CMT Field Notes: 2014 AMI Thin Wall Packaging Conference

by Terrence Woldorf, General Manager


While the 3rd Annual Thin Wall Packaging (TWP) conference gained significant weight in terms of attendance, presentations, exhibits and content, a key topic has been one of light-weighting. 

John Nash, Head of Strategic Research for AMI Consulting and Chairman of this year’s event, kicked off two days of technical presentations by framing and defining the primary thin wall packaging market (TWP).  According to Nash, the North American TWP market is defined not by thickness of plastic, but instead by the 8 billion pounds of plastic currently converted in to products for use in food service (>50% of the market). Examples include containers, cups and trays for chilled dairy, bakery/confectionery snacks, frozen foods, yellow fats, fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry, chilled meals and long life foods.  Looking more closely at the types of containers produced, drinking cups is by far the largest segment (~60% by volume). This segment is stable with major growth opportunities coming from other areas such as single-serve dairy packages, e.g. yogurt, margarine.

Over 200 attendees were on hand to listen and discuss topics critical to the market. Day 1 presentations from General Mills, Radius Product Development, Silgan Plastic Food Containers, Food Chain Safety, IMD NA, Illig LP, Keifel/Brueckner Group USA, uVu Technologies, and Milliken & Company supported these findings.    

Joe Touchet of General Mills described their program of “Upstream Supply Chain Partnership” among brand owners, converters and machinery builders.  A driving factor for General Mills in developing this program was the need to break all parties out of the “we’ve-always-done-it-this-way-so-we-know-exactly-what-we-are-doing” mode.  The reality is that new materials, new techniques and new equipment are being developed every day to meet existing challenges.  General Mills does not want to be held back in the market by the inefficiency of old-time chain-of-command communication. They are now leading the charge by pulling suppliers that may never directly deal with General Mills into the product development process.

It was interesting to note how prevalent partnership interactions have become across the market. Many attendees and suppliers alike were quick to acknowledge that one of their biggest obstacles is old habits. 

Additional discussions identified PP as rapidly growing its position in the thin wall market due to cost, technical advancements and ease of recycling.

Rather than discussing our newest products, CMT chose to discuss how new techniques developed for use with new and existing syntactic foam materialsfor thermoforming can offer immediate and sustained cost savings through light weighting, product quality improvements and greater tool repeatability. These techniques have also revealed how thermoformers can reduce or eliminate plug scratching when working with high transparency application requirements and improve material distribution on today’s toughest deep draw challenges.  Feedback from customers after our presentation suggests that we are right on track.

So keep on feeding us your biggest challenges and we’ll keep on developing products and techniques to meet them head on.