These include research into high barrier foil replacement film, tamper evident and traceable films and packaging preservation of food taste and freshness.
"The government is committed to very long shelf lives and lowest total cost solutions for its food packaging," said Pliant president Harold Bevis. "Pliant is pleased to be the packaging company selected to conduct this important research with them."
Research into high barrier foil replacement film packaging is important because although foil is a very good solution for certain types of food, it has certain undesirable characteristics in extreme conditions.
Pliant's goal is to mimic the barrier characteristics and food packaging characteristics of foil with special performance films and constructions.
This type of research involves the use of nano-composite materials and specific polymer constructions imbedded in the films. It also involves the use of microlaying techniques, which can produce multilayer films comprised to 50 or more layers.
"Today's commercial edge for multi-layer films is around 7 or 9 layers," said Greg Gard, senior vice president of innovation & technology for Pliant.
"This takes us to an order of magnitude past that level. The chemistry is extremely sophisticated and so are the manufacturing and testing processes. We are researching breakthroughs on multiple fronts."
Tamper evident and traceable films and packaging are important in increasing the shelf life of certain food products. Pliant is developing new materials and manufacturing techniques to give over three years of shelf life at affordable costs.
The company also points out that tamper-evident packaging is increasingly being sought after as a means of ensuring the food supply is safe from a bioterrorist attack.
"This type of research involves very sophisticated material science and extremely precise manufacturing processes," said Gard. "We are studying multiple ways of accomplishing these objectives through the use of sensors and indicators."
Preservation of food taste and freshness is the third major area of research. While food and beverages can be packaged to be safe and edible for a long period of time, the packaged product sometimes loses its taste appeal.
"We are researching sophisticated releasers, inhibiters, stabilisers and enhancers embedded in the film structures to counteract these affects," said Gard. "Food and beverages should be just as tasty at the end of their shelf life as at the beginning. This type of research involves quite a few variables including antioxidants, flavour-enhancers, desiccants and sustained-release formats."
Pliant Corporation is a producer of value-added films and flexible packaging products for food, beverage and bulk shipping. It had sales of over $500 million in the food sector last year. Over 7,000 new samples and new trials are carried out a year.