Ferro Corp. of Cleveland expects to launch as many as four new transparent grades of ultraviolet-light-blocking compounds for the dairy market by mid-2003.
The products are part of an effort in which Ferro has cranked up its product development efforts, introducing almost 35 new grades of its polypropylene-based compounds since mid-2002.
The firm also has posted solid gains in its color compounding business, where it could add as many as three sales reps by the end of the year, officials said.
The new grades aimed at food and dairy packaging are based on high density polyethylene and can prevent quick degradation of dairy products, Ferro technical manager Mir Ali said at Thermoplastic Concentrates 2003, held Feb. 10-12 in New Orleans.
The compounds can extend dairy shelf life from 30 days to 45 days, while retaining vitamins A, C and B-2, Ali said. The materials will be made at Ferro's Stryker, Ohio, plant.
In addition to the dairy work, a dozen new PP compound grades are in glass-filled materials introduced in the past four months, Ferro marketing director Joe Klein said by phone. An additional 18 have come from Underwriters Laboratories Inc.-listed, flame-retardant products.
Ferro also has commercialized four specialty grades of thermoplastic polyolefin-based compounds since November and debuted a pair of PP/nylon alloys since December. The PP/nylon materials are aimed at automotive parts such as fuse panels and other under-the-hood, off-engine uses, Klein said.
All the new grades are produced at Ferro's main compounding site in Evansville, Ind.
In the color market, the new sales hires will be needed if the double-digit growth Ferro saw there in 2002 is matched in 2003, said John Comanita, managing director of Ferro's plastics group. Most of the company's color work has been in compounds based on PP, polyethylene and polystyrene, Comanita said. He described growth in Ferro's overall compounding business as being ``well above'' U.S. growth in gross domestic product, which was about 2.5 percent in 2002.
Publicly held Ferro no longer separates its plastics sales from performance chemicals. Industry estimates place its compounding sales at $240 million, with most of that coming from North America, where Ferro ranks as one of the 30 top compounders. Based on that sales estimate, compounding made up about 16 percent of Ferro's total 2002 sales of $1.53 billion.