Rotuba Extruders Inc. is employing a patented compounding process to sniff out potentially significant new market opportunities in products ranging from fashion accessories and compact-disc cases to personal-care and cosmetics packaging.
The Linden, N.J.-based firm aggressively is applying a long-known concept to differentiate and add value to some well-established products. After dabbling with the technology 25 years ago, Rotuba now has developed an effective method for impregnating cellulosic resins with scores of delicate or pungent fragrances. It is working closely with billion-dollar Swiss fragrances and flavors supplier Givaudan SA, Kingsport, Tenn.-based resin supplier Eastman Chemical Co. and British design consultancy Brewery to develop and brand the scent-encapsulation process.
While Rotuba produced the scented compounds used to make the highly publicized, materials-sampling ``pebbles'' that Eastman now is using to promote its own Tenite brand of cellulosics, the compounder also is developing a parallel, proprietary line of samples to highlight the 100 or so scents that it can offer. Some new, finished products are about to spring from the technology.
Cellulosic resins are derived from soft woods, which allows them to absorb and retain scents better than other types of plastic. Shelf life for the aromas vary depending on density of loading and use conditions, but Eastman said it is aware of samples that have retained their scent for more than 20 years.
Rotuba, founded in 1945, employs more than 75 in a 100,000-square-foot facility in Linden. The firm compounds custom scents of cellulose acetate propionate and cellulose acetate butyrate. It also extrudes polystyrene and acrylic resins to make prismatic lighting sheets and profiles for the lighting and point-of-purchase sectors. But the company now is focusing on getting to market scented products made using its novel process, Rotuba President and Chief Executive Officer Adam Bell said Aug. 26 at the Industrial Designers Society of America annual conference in Washington.
In one project, the privately held company is working with a pair of Eastman-recommended vendors - Spanish fragrances firm Eurofragance and Hwaseong, South Korea-based injection molder EJ Pack Co. Ltd. to produce a scented cap for a jar that will contain exfoliating skin-care cream. The product will feature a transparent, chocolate-brown, screw-on cap scented with a chocolate-orange fragrance dubbed Orangette. The cap will top a small, square jar molded from Eastman's clear copolyester Glass Polymer resin. London-based Brewery is helping Rotuba promote its scented compounds, which have been trademarked Auracell.
The compounder also plans to apply the technology to perfume bottles, with the cap providing consumers with a sample whiff of the fragrance contained within the bottle, eliminating the need for sample strips. As an extension of that concept, Bell said Rotuba is working with a pair of New York fashion and beauty consultants, Karen Robinovitz and Stacey Mayesh, to identify other market opportunities. One possibility: License pop music stars who have their own fragrance lines to allow them to imbue their CD music cases with the aroma of the fragrance they're trying to sell.
Regarding the Orangette skin-cream jar, Bell said Erie, Pa.-based injection molder Omega Plastics LLC initially will produce 1,000 pieces that Rotuba will give out as samples at the Luxe Pack trade show for luxury consumer-goods packaging to be held in Monaco in early November. He called the package ``an inspiration piece'' for the show, where Rotuba hopes the concept will attract interest from major brands such as L'Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder.
In another project, Rotuba is partnering with Geneva-based Givaudan to create scents for use in bangles made from Tenite. The compounder plans to introduce two sets of bangles - one transparent and the other opaque - each offered in eight fragrances, said Hugh O'Neill, Rotuba's cellulosic sales director. The chunky jewelry will come in round and squared-off shapes, and will roll out in October under the trade name Plumbunny. O'Neill credited Robinovitz and Mayesh for designing the bangles, and Rotuba now is relying on the pair to help push the products out into the high-fashion market.
``We tailor the loading of the scents, based on the application,'' O'Neill said. For example, a scent used in a molded plastic lingerie clasp can be very delicate, since it's designed to be experienced ``up close and personal.''
On its Web site, Rotuba notes that ``scent loading can range from subtle to intense and can be tailored to suit space and proximity. Scent type is unlimited and we can literally re-create any aroma type. Scent can be used as an appetite depressant or enhancer as well as an alertness or relaxation tool. Scent can even be used as an authenticity signature.''
For those reasons, Rotuba believes the technology has great potential. U.S. demand for flavors and fragrances is forecast to grow more than 5 percent a year to approach $6 billion in 2007. The firm attributes the growth to consumer preferences for natural ingredients, and to rising interest in more complex and authentic flavors and fragrances.
If all goes to plan, one modest-sized New Jersey plastics company expects to come out of this venture smelling like a rose, or lavender, or peach, or eucalyptus, or ...