Industry body prescribes aluminium foil image change

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Aluminium foil, Packaging

Bill Morris, the newly elected president of the European Aluminium
FoilAssociation (EAFA), believes that the industry needs to better
communicate to food packagers the benefits of using the material.

He argues that many of the benefits that aluminium foil brings to packaging are frequently hidden from both packer fillers and consumers because it is often used in association with other packaging materials and is frequently invisible to the naked eye. Morris argues that the role of EAFA should be to push understanding of aluminium to the fore.

"EAFA and the aluminium foil industry have to make all decision-makers and opinion formers within the packaging supply chain aware of aluminium foil's potential,"​ he said.

Morris claims that aluminium is the best solution for any product that requires a barrier material that provides the extra elements of extended shelf life and true impermeability to gases, moisture, light and UV rays. But he believes that the aluminium industry suffers from an image problem.

Foil's reputation as a high-tech material brings with it a number of disadvantages; for example it is often perceived as both expensive and complicated to produce.

But according to Morris, this is not the case. "Production and manufacturing techniques have led to down-gauging - 20 per cent decrease in thickness in10 years - at the same time as maintaining or even improving machineability and performance characteristics. All of which provides increased productivity and added value to the conversion process,"​ he said.

"We need converters to help us proactively promote aluminium foil as a key element of a packaging solution that is responsive to the needs of the market generally and brands in particular."

Just one example of a market trend where aluminium foil's lightweight and protective properties have been used to good effect is in the continuing move away from rigid to flexible packaging. Aluminium foil is weight-saving, effective and minimises the amount of packaging material needed.

This has lead to solid sales of aluminium foil in Europe. "Consumption has been good, largely because of the increasing quality of the product. There has also been a general trend towards flexible packaging, which is substituting rigid packaging,"​ EAFA executive director Stefan Glimm told FoodProductionDaily.com.

And by helping to preserve products, significant savings in food waste, materials and energy can be made.

Aluminium can also be recycled repeatedly at a fraction of its original energy cost and modernseparation techniques mean aluminium foil in household waste can be extracted and recycled. It is suitable for both separate and multi-material collection systems according to national and local conditions.

The energy content of foil laminates can also be recovered by thermal treatment.

Figures from the EAFA show that in total, 208,000 tons of aluminium foil was sold in the first quarter of 2004, which marks a strong recovery from the slow down in sales during the fourth quarter of last year. Sales were mainly driven by exports outside the EU, with a growth of 5.6 per cent. The usage inside the EAFA region was stable.

Approximately three quarters of aluminium foil is used in packaging where its characteristics of strength, formability and barrier properties have made it an essential part of many flexible packaging and container applications. The number of new products that feature innovative uses of alufoil based packaging indicates a healthy future for the material.

Bill Morris is president of foil & technical products for Alcan Rolled Products Europe.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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