Dow Chemical's performance packaging group created 42 new products for the packaging sector in 2012. This equates to nearly one new product per week in the year.
"How did we develop 42 new products? With a focus on sustainability, collaboration, and R&D," Greg Bunker, marketing manager, flexible food and specialty packaging at Dow, told PlasticsToday.
Dow is one of the largest suppliers to the $500 billion global packaging sector with its presence felt on many levels of the supply chain.
Still, 2012 wasn't always smooth sailing for the chemical giant, as it was announced in October the company plans to eliminate about 2400 jobs and close 20 manufacturing facilities as part of a restructuring plan.
Dow declined to discuss those cutbacks, however, Dow was more than willing to talk about its packaging product launches in 2012.
"We spend a lot of time figuring out how products will be used in specific market segments and we partner to get the most performance out of them as we can," said John Garnett, senior TS&D manager for Dow performance packaging.
While some may view packaging with a stigma due to waste concerns, Dow maintains global demand continues to increase for plastic packaging. The company touts sustainability is a core focus that helps drive its innovation.
Some key customer demands and trends, according to Dow, include packages that keep food fresh longer; packages that are lighter, yet stronger; and closures that are easy to open and reseal, which enable new levels of consumer convenience.
"Some people say packaging isn't sustainable, but packaging is probably the most sustainable innovation in the 21st Century," Bunker said. "If we didn't have packaging, we wouldn't be able to sustain ourselves as a planet."
Some examples of new technologies commercially introduced to market this year by Dow include:
- ELITE advanced technology (AT) polyethylene (PE) resins, which enable improved sealing, physical properties and processability.
- SEALUTIONpeel polymers that reportedly deliver consistent peel strength over time, enabling strong seal strength for package fillers (such as food companies) while making packages easier to open for consumers.
- MOR-FREE solventless adhesives, a fast-cure adhesive system that Dow said helps speed up packaging lines, delivering new levels of productivity and efficiency.
- ADCOTE adhesives and coatings, which are solvent-based adhesives that help improve the performance of packages that deliver a 180-day shelf life when unopened.
- A new series of AGILITY processing accelerators, which is a family of LDPE resins specifically designed to help improve processing of LLDPE-rich blends and increase output on blown and cast film lines.
"We often hear that Dow is just a polyethylene company and is not capable of developing products in niche markets, but these products show that we have a solid foundation in a wide variety of materials," Bunker said.
One way Dow ensures rapid commercialization of these innovations is through collaborative relationships that are managed across the value chain.
At its Film Application Development Center (FADC) in Freeport, TX, customers can work on film packaging applications without the cost and down time associated with using their own production facilities.
The facility offers customers and formulators the opportunity to conceptualize, fabricate, test and validate the latest packaging applications on commercial scale equipment including blown film and cast film lines.
Over the last five years, products launched commercially after tests at the FADC have contributed 25% of total sales for Dow sold into packaging applications in North America.
In addition to accelerating Dow's own innovation engine, the company's Film Application Development Center strengthens the business's approach to help protect and create new markets for plastics in packaging as well.
The center has hosted more than 100 companies this year alone, providing the opportunity to accelerate the development of new and value-creating packaging solutions.
Going into 2013, Garnett said the company will continue to focus on R&D and collaboration.
"Really, these 42 products represent a fraction of cool technology development we are doing," he said. "Looking at next year, we may exceed 42 (products) or hit it exactly, but stay tuned, it should be interesting with some new innovations."