Shanghai, China — Walk into any convenience store chain in China and you'll be greeted with plenty of packaged food options in all types of shapes and sizes. And while years back that concept seemed somewhat unheard of, as the middle class expands, the demand for packaged food is only going to increase.
At Milliken's booth (#N2C41) in Chinaplas, PlasticsToday sat down with company representatives to talk about what's popular in packaging for the Chinese market and also doing business in the country.
"Growth for our products continues to increase in Asia," said Wim Van de Velde, director of marketing for Milliken's plastic additives business. "The Chinese middle class continues to grow and with that demands certain kinds of products."
For instance, with the Chinese middle class adopting more of a on-the go type mentality, consumers are looking more toward packaged foods and products to meet their needs.
One of the big benefits of bringing packaged food to China is the opportunity to innovate, according to Reed Walker, global marketing and business development manager for Milliken's plastics additives business.
"In fact, the Chinese packaging market is more innovative than in the U.S," Reed said. "There's a quick adoption rate and it's easier to bring in new technology to here, unlike in the U.S. or Europe where the technology has already been established for the most part."
And as flexible packaging technology continues to expand, Reed said that China is embracing the flexible material.
"For example, there are a lot of noodles and rice sold here and that lends itself to flexible packaging," he said. "Flexible uses less material, it's portable. That trend will continue."
But it's not simply just realizing there is a big market, but truly understanding how to do business in the area.
"One of the biggest questions is, how do you organize yourself to take advantage of the growing market?" Walker asked. "You need locals to help do it."
Van de Velde agreed.
"To do business in China, you have to invest in local people," he said. "This is why we have an R&D and sales service in Shanghai. While IP remains a concern, it is manageable."
Issues with IP is a subject the company knows well as last year during the Chinaplas show in Guangzhou, Milliken announced it had filed several lawsuits to protect the IP embodied in its Millad clarifying agents.
"It is still fragmented, but the IP issue is getting better, the court system is getting better," Walker said.
During Chinaplas 2014, Milliken revealed plans for a capacity expansion of its Millad NX 8000 clarifying agent for PP at its Allen facility in Blacksburg, S.C. The company will double its production and add an additional redundant manufacturing line to meet global demand. The company says this is its most significant capital investment in its Millad clarifier business to date. The expansion is scheduled for completion in 2015.
Millad NX 8000 clarifying agent allows manufacturers to replace resins, such as polycarbonate (PC), polystyrene (PS), and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) with lower-density PP.
What to see at Chinaplas
At Chinaplas, Milliken is showcasing its Millad NX 8000 clarifier for thermoformed and extruded PP applications. The company is also exhibiting its Hyperform HPN nucleating agents that enable wider use of PE and PP in diverse packaging applications, and Hyperform HPR reinforcing agents for automotive components.
The Millad NX 8000 additive for PP produces optical clarity comparable to that of glass-like polymers such as polycarbonate, crystal polystyrene, and acrylics. Applications for PP clarified with Millad NX 8000 include sports drink bottles, thermoformed cups and clamshells, detergent bottles, and closures.
Milliken's additives work to enhance the performance of PP resins, as demonstrated by several thin-wall injection molded (TWIM) food packaging applications featured at the company's booth. For example, PP manufacturers Qingdao PET, Zhenhai PET, Lanzhou PET, Guangzhou PET and Formosa Ningbo chose Milliken's Hyperform HPN nucleating agents for their thin-wall applications, achieving balanced orientation, resulting in reduced warpage and shrinkage.