Shanghai — Eastman Chemical Co.'s Specialty Plastics business is finding that “made in USA” and “safety” are keywords for success in China.
Tritan copolyester, which Eastman launched in 2007, has been the fastest growing thermoplastic ever launched, and has “opened up a world of possibilities” in the Asia Pacific market and around the world, according to Randy Beavers, the company's Asia Pacific and global sales director and regional business director.
The material is known for its toughness and heat resistance. “Tritan is the best chemically resistant product we have,” Beavers said, “There is very low residual stress so nowhere for chemicals to attack.”
In North America, the heat resistance and toughness make it ideal for water bottles and products that will be put in a dishwasher. “Before Tritan, Eastman did not have a polymer to withstand a dishwasher,” he said in a news conference prior to Chinaplas in Shanghai.
In China, however, “there are no dishwashers — and dishwashers are a big part of our value proposition in the U.S.,” he said. So, instead, leveraging Tritan's safety and the company's degree of safety has proven to be more effective.
“A strong pursuit of better living standards among the public will drive the demand for Tritan,” he said.
“A good case in point is our newly established strategic partnership with Midea,” he said, referring to the licensing of the Tritan logo by Midea Group, the third largest appliance maker in China.
“Midea will apply Tritan [logo] to its newly-launched premium high-speed blenders and slow juicers. Through introducing Tritan and working with Eastman, Midea guides consumers to opt for a healthier and more environment-friendly lifestyle so as to strengthen its leadership in materials and technology in the small appliances.”
According to Beavers, Midea believes that marketing Tritan and the Eastman brand as “made in the U.S.” and “safe” will attract customers. He said that was less about promoting Tritan as free from bisphenol A, which is used to make polycarbonate, but rather as safer in general.
“If you are selling to the infant care market, BPA [free] is up there pretty high, but in housewares it is much less [important] than you'd expect to see in the U.S. and Europe,” he said.
Explaining about safety, he said, “It's general [safety]. [It's] our general safety practices, the way we do [quality assurance], the way we monitor our material all the way through the value chain.”
The extent of Eastman's ingredient branding with Mideal is unusual, he said.
“We've had companies [highlight their use of Eastman brands) over the last 10 years, but usually it's like a tag on the side or putting a card inside. They're actually molding it on the side of the blender,” he said.
While he has high hopes for the Tritan brand in China, Beavers said that manufacturing Tritan would be unlikely in Asia Pacific.
“We use so much of our systems and processes to make the raw materials, and we would be unlikely be able to repeat that in Asia,” he explained.
The Kingsport, Tenn.-based company posted $9.6 billion in sales in 2015.