With demand growth slowing in the polyethylene market, resin makers are being more careful in choosing their target markets. That trend has led ExxonMobil Chemical Co. of Houston to introduce Nexxstar-brand resin structures for stretch hood packaging.
The structures are formulations for combining the firm's Exceed-brand metallocene linear low density PE with its Escorene-brand ethyl vinyl acetate copolymer to create a coextruded film that outperforms cardboard as well as resins used in stretch hoods.
Nexxstar is expected to compete in appliance markets and warehouse display packaging for beverages, according to Dan Schussler, ExxonMobil's global PE film market segment manager.
``We were looking for new end uses to stimulate polyethylene growth and we saw that stretch hoods were underused,'' Schussler said in a March 9 phone interview. ``It's a segment with significant growth potential, especially in the U.S. appliance market.''
Stretch hoods are placed over pallet loads for protection during shipping. Most of the global market still uses cardboard, but the plastic segment consumes about 210 million pounds of resin annually and is growing at a 20-25 percent rate. The Nexxstar application could lead the market to more than double in size, ExxonMobil LDPE market planner Jan Donck said.
In warehouse display packaging, Nexxstar offers an aesthetic advantage over conventional pallet wrap when displayed at such retailers as Costco and Sam's Club, Schussler added.
ExxonMobil researchers developed a new grade of Escorene EVA copolymer for the Nexxstar application.
A second Nexxstar product will be unveiled in the second quarter. Schussler said the new product will combine Exceed metallocene LLDPE with another material, but he declined to offer details. Future Nexxstar rollouts will continue to use Exceed and will be targeted at applications with double-digit growth rates, he said.
ExxonMobil developed the first Nexxstar application in conjunction with Lachenmeier A/S, a maker of packaging machinery based in Sonderborg, Denmark.
Nexxstar is ``easier to use and offers better holding force and cost reduction than other materials,'' said Lachenmeier President Per Lachenmeier.
Lachenmeir added that his firm and ExxonMobil ran more than 150 tests on the product before commercializing it on a global level in December.
``We identified this market and realized we had to go one level down in the chain,'' Donck said. ``But it also had to be an area where converters were looking to us for a solution. We needed to have that end-user validation.''
Exceed metallocene LLDPE used in the Nexxstar product is made at ExxonMobil plants in Mont Belvieu, Texas, and Notre dame de Gravenchon, France. The Escorene EVA copolymers used in Nexxstar are produced at ExxonMobil plants in Beaumont, Texas; Baton Rouge, La.; and Meerhoud, Belgium.