New technologies can transform flexible packaging and buffer the effects of high resin prices, according to the top executive at film maker Pliant Corp.
Harold Bevis, president and chief executive officer of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Pliant, said rising resin costs have thinned the profit margins for much of the industry.
Film extruders face a serious time lag between when resin costs are hiked and when those costs can be passed to customers, Bevis said. An increase of one-tenth of a cent in a resin such as polyethylene can mean millions of dollars in expenses to Pliant, he added.
``A nickel price increase [in PE] is a Maalox moment to me,'' Bevis said. He noted that he expects his company to close in on $1 billion in sales during 2005.
``Basically, resin costs are in our face and going to continue to be so. We don't think there's going to be much relief,'' he said.
Bevis spoke on flexible packaging trends at the Plastics News Executive Forum, held Feb. 28 to March 2 in Litchfield Park.
Pliant is investing in technology to reduce resin use and lower costs, Bevis said. The firm identified several innovations now on the market or about to become available.
The company currently uses thinner-gauge coextruded film, mainly in three, five or seven layers, to reduce resin needs, Bevis said. For stand-up pouches such as pet-food containers, companies also are forming coextruded adhesive layers that can be laminated with paper or foil. Eliminating the use of separate lamination passes cuts costs.
Pliant also is working on electron-beam treatment of film, replacing the need for laminates and saving 10-20 percent on the cost of film, he said.
On the sensory side, the company is working on olfactory technology dubbed ScentSational, which can add a whiff of flavor to foods without adding fat or sugar, Bevis said. The encapsulated scent is released once the package is opened.
The company also is developing new film applications using nanocomposites, in the form of microscopic clay particles. The focus now is on PE. Nanocomposites can provide flame-resistance and anti-static properties for electrical applications, Bevis said. Some of the technologies are a few years away.