Food packaging: Brazilian purchasing profile has changed and forced the plastic industry to innovate

Food packaging: Brazilian purchasing profile has changed and forced the plastic industry to innovate

The vast majority of products sold in supermarkets do not have communication support. This data alone reveals how important packaging can be to the food sector, especially plastic. The characteristics of the resin make it ideal for injecting competitiveness into the food market, especially since packaging, today, goes beyond protection, preservation and distribution.

It is no wonder that the food industry is the main consumer of flexible packaging; and the category of sensitive beverages, such as UHT (Ultra High Temperature) milk, that is, Ultra-High Temperature, despite being the stronghold of cartons, is inclined to adopt polyethylene terephthalate (PET) as an option. The consumer purchase profile has changed. To keep up with this pace, the food packaging industry invests in innovation: perfecting processes, developing new raw materials and launching trends.

Which way to go – “We see a new way of buying”, comments Claire Sarantópoulos, an engineer at the Food Technology Institute (Ital) and the Packaging Technology Center (Cetea). The country’s socioeconomic profile has changed. The purchasing power of the Brazilian has increased, and because of this the consumption of food as well. Brazil saw the emergence of a new middle class and a greater degree of demand in relation to food. What you see are new interests emerging.

Modern Plastic, Transparent packaging conveys a sense of security to the consumer

Transparent packaging gives consumers a feeling of security

Ital, not by chance, created Brasil PackTrends in 2008. The idea was to understand the main impact factors and trends for the coming years, so that this would help the food / beverage and packaging industries to be more competitive. The newest version of this document was presented by Claire during PETtalk 2013, the International Conference on the PET Industry, held and organized by the Brazilian Association of the PET Industry (Abipet), in June this year, in São Paulo.

At the time, she revealed some of the paths that the sector will follow. According to Claire, the institute diagnosed five macro trends, and categorized them as follows: aesthetics and identity; convenience and simplicity; quality and new technologies; sustainability and ethics, and safety and regulatory matters. Some of these trends, she pointed out as great opportunities for the plastic industry, such as PET in the aesthetic and identity category.

The new buyer has a need for luxury and sophistication and, therefore, she predicted an inclination towards increasing consumption of products with high added value. “The consumer wants a pleasant experience; we are talking about differentiation, he wants to feel differentiated ”, he comments. She cites PET bottles for water from premium brands like Crystal. “This resin is our plastic diamond,” he says. In time, among the main properties of PET are high transparency, gas barrier and mechanical resistance. The injection-stretch-blow process, which the resin undergoes in the manufacture of packaging, promotes molecular biorientation, which contributes to increasing its physical and barrier characteristics.

Mestriner suggests to the sector to invest in the transparency of its products

In fact, transparency is increasingly on the rise. The feeling of security conveyed to the consumer – he wants to see the contents of the package – guarantees preference. As explained by the design and packaging specialist Fabio Mestriner, the wave of transparent packaging has been gaining momentum, and companies looking for innovation and personality for their products should be aware of the new aesthetic possibilities of this characteristic. “Transparency is magic”, he points out.

According to research released by Claire, the consumer also values ​​convenience and simplicity. The researcher says that the packaging needs to be easy to open, to carry and to have the attribute of portability – the product must allow its consumption anywhere and at any time. In this regard, Mestriner proposes a new application for PET nationwide. He gives the example of the United States, where there are snacks in packages made with this resin. “It’s a go-to version, to eat without getting dirty.” The product resembles little bottles of yogurt, which allows consumers to ingest the content without reaching for it with their hands.

Another announced trend includes the industry’s need to offer active and smart packaging to the consumer (see PM August 2009). In general, the first type improves and maintains the quality and safety of the food through its interaction with the product or the environment, while the intelligent type is the one capable of bringing information to the consumer about the conditions of the packaged product. “The bottles with oxygen absorber and the packages with temperature and location indicator with the RFID (Radio-Frequency IDentification) tag, for example, are included here,” says Claire, among what is new in this regard.

