Atlanta — The global demand for food could increase 50 percent by 2050, but much of it spoils before it gets to the consumer's plate — a problem that plastics packaging can help solve, a research and development director of Dow Chemical Co. said at the Annual Blow Molding Conference.
“There are tremendous opportunities to preserve food longer,” said Scott Collick, core R&D program director for performance plastics and feedstocks. His job is to is job align of Dow's core and external R&D programs for ethylene products.
Collick gave the keynote speech Oct. 4 to kick of the annual conference of the Society of Plastics Engineers Blow Molding division.
Food waste hits all parts of the world, but in starkly different ways. In India, Collick said, 40 percent of food spoils in transit; in the United States, about 40 percent gets purged out of refrigerators and thrown away.
Overall, packaging gains outpace gross domestic product.
“Rigid and flexible packaging are growing faster than other materials,” he said. Even so, metal, glass and paper are much larger packaging materials than plastics.
Collick said four other trends are good news for plastic packaging: Demand for convenience, an aging population, on-the-go lifestyles and the need for specific packaging for retailers as opposite as dollar stores and Costco.
Collick, who has worked at Dow for 27 years, also talked about how Dow fosters innovation, employing 7,000 researchers worldwide. The company's goal is that new products should generate 30 percent of total sales. The definition of “new” is less than five years old.
“It's an incredibly hard metric, and it's what drives our R&D,” he said, adding that Dow is spending $1.6 billion on R&D this year. Innovation requires a long-term investment. “We're planting the seeds of the new products that we're going to be launching 5, 10 and 15 years out.”
Collick said innovation has an important role to play in huge issues facing the world — population growth that will boost demand for food, clean water and energy, and cut greenhouse gases. “Science and innovation is absolutely critical for us not to exceed the limits of the earth,” he said.
He outlined seven steps to foster innovation, starting with assembling a team and creating “a can-do-culture where you just go and tackle” challenges.
Some people work best as starters, thinking up new ideas, while others are better finishers, Collick said. “People seem to thrive better when they're in their natural environment and they feel better,” he said.
Another step: Let down your guard. Collick played a video clip of the old classic TV commercial for Reese's Peanut Cup commercial where the young guy eating a chocolate bar collides with the woman eating peanut butter — and they both discover it tastes pretty good.