MonoSol LLC — riding a wave of growth spurred on by the rapid adoption of water soluble detergent packets in recent years — is looking to the future for its next big hit.
The Merrillville, Ind.-based based company, a division of Japan-based Kuraray Co. Ltd., figures it has about an 80 percent market share in the water soluble film market for detergents, which has exploded in popularity in recent years.
While the company had to be patient to see the adoption of its films in consumer goods — it's been making such films since the 1950s for markets such as agricultural chemicals and industrial products — the company also says it sees a need to be patient in a new market it hopes to penetrate.
But that doesn't mean MonoSol doesn't have high hopes its Vivos line of water soluble films for the food industry.
It's just a matter time and timing, Christian H. Herrmanns believes.
As vice president of marketing and sales for MonoSol, it's part of Herrmanns' job to help promote the idea of water soluble packaging into the food market.
Having a home run in its portfolio with the dramatic adoption of detergent packets, including those used in dishwashers and washing machines, gives the company some perspective on what it will take to find success in foods.
“I think our legacy in water solubles comes into play. We have always been around. We have always worked at reinventing ourselves. So we are ready when the market was ready,” Herrmanns said about detergent packets. “We also were patient.
“The biggest challenge we are now facing, talking marketing, is comprehension. You need to see the idea first. You need to get people to see the same thing we see, the value that we see,” Herrmanns said. “It was the same thing with the unit-dose category in detergents. There were companies that said this was not going to be any bigger than a niche. Today, it has 30 percent market share in the U.S. That certainly is not a niche.”
MonoSol sees Vivos being adopted by large food and beverage makers as a way to deliver pre-measured ingredients that will enhance productivity and throughput while eliminating waste.
Ingredients, either dry or liquid and packaged in the water soluble film, can be delivered easily without the need to measure. “It's not what goes into the food, but how it's delivered,” he said.
MonoSol sees the potential for handling food and beverage ingredients in much larger packages than the current small detergent packages.
These food ingredient packages, for example, also could contain two different ingredients that are segregated during shipping and mixed during preparation, he said.
And just like with detergent packets, Herrmanns believes it is only a matter of when water soluble film will crack the food market.
“It's a huge market. What we need is we only need one or two pioneers in the markets,” he said, to start using the product. “And I think, at that moment, we have something tangible.”
“Up to that point, this is certainly a challenge. And we need to continue to keep selling this internally and externally, but we are confident,” he said.
Along with food-based applications, the company also sees a future for its water soluble films in personal care and cosmetic items such as facial cleansers delivered in easy-to-handle packaging.
Again, patience is a key.
While there has been an explosion in popularity of the use in water soluble films for laundry and dishwashing brands during the past few years, the use of such packaging actually stretches back years before when the idea was introduced in Europe and really did not take off.
It wasn't until Procter & Gamble rolled out its Tide Pods product line a few years ago that the market really took off.
To help meet future higher demand for water soluble films, MonoSol is building a new manufacturing plant in Portage, Ind., to add production. The first phase of the new site is expected to be completed during the first half of 2016, Herrmanns said.
When the initial phase of the $95 million project is completed next year, polyvinyl alcohol films production capacity will increase by 15 percent.
Production of water soluble films dates back to 1953 at MonoSol's original plant, also in Portage, which remains in operation.
Future phases of the new construction are scheduled to be completed in 2017 and 2020, the company has said. MonoSol also has another manufacturing site in nearby La Porte, Ind.
“Our strength is that we don't just look sort term, the next two to three years, that we have a very well balanced pipeline and portfolio so we're looking out for the next 10 years,” Herrmanns said.