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PE Film Market Analysis: Frozen Foods

By: James Callari 27. July 2015

 

Last year, polyethylene  resin consumption for frozen-food packaging reached 343.5 million lb. This market's consumption of PE is expected to increase at an average annual growth rate (AAGR) of 5% over the next three years, boosting it to 397.8 million lb.

 

These are among the conclusions of the most recent study of the PE Film market conducted by Mastio & Co., St. Joseph, Mo.

 

Industry analysts estimated that U.S. retail sales of frozen foods were flat and amounted to approximately $44 billion in 2012 (most recent figures), with nearly all dollar sales gains resulting from inflation or new products. Previous forecasts that this market would expand aggressively did not come to pass due to the nation’s slow economic recovery, changing consumer eating patterns, demographics, and shopping patterns, according to the Mastio report.  Retailers are expected to continue focusing on the “freshness” factor and promote fresh foods, due to competition from prepared fresh foods, shelf-stable foods, and restaurants; thus hurting frozen foods and frozen foods packaging sales.

 

PE film used in frozen foods is limited to packaging some, not all, of the frozen foods sold such as vegetables, fruits, pizza, pastries, potato products, appetizers, and some breakfast and side-dish items. According to several industry analysts, U.S. product shipments of frozen fruits and vegetables reached $11.1 billion dollars in 2011 (most recent figures). A little more than 72% of the product shipment value amount was captured by the frozen vegetables segment, and the remaining by the frozen fruit segment.

 

PE frozen food film is typically sold as rollstock, but some companies manufacture finished bags. Rollstock frozen food film varies in width and length depending upon customer specifications. Typically, widths range from 6 in.  to 40.0 inc., but can be as wide as 90 in, Mastio’s research reveals. The gauge of this film ranges from 0.5 mil to 6.0 mils, with 1.5 mils and 2 mils being the most typical. Institutional (food service) rollstock is typically 1.5 mils to 2 mils, and retail (consumer) rollstock typically has a gauge ranging from 2 mils to 2.5 mils.

According to the study, finished bags are commonly 12-in. wide by 12- in. long . Smaller bags are commonly 8-in. wide by 15-in. long. The largest (institutional) finished bags are 48- in.-wide by 60-in. long. Finished bags are generally 2.25 mils and typically come in 9-, 16-, 20-, 32- and 40-oz capacities, says Mastio

 

Some performance specifications for frozen food film include the following: sealability, strength, puncture resistance, moisture barrier, odor barrier, oxygen barrier, toughness, cold temperature resistance, opacity and appearance. Because of the damaging ultraviolet rays from fluorescent lighting in grocery store freezers and unsightly ice crystals which surround frozen foods, many manufacturers blend titanium dioxide (TiO2) in the film structure to produce opaque film.

 

Zippered closures have been accepted in the frozen food packaging market. Zippered bags have been used to package fish, battered chicken strips, and various other appetizers. Zippered closures enable the consumer to use a portion of the product, reclose the package, and return it to the freezer with the food product protected from possible freezer storage damage. Although the zippered closure offers convenience, added value, and product freshness; it has yet to completely penetrate the market, primarily because it is more expensive than traditional frozen food bags.

 

MATERIAL ALTERNATIVES

Other materials, such as biaxially oriented polypropylene (BOPP) film, PP film, polymer-paper structures, polyester film, wax paper, and extrusion coated paperboard cartons, all compete with PE film for frozen-food packaging, says Mastio. Although alternative packaging is commonly used in the frozen foods market, PE film is the preferred material because of its superior moisture retention properties. Over time, frozen produce packaged in extrusion coated paperboard cartons loses moisture and become brittle, while PE bags retain the natural moisture in frozen foods. When frozen foods film producers were asked what the advantages of PE film were, responses included: cost effectiveness, good sealant properties, ease of disposal, source reduction of packaging, and ease of recycling, Mastio says.

 

TECHNOLOGY TRENDS

Frozen food packaging is produced via blown and cast film extrusion processes. That said, according to this report, approximately 99.1%  of the PE film for this market was processed via blownfilm.

 

Frozen food packaging can be either monolayer or multi-layer coextruded in construction. Approximately 46.1% of PE film utilized in the frozen food packaging market was monolayer in construction. More frozen-food film is multi-layer. Participants in the Mastio study reported producing 2-, 3-, or 5-layer coextruded films; several companies have capabilities of coextruding up to 11-layers.

