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Flexible PrimaPak targets rigid container niche

By: Mike Verespej

November 28, 2012

CHICAGO (Nov. 28, 3:40 p.m. ET) — Clear Lam Packaging Inc. is rolling out its second bio-based resin for packaging containers, and has developed a film-based flexible, stackable container product line aimed at replacing rigid plastic bottles, glass jars and metal cans. 

“We expect to see a lot of activity from our PrimaPak product market line in the coming years,” said Clear Lam’s chief marketing officer, Roman Forowycz. “Over the next five to 10 years, you are going to see a lot more of this stuff, because it just is not efficient to send plastic bottles around the country.”

PrimaPak’s main selling points are that it stacks and offers huge weight savings over pre-formed container material, he said. The container’s introduction at Pack Expo in Chicago attracted so much interest that Clear Lam ran out of product data sheets, he said.

“We believe it is going to penetrate the rigid food packaging, detergent packaging, and packaging for personal health-care products, pet foods, infant formula and nutritional products,” Forowycz said in a phone interview after the Oct. 28-31 show. “The first product launch will be next June and it is going to be for snacks. We see this as a potential $250 million market.”

The Elk Grove, Ill., company also is rolling out a new bio-based roll-stock film — made from resin supplied by Toyota Tsusho Corp. of Nagoya Japan — for packaging for food, electronics and personal health-care products, and to replace PVC packaging.

“It can run on the same equipment as traditional films. This is a plug-in,” he said. That equipment includes form, fill and seal machines for food and beverage packaging, and thermoforming machines making industrial and consumer goods packaging, he said.

“In food, we see it being used more for refrigerated products such as meats and cheese,” because it can extend shelf life, he said. “It can also go into any market where PVC is used, and those companies tend to be moving quicker into plastics that are perceived to be more environmentally friendly.”

Clear Lam said said deal with its Toyota Tsusho makes it the lead North American company for launching Tsusho’s Globia Bio-PET resin. The resin’s monoethylene glycol portion, representing 30 percent of the PET formulation, is made from sugar cane that comes from Brazil. It is made in Korea, he said.

“We are just getting the first commercial loads of resin now,” said Forowycz. “The first roll stocks of bio-PET for sheet extrusion will be available in December.”

Clear Lam will make multilayer bio-PET roll stock for perishable goods and monolayer bio-PET for electronics and personal-care items, he said. “It is not a commodity product. It will be produced and custom-manufactured to each specific application.”

Both the bio-PET roll stock and PrimaPak film will be made at the company’s Elk Grove plant, which recently completed a $2 million expansion that, among other things, boosted coextrusion sheet capacity of its Forming Films division to 45 million pounds a year.

The expansion and the new products further the firm’s strategy to concentrate on its sheet and film and polymer additives businesses, which is why Clear Lam said it sold off its thermoforming division in May.

Forowycz calls the PrimaPak product line — made from rollstock on vertical form-fill-seal equipment — “hybrid packaging.”

“It is not flexible packaging like a stand-up pouch, but it is not rigid, either,” he said. “It is flexible packaging that retains all the attributes and characteristics of rigid packaging, but with added benefits. When the packages are empty, they retain their shape, but they also can be squished down like an accordion,” he said. “It makes more sense to use this than to ship around empty [blow molded or injection molded] containers.”

The package has no zipper and is designed for used with Clear Lam’s 15-month-old peel and re-seal film technology, which eliminates the need for pre-formed rigid lids as well as the shrink band around a container’s neck to hold the lid down.

“This is practical sustainability,” said Forowycz. “There is a lower manufacturing footprint and manufacturing costs are significantly reduced.” Warehouse space, fuel use and greenhouse gases are also reduced and the packaging requires fewer trucks for shipping, he said.

He added that the company’s tamper-evident peel and re-seal film technology, introduced in August 2011, has moved into supermarkets with applications emerging in the last three months for pre-cut veggies and fruit and produce trays.

“The potential market is not as big as PrimaPak — but it probably is about a $100 million market,” he said.

Clear Lam, with an estimated $124 million in sales from its film and sheet business, has two plants in the U.S. and one in China. It employs more than 500.