Double-digital growth in Indian liquid packaging sector

First phase of Uflex’s aseptic packaging plant at Sanand to come online

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Sanand plant miniature model displayed at the Uflex stand. Photo PSA

Flexible packaging major Uflex proudly associates itself with the government’s ‘Make in India’ ethos given its strong manufacturing presence in India. It was therefore natural for the company to mark its presence during the ‘Make in India Week’ held in Mumbai from 13 to 18 February. At the company stand the star attraction was a miniature model of its under construction aseptic packaging plant for liquid packaging at Sanand in Gujarat. Another important solution being promoted was Equilibrium Modified Atmospheric Packaging (E-MAP) that is the most comprehensive shelf-life extension solution for fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers

Uflex will be investing close to Rs 580 crore in the first phase of the Sanand plant while the total investment in construction of the unit, spread across 72 acres, will be about Rs 2,000 crore. Once fully functional, the plant will have two printing lines, a converting division, a filling line, an engineering division and a holographic division that will make anti-counterfeiting solutions. The Sanand plant will also have a cement packaging division. Close to half of the energy consumption will be through solar, keeping into mind the environment. The plant will employ around 250 people in the first phase and on completion of all the phases it will provide employment to approximately 2,000 people.

“We expect the first phase of the plant, that will have one printing line, to come online by October this year. The initial capacity would be around 3.5 to 4 billion packs a year. And once the second printing line is added we will be able to fully utilize the capacities of extrusion and converting divisions, taking the capacity close to 7 to 8 billion packs a year,” said Ashwani Kumar Sharma, president and CEO, liquid packaging and new business at Uflex. Sanand was chosen because of its proximity to ports and also due to the fact that Gujarat has top class infrastructure in terms of roads, electricity and manpower.

Double-digit growth  
According to Sharma, India offers tremendous growth opportunity in the aseptic liquid packaging segment which is currently dominated by one company. “Liquid packaging is growing at close to an average of 20% per annum. The way the market is expanding it is a highly attractive place to be in,” Sharma stated. “Given the size and economy of India, aseptic packaging has huge room to grow from  where it currently is. A country like Pakistan has a bigger market for aseptic packaging than India.”

Demand for aseptic packaging will be driven by dairy products given that the market is maturing and consumers are now demanding safety and hygiene. The juice segment is another area which is seeing robust demand expansion. A less talked about segment is that of packaged water. In India water is packaged in basic plastic bottles, which is not ideal for lot of situations. Sharma believes India may gradually witness the emergence of a segment, catered by aseptic packaging, which is cost-effective but  much safer than general plastic bottles and cheaper than premium glass bottles.

Ashwani Kumar Sharma, president and CEO, liquid packaging and new business at the Uflex stand. Photo PSA

Cement packaging
In addition to liquid packaging, the Sanand plant will also have a division for cement packaging to provide solutions to problems faced by cement manufacturers. A significant percentage of cement produced is lost in the supply chain because cement bags are vulnerable to damages caused due to exposure of cement bags to moisture and other climatic elements.
“Pilferage, moisture absorption, health hazards to workers due to cement inhalation and general aesthetics of packaging are some issues faced by cement manufacturers in India. We will try to address these issues by providing solutions created at our cement packaging division,” Sharma said.

Last year, Uflex won the Silver DuPont Packaging Award for the moisture-proof cement bag which it has developed, the Flex SafePack, which is specially designed to provide a barrier to moisture and water. SafePack can be printed with high quality graphics comprising up to 10 colors using high-definition reverse rotogravure printing imparting a premium look to a commodity product.

Uflex had tied up with JK Cement and Birla Cement during the conceptualization of the product.
“We firmly believe our efforts will be well accepted by cement manufacturers especially in the premium segment because it helps in enhancing the overall brand value,” Sharma said.

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