A Sustainable Packaging Journey Around the World with Ranpak’s Head of Asia-Pacific

Antonio Grassotti has decades of experience in sustainable packaging. As Ranpak’s Managing Director of Asia-Pacific, he is spearheading the growth of the organization in the region. Currently located in Singapore where he works out of Ranpak’s APAC headquarters, a lifelong passion for sustainability and engineering are what led him to his current position.

From Italy to Singapore, and everywhere in between.

Growing up in Italy in the 60s, Antonio recalls how attitudes around plastic were varied, despite major growth in petrochemicals. “I still remember my grandmother’s reaction to disposable plastics. She didn’t see why she should buy a plate and then just throw it away after using it.”

After a move to Sweden in 1968, Antonio gained an appreciation for Swedish culture where a combination of tight-knit community, strong social programs, and high expectations for maintaining the environment meant that things like littering and creating excess trash were frowned on. With the vast forestry resources “littering was considered very off limits, and so I was educated with the understanding that waste is a community problem and therefore using natural and renewable resources like paper was an important part of life. I have carried that philosophy with me ever since.”

Lessons learned from his grandmother and reinforced in Sweden were carried forward through many subsequent moves, including to America, Switzerland, the Middle East, Asia, and many countries across Europe. “Ultimately, I’m a traveler and I’m driven by curiosity,” he shares. “I love to have the opportunity to encounter different cultures and meet different people, as well as learn different languages. I personally speak 5 languages and am trying my hand at learning some more Chinese.”

Built for speed, designed for communication.

Antonio has a background in mechanical engineering, a discipline that he has pursued as a passion since childhood. “I used to constantly take apart my moped, my motorcycle, and later my car to understand how they work,” he shares. “I love racing and the speed that machines can create, and there is a significant analog to be found within the process industry and converting of packaging.”

While some might not see a connection between process industry and a racecar, Antonio is happy to explain. “Machines in process industry can be very mechanically complex, especially some of the bigger machines. As an engineer you are optimizing for both speed and consistency, trying to push that extra edge of performance from the process. Coming to the example of our blue machines and the paper, they work together in symbiosis, which is another area that fascinates me. In addition to protecting, packaging is a communicator. When you look at how packaging goes from being developed, to protecting and communicating goods, to being disposed of by a consumer – cradle to grave, it’s an interesting and complex value chain.”

After his first job as an engineer, Antonio found himself moving to a role that aligned with his interest in sustainability. “In 1989 I joined TetraPak which is a leading company in the space of sustainable liquid food packaging. Their liquid food packages were composed of 75% paper, which for me as a marketer was a huge part of the messaging of that product. I learned about the manufacturing process of the raw materials, the utilization of the packaging, all the way to waste management and recycling. I also got a deep education in papermaking, processing, and lamination. The process of creating packaging and then optimizing the process of producing it fascinated me, and I’ve really been in the sustainable packaging space in one form or another ever since.”

When preparation meets opportunity.

After years of experience in the packaging industry including a stint at Mondi focused on flexible packaging as well as time spent consulting with clients using a razor-razorblade packaging model, the opportunity to lead Ranpak’s expansion into Asia presented itself. Antonio was ready, and excited to accept. “The challenge of developing Ranpak’s footprint in Asia using the razor-razorblade model that I was familiar with and focusing on innovative sustainable paper products was something that I really wanted to pursue based on my own interests.”

Growing a sustainable footprint in Asia-Pacific.

Since joining Ranpak, Antonio has provided leadership in the face of unpredictable challenges and continued to help Ranpak grow its business. Most recently, he shares an optimistic outlook after several years of global pandemic. “We have been making progress working against the setbacks of the pandemic, and I feel we are on the cusp of even greater progress as we work to tell the market here about who we are and what makes Ranpak special.”

Ranpak’s story is unique in the realm of sustainable paper packaging. It’s a story that Antonio is eager to share and to build on within the APAC region. “At Ranpak, we have a fascinating 50-year history. We are extremely focused on what we do and we’re very good at it. We have been lucky to cultivate a workplace that has a family atmosphere where people are passionate about what they do and how they can contribute to the organization. We are all truly passionate about sustainability, reducing plastic pollution and promoting renewable resources – contributing to deliver a better world. As we grow and become increasingly technology and process oriented, it’s our job to scale what makes us special and then elevate that with the new capabilities that we are developing.”

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