dorigo, communications manager at BAMA, went on to entertain the public on the dynamics of scent and its perception, and how the latter changes depending on individual and well as cultural backgrounds. With a reference database of assimilated scents already present at birth, each person progresses through childhood unconsciously absorbing a range of smells that depend on the surrounding environment. Those smells end up being ‘classified’ as pleasant or otherwise, often based on the situation and emotion they are associated with.
Because different cultures have different customs, use different food ingredients, wear garments of different materials and follow different social conventions, the perception of a same scent can vary widely. What smells homely, sweet and reassuring for one group, could turn out strong and repulsive for another. Therefore, when considering the olfactory aspect of a product to be sold around the world, it is important to question our assumptions and check how people in the target market would react to it.
It was time for Paul Jenkins, MD of ThePackHub, a consultancy specialising in packaging solutions for consumers goods, to reveal the results of the BAMA survey on refillable products, carried out the previous month. The survey found there was a good awareness of what reusable and refillable packaging is, and the vast majority of respondents claimed to have used reusable packaging in the previous 12 months, even if their first priority was ease of recycling. Nearly half of those interviewed preferred to refill at home rather than handing the empty back while those aged 34 or younger were keen on a lower carbon footprint. When asked what kind of challenge they would expect from refilling aerosols, a good percentage pointed at the safety aspects.
The study revealed that one of the main barriers to purchasing a refillable product was the lack of availability in the respondent’s favourite brand.
The event’s closing presentation was something many had been waiting for: the UK regulatory update by Dr Paul Jackson, BAMA’s in house expert. He took the audience through an exhaustive carousel of slides, covering everything of importance for the aerosol sector, from compliance marking to GB CLP and UK REACH, passing through the waste consultations on DRS, EPR, and Plastic Packaging Tax. He also covered BAMA’s work on refillables, the UK policies and targets for decarbonisation, and the EU regulatory updates that will have an impact on UK manufacturers.
Patrick Heskins closed the Forum, and invited the audience to meet again at the next annual event in BAMA’s calendar: the Innovation Day, scheduled for the 20 April in Leeds.