Consumers’ appetite for the convenience of eat-at-home restaurant food continues. The overall foodservice packaging market is projected to grow from $62.6 billion in 2016 to $84.3 billion by 2021, a CAGR of 5.2% over the period 2017-2022, according to a report from Markets and Markets. The study notes that an increase in regulations is giving preference to recyclable materials, which partly explains why some plastics are falling out of favor in lieu of more suitable alternatives, especially paper products.
Novolex (Hartsville, SC) is a foodservice packaging vendor specializing in sustainable options that offers both paper and plastics product, particularly for food takeout and delivery. The company’s Adrianne Tipton, Ph.D., vice president of innovation and a plastic and paper industry veteran with more than 20 years’ experience in R&D, serves as a guide through a selection of the company’s plastics portfolio with an emphasis on newer products.
First up are Load & Fold and Load & Seal Tamper Evident bags for home delivery.
In working toward improved prepared and grocery food delivery for third-party delivery services, convenience stores, grocery stores and quick and limited-serve restaurants, Novolex developed products to keep food safe in transport and preserve food quality, while also reducing the amount of waste associated with shipping and handling. These recyclable bags are designed with tamper-evident closures for food safety while maintaining heat and food freshness and integrity. The substrate is customer-dependent for a choice of plastic or white or kraft paper.
Load & Fold was introduced in 2018 and Load & Seal in 2019.
“There have been extensive trials and interest for both products in this line,” says Tipton. “These are in test with several large- and medium-size foodservice and retail customers. Novolex is also receiving interest from many global customers that request pricing quotes and trials.”
Compostable packaging from bagasse
Who knew bagasse was a packaging feedstock? Better known as sugarcane fiber, it’s the source for a new line of compostable products under the Vanguard banner launched in April 2019 by the company’s Eco-Products (Boulder, CO) division, which was acquired by Novolex in 2018 as part of the buyout of Waddington Group. Vanguard water- and grease-resistant molded fiber plates and containers are microwavable and suitable for hot and cold products.
Eco-Products’ packaging portfolio includes both compostable and post-consumer recycled content food packaging. Polymers used include recycled polystyrene (rPS), and recycled PET (rPET). Some products are made of corn-based polylactic acid, better known as PLA. Others are made from fiber, such as sugarcane and recycled paper.
While the company has used sugarcane feedstock before, Marketing Director Sarah Martinez informs PlasticsToday that what distinguishes Vanguard is that it is designed to meet the Biodegradable Product Institute’s forthcoming requirements for compostability going into effect in January 2020. The Vanguard line uses a proprietary alternative to traditional grease-resistance additives, that is not based on fluorinated chemistry and is accepted in the FDA Inventory of Effective Food Contact Substance Notifications. All Eco-Products items are permitted for use in food-contact materials, per FDA requirements.
Available in a limited release, the initial Vanguard line includes a 10-inch round plate, a three-compartment 10-inch plate, a 9-inch single-compartment clamshell and a three-compartment 9-inch clamshell. A select group of customers is currently running trials. More products will be added soon, including bowls and other sizes of plates and clamshells, according to Martinez.
Closed-loop grocery bags
Outside of foodservice markets, the development of post-consumer content in plastic carry out bags and can liners for non-food markets have been a focus of the Novolex R&D Team; Eco-Blend (green bag) and Ultra-Post T-shirt-style bags are two notable product lines in this area.
Introduced in 2016, Ultra-Post contains 40% post-consumer recycled content and is available as 2.25-mil polyethylene. Ultra-Post has been used by many medium and large grocery chains in California, according to Tipton. “This product is focused on the California market, and Novolex sales continue to grow in this area.”
Novolex’s recycling plant works with bag manufacturing plants throughout the region to reprocess plastic scrap from their production lines for the Bag-2-Bag program (see Novolex Bag-2-Bag System closes loop for plastic bags, published April 2019). The company reports that it also uses post-consumer recycled content from various vendors and customers. Novolex also has the Bag-2-Bag program in which more than 30 million pounds of T-shirt bags are collected and reprocessed as part of closed loop and circular economy initiatives.