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Chinaplas: NatureWorks moves forward with expansion in Asia-Pacific

Guangzhou, China - Rich Weber, the newly appointed Asia-Pacific commercial director for NatureWorks, said Southeast Asia is a natural spot for the company to grow."It makes sense from a biomaterial standpoint, along with a fully integrated supply chain and a large petrochemical infrastructure," he told PlasticsToday at Chinaplas 2013. "There's a lot of strong growth there."

Heather Caliendo

June 5, 2013

3 Min Read
Chinaplas: NatureWorks moves forward with expansion in Asia-Pacific

The world's largest maker of polylactic acid, which is used to feed polymer plants, recently announced that the company has located its first Asia-Pacific regional headquarters in Bangkok and has expanded its team of senior commercial, managerial and technical personnel.

By establishing a physical footprint in Thailand, NatureWorks believes it will be better able to support the growth of its existing customers in northern Asia and develop new business in Southeast Asia. The company plans to add warehousing and logistics capabilities, which the company said will improve its supply chain by providing safety stock and the flexibility, and will also add customer service and finance staff.

The global bioplastics market is expected to reach US $7.7 billion by 2016 at a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 24.3%, globally, according to a report from Research and Markets. Region-wise analysis shows that Asia-Pacific is forecasted to record the highest growth rate of 25.7% during the analysis period 2011-2016.

In 2011, Thailand's largest chemical producer, PTT Chemical Public Company Limited (PTTGC) announced it would acquire a 50% state in NatureWorks, which was worth about $150 million. The company recently told Reuters it plans to invest about $807 million to build a "green" plastic plant to tap strong demand in the Southeast Asian country.

At Chinaplas, Weber said they are looking into the location of a second plant, which should also be in SE Asia.  

NatureWorks also named PTT Polymer Marketing Co. (PTTPM), the marketing arm of PTT Global Chemical, as its Ingeo distributor in Thailand and Vietnam. PTTPM will bring Ingeo to its broad base of thermoformers, film extruders and injection molders, initially focusing on the packaging and foodserviceware industries.

While business leaders are seeing growth potential in this region as incomes rise and the middle class expands, companies like NatureWorks still have to spend a fair amount of time on communication.

"There's a lot of greenwashing here, so we spend a lot of time trying to get them to understand what is the biomaterial," Weber said. "They understand the potential, but locally, are interested in what will be right application in Asia. People can be focused on price, and that is a challenge to overcome in the market."

New Ingeo resin grades

At Chinaplas, NatureWorks introduced its new Ingeo resin grades that are the result of the company's multi-year investment in propriety processing technology. New injection molding grades Ingeo 2500HP, 3100HP, and 3260HP are designed for use in extrusion and injection molding applications. NatureWorks touts that they provide an "excellent balance of mechanical and thermal properties, while delivering up to 75% cycle time savings over formulations based on current Ingeo grades." Heat distortion temperatures are in the range of 15°C higher than previous generations.

Altuglas Renew biopolymer alloys

The Altuglas Rnew biopolymer alloys are designed for use in durable goods for injection molded or extruded applications such as signage, consumer products, cosmetic packaging and appliances. The Altuglas Rnew biopolymer alloys offer customizable formulations affording impact and chemical resistance properties.

The biopolymer alloys also feature lower processing temperatures and greater melt flow properties without comprising the optics, scratch resistance, color acceptance, or surface aesthetics, according to the company.

NatureWorks and Altuglas International, a subsidiary of Arkema, recently signed a global co-marketing agreement designed to accelerate the introduction of these new biopolymer alloy into the market. This agreement grew out of the response received at NPE2012, when the two companies jointly displayed examples of molded and thermoformed products made with their collaborative technologies for the durable goods market.

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