New innovations expected to drive barrier resins market

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Related tags: Oxygen

Demand for barrier resins continues to boom, with the latest market
report estimating that the US market will continue to grow in
excess of 8 per cent up to 2009. With the European market expected
to see similar levels of growth, this type of resin continues to
dominate plastics packaging thanks to new innovations and trends,
reports Simon Pitman.

According to the soon-to-be-released report RP-137U Plastics for Barrier Packaging from Business Communications​, the total US market for the packaging barrier resins amounted to about 5.9 billion pounds (2.68 bn kgs) in 2004 and is expected to grow at an overall AAGR (average annual growth rate) of 8.1 per cent over the next five years to about 8.6 billion pounds by 2009.

Currently the market is classified into three main groups, differentiated by their barrier functions, namely barrier resins, permeable films and tie layer resins, all of which are widely used in the food and beverage packaging industry, which currently accounts for 90 per cent of all resins manufactured in the US.

The report is an update to a series of BCC reports, the last published in 2000, that are devoted to the business, technology, and markets for synthetic plastic barrier resins. These resins are used in packaging structures designed to restrict the passage of gases and vapors either into or out of the product inside.

There are six primary barrier resins; with a total U.S. market of about 5.2 billion pounds in 2004 and expected to grow at an AAGR of 8.1 per cent to almost 7.7 billion pounds in 2009. These resins include Ethylene-vinyl alcohol (EVOH) copolymers, the highest oxygen barrier resin, Nitrile resins and Polyamide (nylon) barrier resins - which are all widely used in the food packaging industry.

For the drinks industry Thermoplastic polyesters, primarily used in PET applications, are by far the largest market overall, where they have proved an invaluable use as a carbon dioxide barrier for plastic bottles. The report predicts that this market in the US alone is expected to continue to constitute more than 90 per cent of the barrier resin market as it grows at an AAGR of 8.3 per cent through the forecast period.

The report also highlights the importance of vapour-permeable resins, highlighting markets for three examples of barrier structures that allow some vapour to pass selectively through. These are polyvinyl chloride (PVC), used to package fresh meat because it allows oxygen to pass through and thus keeps meat red and attractive to consumers, Tyvek, Dupont's patented and proprietary "spun-bonded" semi-permeable polyolefin, and permeable CAP/MAP (controlled/modified atmosphere packaging) films, specially designed films that allow passage of some gases but not others.

Another specific resin that the report considers is tie layer resins, which are adhesive resins used to bond dissimilar resins together in the increasingly popular multilayer barrier packaging structures (MLS). Typical tie resins are copolymers of ethylene with vinyl acetate (EVA copolymers) or an acrylic comonomer. The report forecasts an AAGR for tie resins at about 5.5 per cent, thereby increasing market volume from 155 million pounds in 2004 to 203 million pounds in 2009.

Future trends in the barrier plastic packaging market include the continuing trend toward more complicated and sophisticated multilayer barrier structures, using more but often thinner layers. Perhaps the most exciting ongoing development is the multifaceted effort to increase the barrier properties of PET to make it a suitable material for packaging beer. Several new methods have been developed and now are being tested. This market could present a significant new opportunity for PET in barrier packaging, the report highlights.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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