Guest Feature: John Rebhorn of General Mills

John Rebhorn portrait

Meet John Rebhorn, senior principal packaging engineer at General Mills and one of PPA’s guest judges for the 2016 Student Design Challenge. John has more than 35 years of experience working with paperboard packaging and is an alumnus of the University of Wisconsin Stout (UW-Stout)! We sat down with John to get his take on his industry experience and what he’s looking for in the 2016 Student Design Challenge entries.

PPA:  What attracted you to the paperboard packaging industry?

JR:  I fell in love with packaging while attending UW-Stout. I originally had a different major, but after taking a packaging fundamentals class as part of a core technical program, I switched to packaging and have been doing it ever since.

PPA:  What does a typical work-day look like?

JR:  There is a lot of variety to my workdays. From day to day, I may be focused on developing new package concepts for a new offering, working with the business team to create new package sizes and configurations to meet a customer need, or working with a production plant to optimize a design to run on their lines efficiently.  I interact regularly with people and teams in sourcing, vendors, operations, marketing and quality.

PPA:  Why do you prefer to work with paperboard?

JR:  I enjoy paperboard because it is used across such a broad range of products, and can provide different packages for each type of products. You can quickly generate prototypes to evaluate new concepts, features or sizes.

PPA:  What stands out to you when you look at packaging?

JR:  When I look at packaging on the shelf I look at how the package pops. What artwork or physical features differentiate that package from those around it. 

PPA:  What is your favorite package you designed for a product and why?

JR:  My favorite packages are the retail cereal cartons we have in market, because I have led their design and sizing for the last ten years. It is very satisfying to see the results of your efforts on the shelf in a category that many consumers use.

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PPA:  What do you hope to see from this year’s Student Design Challenge entries?

JR:  I am looking for a fresh approach. What new twist can the students bring to their designs that will make their package stand out as being impactful in a market setting.

PPA:  What do you hope to see in the future of paperboard packaging?

JR:  I hope to see improvements in printing technology that can improve the appearance of the packages. I’m also interested in developing technology to make the board stronger with less fiber to reduce package weight and improve the sustainability profile of paperboard along with the product inside. This will help determine what can be designed into a package to contain and display.

PPA:  What is a funny story related to your experience in packaging design?

JR:  I was watching some consumer groups (from behind the glass) as they were introduced to a series of new package formats that I had developed. One consumer asked “what idiot could have ever designed something like this?” Ten minutes later with a different package in hand, the same consumer said that whoever designed this one was a genius. You never know what you will hear in consumer groups!

The PPA judging panel looks forward to seeing all of the innovative entries from our 16 participating schools!