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Meet Rich Cohen, Founder & President of Distant Village Packaging

Sustainability is a major innitiative companies are now investing in. Specialty Papers US 2016 will explore more sustainable production options during the Non-wood Pulps and Fibers session. Smithers Pira recent spoke with one of the session presenters,  Rich Cohen, Founder & President of Distant Village Packaging. Rich will be presenting on Tree-Free Sustainable Packaging at Specialty Papers US. 

Smithers Pira: Why do you think the interest in “tree-free”, or “non-wood”, paper is growing?

Rich Cohen: Sustainability is becoming a growing concern and continues to become part of the foundation of more and more companies brand message.  As eco-friendly and organic driven product lines develop, the desire to have recycled and tree-free paper has grown as a way to become more sustainable and position their brand to meet the needs of the growing sustainable market.  I expect to see this trend continue to grow and escalate over the next decade.


Smithers Pira: Why is “tree free” considered more sustainable?

Rich Cohen: Saving trees has been tightly connected with preserving our earth and with being more sustainable.  I think there is a lively debate around this topic, especially with consideration to sustainably harvested trees which are also sustainable in many respects.  However, there are some outstanding tree-free plant materials and plant waste by-products which produce attractive quality papers including hemp, bagasse, mulberry, and water hyacinth.  Some have original and unique sustainable stories, such as water hyacinth paper, which we use in producing beautiful natural jewelry boxes with a very organic look and appeal.

Smithers Pira: Do you see this as an area that will continue to grow for Specialty Papers? 

Rich Cohen: The great thing about specialty papers is that they are unique and original - and create an appealing aesthetic experience.  When the physical materials coupled with the experience around the paper's story resonate with the times and trends, for example hemp paper, specialty papers have a particularly exciting meaningful for that market.  In terms of packaging, brand owners want to tell a story with a 360 degree view.  Specialty papers enable that creative and compelling unique experience for a brand.  The growth opportunity for specialty papers is not a certain paper, fiber, or message, but rather understanding the trends and needs of the marketplace and providing the canvas for the story to be expressed.

Smithers Pira: What are some unique ways which specialty papers can create a brand experience?

Rich Cohen: Creating that special deep brand experience is extremely meaningful to sustainable, natural, and organic brands.  As an example, we have created packaging using sugarcane plant fiber waste, water hyacinth (one of the world's most invasive plant species), hemp stalk fiber, and more.  The water hyacinth jewelry boxes have a beautiful natural color with random and organic plant fibers in the papers creating an authentic look and story for handmade and natural jewelry producers.  By leveraging the fundamental characteristics of specialty papers and creating packaging solutions for targeted industries, there is an exciting added value experience which elevates the brand experience when combined with products that match those same eco-friendly and sustainable characteristics.

Smithers Pira: What are some unique ways which specialty papers can create a brand experience?


Rich Cohen: At Distant Village and our parent company Elevate Packaging we're focused exclusively on sustainable packaging and labels.  We're constantly innovating and creating new sustainable packaging and label solutions with the newest materials available. If it is a new and innovative material we've likely produced some packaging with it, or will certainly want to.  Recently we have launched products using bio-plastic "paper", natural specialty paper packaging, compostable packaging made with natural reclaimed plant fiber, and much more.  Our approach is market-driven as we seek to help brand owners to tell a compelling story to build their organic and eco-friendly brand image.

Learn more about Rich's presentation