Electron microscope images of paperboard

From evolution to revolution in paperboard development

​The path of new packaging technology from idea to market can take more than a decade. For Metsä Board, creating better, innovative packaging is, first and foremost, a joint journey with forward-looking customers.


​A company wishing to do innovative research and develop new products must be prepared for a long journey that requires not only a bold approach, but also patience and a willingness to cooperate with many different players – technology providers, clients, consumers – in search of major breakthroughs. According to Markku Leskelä, VP research & development at Metsä Board, this all starts with a simple question: where is the world headed?


“As a company that wishes to grow, we must go where our customers and their customers, the consumers, are going to meet the needs of the future. And furthermore, do it in a way that outsmarts the competition.”


To find answers for what lies ahead for packaging and paperboard development, Leskelä points to megatrends that affect the business environments of Metsä Board’s customers, such as urbanization, e-commerce and sustainability.

Terhi Saari, director of Metsä Board's Äänekoski Technology Centre
Terhi Saari, director of Metsä Board's Äänekoski Technology Centre.


“Packaging continues to be a growth industry, as more and more people move into cities and pursue a modern consumer lifestyle. However, online retail will likely change how brands interact with consumers, as the packages are delivered directly to end users rather than picked up from traditional retail stores,” he explains.


Secondly, maximising material efficiency and minimising waste continue to grow in importance. “It’s critical that we listen to and collaborate closely with our customers as well as technology providers, so that we can discover and evaluate possible directions for sustainable development together, translating them into viable technological innovations,” Leskelä says.

The Äänekoski Technology Centre – Metsä Board’s cutting-edge R&D facility

To test the viability of new technological solutions, Metsä Board has its own, cutting-edge lab facility called the Äänekoski Technology Centre. It holds the company’s research labs and has a staff of researchers and research laboratory technicians, who focus on testing and analysing product safety, as well as different aspects of packaging functionality.


“We are like detectives and problem solvers,” explains Terhi Saari, director of the centre. “Even our customers utilise our research know-how and services to analyse and test products, troubleshoot problems or explore new ideas.”


Beyond lighter packages, Metsä Board’s R&D has recently focused on the converting of packaging materials as well as new barrier solutions for food service boards. The job of the Tech Centre’s staff is to investigate possible solutions, often also cooperating with universities and research organisations.

Material characterisation underway in Metsä Board's cutting edge facility
Material characterisation underway in Metsä Board's cutting edge facility.


“As a researcher, you have to be persistent and investigate several promising ideas at the same time,” Saari explains. Though the R&D journey is seldom a straightforward series of successes, she says that even seemingly negative results are part and parcel of the research path. “Even if a promising new idea proves to be unfeasible in later phases, it still means we’ve gathered valuable knowledge and we can redirect our efforts to another avenue.”


Both Leskelä and Saari say that there are several interesting possibilities on the horizon. “Lightweighting is, of course, an ongoing corporate project for us, and we have several technologies under investigation in that field, but in addition we keep a close eye on other innovative advancements, for instance in bio-based barriers,” Leskelä says. And so, the journey to new frontiers continues.

Read about Metsä Board's packaging innovations:
Intriguing experiences for curious tea drinkers
Lifting the lid on Lidloc
Boxing clever

Related articles

Most popular articles

  • e-commerce box

    2019/ Markets and trends

    Urbanisation radar: Last mile challenges in e-commerce

    ​According to Business Insider, an American financial and business news website, the last-mile delivery costs account for 53% of the overall transportation costs. At the same time, customers increasingly demand faster deliveries. Naturally, this is a topic of interest for future innovation.

    Read More
  • 2019/ Markets and trends

    The Summer issue of the Metsä Board Magazine celebrates innovation

    ​The 'Innovation issue' of the Metsä Board Magazine is all about innovating for a sustainable future, showcasing innovative uses of fibre based materials and processes that optimise packaging design from start to end.

    Read More
  • 2019/ Customer case

    Medicine-On-Time Success Story

    MetsäBoard Pro FBB Bright improves sustainability and reduces cost for Medicine-On-Time 

    Read More
  • 2020/ Customers

    Kultasuklaa wanted to have less plastic and chose Eco-barrier

    ​There is a growing demand for environmentally friendly, sustainable packaging alternatives to serve and store food products. A Finnish family enterprise Kultasuklaa had one wish concerning their It's all about love praline box: less plastic.

    Read More
  • 2020/ Customers

    Increasing service level by collaboration

    ​International Paper & Plastic (IPP) is a sheeting merchant operating in Belgium and the Netherlands. Metsä Board has been supplying folding boxboard to IPP for many years. Metsä Board's commitment to sustainability in all of its operations is of great importance to IPP as sustainability is very high on the company's agenda.

    Read More
  • 2019/ Customers

    Fazer launches Nordi chocolate brand in U.S. packaged with Metsä Board’s paperboard

    ​Fazer is launching a new line of premium chocolate in the U.S. under the Nordi brand name. The packaging is made from lightweight premium folding boxboard from Metsä Board to protect the product, keep it fresh, and support the brand's image.

    Read More
  • 2020/ Insights

    Takeaway in change

    ​The popularity of takeaway food is increasing continuously. More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. That means hectic lifestyles, traffic jams, and long commutes. A growing number of people are living alone. All of this increases the popularity of takeaway food.

    Read More
  • 2020/ Insights

    Fossil-free production will become a competitive advantage

    ​Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) believes that fossil-free production will soon be a significant competitive advantage for companies.

    Read More