CHICAGO (Dec. 7, 12 p.m. ET) — After several successful converting trials and a few small-scale product applications, water-soluble films company MonoSol LLC is ready to manufacture commercial quantities of its edible water-soluble Vivos film that can be made into food pouches on existing converting equipment.
“We have done enough scale-up so that we can now produce it on a commercial basis,” said Sumeet Kumar, senior manager of technical marketing for Monosol, which is based in Merrillville, Ind. “We could have a launch with a customer as early as 2013.”
The film — made from a proprietary blend of food-grade ingredients and plant-based materials — was hard launched at Packaging Expo in Chicago the last week in October after a soft launch earlier this year, said Kumar in a phone interview after Pack Expo.
The food pouches made from the Vivos film literally disappear as the pouch releases its content into hot or cold liquids used for cooking. The film “does not impart any taste or odor and can be consumed along with the food,” Kumar said.
The pouches are currently used on a small scale to package oatmeal, cocoa and some sweeteners.
Kumar said Monosol believes its Vivos Edible Delivery System for foods initially will be particularly appealing to “back of the kitchen operations of food-service companies and food manufacturing operations.”
“Right now, those companies have to open a bag, pre-measure the ingredient and deliver an exact dose” for mixing and batching operations, Kumar said. “Our pouches give you a very convenient product delivery system and are a very efficient way to make foods such as cocoa, hot chocolate, oatmeal and soups. It will reduce processing costs, processing time and improve the accuracy of the operation.”
Other potential applications include fruit drinks, instant teas and coffees, warm breakfast meals, drink powders and sticks, gravies, sauces, pastas, rice, seasonings, salts, vitamin fortifiers and workout supplements, he said.
“We were looking at where we could take our knowledge of water-soluble technology” for packaging products such as automatic dishwasher and laundry detergent and expand it in other market opportunities, Kumar said.
“We felt that foods made through portion control represented the right opportunity because it is a very efficient way to make foods and there is no wrapper to throw away,” he said. “It saves time, and you don't have to throw the package away” because there is none after it is used. Kumar said.
Like anything new, Kumar said the challenge will be to explain the edible food delivery system to potential customers. But, as he points out, water-based polymers are in use today on chewing gums and as coatings for dietary supplements. “We're not using anything that hasn't been used for human consumption before.”
Still, Kumar said, “we are talking about a delivery system that does not exist anywhere in the world and we have to explain it to people because it is a big paradigm shift. But it also is a ready-made eco-friendly system for interested parties.”
“I would think that initially it will be a niche application, but then it could become broad-based,” said Kumar. “We see it taking a similar path to mono-doses in the laundry industry, which now have a 30-40 [percent] share of that market.”
The pouches were developed in partnership with Cloud Packaging Equipment, which manufactures horizontal form, fill, seal Hydroforma pouch packaging machines that can make 1,000 to 2,000 pouches per minute—which Cloud says is 10 times more pouches per minute than vertical pouch packaging machines.
However, the film can also be run on existing vertical form, fill, and seal equipment with slight modifications to control humidity to ensure proper sealing.
Monosol is part of Kuraray Holdings U.S.A. Inc., which is part of Japanese-based specialty chemical company Kuraray Co. Ltd.
Cloud Packaging, based in Des Plaines, Ill., is owned by Ryt-Way Industries LLC in Lakeville, Minn., a contract packager of dry food products such as ready-to-eat cereals, prepared meals, side dishes, beverages and sweeteners.