 

Mastio & Co. profiled 32 North American film extrusion companies in the frozen food film market during 2014. The five largest producers of frozen food PE film are: Bemis North America; Sigma Plastics Group; Apollo Management, L.P. (Berry Plastics Corp. Div.); EPC Industries Ltd. (Polycello Ltd. Div.) ; and Sigma Plastics Group (ISO Poly Films, Inc. Div.). Collectively, they consumed approximately 51% of PE resin this market gobbled up last year.

 

MY TWO CENTS

“Millennials” (the generation born between 1982 and 2001) will play a strong role in determining the future of this market. By and large, they  are less brand-loyal and are more willing to purchase organic and locally produced products and meal solutions. As millennials move into their peak earning years, this growing consumer segment will spend nearly 50% of their food budget on ready-to-eat solutions, such as take-out food and restaurant meals. Millennials buy fresh food more frequently and eat immediately versus the older generations that buy, store and eat later.

 

That said, some PE film processors are predicting and hoping for growth through innovative products and packaging, population growth, and the fact that companies such as Nestle S.A. and ConAgra Foods, Inc. are improving efforts to reinvigorate this sluggish food segment.

 

One other point: unlike higher-volume PE markets, the major players in frozen-food film hold a strong yet not overwhelmingly dominant position in the market, suggesting there is room for processors with innovative solutions to either enter the market or grab market share.

 

Victrex Acquires Kleiss Gears to Bolster PEEK Gears Business

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 27. July 2015

 

 

Victrex, West Coshohocken, Penn., has enhanced its ability to provide complete ‘integrated’ service through its acquisition of PEEK polymer gears specialist Kleiss Gears, Grantsburg, Wisc. In moving downstream in this manner, the company is aiming to accelerate the adoption of its Victrex PEEK gear proposition to meet the needs of the automotive industry.  Asked if this means the company will now be competing with its customers in PEEK gears, sources at Victrex gave us the following response.

 

First that Victrex’s focus is on building PEEK market growth and as such is striving to continuously improve the products and services it offers existing and new customers. The strategic decision to acquire Kleiss Gears is consistent with their goal to provide and improved service specifically on PEEK-based gears, bringing the much needed capability around engineering design, tooling, and durability testing.

 

“The market for PEEK gears is still much in its infancy and in order to facilitate market growth, Victrex has identified that an integrated capability is needed to provide the right robust gear solution in order to meet the high demands of the Tier1/OEM customers,” says one Victrex source.

 

According to Victrex, the aim is to use this integrated capability to shorten the development cycle for their customers. This starts from understanding the needs and challenges of its customers, leading to a design review of the typically metal gear system when NVH, wear and energy benefits can be clearly gained by moving to PEEK design.

 

The Kleiss manufacturing capability is built around polymer gear application technology only.  Victrex says its intention is to build further the global market for PEEK gears and help pioneer the replacement of metal gears in demanding environments, which in turn should increase the market opportunities for all of its customers—directly and indirectly.

 

Added Rod Kleiss, president of Kleiss Gears, “We have been partnering with Victrex for many years and are convinced that our customers and end-users will benefit from a more integrated approach, enabling them to develop and launch gears that solve their key challenges with greatly reduced development cycles.”

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

Ingeo Biopolymer Tops 'Smallest Carbon Footprint' List Among Commonly Used Plastics

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 24. July 2015

 

With many consumer product brands increasingly looking to reduce their carbon footprint, several different types of plastics recently have had  reassessments of their eco-profile—energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In step with this market trend, there has been an update to the profile of Ingeo biopolymer from NatureWorks, Minnetonka, Minn. Called “Life Cycle Inventory and Impact Assessment Data for 2014 Ingeo Polylactide Production”, the article was also just recently peer reviewed and approved for publication in the June 2015 issue of Industrial Biotechnology by an independent panel of experts.

 

The eco-profile of a polymer gives information such as the total energy and raw materials consumed, and the total emissions to air, water, and soil from the cradle to the finished polymer pellet. A life cycle inventory (LCI) is an essential input to any full LCA conducted on consumer products made from that polymer.

 

“Our most recent eco-profile in 2010 was calculated using the methodology, the modeling software, and core database in place at the time. The same approach was used by such industry organizations as Plastic Europe since the beginning of the 1990s to calculate the eco-profiles for the fossil-based polymers. However, LCA tools and databases have progressed in the past four years, and we decided it was time to recalculate the eco-profile based on those advancements,” says NatureWorks environmental affairs manager Erwin Vink.

