The company, which recently attracted a $150m equity investment from Thai chemical producer PTT Chemical, told FoodProductionDaily.com that some food packaging brands have expressed a preference for bioplastics sourced from non-genetically engineered agricultural produce.
According to NatureWorks, these non-GM focused companies, many of which are organic food brands, feel it is “fundamental that they take a holistic approach to everything they sell – both the product, and its packaging.”
The bioplastics provider hope to be able to meet the food packaging sector demands through the PPT Chemical financed expansion into Thailand, where they intend to open their second production plant in 2015.
NatureWorks currently supplies its Ingeo biopolymers, which are made from plants into plastics and fibres, from it US production plant.
A NatureWorks spokesperson told FoodProductionDaily.com: “For food packaging specifically some packaging brands with whom we work have expressed a preference for Ingeo sourced from a region of the world which does not support a genetically engineered agricultural practice.”
“Although they fully realise that there is no genetically modified material in their packaging - it is after all a plastic - they still prefer not to support an agricultural practice with which they philosophically disagree.”
Many of the company’s current European customers already pay extra to source their own non-GM produce, which is then shipped to the NatureWorks facility, where it is processed with “any incremental cost passed on to the customer.”
“Both plants will ship globally, but now, with the second plant coming on-stream in Thailand, where genetically engineered agriculture is not practiced, we’ll have a further means of directly providing certain brands with what they need,” added the spokesperson.
“For such customers, NatureWorks has long offered a variety of feedstock sourcing options. With our Thai facility; we expect to be able to meet their requests.”
Asian bioplastics expansion
Once the new Thai facility begins production, Ingeo biopolymer output capacity will approximately double to 280,000 tonnes per year and despite the potential increase in non-genetically engineered produce, NatureWorks does not expect an increase in source costs.
The spokesperson added: “Production in the Thailand plant and the use of conventional crops will still be very cost competitive – sugar cane, for example is a global commodity, which trades at a global sugar price.”
Through its planned expansion into Thailand, NatureWorks hope to “make Bangkok the regional commercial hub for the Asian [bioplastics] market,” and strengthen its commercial relations with an increasingly Asian customer base.
They said: “The new Ingeo plant, tentatively scheduled to come on-stream by 2015, will provide NatureWorks feedstock diversification – using domestically sourced sugarcane or cassava in Thailand.”
“Further, we intend to establish an R&D base in Thailand which should allow for further process and products developments. These moves will benefit all markets into which we sell.”