SÃO PAULO — Brazil is one of the most promising global growth markets for fluoropolymer films use in pharmaceuticals, but for years Honeywell struggled to break the hold that aluminum held on Brazil's high moisture barrier demand.
It turns out they were simply talking to the wrong people, lead executives for the company recently told Plastics News.
Among a handful of Asian and South American countries, Brazil has become one of Honeywell's top three growth markets for Aclar polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE) in recent years, mainly due to the high-moisture climate in the country and the increasing barrier and shelf-life requirements of demanding drug packaging standards there.
With the company's PCTFE film produced in the United States and sold abroad to a handful of converters, 98 percent of Aclar is used today in pharmaceuticals for mid-, high- and ultra-high moisture barrier solutions in thermoformable packaging.
For years in Brazil, plastics were seen as having their niche within pharmaceuticals, but couldn't come close to matching aluminum for the perfect moisture protection in blister packaging that's needed in tropical climates.
Aclar offers a comparable barrier that's near perfect, but since introducing PCTFE sales to Brazil roughly 15 years ago, Honeywell struggled to break through because it made the simple mistake of trying to convince the wrong people within Brazilian pharma companies, said David J. Barker, global market development leader for health care and packaging, on the sidelines of Brazilian trade show FCE Pharma-Cosmetique, May 12-14.
“The level of education on PCTFE in this market was very low, and we're responsible for that,” Barker said. “We knew marketing staffs were already drawn to this clear packaging option, but educating the research and development staff was new for us, and ultimately the key, because they always had the final say in demanding a perfect barrier with aluminum. For them, high-barrier only meant aluminum.”
Within the past three years, Honeywell recognized its mistake in Brazil and refocused on setting up educational workshops on Aclar's benefits, inside companies. It developed specific teaching approaches for everyone from R&D decision makers, to production floor staff.
Sales growth in Brazil has since topped 30 percent, 25 percent and 30 percent over the past three years, respectively, with ample market share left to gain for high-barrier plastics solutions against the aluminum standard, Barker said.
The company hired Brazilian pharma industry veteran Carmem Nicacio Dalla Pria in January to serve as market development manager for LATAM, who helped fine-tune Honeywell's sales pitch in Portuguese, emphasizing the overall cost savings clients get from PTCFE film, namely the 55 percent overall reduction achieved in warehouse, transportation and shelf space due to smaller packaging options with Aclar.