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Is plastic the new glass?

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What packaging material is right for the modern kitchen? Laine Lister reports for Packaging magazine that kitchen pantries are banishing broken glass in favour of rigid plastic containers.

ANYONE who recalls drinking milk from a litre glass bottle with a foil, peel-back lid, or Coca-Cola from its original glass bottle, will be aware of packaging’s evolution from the heavy, breakable kind to the lighter weight variety available today.

Glass remains popular for packaging, but with changing fashion, technological advances and changing consumer preferences, new materials are catching up, with physical properties that rival glass.

Packaging plays a role in assisting and promoting our lifestyles, and consumers expect convenience, durability and environmental respect.

Plastics are more commonly used in packaging today, with reusable kitchen containers having child-friendly and recyclable features.

Since the early 1960s, plastic market share has grown significantly from less than 10% of the packaging market to 30% of the current market.

This is set to grow, and according to the US-based Freedonia Group, demand for plastic containers in the USis expected to increase 4.6% annually until 2010 .

The study indicates that plastic bottles and jars account for 78% of plastic container poundage in 2005 and will be the dominant plastic container type for the next five years.

Eating out

Until recently, restaurants stored and bought many ingredients in glass containers, as we do in our own kitchens.

However, occupational health and safety (OH&S) liability is growing so glass is being removed from commercial kitchens.

One food service industry supplier recognised the changing environment and sought a suitable glass replacement.

Polypropylene (PP) has the structural integrity and shatter-proof qualities to make it an ideal substitute.

Riviana , a food manufacturer and distributor, switched to Barrier PP containers for their range of specialty food service products, and steady sales and userfeedback reinforced their decision.

Production manager Gab Salaris said the new packaging used by the company was developed over time to suit Riviana’s needs.

He said the change was inspired by three factors, the most influential being the demand for a glass substitute.

“Changing legislation means restaurants can’t have glass containers in kitchens,” he said.

The containers also provide brand consistency in Rivana’s products, and according to Salaris the ‘look’ of the products was an important factor in creating brand success.

Packing in plastic meant improved distribution efficiency, as the lighter weight goods made packing quicker and easier, according to Salaris.

The big challenge in the conversion was plastic lacked the temperature-resistant properties of glass.

To overcome this problem, Visy Industrial Packaging worked with Riviana to reinforce the plastic used in their barrier containers.

Visy national sales manager Lachlan Patton explained developments in barrier packaging have overcome these obstacles.

“Our barrier PP containers can withstand high hot fill and retort temperatures and offer a shelf life for many products of up to two years; now as part of our wider global partnering strategy, we can offer our customers a barrier PET solution.”

Patton explained the simultaneous co-injection process that improves the bond strength between PET layers and the barrier material reduces the risk of delamination.

“Consumers can enjoy the convenience of a lighter, unbreakable pack with glass-like clarity and freshness,” he said.

“This new barrier PET platform compliments our current co-extrusion PP barrier solution.”

Barrier packaging is suitable for many products and may soon be used for a consumables such as juice, spreads and pharmaceuticals, according to Patton, who said the technology promises to overcome common shelf life issues such as oxygen ingress, carbon dioxide loss and ultra violet protection.


People are willing to pay a higher price for products with value-add packaging.

One company decided to enhance their product packaging, and almost a year on have increased market share, with a premium price.

The Manildra Group put their fast moving consumable good (FMCG) ‘Healthy Baker’ brand in a convenient, reusable PET container, closing the gap between packaging and home wares.

Manildra Group national sales manager Michael Brink said, “Flour is still packaged in paper and despite being a good quality product, our flour struggled to stand up to private labels who dominate the category.”

While paper, film and other cheaper packaging appeal to the mass market, the Easy Store Flour appeals to time-poor, health conscious and busy consumers, and the concept is expected to extend to other product lines such as cereal and sugar.

The PET container is designed to preserve the product, promising greater shelf life for the flour, which is susceptible to weevils.

Compared to paper, it is tidy, easy to pour and, Brink said, it has more than doubled sales.

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