For more than three decades, Nichrome India Ltd has been known for providing end-to-end packaging solutions. .Soumik Nath, GM, product development and engineering, Nichrome India Ltd, in an email interaction with Akshay Kalbag lists out the challenges and analyses the growth opportunities in the sector.
What are the common packaging materials / techniques used in the food packaging industry?
Packaging material for primary packaging of food items: Flexible laminates consisting of polyester, PET, LDPE, aluminium foil, PP, OPP, CPP, and nylon are for all kinds of food products; also LDPE and coextruded films are used for milk, atta and other low value foods in India. All these material are used in flexible pouches.
Plastics like polystyrene and its varieties are used for semi-rigid packaging like thermoformed cups and trays for packing meats, yoghurt, fruits, bakery products, eggs, etc. Glass and metallic cans are commonly used for rigid packaging for lot of liquid and viscous products.
What challenges does the food packaging industry in India faces with respect to packaging, and what steps is it taking to overcome the same?
Major challenges: Packaging material at an affordable cost with good barrier properties for longer food preservation and shelf life; packaging machines that give higher outputs, less wastages and less giveaways during filling and packing and at the same time at low cost of ownership.
Steps: Packaging machine manufacturing companies like Nichrome are working in coordination with film manufacturers and food processing companies to continuously improve the processes to deliver better, faster systems at affordable cost.
What are the common food adulterants, and how does food packaging help prevent adulteration?
There are various chemicals and lookalike substances used in foods for adulteration. Some of them are potential health hazards. In China, in recent years, a major scam was unearthed where melamine-based substances were used in milks which caused major health issues for infants and children.
Prevention: Though preventing adulterations completely through just packaging is difficult, many packages are sealed in such a way so that any tampering becomes evident to the consumers.
What is the role of labelling in food packaging?
Labelling is an essential part in food packaging for various reasons. It gives lot of information to the buyer as well as consumer about the food inside the package. This information includes some statutory and mandatory data viz. name of food items, name and place of manufacturing, quantity packed, price, date of packing, date of expiry, batch code, etc. Nowadays it has become mandatory to give nutritional figures in labels, storage and usage instructions, etc. Also it is important to have distinctness to identify different brands. There are specific guidelines for labelling for different food products and it varies from one country to another.
How are tall claims on labels dealt with by the Indian food packaging industry?
There is a regularity authority in India which regularly checks the authenticity of the information provided on the food package. There are severe legal and image implications if some companies get caught for giving untrue or misinformation through labelling. The food processing and packaging industries in India are maturing and taking adequate precautions to prevent this.
What trends are we likely to see in the food packaging industry in India in the future?
With the possibility of entry of multibrand retailing in India, retail food packaging is poised for major growth. With that there is a visible shift from rigid packaging to flexible packaging due to the latter's clear advantage in terms of packing, transport and cost. In order to get better shelf visibility of brands, the packages are becoming more attractive. Also flexible packages are becoming more user-friendly to carry, store, open for consumption and reclose for multiple use to match the requirements of rigid packages. To cater to this trend companies like Nichrome are offering new pouch styles like doypacks, flexiblocks, zippers, spouts, etc.