Packaging and polymers: a marriage of convenience
With individual packaging, vacuum or modified atmosphere packaging, individual portions for those of us with little spare time, or clear trays showing off their contents…, today’s huge packaging market, in particular food packaging, is a key market for Arkema’s functional polyolefins, alongside industrial and medical packaging. Here is an overview of 2006-2007 trends for a market always hungry for innovation.
Arkema’s functional polyolefins are present in most modern packaging, both flexible packaging like film and rigid packaging like trays and bottles. Multilayer structures have also become commonplace, bolstering the demand for adhesives made from Orevac® and Lotader® terpolymers.
SATISFYING CONSUMERS, DISTRIBUTORS AND MANUFACTURERS ALIKE!
Beyond marketing requirements, packaging must preserve the appeal, the taste and appearance of the product, provide safe, straightforward handling, be easy to open, reseal reliably, and be microwaveable. And novel shapes and designs, transparency, glossy or matte finishes, and printability are important. Finally producers and distributors want low cost and easy storage and transport. Faced with these many challenges, Arkema is focussed on improving multilayer structures. Multilayer structures are obtained either by lamination, i.e. bonding together several polymer “sheets” with an adhesive resin like Lotader®, or by coextrusion, i.e. combining through heat the various layers with a coextrusion binder or tie layer like Orevac®. A structural polymer layered with a barrier polymer can maintain transparency (e.g. trays for ready-made microwaveable meals), or ensure opacity if the product is to be kept away from light.
RESPONDING TO EVER-CHANGING MARKETS
A thorough understanding of lamination and coextrusion allows Arkema to respond to, and sometimes anticipate, the needs of the food industry for new packaging. Multilayer structures can be made more rigid or more flexible, in a variety of colors and sheens. And the layers are undetectable to the consumer. Our latest products include two Orevac® grades: Orevac® 18390 for the manufacture of polyester trays and Orevac® 18910 for the high-speed hot-fill of polystyrene trays (fruit stews, sauces, etc.). “One of Arkema’s strong points is its ability to respond quickly to customers’ challenges. We sometimes even ustom-develop grades for our partners,” says Christophe Leroy, Orevac® Product Manager. “For us, it’s a competitive advantage.” Finally, the market imposes challenges over the longer term, e.g. controlling overpackaging and increased recycling. Arkema has responded by offering substitutes to glass, a very heavy material, or and by developing multilayer tructures that use biodegradable polymers. With its functional polyolefins and the support of its CERDATO Research Center, Arkema keeps abreast of the packaging market’s ever-changing trends.