Australia's Southcorp Holdings Ltd. plans to commercialize a plastic packaging system that could double the shelf life of many food and beverage products and also create a A$12 billion (US$9.48 billion) worldwide market. Graham Kraehe, managing director of Adelaide, Australia-based Southcorp, said the new system, Zero2, has the potential to be a world leader in food packaging technology.
He expects the first packages to be launched onto the market within two years.
Southcorp has extensive plastic packaging interests in North America. Earlier this year, Southcorp acquired injection molder Bennett Industries of Peotone, Ill.
Kraehe said Zero2 represents a major advance in oxygen-scavenging technology, the main principle of which is to minimize oxygen within food packaging through the use of oxygen-absorbing plastics. Oxygen is the main reason some packaged food products deteriorate.
Zero2 has resulted from 10 years of scientific research by the Australian government's Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization, which included three years of technical input from Southcorp.
The major breakthrough offered by Zero2 is that the oxygen-scavenging ingredient can be copolymerized into the structure of the packaging, Kraehe said. The packaging itself - whether PET, flexible film or coated metals - becomes the active oxygen absorber.
Kraehe said he expects the global market for oxygen-scavenging technology to exceed A$1.2 billion (US$948 million) by 2000, with an estimated total value of foods, beverages and other products using oxygen-scavenging technology valued at A$12 billion (US$9.48 billion).
He said international companies have expressed ``extreme interest'' in Zero2. A Southcorp Packaging spokesman would not identify the companies or their countries of origin.
Southcorp's Melbourne-based Southcorp Packaging division and the Canberra-based CSIRO have launched a joint research and development agreement to further develop Zero2.
The agreement commits the two companies to work together over the next three years to develop effective, commercially viable applications for the technology.
The precise value of the deal was not disclosed.
The pact includes extensive scientific testing to ensure that Zero2 meets Australia's National Food Authority standards and similar government standards around the world.
Under the terms of the agreement, Southcorp has exclusive international rights to Zero2.
Kraehe said the technology will allow manufacturers to gain extended shelf life without changing existing packaging formats, and provide consumers with higher-quality food products.
``By helping to maintain premium quality with significantly longer shelf life, it will also enable exporters to transport many goods by sea or land, rather than by air, which may open up many previously inaccessible overseas markets,'' he said.