Expert: PET packagers need to step up innovation

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File photo Maddox

New Orleans — John Maddox, admittedly, spends way to much time in grocery stores looking at all different types of packaging.

And the PET consultant has some very direct views for his industry.

“Other materials are much more innovative,” he said.

Plastic has enjoyed innovation over time, and that’s helped the material capture its share of the container marketplace. But materials such as paper, glass and metal are fighting back with new designs and public relations campaigns.

“They had to get innovative. We’ve been lazy in the PET business. We’ve had fantastic growth,” he said, with all that highly visible packaging.

But it’s time for PET to step up its game, said Maddox, president of SBA-CCI Inc. said.

“We used to brag about PET being resealable. Well, we can’t brag about that any more. They figured that out,” he said about the resealable metal containers that have hit the market.

“Why so little growth? Other materials, through their own initiative and investments, even though they don’t make much margin either, enjoy a better consumer reputation,” he said.

He pointed to what he called particularly effective advertising touting paper packaging as an example that will bring a tear. And there’s another campaign by Boxed Water to plant trees if consumers drink water out of paper cartons.

“How many trees are we going to plant?” he asked at the Plastics Recycling 2017 conference in New Orleans.

Despite the challenges, Maddox said, “we do have bright spots in growth” in PET packaging. They include food applications, colored resin, barrier solutions and full-body shrink wrap labels. “That’s all growing business,” he said. “They are helping grow the industry.”

“We’re going to have low virgin prices for the foreseeable future. There’s ample imported PET to keep those prices in check,” Maddox said. “PET is far from mature, but we’re going to have to work harder. We’ve got all the easy stuff done. We need a much stronger public relations effort to improve our image.”

“The main thing is, with a decent economy, PET is here and ready for some very nice growth,” he said.