Modern Plastic, Marçon: PET industry has to move forward in terms of design

Marçon: PET industry needs to advance in terms of design

Innovation – For Auri Marçon, president of the Brazilian Association of the PET Industry (Abipet), innovation is the watchword for the sector. Even so, new applications and differentiated projects guide the developments of the food packaging industry. Marçon sees the raw material as an important point in this regard, and comments on the novelty of one of the three largest manufacturers of PET resins in the world, Mossi & Ghisolfi (M&G). This is Proesa, a recent development of the company for the production of ethanol from biomass. GraalBio closed an agreement with Beta Renewables, a joint venture formed by Chemtex, a subsidiary of the Italian group M&G since 2004, to produce, in Alagoas, cellulosic ethanol on an industrial scale, based on Proesa technology.

Another innovation pointed out by Marçon explains the Lactra line, by ColorMatrix – a family of liquid additives for PET packaging designed to increase the shelf life of products. ColorMatrix, a company of the Polyone group, has developed a technology for packaging milk and milk products, whose principle is to ensure protection against photodegradation. The additive can be incorporated into monolayer or multilayer packaging, and applied to white pieces.

Marçon also talks about innovation in the field of transformation. “Our packaging (PET) has a long way to go; you need to invest in design, ”he says. For him, in addition to traditional sectors, such as soda, water and oil, the association has targeted other areas. As a new application for the resin, it highlights the dairy market. “This segment is reaching Brazil,” he says.

PET resin has a strong presence in the soft drink market, with a 58.3% share in the sector. Next are mineral water (16.5%) and cooking oil (10.7%). The rest is divided between fruit juice (1.12%) and others (13.38%).

PET in milk – Innovation dissipates on several fronts. One of the opportunities that has been announced for some time for PET is in the filling of UHT milk. This is the name given to the ultrapasteurization process, to which the milk is submitted, characterized by its heating at temperatures between 130ºC and 150ºC, for two to four seconds, followed by cooling to temperatures below 32ºC. For Ayrton Irokawa, machine sales manager at Krones do Brasil, the application can go further, covering other types of drinks considered sensitive, such as juices, teas, coconut water and smothies.

Modern Plastic, Filling with pieces of fruit is considered a trend

Filling with pieces of fruit is considered a trend

Following the route of healthy products (those that do not require the use of preservatives), Krones also bet on FlexiFruit or fill with pieces of fruit. It is a pre-dosing system for juices or milk drinks mixed with pieces of fruit. The juice or milk drink is subjected to its own independent process, while the pieces of fruit with sizes up to 10x10x10 mm are pasteurized in a heat exchanger. The consequent separation and treatment of the drinks are also applied later in the filling process with the pre-dosing system using a FlexiFruit pre-filler for pieces of fruit or pulp. In the pre-dosing system, pieces of fruit or pulp with a small amount of juice arrive first in the bottles; and then the main filler adds the juice or milk drink, making the mixture inside the bottle itself. The technology applies to both processes, cold or hot.

In the case of milk, Krones indicates cold filling. “Milk has a very high sensitivity, and filling it at 80ºC and 90ºC does not guarantee the microbiological safety of the product”, warns Irokawa. The company, moreover, has in its portfolio technologies for cold and hot aseptic filling. If it is cold, there is the system with hydrogen peroxide (dry process), and the most sold, with peracetic acid, known as the wet process.

According to Irokawa, although the peracetic acid process is more widely accepted today, dry technology tends to grow as well. “We believe that this solution will gain its space, especially for dairy products, since most customers already have experience in handling peroxide in this sector”, he points out. When pH tends towards neutrality (as is the case with milk), filling becomes more complex under aseptic conditions, but this is not the problem. In Irokawa’s opinion, a major challenge for the growth of this market is to overcome the high investment in this technology. “However, Krones is increasingly preparing to be able to have an interesting business form for our customers”, he announces.

Anyway, cold aseptic filling (in PET) can be considered a trend, as it is a healthier solution, when dispensing with the use of preservatives. In time, Krones do Brasil introduced the first line for cold aseptic PET filling in the country. It is installed in a Nestlé factory, in Araçatuba-SP, for the production of the Fast line, of the Nescau, Neston and Alpino products.

Modern Plastic, Dairy Market bets on the use of plastic parts

Dairy market bet on the use of plastic parts

The aseptic filling technology is not, however, a novelty for the world market, but here it is still a developing area. Its diffusion, perhaps due to the low scale of use, is not yet significant and is restricted to isolated cases. “The limitation is its cost”, summarizes Hiroyuki Matsui, from Plusmach, a company that represents Aoki Technical Laboratory in the country, and Xenos. These two companies participated in the Fazenda Leitíssimo project, a national example of aseptic PET packaging. Xenos manufactures cold filling machines; and Aoki, the blowers for the production of PET bottles.

