Smurfit Kappa’s Significant Move into North Africa

Exclusive interview with Mounir Naciri, the Managing Director of Smurfit Kappa Morocco

Smurfit Kappa, Europe’s largest paper and packaging producer, recently made a significant move into the North African market with the opening of its first plant in Morocco. This strategic expansion is part of their broader investment initiative, which has seen the company invest 4.7 billion euros in the last five years. To delve deeper into Smurfit Kappa’s African market strategy, we had the opportunity to sit down with Mounir Naciri, the Managing Director of Smurfit Kappa Morocco. Here’s what he had to say:

Could you provide us with an overview of your professional background and your role as the Managing Director of Smurfit Kappa Morocco?

My career in the paper packaging industry spans over a decade, during which I held key positions at industry leaders such as Europac and DS Smith. I managed significant investment projects, including the construction of a 35-million-euro greenfield packaging plant. In 2019, I joined Smurfit Kappa Group as Managing Director for Morocco. My mission was to expand the company’s operations in Africa, culminating in the construction of a greenfield packaging plant, the first of its kind for the Group in 30 years.


Can you elaborate on Smurfit Kappa’s history in Morocco and its growth trajectory in the country?

Smurfit Kappa has been operating in Morocco since the 1990s, initially establishing a sales presence. However, the surging demand for our services prompted us to expand our footprint significantly in 2018. We transitioned from a sales office to a network of ‘mini-plants’ strategically placed in key agricultural zones. These mini-plants enabled us to swiftly create customized, sustainable packaging solutions for our clients.

To meet the escalating demand, Smurfit Kappa decided to invest in its first corrugated manufacturing plant in Morocco and the African Continent. This 35-million-euro investment led to the creation of a state-of-the-art greenfield green energy packaging plant, completed in record time. Our new plant, Smurfit Kappa Rabat, officially opened in July 2023. Notably, it’s situated outside the free zone, underscoring our commitment to contributing to Morocco’s industrial sovereignty in the crucial packaging sector. Our expanded presence in Morocco aims to reduce dependence on imports and enhance the availability of sustainable packaging solutions.

What challenges did Smurfit Kappa Morocco encounter during its journey, and how were these challenges overcome?

Our first major challenge was to persuade the Smurfit Kappa Group to enter the African market by establishing a manufacturing facility. Convincing the Group to invest in a greenfield project in a non-Western, African, Arabic, Amazigh, and Islamic country was no small feat. However, the Group recognized the potential of Morocco and entrusted me with the task of setting up their first packaging plant on the African continent.

Building a greenfield project presented its own set of challenges. Unlike brownfield projects or acquiring existing businesses, a greenfield project involves creating everything from scratch. This includes building the business, organization, culture, team, supplier relationships, client base, reputation, market expertise, and more. It’s a continuous improvement process with no defined endpoint.

Maintaining a high pace during a greenfield project is crucial. It’s akin to ascending a steep slope on a motorcycle – stopping can result in setbacks. Teams must keep up the momentum throughout the project, which includes the critical ramp-up phase where we need to secure volumes to cover fixed costs and achieve breakeven. Every element in this process is interdependent.

Smurfit Kappa Plant Morocco

How does Smurfit Kappa Morocco ensure that its operations align with sustainability and environmental considerations?

Sustainability is a cornerstone of our operations at Smurfit Kappa. We are dedicated to creating a greener and more sustainable planet. Our sustainable packaging solutions are integral to our mission of creating, protecting, and caring for the environment, communities, and our people.

Smurfit Kappa Rabat, our green energy plant, exemplifies our commitment to sustainability. With nearly 1,500 solar panels, it saves 55% of electricity, reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 900 tonnes annually. Moreover, our water treatment system reduces water consumption by 50%, and our gas installation consumes 18% less than conventional installations. Our plant operates sustainably, aligning with our values and principles.

Can you share some innovative solutions developed by Smurfit Kappa Morocco to meet the unique needs of its customers?

We offer a diverse range of over 8,500 innovative packaging solutions, all of which can be customized to meet our customers’ specific requirements. These solutions are not only fit-for-purpose but also sustainable.

One of our notable initiatives is our Better Planet Packaging solutions. These eco-friendly alternatives replace less sustainable materials like single-use plastics. For instance, we provide paper-based trays and punnets for fresh produce, which are widely adopted in the agricultural sector.

How does Smurfit Kappa Morocco ensure the quality of its products and services?

Our commitment to quality is underpinned by rigorous testing and the expertise and dedication of our staff. Our extensive experience allows us to provide customers with sustainable, easy-to-use solutions that eliminate the risk of product damage during transit, ensuring that products reach their destination in perfect condition.

