In late 2017 and early 2018, Flexo & Gravure Global asked several package print shops and converters about their opinion on the past year and their estimations on trends and challenges for 2018. In the sixth part of this survey, Steve Langstaff, product development manager for Innovia Films talks about the ever increasing plastic packaging debate and the negative statements around plastic overall, which the industry needs to remedy by stating the value that plastic packaging brings, attracting consumers at the point of sale and the drive for higher barrier packaging to reduce food waste and extend shelf life.
As you look back on 2017, were you able to meet your own expectations and what surprised you the most about the printing and packaging industry and markets?
Innovia Films continued to grow its packaging division during 2017, reinforcing our position within the speciality films sector. We successfully launched Propafilm REF, a new high speed film for horizontal-form-fill applications and commenced work on installing some new assets on our Wigton, Cumbria site. They will enable us to offer new products that will allow converters and end-users to simplify pack structures, while still achieving the required barrier levels of the pack to maintain product protection.
The biggest surprise in 2017 was the ever increasing plastic packaging debate and the negative statements around plastic overall, which the industry needs to remedy by stating the value that plastic packaging brings. Flexible films are produced using fewer resources than the products they are used to protect. Production of them uses about half as much energy as alternative materials. They are also a very lightweight packaging medium, up to 3.5 times lighter. This means less energy is used to transport goods protected by flexible packaging resulting in much less carbon being emitted.
As we move forward into 2018, what do you see as the largest trends or megatrends in the industry?
In addition to the plastic packaging debate and the drive to a circular economy, both retailers and end-users are still focused on attracting consumers at the point of sale. This means improving and enhancing their on-shelf pack appearance through the development of new pack types, design, innovative inks and coatings. This has sparked an increased interest in pack tactility (a different feel to the external surface of the pack), matte effects and easy open packaging, due to aging populations.
Innovia Films launched a new range of easy open films last year, Propafilm RCP. These films have been designed and developed on proven technologies. They show many additional benefits. Our proprietary acrylic coating ensures a broad sealing range, which enables a wide packaging operating window and good machinability in all standard formats: flow wrap, vertical form seal or overwrap. Their moisture and aroma barrier properties make them an ideal choice to preserve many food items, including dried and chocolate based products. Within our easy opening portfolio, we also offer heavy duty, high barrier and snap wrap options – materials for a variety of applications and requirements.
In addition we are close to launching a new “soft touch” film which will give a softer feel and look to the finished pack. It will allow brand managers to maximise on-shelf situations as the pack design will be seen more clearly under bright light environments. It will also meet the growing demand for matte finish films that appear more natural in point of sale situations.
What do you feel the industry should be most prepared for dealing with over the next 12 months?
We anticipate that price squeezing will continue through the first half of this year as polymer prices continue to escalate.
Also the drive for higher barrier packaging to reduce food waste and extend shelf life will continue to remain a focus. This means that the packaging industry needs to reinforce the value that plastic packaging brings to a low carbon circular economy based on recycling, renewables and responsible sourcing. To reinforce this, there will obviously be a move to re-evaluate existing multi-layer structures to find ways of still achieving the desired pack barrier levels using alternative materials that facilitate easier recycling.
Innovia Films is already developing new products that will be launched during 2018 which will align with many of the objectives mentioned above. They will allow down-gauging, layer replacement, facilitate high barrier layers and multi-layer options to replace existing structures, making the final pack lighter, easy to recycle while still protecting the product it wraps, preventing food waste.
… to be continued