Cargill Dow corn packaging achieves Japanese approval

Related tags Sugar Carbohydrate Polylactic acid

A plastic made from corn has been given food contact approval in
Japan, suggesting that environmentally responsive packaging now has
global reach.

Recent food contact approval for a plastic made from corn means that Japanese shoppers will soon be able to purchase goods in 100 per cent nature-based, see-through containers.

In June 2004 the material, NatureWorks PLA, received positive listing as a new base polymer on the Self-Restrictive Requirements on Food-Contacting Articles from the Japanese Hygienic Olefin and Styrene Plastics Association (JHOSPA).

This listing signals a significant commercial milestone, as it allows NatureWorks PLA to be used in a wide range of food applications for everything from fresh fruit to sushi.

The manufacturer believes that based on prevailing Japanese consumer attitudes, the timing is ideal to introduce branded food packaging that can help lessen dependence on limited fossil fuel resources.

According to recent market research by Grapentine Company, 56 per cent of Japanese consumers ranked the concept of purchasing fresh food in nature-based see-through packaging as "very desirable."

Of those, more than 57 per cent are willing to pay at least 5 yen (4 Euro cents) more for products packaged in containers made from NatureWorks PLA.

"A majority of Japanese consumers want to be environmentally responsible and many are even willing to pay more for products to make it happen,"​ said Masayoshi Oku, general manager for Cargill Dow's Japanese operations. "With NatureWorks PLA, retailers can simply switch out petroleum-based food packaging with corn-based packaging.

"And, shoppers get all of the benefits they expect from see-through plastic - such as freshness, safety and convenience - without the environmental compromise."

In order to tap into the strong consumer interest and promising market potential of the nature-based plastic, Cargill Dow's Japan operations and Tokyo-based Mitsui Chemicals have worked together to achieve food contact approval. It is anticipated that fresh food packaging made from NatureWorks PLA will be on the shelf in Japan by autumn this year.

"Where NatureWorks has been introduced in North America and Europe, retailers have seen significant positive shopper feedback and increased sales,"​ said Snehal Desai, global commercial director, Cargill Dow.

"Given the importance of fresh food and nature-based materials to Japanese consumers, we expect NatureWorks PLA to be embraced in Japan. We believe it will be just as popular, if not more popular, than it is anywhere else in the world."

Made from corn, NatureWorks PLA​ is the first commercially viable biopolymer derived from an annually renewable resource that performs equal to or better than traditional resins. Packaging made from NatureWorks PLA is 100 per cent nature-based and can degrade in industrial compost facilities.

The technology to produce NatureWorks PLA essentially "harvests" the carbon, which plants remove from the air during photosynthesis and store in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars.

The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make plastic, called polylactide (PLA), through a simple process of fermentation, separation and polymerisation.

Related topics Processing & packaging

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