 

Overall, the publication of the new Ingeo life-cycle assessment (LCA) shows that GHGs and energy usage during its manufacture is lower than all commonly used plastics, including PP, PET, GPPS and ABS. The article documents the energy and GHG inputs and outputs of the Ingeo production systems, the revised 2014 Ingeo eco-profile, and the calculation and evaluation of a comprehensive set of environmental indicators. It also addresses topics such as land use, land-use change, and water use.

 

To help brand owners and researchers in the direct use of this life-cycle assessment data, NatureWorks now has available an online calculator--Environmental Benefits Calculator--providing them with a  tool for comparing the net GHG emissions and the nonrenewable energy use of products made with different plastics. The calculator provides an intuitive interface from which manufacturers and brands can input data details and receive instantaneous feedback on the environmental impact of the materials they are using.  

 

This revised eco-profile (the cradle-to-polymer life cycle inventory data), which is based on the latest version of Thinkstep’s GaBi LCA software and database, follows the ISO 14040 and 14044 standards and reinforces the fact that the production of Ingeo polymer emits fewer GHGs and consumes less non-renewable energy compared to other commonly used plastics.

 

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 

Seminar: Get Past Tweaking to a Scientific Molding Process

21. July 2015

John Bozzelli, scientific molding guru and columnist at Plastics Technology, will be the instructor for the "At-the-Press Process Development Seminar," August 11-13, in Troy Mich. Promising to help molders "Get It Right the First Time for 24/7 Production," the seminar will concentrate on scientific molding based process optimization with at-the-press instruction.

 

Monitoring hydraulic and cavity pressure levels on the press, participants will define plastic variables to create a universal setup sheet, which will then allow the tool to be run on any press, accounting for barrel size, hydraulic or all-electric operation, and more.

 

Other topics to be addressed include:

 

  • Why after PPAP, DOE's & Medical Validations are bad parts still made?
  • Finding the tool/part/process problems before production begins.
  • Having an optimized 24/7 process from the initial tool trials.
  • Having the ability to replicate the tool trial parts on another machine.

 

Register today! (Photo taken at M.R. Mold & Engineering Corp., Brea, Calif.)

John Bozzelli scientific molding seminar

Sounds Weird, But...Plastic Roads May Actually 'Surface'

By: Lilli Manolis Sherman 20. July 2015

 

 

 

Our infrastructure problem is not going away any time soon. So, any fresh ideas, no matter how weird they may sound are surely worth taking a look. Here’s an example from The Netherlands where the first ‘plastic road’ could become a reality within the near future.

 

Particularly in recent years, Dutch  engineers and designers have become increasingly recognized for their innovative and eco-friendly ideas—ranging from self-healing concrete to the first solar bike path.  Just within the last month, Dutch construction company VolkerWessels has announced that it is teaming up with the City of Rotterdam to produce a prototype for a prefabricated road consisting of 100% recycle material. If all goes as imagined, this will result in a sustainable alternative to conventional road structures which will be virtually maintenance-free, lightweight, will take a fraction of the construction time, and have a three-fold expected lifespan.

 

PlasticRoad  according to the ambitious company, features numerous advantages both in terms of construction and maintenance. First, plastic is much more sustainable and opens the door for a number of new innovations such as power generation, quieter road surfaces, heated roads and modular construction. Moreover, the design features a ‘hollow’ space that can be used for cables, pipes and rainwater.

 

The company’s says its PlasticRoad concept is in line with developments such as Cradle to Cradle and The Ocean Cleanup: the initiative to free the seas of ‘plastic soup’. Recycled plastic is made into prefabricated road parts that can be installed in one piece. The prefabricated production and the lightweight design also make the road’s construction a much simpler task. Roads can be built in weeks instead of months as the road sections fit together like tiles. It is also much easier to control the quality of the roads such as stiffness and water drainage versus traditional asphalt.

 

Also, because of its hollow structure, the road can simply be installed on a surface of sand or other poor soil, without the need for costly foundations. VolkerWessels also say, that it is possible to integrate other elements in the prefabrication phase including traffic loop sensors, measuring equipment, and connections for light poles.

The next step is to build it and test it in Rotterdam’s street lab to make sure it is safe in wet and slippery conditions and so on. The company is interested in hearing from potential partners.

Contacts include:

Anne Koudstaal, +316-50226418, akoudstaal@infralinq.com and Simon Jorritsma,+316-52533297, sjorritsma@infralinq.com.

 

Want to find or compare materials data for different resins, grades, or suppliers? Check out Plastics Technology’s Plaspec Global materials database.

 

 

 




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