We conduct multiple levels of testing, starting with our laboratories and experience centers. Additionally, we share best practices and successful case studies across our global community of over 1,000 designers. We offer a ‘Design2Market’ service, allowing brands to test, refine, and adapt packaging on a small scale before market launch, reducing risk.

How does Smurfit Kappa Morocco contribute to the local economy and support the community in which it operates?

Smurfit Kappa is committed to acting as a responsible corporate citizen with a “think globally, act locally” approach. Our plants are integrated into larger ecosystems with close ties to local communities, and Smurfit Kappa Rabat is no exception.

We’ve invested in improving local infrastructure, including roads, water pipes, streetlights, and internet lines. This has attracted families and businesses to the area, fostering economic growth. The establishment of our plant also created 400 direct and indirect jobs, with a priority on recruiting from the local community.

Our commitment to social responsibility is evident through initiatives like ‘Blood Donation Day,’ where our employees donated over 60 blood bags to the Rabat Blood Transfusion Centre. The Smurfit Kappa Foundation is actively engaged in supporting underprivileged and vulnerable groups in the vicinity of our Rabat plant.

What key trends do you observe in the packaging industry, and how is Smurfit Kappa Morocco positioning itself to capitalize on these trends?

The packaging industry is evolving rapidly, with several notable trends on the horizon. First, packaging technology is advancing exponentially, with a focus on sustainability and the rise of flexible packaging to meet the demand for lightweight, convenient, and portable products.

Second, eCommerce continues to grow, driven by increased online shopping. This expansion will require specific types of packaging and packaging products to cater to online retail needs.

Lastly, sustainability is at the forefront of packaging companies’ agendas, in response to consumers’ growing interest and vocalization of environmental concerns. Brands are increasingly opting for sustainable packaging materials and designs to demonstrate their commitment to the environment.

Smurfit Kappa Plant Morocco

Can you share details of recent or upcoming projects by Smurfit Kappa Morocco and their impact on the company and the industry?

We are currently in the process of establishing our first Experience Centre in Africa, dedicated to innovation. As a company committed to sustainability and innovation, it’s imperative for us to continuously deliver innovative and sustainable packaging solutions that add value to the markets we serve and to our customers. This Experience Centre, located in the Rabat region, will cater to our local clients and be part of a global network of 30 Smurfit Kappa Experience Centres worldwide.

Additionally, we’re actively working on a new production line and various projects across Morocco. These initiatives will not only enhance our production capabilities but also contribute to the growth of the local economy.

How does Smurfit Kappa Morocco approach innovation and maintain a competitive edge in the packaging industry?

Innovation is at the heart of our strategy. We have a solid foundation in research, development, and design that underpins all our efforts. Our R&D centers are interconnected with our global network of experience centers, including the newest addition in Morocco. These centers allow customers to explore how paper and packaging can meet their specific business needs. We leverage behavioral insights, analyze supply chain trends, and employ advanced paper and packaging design tools to create tailored solutions.

Moreover, our extensive bank of over 130,000 consumer insights and analysis of more than 100,000 supply chains worldwide enable us to stay at the forefront of industry trends and respond effectively to customer demands. Smurfit Kappa Rabat plant combines the Group’s global experience and knowledge with the local team’s expertise, ensuring that we meet the unique needs of our regional customers while upholding our global standards.

Finally, what are your plans for the future of Smurfit Kappa Morocco?

We see substantial opportunities for expansion in Africa, and Morocco is strategically positioned to serve a growing customer base. The country’s proximity to both Europe and Africa allow us to access a wide range of markets. Diverse sectors, including agriculture, automotive, FMCG, textiles, and pharmaceuticals, are present in Morocco and the surrounding areas, all of which require sustainable packaging solutions tailored to their needs.

Our plan is to continue growing our presence in Morocco, forming new partnerships, and increasing production capacity to meet market demands, both in Morocco and across African countries. Our journey in the African continent is just beginning, and we are committed to creating a sustainable future together with our customers and communities.

About Smurfit Kappa:

Smurfit Kappa is a globally recognized provider of paper-based packaging solutions, operating in approximately 36 countries with over 48,000 employees and revenue of €12.8 billion in 2022. The company’s commitment to sustainability is reflected in its renewable and sustainable products, contributing to a greener planet. Smurfit Kappa offers a range of products and services, including paper-based packaging, displays, recycling, bag-in-box solutions, packaging machinery, and more.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button

Adblock Detected

Please consider supporting us by disabling your ad blocker