Flexible Packaging spoke with Marcos Vieira, North America sales/global R&D director at Terphane, to share his thoughts on sustainability, consumer convenience, film innovations and what effects the past year have had on the industry.

What changes has COVID-19 spurred concerning food safety and flexible packaging?

COVID-19 has shown the importance of packaging for food safety. Consumers are even more concerned about potential food contamination, and they are now looking for packaging that can provide peace of mind while doing their grocery shopping. Amidst this crisis, flexible packaging has stood out as the safest, most convenient and cost-effective solution for food packaging — with some segments showing double-digit growth. With a majority of the population in lockdowns and having groceries delivered to their doorsteps, a lightweight-type packaging makes a huge impact.

What challenges are there from an industry standpoint in meeting the need for both consumer safety and convenience?

During this unprecedented time, the flexible packaging industry launched an increased number of new products, structures and designs in order to tackle additional challenges, such as raw material shortages and longer lead times, without compromising convenience and safety. As polyester films are extremely thin, provide high barrier and withstand sterilization processes such as retort, it is the preferred choice for convenience and food safety. At Terphane, we experienced a high demand for our SEALPHANE films used in fresh produce, refrigerated and frozen-ready meals. These products provide easy-to-open, tamper-evident and crystal-clear packaging. We also launched a new resealable lidding film, our SEALPHANE RESEAL, providing full opening, extended shelf-life and downgauging for any tray footprint, thus eliminating the need for expensive die-cutting equipment.

How does the consumer desire for sustainable packaging play into all of this?

Consumers are still looking for more sustainable packaging, despite a temporary change in priorities in the beginning of the pandemic. The flexible packaging industry is doing a great job meeting their sustainability needs by offering recycled, recyclable, mono-material, biodegradable, compostable and many other alternatives. For instance, replacing APET clam shells with SEALPHANE lidded RPET trays reduces virgin plastic consumption by more than 99%. Terphane offers SEALPHANE with at least 35% post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin, along with the recently launched ECOPHANE polyester films that are fully biodegradable.

What film innovations can brands use to stand out?

In addition to convenience and sustainability, brands can use packaging that look and feel different, so they stand out in a crowd of similar items. Our new TERPHANE VMAT2Z is a good example. It provides anti-glare enhancing graphics quality which attracts consumers and a velvety touch which connects consumers to the product and ultimately to the brand.

What do you expect will be the biggest change between last year and the year ahead?

I guess we are already living in the so-called “new normal” with virtual offices, virtual meetings, virtual trade shows and so on. There are lots of undeniable benefits like less commute/less traffic/less pollution, lower costs, more time with our families, etc. However, there are new challenges and side effects, too. Of course, this is changing our consumption behaviors and will continue to impact the flexible packaging industry. I believe we are evolving to a more holistic view of sustainability where the goal is reducing impact step by step rather than looking for perfect, therefore never available, zero-impact packaging. Consumers want all of this without compromising convenience and food safety.