Friday, April 12, 2024

Evolution of flexible packaging – from visual appeal to barrier properties

10th Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2023

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Hari K Singh at the 10th Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2023 in Mumbai. Photo. The Packman

At the 10th Speciality Films & Flexible Packaging Global Summit 2023 in Mumbai, Hari K Singh, who serves as the executive vice president overseeing global operations and strategy in India, Thailand, and South Africa, in addition to his role as the country head for Thailand at SRF, offered his perspective on disruptive technologies. He delved into the future direction of disruption and its implications for sustainable packaging, particularly in terms of substrate performance. Singh cited Professor Clayton Magleby Christensen’s book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, highlighting that disruptive technology surpasses traditional processes, products, and established practices.

Singh expanded on the idea that for numerous decades, packaging has primarily centered around its aesthetic appeal, a trend that persists even today. However, he highlighted that over time, there has been a significant shift in focus, particularly towards the barrier properties of packaging materials. Additionally, Singh pointed out that as we delve into the realm of sustainable packaging, new materials are continually emerging within the industry.

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Before Singh’s presentation, the 10th Elite Plus Conference had already featured several discussions centered on materials such as monolayers and the integration of paper into sustainable packaging. Singh highlighted that this change in focus underscores the industry’s growing emphasis on improving the barrier properties of both existing and newly introduced materials in the flexible packaging industry.

As Singh expounded on his perspective regarding disruption, he remarked, “Three to four decades ago, rigid packaging dominated, with glass, tin, aluminum containers, and the like. However, due to factors such as high energy costs, the expense of rigid packaging, and unmet customer requirements like aesthetics, ease of handling, transport, and storage, the packaging industry gradually shifted to flexible packaging. This transition introduced new products and substrates like polyester film, BOPP film, and CPP. This shift from rigid to flexible packaging can be considered one of the most significant disruptions in the industry.”

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Expanding further on his insights into the evolving landscape of disruption, Singh discussed the progress in barrier properties. He detailed how within the realm of flexible packaging, there has been a multitude of innovations and transformative changes. Initially, advancements in barrier properties, seal strength, and bond strength were driven by developments in extrusion technology. Following this, metallization techniques made significant strides in enhancing barrier properties, subsequently leading to the emergence of in-line coating processes that utilized various types of coatings. Concurrently, offline coating methods also surfaced, including water-based, solvent-based, and solvent-less coatings such as PVDC and Alox coatings. According to Singh, one of the pivotal disruptions occurred through metallization, which replaced a significant array of products with metallized alternatives and consequently diminished the industry’s dependence on aluminum foil.

Singh also emphasized how disruptions can permanently alter people’s habits and behaviors. To illustrate this point, he mentioned, “Another disruption, in my opinion, was the introduction of sachet packaging, exemplified by products like Chik velvet sachets. Before this innovation, shampoo was typically packaged in large containers. The introduction of small sachets revolutionized the way shampooing is done across India, changing consumer habits and behaviors significantly.”

During his discussion, Singh also highlighted the potential adverse effects of disruption. He illustrated this point with an instance of technological disruption that came close to causing candies to vanish from the Indian market. Until just a few years ago, small shopkeepers in India would routinely offer candies as a form of change or when they were unable to provide precise change. However, the introduction of technologies like UPI and Paytm disrupted this customary practice, underscoring how advancements can, at times, inadvertently influence long-standing traditions and behaviors.

Singh wrapped up his discussion by emphasizing the industry’s growing commitment to environmentally friendly, sustainable, and recyclable solutions, particularly underscoring the significance of mono-family and single-family products such as polyolefins. He pointed out that this transition towards eco-conscious alternatives is poised to be the next major disruption in the field, with numerous companies actively involved in pioneering these innovations. “Consequently, we can anticipate a multitude of mono-family and single-family products to emerge in the near future,” he said.

Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika
Mahan Hazarika has served as the Editor of The Packman since 2017, demonstrating an impressive decade-long expertise in the field of writing about the printing and packaging industry. In his leisure time, he indulges in his passions for music, travel, and watching movies.

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