In India the major consumer of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is the beverage industry but the market is expected to see a transformation as sectors such as milk and liquor also emerge as prominent users of PET. At present, 60% of PET consumption comes from the beverage sector and studies suggest that by 2020 liquor and milk alone will account for 20% of the consumption. Many industry experts and packaging majors foresee a drastic packaging shift in dairy products, especially in fresh milk, flavoured milk and dahi. This shift would be driven by factors such as rising disposable income levels, changing lifestyles, growing health consciousness and a larger dependence on retail stores. Shardul Sharma reports.
Modern day urban consumers especially young married couples, working professionals and students, are looking for convenience and products that have a long shelf life. This is a trend some companies say has trickled down to even perishable products like milk. Although presently at a very nascent stage, the trend of milk packaged in plastic containers has begun to be accepted by the Indian dairy industry. Amul has been one of the frontrunners adapting to this futuristic packaging solution by launching flavoured milk and lassi in PET bottles. Another major company, Parag Milk, has introduced its farm-to-home fresh milk in PET in select cities. Similarly, some ghee manufactures like GRB in South India have started packaging their products in PET bottles. State- run co-operatives like KMF (Karnataka Milk Federation), Milma in Kerala and Aavin in Tamil Nadu are some of the companies which have successfully converted to PET for packing ghee.
Bangalore-based Manjushree Tech-nopak, one of India’s leading rigid plastic packaging solutions provider, believes dairy is one of the most important sectors for the company to establish its expertise. The Indian dairy industry is one of the largest processors of milk and other related products. However, due to lack of awareness and futuristic packaging solutions, the Indian industry is yet to fully leverage its massive processing capacity. I believe plastic rigid packaging is an excellent choice over carton composite or flexible packaging due to a very high appeal and user friendliness, Vimal Kedia, managing director, Manjushree Technopak said.
Manjushree has been working with some of the country’s leading brands in the dairy industry and Kedia believes these brands are open to the new packaging format. Currently it is still at a very nascent stage, with tetrapacks and pillow pouches dominating the packaged dairy product segment. But PET and other forms of plastics will soon bring a facelift to the industry. A start has already been made by Amul. By 2020, the milk segment is expected to account for 10% of the total PET consumption in India, which is currently negligible, he said.
Manjushree is currently offering PET solutions for ghee and flavoured milk and is working with various companies on projects for fresh milk, extended shelf life (ESL) and ultra-high temperature processing (UHT) milk with a six-month shelf life. The company’s PET solutions portfolio for the dairy industry consists of PET monolayer bottle, PP monolayer bottle, HDPE monolayer bottle, HDPE three layer bottle, HDPE six layer bottle and PET additives blend bottle. As a process, Manjushree typically uses 100% Virgin PET to avoid any contamination.
According to Kedia the key factors why milk producers have started choosing PET over traditional methods such as cartons and tetrapacks are that these two currently predominant methods provide low shock resistance, high instances of damage in the supply chain, no transparency, difficulty in branding changes, standard shapes and non-resealibily of small pack sizes.
PET packaging provides high product visibility and premium brand identity. They are light, re-closable, unbreakable and cost-effective. They offer production, logistics and environmental advantages. PET and HDPE bottles provide flexibility in design, shapes, engravings and neck finish options, Kedia said elaborating on the advantages that PET can provide. Having received positive feedback from its customers such as Parag, Hatsun, GRB, and more, Manjushree expects further expansion and faster adoption of PET by dairy brand owners. Amul has invested over US$ 5 to 10 million in bringing the high speed aseptic line to India, taking advantage of the untapped potential and demand of the Indian dairy market. Positive response in the market has triggered huge expansion plans and interest from other dairies including many private dairies of South and West India, Kedia concluded.