“As a general rule, the thinner the material, the barrier properties reduce,”. “For instance, with vacuum forming (as compared to injection moulding) it’s more difficult to control the wall section in the corners which have to stretch further and thereby become thinner whereas with injection moulding the wall sections are more consistent across the complete package. Food manufacturing customers need to understand what shelf life/barrier protection they need and the shelf life required.”
A similar balancing act is played out across a range of packaging substrates and manufacturing processes. “Competing demands and requirements make innovation in film barrier technology complex to achieve,” “An increasingly global food supply chain means accomplishing extended shelf life is paramount to food manufacturers and retailers. At the same time, the sustainability agenda, which combines the drive to reduce packaging, cut food waste and adopt more planet-friendly recyclable, biodegradable and compostable solutions, is pushing technological advancements in film barriers in a different direction.”
The picture is further complicated by additional demands such as supply chain efficiency, packaging functionalities and recyclability. So how what strategies in R&D or purchasing can help packaging users navigate this problem?
Migration to flexibles
A widespread downgauging strategy among brand owners is of course replacing a rigid packaging solution with a flexible alternative, which has driven the remarkable growth in market share by pouches over the last five years.
For example, composite films offer one path towards the barrier / lightness sweet spot. “Lightweighting by thickness alone can be problematic for moisture and oxygen barriers,”. Investment in co-extruding facilities have enabled us to produce films using combinations of PE/PA/EVOH/PA/PE/PE/PA that are both lighter and provide improved barrier properties.”
There is also possibility to look at the composite materials as a solution. In some cases there is a chance to increase the number of layers in our barrier films, such as IPE’s 9 layer lidding filmtechnologies. Through clever engineering and downgauging initiatives, along with investment in a state-of-the-art new production lines, we are developing new generation film solutions which are thinner and lighter than ever before. These films have a lower carbon footprint and use less material, yet retain all functionality in terms of shelf life performance and strength.
Specifically, our Austlon-FA film is a 25μm high barrier lidding film for retail-ready modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) formats. The film contains anti-fog properties and a tailor-made shrink performance ensures tight, wrinkle free packs with outstanding clarity to boost consumer appeal. It is leak proof and the high barrier performance and excellent seal extends shelf life, keeping food fresher for longer and reducing food waste. Furthermore, the film is printable – removing the need for additional packaging around the pack.
Another example is our Austlon-BD puncture bone in bags. This 95um bag offers MORE puncture resistance than a 300um vacuum pouch, and better puncture than traditional combo shrink/laminate boneguard bags. This all provides savings to the customer in less leakers, a better final appearance on their meat product.