As demand grows worldwide for food and pharmaceuticals, safety and sustainability are the hot topics, particularly in Europe, where the legislative impact on the industry is growing. Packaging is critical for protection and preservation, and is becoming more sophisticated and tailored to the market requirements. At the same time, there is a raised awareness of other issues, such as sustainability in the supply chain and the critical factor of safety in food contact, which is studied in terms of levels of extractables and leachables in European standards. Barilla, the Italian food supplier, has taken particular care with food contact issues, and assists in leading the Italian Packaging Institute on this matter. Economics of production must also be considered, with budgets tight across the globe. AMI has reviewed the markets in flexible packaging and will be presenting some of the data at the next specialty conference on Multilayer Packaging Film, which takes place in Vienna from 18-20 November 2013. Converters are constantly looking for enhancements to differentiate their products in the marketplace: Constantia Flexibles has an R&D division with a focus on design.
The better the barrier, the longer the shelf-life will be for perishable foodstuffs. BASF has recently announced an increase in production of polyamide for packaging, which is a very high-barrier material, while Reliance in India has studied nanocomposites for this purpose, and Nippon Gohsei has brought a biodegradable gas barrier polymer to the market. The adhesive interlayer is critical to holding the film structure together and companies such as Yparex are supplying these materials. 
Intertek has looked at multi-material films in terms of compliance with food-contact legislation. Polyram has specifically studied the effects of migration of additives on adhesion and Fabes Forschungs measures migration in its laboratories. Sealing is an important function in many applications, and Dow Europe has made this a particular focus from the material side, while the Technical University of Dresden has studied the effects of multilayer structures on ultrasonic sealing. 
There are developments in the polymers and structures for use in multilayer films from Borealis and Chevron Phillips, and in the production technology from leading suppliers including Reifenhauser Kiefel Exrusion and Andritz. Quality control is complicated by the numerous layers in the film and several methods are in use, with monitoring equipment from Isra Surface Vision and Beta LaserMike.  
Innovia has led the field in the production of bio-based performance films. Others are working on sustainable options from the view of recycling: Aliplast includes a recyclate layer and NGR Recyclingmaschinen has systems for recycling scrap multilayer film. By toughening up its metallocene polyolefins, Total offers a stronger material that can be used at lower gauges, reducing material use.
The Vienna forum in November 2013 on Multilayer Packaging Films brings together flexible packaging manufacturers, packaging experts and the industry supply chain to continue the debate on enhancing performance, safety and shelf-life while reducing environmental impact.   
Author and contact for further information:
Dr Sally Humphreys
Business Development Manager
Applied Market Information Ltd, AMI House, 45-47 Stokes Croft, Bristol, BS1 3QP, UK
Tel: +44 117 924 9442  Fax: +44 117 311 1534