Survey: September grocery spending up, dining declines
Increasingly, companies invest in internal sustainability projects
Bioplastics poised to bump traditional resins
SOURCES FOR CURRENT RESIN PRICES


Survey: September grocery spending up, dining declines

Monthly index reveals where consumers are increasing their spending-and where they continue to remain conservative.

While recent improvements in key economic indicators suggest recovery looms just around the corner, that recovery may be inching along according to consumer data released in NetSpend Corp.’s “National Spending & Savings Index.” The monthly index monitors year-over-year spending trends in eight lifestyle categories, including applications close the hearts of flexible packaging converters, like home, food, travel/entertainment, groceries and auto/gas/transportation.

According to the NetSpend index, national spending trends saw the largest gains in the grocery (+8.39%) and travel/entertainment (+3.01%) categories. These upticks, combined with a 3% decline in the dining out category, support the notion that consumers are eating at home more often instead of dining out. Moreover, the marginal increase in travel/entertainment spending may foreshadow a gradual return to discretionary spending.

In contrast, the auto/gas/transportation and food categories experienced the largest declines, -5.32% and -3.03%, respectively. NetSpend analysts suggest these declines may reflect stabilizing prices coupled with consumers’ efforts to prune unnecessary expenses from their budgets.

Increasingly, companies invest in internal sustainability projects

Third annual sustainability survey by CoreNet Global and Jones Lang LaSalle survey finds that companies are investing funds to follow through with sustainability initiatives.

According to the results of the 2009 CoreNet Global and Jones Lang LaSalle sustainability survey, 74% of companies will invest in energy and sustainability improvements in owned buildings while 37% will pay extra in leasing. The report’s findings come from a survey of commercial real estate executives, 70% of whom said that sustainability is a currently critical business issue, a viewpoint that is generally shared by packaging manufacturers.

One of the key hurdles facing sustainability initiatives concerns financing those improvements. Though securing the funds to implement sustainability strategies remains a difficult or extremely difficult challenge for 67% of those surveyed, 74% affirmed they would pay a premium to retrofit owned space for sustainability criteria, a marked increase from 53% in 2008. In contrast, most executives-who consider sustainability a business priority-would shy away from additional costs: Only 37% would consider paying a premium and another 21% would only be willing to pay a premium rent if it was offset by lower operating costs.

The survey also found that 60% of respondents are adopting or have adopted workplace strategies that meet sustainability goals while reducing overall occupancy costs.

“These results clearly show that sustainability as an issue is here to stay, but companies are increasingly aware of the commercial realities,” says Dan Probst, chairman of Energy and Sustainability at Jones Lang LaSalle. “It is no longer enough to simply be green; organizations want to see the benefits to the bottom line.”

In terms of metrics, companies want to see bottom-line outcomes. More than a third (37%) of those surveyed ranked improvements in energy costs as the most important portfolio metric by, followed by employee health and productivity (29%).

Bioplastics poised to bump traditional resins

One market study ponders the feasibility of replacing 90% of today’s polymers with increasingly popular bio-based counterparts.

A new market study by European Bioplastics and the European Polysaccharide Network of Excellence (EPNOE) at Utrecht University asserts that it is technically possible to satisfy as much as 90% of today’s polymer demand with bio-based alternatives. The authors of the report, “Project Overview and Market Prediction of Emerging Bio-based Polymers,” balance that number by saying their findings are a technical judgment, not necessarily a market prediction.

“Bio-based plastics will not substitute oil-based polymers in the near future for several reasons including low oil price, high production cost and restricted production capacity of biomass-based polymers,” says Patrick Navard, chairman of the governing board of EPNOE. Bio-based resins have experienced challenges on several fronts, including poor performance and negative implications on biodiversity and food supplies.

The study surveys the bio-based polymer landscape, including cellulose, polylactic acid and starch-based blends alongside newly emerging bio-based versions of conventional polymers such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene terephthalate.

Based on recent resin producer announcements, the report estimates that the production capacity of bio-based plastics could approach 2.3 metric tons by 2013, sharply up from 360,000 metric tons in 2007. Final numbers, however, would be subject to change as the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009 slowed or stopped several key projects along the way.

SOURCES FOR CURRENT RESIN PRICES
Chemical Market Associates Inc.
DeWitt & Co. Inc.
ICIS
IDES Inc.
Plastics News