UHT Leitíssimo milk is packaged on the farm itself, located in Bahia, and has the premium brand appeal. This development started ten years ago and absorbed an investment of R $ 5.5 million, with equipment, infrastructure and livestock. “It is an ordinary PET bottle, nothing special; and the blocking of light, necessary for UHT milk, is given by the sleeve label ”, explains Matsui.

Flexible – The flexible packaging market has traditionally the food industry as its main consumer, but even with the support of this large volume this industry has not been relieved. The scenery is foggy. Maxiquim data show that, in volume, there was a modest growth in 2012 – the sector advanced 1.9%; while the value of production increased by 7.5%. One of the bottlenecks was imports of finished products – in value, it grew 11.5%; and in volume, 12.8%.

Modern Plastic, Food packaging: Brazilian purchasing profile has changed and forced the plastic industry to innovate Even in order to reverse this situation and inject more competitiveness into the sector, the Brazilian Association of the Flexible Plastic Packaging Industry (Abief) promoted, in São Paulo , in June, the forum “How to do – and think – different in the transformation industry: new businesses, strategies and scenarios”. The name is suggestive and announces a path to the market: invest in innovation.

The “new”, from the perspective of Carlos Catarozzo, sales and marketing executive at UBE Latin America, is in the use of high-performance materials, such as Terpalex terpolymer (Co PA 6 / 6.6 / 12) as an alternative to PVdC (polychloride vinylidene). This development of UBE proposes to serve the meat and cheese market. Despite admitting that the shelf life of PVdC is longer than that of polyamide, the characteristics of nylon guarantee a series of advantages capable of overcoming this disadvantage in relation to competing material. The terpolymer offers transparency and, above all, resistance, as it can even pack meat with bone.

To package the meat, the suggested structure is made up of Evoh (ethylene copolymer and vinyl alcohol), to guarantee the barrier to gases, odors and flavors; nylon, to ensure mechanical resistance; and polyolefins, to suppress moisture; beyond the sticker.

Innovation is also in the processes. The executive cites the air blow (blown balloon) of up to eleven layers, as an example. The basic structure comprises five layers, but the most usual is that of seven layers. “The trend is to use thirteen layers,” he observes. This technology, according to him, also makes it possible to operate with small batches, which facilitates the production of smaller volumes, meeting specific demands. “We are talking about a high performance market,” says Catarozzo.

Despite being available in the country for about five years, Terpalex is still a developing business. Produced in Japan, the material comes up against the tradition of the food industry. “This market needs to understand that packaging is not an expense, that it adds value to the food”, comments Catarozzo. This terpolymer is about 10% more expensive than PVdC.

Either way, the prospects for this type of product are positive. Not by chance, according to Brasil PackTrends 2020, the consumption of flexible packaging tends to grow. It will be boosted, among other food categories, by perishables, such as cheese, meats and sausages.

The projections show that the consumption of food packaging, in relation to the flexible, will add up to US $ 4.8 million in 2015; while the rigid one (blown and injected) will be in the order of US $ 4 million.

Modern Plastic, Food packaging: Brazilian purchasing profile has changed and forced the plastic industry to innovate Packaging in the world – Plastic holds a good share of the national packaging market – together, rigid and flexible, add up 49%, according to Brazil PackTrends 2020 This participation comes on an upward curve. The plastic packaging sector grew between 2007 and 2011, in value (US $), 7.9% per year; and 4.8% in volume. According to an Ital document, among the main consumers are the markets for biscuits, animal feed, powdered soft drinks, coffee and snacks. By 2015, the forecast is for an increase of more than US $ 3 billion, compared to the 2011 data. This is good, and has international support. Two years from now, the country’s participation in the global packaging market also tends to increase. Sales – of $ 25 billion (2011 data) – are expected to rise 4%.

The United States and China remain the two largest packaging industries. Of the total, the food (51%) and beverage (18%) segments account for most of the market, almost 70%; and, according to experts, the food industry should consume even more. Between 2011 and 2015, in value, an increase of 4.4% per year is expected.

The food market is an expanding sector. In 2010 alone, according to Ital, more than 100 thousand products were launched, equivalent to an increase of 4.3% over the previous year. The trend, according to the study, is to increase the demand for healthy, light, fresh, natural and organic foods.