Diverse and flexible range of alternative-packaging

COPAR’s extensive research and development into fibre-based packaging is helping the company make inroads in the push for a more sustainable industry. Adam McCleery writes.

Focus on recyclable and more sustainable packaging only continues to intensify as we get ever closer to critical sustainability and efficiency targets for industry, and alternative packaging technology is meeting the demand.

Sustainable Packaging Innovator, COPAR, has worked tirelessly to develop new fibre-based packaging to replace non-recyclable or less sustainable packaging.

COPAR’s work with wheat straw has resulted in an extremely viable packaging alternative which continues to prove its flexibility by being developed for multiple sectors, both wet and dry.

COPAR’s International Business Director Vishnu Ramasamy, who is also the founder and director of Hexcore, has worked closely with the UK and European industries, which in turn has helped the continued development of the company’s alternative
packaging offerings.

“We meet with brands and show them our products and they are able to ask us if we can meet particular needs for their sectors, which helps us learn and further our research and development,” he said.

As well as the in-depth consultation, COPAR has developed a strong research partnership with the University of Newcastle, which helps bring the company’s packaging ideas into reality.

“The University of Newcastle and our customers are invaluable in helping to drive our product development,”
said Ramasamy

“This has great potential for us. The food and hospitality industry is one of the heaviest users of plastics so the impact this fibre-based packaging could have is very important.”

On top of this, COPAR has manufacturing capabilities to immediately put into practice any new concepts or ideas, again creating great flexibility in approach. This benefits customers greatly, as the food and hospitality industry’s needs are so varied.

“As a manufacturer we can play with the properties of the product to help give customers exactly what they want,”
said Ramasamy.

“We can change chemical and physical properties. Every product has different properties, for example, food packaging is not the same as industrial packaging. We understand the chemistry and can manufacture to suit.

“We also have two separate technologies, industrial and thermal packaging, to cater to both wet and
dry packaging.”

One great example of the impact fibre-based packaging can immediately have on the industry is within the hospitality and ready-meals spaces.

Ramasamy said the proliferation of polystyrene packaging, which has traditionally been used in these two sectors, presents a great example of the positive impact replacement packaging can have on the circular economy.

“If you are looking at the United Kingdom and European markets, where I predominantly work, there is a ban of polystyrene packaging in the food sectors especially for take away,”
he added.

“Policies are driving the market to look for alternatives and paper-based has been an area where some people
have focussed.”

As well as government policy, cost is another major area of importance
to businesses.

“Paper-based packaging is quite expensive though, but our pricing is up to 20 per cent cheaper in comparison to paper-based packaging,” said Ramasamy.

And on top of its affordability, fibre-based packaging also offers flexibility in design, meaning COPAR can help any customer achieve the desired result, whether for a wet or dry product.

“At COPAR, we can make fibre-based packaging in the same shapes as existing polystyrene packaging,”
said Ramasamy.

“That is not the same in the case of paper, which is also routinely coated in PFAS materials, unlike our fibre-based packaging.

“And our product is mainly preferred by service restaurants because it does the same job as polystyrene but with a more sustainable fibre-based option.

“This is one of the main reasons why our product is succeeding, especially around pricing. Pricing will always play an important role.”

Colin Farrell, business development manager, COPAR, echoed Ramasamy’s comments.

“The reason why you can’t just use paper is because you can’t achieve that moulding like you can with fibre-based packaging. For the shelf life of this product, the design helps,” he said.

“For example, with our sausage packaging we have moulding that makes it perfect for the product, which is something you just can’t achieve
with paper.”

That flexibility in design is clearly demonstrated with the packaging prototypes COPAR has developed for the meat sector, which requires specific packaging requirements.

“Meat is something that is interesting for us, and we have been getting lots of interest from stakeholders. We are looking at 46.6 million order inquiries,” said Ramasamy.

COPAR have also developed an alternative butter tub, with Ramasamy saying the company recognised products which are routinely bought by consumers should be the ones receiving more sustainable and recyclable packaging as soon as possible, to help cut down on land fill.

“We are working with a large dairy company in Europe to develop fibre-based  butter tubs. In testing, it works perfectly well and achieves the desired result,” said Ramasamy.

“What happens with paper packaging for butter is a high chance of the packaging being damaged and exposing the product. Fibre-based can avoid contamination risks.”

The size or the global butter market alone presents even greater opportunities for COPAR and dairy manufacturers.

“This butter tray alone is about 6 billion pieces per year in terms of market size,” Ramasamy added.

“This type of packaging can also be used on other products such as soft cheeses, and these are products that are bought regularly by almost the entire customer base.

“Being able to use fibre-based packaging would really cut down on non-recyclable packaging going into land fill.”

Ramasamy said the extensive research and development done by COPAR is a major reason the company has developed what it believes is not just a viable packaging alternative, but one which can have a hugely positive impact on the environment.

“This shows the capabilities of what COPAR has achieved in terms of research and development,” he said.

“We have pushed ourselves as a company and are catering to the entire food and hospitality industry.

“We are even designing products for the horticulture market now too.”

Ramasamy’s innovative work with paper and fibre-based packaging has been in-valuable for COPAR and their latest findings have given rise to a great opportunity for the packaging specialists.

“This proves COPAR’s capabilities, we are progressing and developing at a rapid rate both existing and
new markets,” he said.

“Customers are a big driving factor for us and help influence our research and development.

“We also invest heavily in sample products for customers. We have 3D printers and a design team. All of this helps to make the process faster and more direct.”

Ramasamy said the expertise that COPAR team possesses also creates a valuable asset for the company, and by extension, its customers.

“We can transfer our own knowledge with what we get in feedback, all of which in-forms our decision making. This helps create a global approach for the brand,” he said.

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