For more than 200 years, DuPont has brought science and engineering to the global marketplace through innovative products and services. The company primarily supplies speciality ethylene polymer resins to the packaging converting industry to use them to package structure materials that are then supplied to food and beverage industry. The company works with converting partners to improve shelf life of the products.
Roger Kant, Asia-Pacific marketing director, DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers, who was in Mumbai recently, in a one-on-one conversation with Rohini Hiremath, delved deeper into the food and beverage packaging market in India as well as abroad while making a dash at ‘green packaging.’ Excerpts:
What are the packaging solutions your company offers for food and beverage packaging in India?
As we are raw material suppliers, Dupont is down the value chain from the food and beverage industry. We supply to companies that fabricate packaging solutions for food and beverage companies, so our lot of development work is collaborative between ourselves as material suppliers between the converters making the packaging material and the final company that consumes the packaging material. What we supply from our business are primary materials that are used for ceiling the packages which are high in performance and also material that is used for bonding different layers of the packaging structures.
How is the Indian food packaging market different from other markets in the world in terms of packaging?
Food tends to look different, taste different from country to country. Primarily, if you see food across the world, all humans need protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, etc. We all need the same no matter in which part of the country we stay in.
Obviously, India as an emerging market, many of these are still developing, but a lot of things have changed over the years. India today is becoming a robust supply market for many processed foods, but there are still many things that are needed to be addressed. For example, India has a very large dairy industry, and if we see meat and the processed meat segment in India, it is relatively smaller and less sophisticated because many Indians are vegetarian and they consume this product so it’s of less importance if you compare with developed countries, who eat lots of meat and have important dairy industry.
If you compare with other countries, there are distinct differences in the Indian food industry because of taste preferences, but the main difference tends to be level of consumption of packaged food, the availability of packaged food and level of development for the food processing industry.
How do your packaging solutions improve shelf life of products or avoid natural food contamination?
We work with converting partners in India to improve the shelf life of the product. We focus on preventing food products from leakage. This happens mostly when its not plugged tightly or correctly. To avoid such a problem, DuPont supplies ceiling material to enable a good reliable package.
Secondly, we provide adhesive material that allows the product to corporate barriers to the packaging so that there is improvement in shelf life of product and it can also be protected from moisture or oxygen.
What, according to you, is the biggest challenge that food packaging industry in India is facing?
There are couple of challenges that Indian food packaging industry is facing, first, this market is growing very rapidly so for all the producers in the supply chain, its keeping up with the level of growth. They keep investing and growing their capacity at a very high rate.
If you see, in developing countries, we might be dealing with about 2-3 per cent growth rate. Whereas in developing markets like India we are dealing with double-digit growth rates in actual consumptions.
Secondly, India is a very huge country so distribution and transportation on large distances becomes challenging. These are two major challenges in food production and food processing industry that India is facing.
Are packaging solutions different for different food products say dairy products, ready-to-eat food, or sauces?
Solution has to be sculpted for all kinds of different food products. There are different ways of processing and handling of different products. Like dairy products need protection to keep them in good condition. This is mainly done by refrigeration and good process in dairy industry. Often the type of features the dairy industry is looking for are safe packaging, prevention of contamination etc. Many food products need special prevention of moisture, or oxygen or other things that cause problems with food products.
Tell us about green packaging in India. How much is the demand for this?
Anytime when we look into packaging, we always try to make packaging as sustainable as possible. But I think the biggest issue overall in environmental impact is that it does not come only from the packaging itself, it’s more to do with the food inside package, for example, if you look at the simple provision of protein through leaked products. If you pack the meat for distribution and that meat spoils means you actually lose about 50 kg of greenhouse gas and at the same time that is equivalent of losing about 24 litre of gas so the impact of losing food has much more significance to environment.
If food is lost in distribution it needs to be replaced, but additional food production requires more energy, more land use, more water. Globally, there are lots of food losses through the production, in India it can be as high as 40-50 per cent food that is produced on a farm. So when we focus on sustainable, environmentally friendly packaging that value is lost when we actually don’t prevent the loss of food.
Once there is elimination in fat loss, it will do much better for the total environment than just not using the packaging.
Moreover, if one truly has to derive this term ‘green packaging,’ no one really has an efficient description of this. It’s all really about effective, sustainable packaging, and I don’t think so far anybody has truly figured out an appropriate way to work on this area, otherwise we couldn’t have seen so much of food loss globally. A truly sustainable packaging industry would be one where we get close to zero for food loss in the distribution channel.
What are your company’s future plans in regards to expansion or any tie-ups?
As we produce material globally, we do seek to interface with government appropriately around the regulation and capability to improve packaging and the supply of food sustainability. Our packaging business is just one part of DuPont’s involvement in the food industry and we think the most important thing what we can do in a market like India is help bringing in new technology and new innovations. We have big research and development centre in Hyderabad. We have recently opened an innovation application centre at Gurgaon to cater to the food industry. The centre will allow DuPont to introduce formulations that are more convenient and affordable for more choices for the food industry.
We continue to expand customer innovation in India. We are trying to invest not only in manufacturing facility, but it also brings knowledge creativity and making application development in a market like India.