Each issue, FlexPack VOICE™ hosts a question-and-answer segment with an industry leader. In this issue, we interview Guenther Hering, Business Director, Global Business Development Coatings in Flexible Packaging, Henkel Corp. Hering also is the 2018–2022 treasurer of the Flexible Packaging Association. Hering also is the 2018–2022 treasurer of the Flexible Packaging Association.
Hering was born in Germany, growing up in Siegburg. About 26 years ago, Henkel offered him the chance to participate in a job rotation program that took him to Cary and Raleigh, North Carolina, where he has lived since. “I am not sure if this qualifies me to be a ‘Southern Boy’ or not,” Herring says. “We love North Carolina and feel at home here.” He has been at Henkel for 31 years.
FlexPack VOICE™: Tell us a little bit about your career after you moved here from Germany.
Guenther Hering: The challenge in North America was very appealing to me. Henkel’s market share was very small at that time, and we were working together with our American license partner to build a joint venture to grow our business. We were very successful, and Henkel bought out the joint venture after seven years, and I took over the responsibility for the flexible packaging business in North America. I had the privilege to lead this business for approximately 16 years, including managing through a few acquisitions and establishing Henkel as a leader in adhesives and coatings in this market. During this time, I made a lot of friends in the flexible packaging industry and learned to love and appreciate our industry accomplishments and challenges.
FPV: What do you see as some of the challenges in the industry?
GH: The industry is very large but also small at the same time—many companies, many contact points related to this industry upstream and downstream, and a large variety of materials and packages being used. There are a lot of technical challenges, and the situations and challenges are never identical. The innovation aspect and constant change and the need to adapt to different requirements is very impressive and extremely fast. It is a very dynamic industry! The social aspect of the industry is even more impressive. Food waste is a large worldwide population problem. This is the industry that helps substantially to reduce this issue and save lives every day. I am happy and proud to be a part of it.
FPV: What makes a good leader
in this industry?
GH: I believe as a leader in this industry you have a social and environmental responsibility to your employer, your employees, and the industry itself. Henkel supports its management team very strongly on social responsibility. Everything we do, develop, and market supports sustainable targets to make the world a better place. Henkel has been basically family owned for 140 years, and this aspect and family spirit is strongly encouraged.
FPV: Over the next year and beyond, FPA will be encouraging the recruitment of new workers and leaders. How have mentors helped shape your career?
GH: I can speak from my own experience that mentors can support your career tremendously. I was fortunate in that I was working with many senior-level people at the beginning of my career on the commercial side and the technical side of my responsibilities. The experience level and industry knowledge that can be gained through this support group is invaluable. The industry is changing rapidly, but many aspects and fundamentals also remain similar, so that experience is a key value for anybody looking for a career in flexible packaging. Talented people who are willing to learn and listen have unlimited opportunities in our industry.
FPV: What are your thoughts on sustainability?
GH: The future challenge for the industry and Henkel will be keeping up and leading with innovation in the transition to sustainable packaging solutions. Our strong basis in Europe and our close participation in sustainable solutions in the European market provides a strong advantage for circular economy solutions and other trends being implemented in Europe. Our large portfolio and diversity in product technologies is another strong competitive advantage currently where many different technology approaches are being discussed and evaluated for future packaging design. Henkel has had a very strong commitment to sustainability for a very long time. Henkel has been providing sustainability reports for years now and has won sustainability awards with several end users over the years. Our current target is called Factor 3, which means we want to either deliver three times the output with the same resources or provide the same output with 1/3 of the resources. The targets are tracked and published every year. Our consumer business has made the 2025 commitment, as well, to have 100% of its packaging in sustainable packaging solutions by then. Environmental and sustainable considerations have been in Henkel’s DNA for years.
FPV: Anything you would like to
share about your family?
GH: I have been married for 30 years to my wife, Birgit, and I have one son, Dennis, who was born in North Carolina. Dennis is the first American-born family member. My brother added a Taiwanese-born family member just before my son, so we became very international over the last two decades. I went to high school in Siegburg, Germany, and served in the army for three years immediately after graduation. I completed my MBA study in Cologne after my service.
In my free time, I follow many interests. Sports, especially soccer, cars, and wine are some of the areas I enjoy spending most of my free time on.