Frost & Sullivan seminar on Flexible Packaging

Flexible packaging

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Although the theme was supposed to highlight flexible packaging’s new attributes as a vehicle for market promotion, the presentations and proceedings were more like a state-of-the-industry analysis and a take on trends and technologies in the Indian flexible packaging market.
After a welcome address, the first presentation was made by Mamta Wadhwa, Senior Director of Frost & Sullivan. She explained their perspective of the packaging industry based on market research and analysis carried out by them. According to her, the total Indian flexible packaging market was 1,070 KT valued at INR 107 billion and growing at 17 per cent annually. The share of flexible packaging in India is about 35%. These numbers were challenged by several delegates as being too low. Dr Saroop of Reliance mentioned that just the woven sacks segment, which they track very closely, itself almost accounts for this quantum. It was subsequently clarified that the figures quoted represented only the top-end multilayer laminates segment of the flexible packaging market and segments like monolayer films were not included.

Bimal Lakhotia – Manager, Packaging Solutions of Britannia Industries then talked about the impact of flexible packaging on consumer demand and the emerging trends in consumers’ perspectives. He highlighted factors like the growing economy, young population, speed to market, growth in the services sector, change in disposable incomes, globalisation, womanisation of the market, changing food habits and new shopping habits. He emphasised that packaging is emerging as the enabler and flexible packaging is now becoming the major means of differentiation. He also pointed out that some of the new developments in flexible packaging related to active packaging, intelligent packaging and antimicrobial films.

The next presentation featured Skand Vikramsingh — Business Manager of Paper Products. He talked about the increasing importance of packaging and packaging innovations in marketing of products and illustrated his points of view with case studies and a listing of key success factors.

V. R. Modak – President, Marketing of Nichrome talked about the importance of packaging efficiency and how it affected all kinds of packages ranging from unit packs, bulk packs and transport packaging. Each of these needs attention to different characteristics like costs and information dissemination and, ultimately, success depends on a combination of various factors.

Milind Gandhi of M-Tech Marketing then talked about some emerging trends in flexible packaging technology. He laid out the properties required by flexible packaging materials and listed the different materials in use. He also talked about the technologies required to convert basic packaging materials. He particularly emphasised the dominance of rotogravure printing in the Indian market and mentioned some new emerging technologies in lamination.

The next presentation, which was on emerging trends in plastic film manufacturing, was made by Rakesh Shah – Managing Director of Windmoller & Holscher (India). He talked about the advantages of flexible packaging and the importance of multilayer films in this segment. He discussed some new developments in coextrusion die design, cooling of the film bubble and downstream film handling and winding that were aimed at handling difficult materials, downgauging and increasing throughput. He pointed out that the challenges being faced by the film industry to reduce costs by lightweighting film structures and improving production efficiencies (higher output, better machine utilisation and reduced wastages). He also pointed out the emergence of film usage in heavy duty applications like industrial applications, stretch hoods/stretch wrapping, surface protection and shrink wrapping and the need to develop sustainable products like bio-degradable films.

This was followed by a panel discussion on flexible packaging technologies, which was moderated by Milind Gandhi. The other panelists were V. R. Modak, Rakesh Shah and Vijay Shankar – Vice President, Sales of Mamata Brampton Engineering. The bulk of the audience interaction related to the relative merits of rotogravure and flexography for package printing and on the recyclability of multilayer film and sheet structures. It was explained that although flexography had not yet really taken off in India for wide-web conversion due the limited availability and higher costs of flexo plates and inks, the situation was changing with new plate-making capacities being set up by process houses and technology developments like solvent-free plate chemistry and in-the-round processing of photopolymer sleeves. While the recycling of printed, metallised  and laminated structures is difficult, coextruded structures do not present problems unless they contain difficult materials like PVC or PVDC.

The post-lunch session started off with a presentation by Amit Ray, CEO of Uflex on the current capabilities of flexible packaging manufacturers and future demand adaptation. He elaborated on the drivers that determined the choice of technology and presented some details of major market segments. He also talked about new technologies being implemented and enumerated some new developments like quadtech stand-up pouches made from multiple laminate inputs, laminates using woven PP structures for heavy-duty applications, contoured pouches with reclosable spouts and laser scoring of laminates/pouches for controlled tearing/opening.

Mukul Lahiri, Packaging Development Consultant of Spencers Retail then made a presentation on flexible packaging trends in organised retail. He explained how organized retail was riding on a boom with large self-service departmental formats of anywhere between 3,000 and 80,000 square feet opening up all over the country with footfalls of 500 to 15,000 per day. He explained how flexible packaging was ideal to meet the requirements of this retailing format and how it presented the most cost-effective and attractive options.

The most informative presentation of the seminar was made by Pankaj Gauri, Manager – Polyethylene Business Development of Reliance Industries. He said that the total Indian packaging market, according to FICCI, is US$ 19 billion and is growing at 15% per annum. Packaging accounts for over 50 per cent of India’s polymer production and flexible packaging constitutes two-thirds of this figure. Of the total film market of 1.1 million MTPA, polyethylenes account for 59%, polypropylene for 31% and polyester for 10%. As much as 37% of the total PE usage of 1.8 million MTPA goes into flexible packaging. Multilayer films, the fastest growing segment, grew by 41% between 2005 and 2007 to 318 KT. Substantial new capacities have been added for both multi-layer film production and printing in the last 5 or 6 years. Three segments viz. lamination film (179 KT), milk packaging film (60 KT) and edible oil packaging (37 KT) account for over 86% of multi-layer film usage. He also pointed how single-site metallocene films would become the dominant materials in flexible packaging because of their superior performance, lower leaker rates, lower costs and downgauging potential.

The next presentation was made by S. Chandrashekhar — Asia Pacific Market Growth Process Leader, Packaging and Industrial Polymers of DuPont India and it was on Sustainable Materials for Packaging. He talked about the work going on in DuPont in developing bio-polymers based not on conventional petro-chemical feedstocks but on renewable agricultural resources and on reducing the carbon footprint by improving energy efficiency.

The day was rounded off with a panel discussion on smart packaging and other need-based options for end-users. The session was moderated by Skand Vikramsingh and the other panelists were Bimal Lakhotia, Nandlal Tiwari — Packaging Head of GSK Consumer Healthcare and Soumya Chakravorty — Head of Packaging of Marico Limited. On being asked whether a pre-specified packaging system has ever formed the basis of designing any consumer product, the panel mentioned that this has not actually happened so far but was not far off. Product decisions today are not taken solely by purchasing or commercial personnel and packaging specialists also play an important role as price is no longer the only consideration.

The deliberations concluded with cocktails and dinner.