Ahead of this April's Global Food Contact conference, we spoke to Michaela Hofbauer, Group Leader of Adhesive Technology at Eastman, to get her insights on the biggest challenges currently faced by the food contact materials industry, and a closer look at the innovative work being done at Eastman to support the needs of the entire food packaging value chain.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges the global food packaging industry currently faces? What are some of the biggest opportunities?
A: The global food packaging industry is dealing with conflicting consumer-driven pressures. On one hand, consumers want safe and shelf-stable food and are demanding packaging materials that provide these functionalities, as well as convenience of purchase and use. On the other hand, consumers are more and more concerned with recyclability and are demanding sustainable solutions. Often, these requirements are hard to satisfy simultaneously.
However, each challenge represents an opportunity. Consumer concern about sustainability, recycling, and plastic waste in our oceans is a strong driver for material and design innovations. It allows manufacturers to add an additional value to their products that reaches beyond food safety and packaging functionality and is more visible to the end customer.
Q: What does Eastman hope to achieve over the next five years with regard to tackling problems faced by the packaged food industry?
A: Eastman is working on multiple fronts to support the food packaging industry. This includes circular economy solutions, degradable films, enablers for mono-material-based packaging solutions, recyclability enhancers for post-consumer plastic streams, and more. In my presentation, I’ll focus on our progress in food safety and highlight how we try to help the packaging value chain through material innovation and safety assessment. We are collaborating across the value chain to provide safer, cleaner solutions for food brands and consumers that meet current and future regulatory requirements.
Q: Your presentation at this year’s Global Food Contact conference will discuss industry challenges and Eastman innovations developed to meet these challenges. What are some key take-aways?
A: To remain successful in the food packaging industry and meet upcoming consumer demands and regulatory requirements, raw material suppliers like Eastman must get used to a much higher level of transparency and stringency about the materials we provide. Collaboration and information sharing across several stages of the value chain are becoming much more important. We have to find creative solutions for protecting our intellectual property while enabling our customers to carry out the necessary risk assessments and evaluations of our and their products. When innovating today, we must consider not only the quality and performance of our product as it leaves our factory, but try to anticipate the processes it will undergo until placed in the final food package.
Q: What are you most looking forward to hearing about at this year’s conference?
A: I really look forward to inspiring talks about the circular economy of packaging solutions. I truly believe this will be the major topic keeping us busy and providing our industry with new opportunities in the coming years.
Register Now to join us this April 23-24, in Bethesda, Maryland, and hear more from Michaela about the ways that Eastman is responding to regulatory requirements with innovative approaches that not only consider the quality and performance of packaging materials as they leave the factory, but also anticipate the additional processes that products will undergo until they are placed in the final food packaging.