CMT Field Notes: Thin Wall Packaging Asia

AMI, the organizers of the Thin Wall Packaging Conference, chose the city-state of Singapore as the forum for their first foray into South East Asia. As a key member of the Association of South East Asia Nations(ASEAN), Singapore boasts some impressive statistics: #1 investment destination in Asia, #2 most competitive city in the world, and #3 in GDP per capita (IMF data). According to Bloomberg, it’s also the ‘least miserable’ nation in the world, cold comfort for foreign visitors getting used to high prices for food and drink. The former British outpost is now a glittering global financial powerhouse and a hub of trading activity for the region, so it made sense to host a regional conference here. With just under 100 attendees from 25 countries, the maiden event attracted suppliers and processors primarily from Europe and Asia, with only two attendees from North America.

The population of the 10 member states of ASEAN is approximately 670 million people which ranks higher than NAFTA and EU-28 as a trading bloc. Purchasing power, however, remains significantly lower on aggregate though growth rates are higher than most western countries. And though the term “South East Asia” was used throughout the event, several presenters drew distinctions among individual countries as the region cannot be considered monolithic. That said, there were a few ‘megatrends’ that appeared in multiple papers: demographic shifts; inter-material replacement; and ambient vs. chilled packaging. In addition, there were several interesting, unique trends such as the continued importance of PP thermoformed water cups in Indonesia, PP lunch boxes replacing EPS versions in Malaysia, and how the importance of 7-11 stores in Thailand influenced packaged goods.

Representatives from Kiefel offered an interesting and nuanced view of the regional market by delving into specific trends in individual countries. The Philippines, for example, with over 100 million people, is more Westernized than other countries due to its colonial history with Spain and the more recent US influence. After being hit with a typhoon in 2009 that resulted in severe floods, the country’s drains were clogged and PS cups were identified as a major contributor. The central government decided that only paper cups should be used in the future, thinking that they would more easily degrade, despite studies showing that waste increased with paper. This led to a mismatch in tolerances between PS lids and new paper cups. The unintended consequence is now that many take-out drinks are sold with a piece of tape securing the lid to the cup.

The CMT tabletop was a hub of thermoforming discussions with processors from Malaysia and Indonesia stopping by to talk about optimizing plugs for PP forming. They were impressed with the samples on display, especially the polished C1R and FLXT plugs. We also had several in-depth project talks with our friends from Illig, MarbachAMUT, Kiefel and Mould & Matic, all of whom are very active and busy in the region, which would seem to indicate growth in thermoformed thin wall packages.

The next big event for us is K in Dusseldorf, which is right around the corner (visit us in Hall 3, Stand G83). With continued growth in South East Asia, however, it’s likely CMT will be bringing more HYTAC plugs back to Singapore for the 2017 TWP event. Perhaps we’ll even get on stage and present something ourselves.