Linyi Xincheng JinLuo Meat Products Co. Ltd.'s popular snacking sausage became discolored and watery in plastic bags sitting on convenience store shelves in rural China. But the issue was more serious than unappealing, soggy, gray sausages in plastic.
Many rural Chinese convenience stores do not refrigerate products, and Linyi, China-based JinLuo's sausages became dangerous with bacterial growth in the hot and humid environment. So JinLuo turned to J&A Industrial (Suzhou) Co. Ltd., a Chinese supplier of coextruded print films, for a solution.
The resulting package, using Dow Chemical Co.'s Saran polyvinylidene chloride, created a high moisture barrier that can withstand southeast China's heat and humidity.
In 2005, the package won Suzhou-based J&A the Grand Pinnacle Award in DuPont Co.'s China packaging award competition. J&A's PVDC coextrusion line is the first in the country, and the company is working on expanding the use of PVDC over ethylene vinyl alcohol copolymer, the more common choice in China.
J&A's parent firm, Kunshan-based Jiangsu Caihua Packaging Group Co. and its affiliated companies focus on food and specialty packaging, and the group has gained a reputation for solving end users' problems.
``If the client's product has a problem, then they will turn to us to solve it. They come to us when they have some special demands mostly,'' said Caihua General Manager Alex Xia.
The group has an impressive lineup of domestic and overseas food, pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies, with clients like Kraft Foods Co., McCormick and Co. Inc., Johnson & Johnson and General Mills Inc.
For General Mills, Caihua helped with its sourcing of a unique type of stand-up pouch. With only one U.S. supplier, General Mills scoured domestic and global markets for a backup and singled out Caihua, which was capable of producing the high-quality pouches for packaging fresh fruits and vegetables.
Caihua has expanded its business to four companies, Xia said, by ``understanding the shortcomings clients are facing, understanding their needs and finding value.''
Many Chinese packaging companies were forced out of the market because they used old techniques or were not able to keep up with stricter environmental standards, he said.
In September, Caihua opened a state-of-the-art, coextruded and laminated products plant in Kunshan, just outside of Shanghai. The 1.3 million-square-foot site boasts the first seven-layer blown film line in China. The firm's future plans include another plant in northern China and, eventually, an initial public offering. But for Xia, keeping up with the cost competition is still a worry.
``We think we have to be innovative because everyone is competing on cost,'' he said. ``It's a tight market.''
For innovation, the company relies on its 20-plus research and development staff, which visits abroad to collect new packaging ideas, working closely with firms like Midland, Mich.-based Dow and DuPont of Wilmington, Del.
``As a converting company, we need to understand what packaging is being used today, and what will be used tomorrow,'' Xia said. ``We need to understand global packaging trends and research ourselves, to be able to match the innovations.''
For its next innovation in China, Caihua plans to delve into shrink film, not commonly used in China except for labeling.
Xia also said the company will lower the cost and improve the quality of its high-barrier film that has increased the shelf life of JinLuo's sausage.
In 2005 Jiangsu Caihua had sales of $86 million and output of 68.3 million pounds of plastics.