SIG Combibloc's investment in new and existing factories, especially in Asia, aims bring supply closer to demand, while joint ventures are securing growth. In a financial statement published this week, the company said the increased demand was revealed by its strong 2006 sales results. Global sales increased by ten per cent to €1,210m last year from €1,097 in 2005. In Europe sales grew by six per cent, with double digit increases in Russia alone. In Germany, further work was done on building up the dairy business, which grew by four percent during the year, the company said. But while European growth steadily increased, demand in Asia is booming. Sales in China grew 81 per cent on the previous year, while capacity at SIG's Suzhou plant in Shanghai was expanded. A total of €57m is being invested in developing and expanding the facility up to 2009. Expansion of its Thailand production facility also began in 2006. The plant in Rayong mainly caters to the South-East Asia market, which grew in sales by 36 per cent on last year. SIG said that their Vietnamese and Thai markets were growing in particular. North and South American markets performed in line with expectations, according to SIG. New customers were acquired, while existing partnerships with customers were developed and extended. Sales growth of 11 per cent was seen across the Middle East and Africa region. During 2006, SIG continued to develop its aseptic packaging business. In North America and Europe, new customers were acquired, while existing partnerships were strengthened with expectations that strong growth will continue in this region throughout the year. In addition, SIG has developed a new carton packaging system which allows foods with a high particulate content, such as vegetables, fruit, ready-meals and stews, to be filled in carton packaging. The combisafe carton packs are heat-resistant and sterilised in an autoclave, allowing products to be stored for up to two years without refrigeration or preservatives. The first products with the technology will be launched during the second quarter of 2007. During 2006, SIG Combibloc launched the screw cap in 2006, in response to the growing trend towards producing packaging that meets consumer demands for convenience. UHT milk producers are among those that are opting for screw cap, a three-part closure is applied over a coated hole. This allows easy access, SIG claims. In Germany, where the world's first combiSwift was launched in 2006, more than half of all family-size combiblocSlimline cartons are now fitted with a combiSwift cap, claims SIG. SIG's new CFA 312 and CFA 512 filling machines, were able to reaching filling speeds 12,000 medium sized cartons per hour in 2006, achieving fast changeover times also, the manufacturer claims.. This was made possible by the use of servo motors, which increase the output of the filling machines for the formats combiblocSlimline and combiblocStandard by 20 per cent, against competing products, claims SIG.