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Analysis: Taking packaging to the next level

by Arabian Oil & Gas Staff on Aug 6, 2017


Sameh Attalah, packaging sales director, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Dow.
Sameh Attalah, packaging sales director, Middle East, Africa and Turkey, Dow.

Across the Middle East and Africa, manufacturers are increasingly searching for more innovative solutions to help take their packaging to the next level and give them a competitive edge.

As one of the world’s largest packaging material suppliers, Dow is always seeking new ways to address customer demands across the value chain and deliver more sustainable solutions.

For its packaging and specialty plastics division, plastic packaging represents a significant business with approximately 30 percent of its sales in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region. Dow’s broad portfolio of polyethylene (PE), functional polymers, polyurethane and acrylic adhesives offers flexibility for differentiation in the marketplace.

Market trends

Each year, globally, one third of the food produced for human consumption – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – goes to waste. How we package our food can significantly reduce food waste. Plastic packaging protects the quality and safety of  food, preserving food freshness, extending shelf-life (up to three times more than non-packaged goods), and reducing food waste and spoilage.

Dow‘s packaging and specialty plastics division is working hard to develop packaging solutions that can address these types of key issues, in order to drive change in the plastic packaging industry.

Issues of particular relevance to the Middle East include packaging’s role in food security and preservation, the increased need for recycling and sustainability, and the adoption of energy recovering technologies to reduce landfill use.

Key market trends driving growth in plastic packaging in this region, and globally, include a growing population, increased urbanisation (The global urban population will reach 4.1 billion in 2017, up from 3.3 billion in 2007. Most of this growth – 40.7 percent – will come from the Middle East and Africa.) and a rising middle class, as well as the increasing demand for material performance and functionality across all industries (food, beverage, transportation, hygiene, etc.), increased sustainability and cost effectiveness, and brand differentiation, shelf  appeal and consumer convenience.

The continued growth in demand for lightweight plastic packaging is and will continue to be a key trend in the consumer flexible packaging market for years to come. Driven by the demand for greater convenience, cost-effectiveness and sustainable products, Dow’s R&D developments focus on addressing the increasing demand for brands that offer flexible pouch packs with innovative shapes, closures and dispensers to complement or replace its traditional rigid plastic bottle format.

Cost benefits of flexible plastic packaging

In the Middle East and Africa region, manufacturers want affordable substitutes to counter the effect of raw materials’ price volatility and rising costs, which can sometimes lead to increased production costs and reduced margins. Flexible packaging, as a material, presents a number of advantages as it allows to respond to the needs of performance and functionalities, while maintaining a certain level of cost control as compared to alternate materials.

Firstly, it uses fewer materials than traditional rigid packaging. Secondly, it is lightweight, meaning transportation overheads (for example, fuel) are lower. Thirdly, flexible packaging innovations like Dow’s PacXpert™ Packaging Technology – which allows customers to save up to 10 times in costs compared to other forms of packaging, and enables increased product yield by reducing content waste, reducing leftovers by 50-90 percent – are economical as they can be shipped flat, so there are fewer breakages and more products can be transported in each truckload. And finally, plastic packaging can help preserve food at most stages of the supply chain, reducing resources and energy waste.

Furthermore, as film converters continuously strive to optimise their production, and industrial packaging applications become more demanding, using high speed and / or high pre-stretch machines, the structure of the films used in flexible plastic packaging is evolving.

Dow’s toolbox of high performance resins enables tailoring of film properties to meet the requirements of the packer at ever-thinner film gauges, offering not only cost savings but also remarkable mechanical properties that address converters’ performance requirements and down-gauging needs.

Stretch level and film quantity can be tailored per application for film gauge optimisation, meaning thickness reduction without penalty in end-use film performance. And the many benefits include stretchability, holding force and resistance to tears and punctures.


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