Based in Delhi-NCR, Floeter India Retort Pouches PL is an extraordinary flexible packaging producer specializing in the production of retort pouches. Its original parent, Floeter GmbH, was established in 1983 and had three units before it came to India to establish its fourth plant. The first three units are based in Stuttgart, Germany, Kerry, Ireland and United States, respectively. In 2005, the company came to India observing the potential of the Indian market for retort pouches. In 2006, the Floeter India was acquired by AMPAC Plastics. However, after the acquisition, Floeter’s business stalled for a brief period of time. Eventually, in 2008, a leading flexible packaging company based in Delhi/NCR, Paharpur 3P, took over Floeter and has been running the Floeter subsidiary quite successfully ever since.
Retort packaging, as explained by DS Rathore, assistant general manager of Floeter India, simplifies the food and beverage business. “I say so because otherwise we are left with only two other ways of consuming packaged food. One is frozen food, wherein one has to keep the food in a cold chain till the time it is reheated or cooked and the cost is too high with the danger of breaks in the cold chain. Or, a product has to have a shelf-life of one or two days. In that case the wastage is too high given the high uncertainty of the product reaching the consumer on time. On the other hand, retort packaging helps the food stay fresh for consumption for months. The rigorous process involved in packaging makes the food free of all kinds of contaminants and it remains the same for a year or two without the need to use any kind of preservatives,” says Rathore.
The basic difference between other flexible packaging and retort packaging comes from the combination of thermal properties and barrier properties of retort pouches. A retort pouch has high barrier properties to maintain the atmosphere attained at the time of sterilization. Added to this, the packaging also has high thermal properties wherein the packaging is subjected to high temperatures of 120 degrees Celsius to 135 degrees Celsius during sterilization, which helps the food to remain fresh. Unlike other flexible packaging where the packaged product is sterilized first and then packaged, the product in this type of packaging is first packaged and then sterilized which helps impart longer shelf-life. Pouches can be immersed in boiling water for the cooked food inside to be heated and made ready to eat. They are also microwaveable.
“At Floeter India we use customized machines and raw materials, keeping in mind the retort pouches. In the case of any other packaging, you just need to manufacture pouches but for retort applications the laminate structure and properties are different. In such cases, customized machines for speciality packaging bring about the kind of quality one needs to maintain in order to keep the food protected and fit for consumption after a long time,” Rathore adds. The company also has an in-house testing laboratory for performing various tests on the packaging. All the testing equipment and parameters at Floeter are designed and customized to meet the high performance expectations during sterilization of food.
Retort segment has room to grow
“Though we are supplying to more than 50 clients across the country, I feel that the market for retort packaging in India is yet to grow. We’re in the initial stages. Countries across the world witness more demand for retort pouches than in India. There are few Indian players in this field. The ready-to-eat or ready-to-cook segment is still quite fresh in India. It will take some time for new players to enter this segment and the demand to grow,” Rathore believes.
The technology for special flexible laminates required for retort pouches was acquired by Floeter India’s parent company Paharpur 3P, and was one of the factors to drive the acquisition for making the special ready to cook and ready to heat and eat pouches for food applications. Rathore says that the retort pouches manufactured by the company are more environmentally friendly than all the other comparable packaging options available in the market. A supplier to several major heat and eat food suppliers and ethnic food specialties, Floeter has long-term business and investment plans as its client base grows beyond the territorial limits of the South Asian region.