As the senior brand manager of packaging and retail solutions at Neenah, Greg Maze has seen the evolution of paper trends as he has spent the better part of three decades with the 140-year-old paper company.
Maze credits Neenah’s innovation and its mastery of papermaking to the company’s legacy. Today, the company has diversified its offerings, which Maze oversees, while maintaining an appreciation for the craft. We learn more about Neenah and just how it plans to last another century.
How has Neenah stood the test of time after more than a century in business?
Well, I can’t pin it on one thing. I’d say Neenah has done multiple things very, very well over the past century, plus we’ve continued to invest in innovation.
Most people think of the paper world as white, shiny paper. Neenah has always been an innovator in terms of color, texture and keeping up with the color trends. We spend a lot of time looking at future trends, seeing what’s on the horizon and being proactive to what the consumer is looking for instead of reactive.
How does Neenah incorporate the creative arts?
Neenah is really focused on communicating with the creative community. They’re the ones that are working with brand owners and end users and trying to drive the best response. Through color and texture, we try to educate and inspire the creative community on what is available and inspire them to say, “hey, this is what it could look like.”
The average consumer looking at products on the shelf spends four to eight seconds before making a decision … brands need to attract attention and create awareness really quickly, and studies show you do that through color and texture.
How has Neenah adapted to new trends in the industry?
It’s embracing the combination of the digital world and the print collateral world. As businesses are stressed to do things more economically and reach a broader audience – or certainly reach a targeted audience – they can’t always afford to do that via the printed collateral, yet working strictly through digital or social media can be less effective. Embracing the combination of print, digital and social works best to drive more successful results.
We’ve seen the trends in packaging and wide format, outdoor signage and retail solutions, so that’s where we’re seeing market growth. We’ve been on the forefront and proactive in providing a holistic solution. If you’re a brand owner and you’re doing print collateral, we can help with that. If you’re a brand owner in a retail environment and you’re creating a package, we can do that. If you’re in retail and you need store signage and wall murals, we can do that. So, Neenah presents customers with a complete portfolio of solutions.
What techniques are used at Neenah?
Neenah has been manufacturing premium papers for 140 years. We’ve learned that to consistently create high-quality, high-performance products, with color and texture, it requires a combination of traditional craftsmanship, science and artistry. We continue to lean on lessons learned over a century, while embracing new technologies to help advance our product offerings with things such as coatings and seeking ways to provide more sustainable products.
Are specialty stocks like uncoated paper still a popular choice? Why or why not?
They remain very popular. As consumers, we see trends come and go, and sometimes what’s old is new again. The new consumer, the young consumer, values authenticity and emotion. Paper helps to create those attributes. The visual and tactical components of
colors and textures help to create consumer connection and recognition.
Traditional approaches to communication are trending again. While it remains to be combined with digital experiences, the emotional connection to personal touch is becoming valued more and more.
What are your predications for the future of paper and for the different segments of the paper industry?
When it comes to sustainable substrates, paper is the most responsible, renewable resource we have – a far more sustainable choice than petroleum-based products used for items such as cosmetic packaging, gift cards, retail signage and wall graphics. These retail-based needs are where we are seeing future growth. Neenah’s portfolio of products for packaging and retail needs is composed paper-based items that are by far the more sustainable solution for any brand.
Neenah continues to innovate. Decades ago, paper companies weren’t thinking about packaging and wall graphics. Today we are very much invested in advancing these products and the solutions we can offer brand owners and creative directors. The future of papermakers like Neenah is extremely bright as long as we continue to remain in sync with what consumers are valuing in the brands they choose.