Spanish firm EDV Packaging claims its new 'high barrier' plastic cup for fruit spreads provides an alternative to glass for food firms, although it can't compete on price quite yet.
The company has partnered Greek food manufacturer Mekedoniki to produce the 400g cups for its Aristi brand in Greece and for other products sold by the firm worldwide.
EDV coextrudes and thermoforms the high barrier PP/EVOH/PP white structure in production plants in Llinarrs del Valles in Barcelona, Spain.
The cup's robust EVOH layer a long shelf life, according to EDV, and provided an "ample" barrier to oxygen, UV rays, moisture and aromas.
Other product advantages claimed by the company include an hermetically thermo-sealed lid with a high-barrier transparent film and a resealable thermo-formed over-cup.
However, a 2010 study commissioned by the European Container Glass Association (conducted by TNS) found that 91 per cent of Greek consumers preferred glass packaging to plastic.
Consumers prefer glass?
Asked in light of this research if consumers and food manufacturers were ready to desert glass - a staple in the jam sector - for plastic packaging, an EDV spokesman told FoodProductionDaily.com
"I am not surprised the glass industry producers are giving such results," he said.
"But plastic producers see a clear trend towards plastic as packaging for new lines, because it's lighter, has very good shelf life and in some cases is even more competitive in price terms than glass."
He added: "So it follows that lighter, eco-friendly plastic materials are a way of differentiating products and getting close to the consumers. But it's true that most jam still goes in glass jars.
"That is a trend that is moving slightly - it doesn't mean glass will disappear - but it's obviously a trend that plastic will start winning an ever-greater share of this market."
In cost terms, the spokesman said he had 2010 data comparing glass jam jars with twist-off overcaps to plastic solutions with an overcap, which showed the latter was more competitive for formats up to 200-250g.
Resin, glass, metal prices had changed since then, the spokesman noted. "But it already shows that many of the formats that plastic is cheaper or is comparable in terms of cost," he said.
Slight cost premium
That said, Makedoniki's 400g pot glass was slightly more expensive than a glass alternative, the spokesman admitted, but he added that cost was not really the sole basis for the decision to use such a product.
Although the pot's barrier properties could not compare with glass, its performance was impressive, the spokesman said.
"We are working with an OTR [oxygen barrier value] of 0.004 cc per cup per day. That is a very minimum quantity of oxygen going into the cup, giving for many products more sensitive than jam a shelf life of 12 months or more for brand owners, and 18 months or more for manufacturers."
"We work a lot on improving the oxygen and water-based barrier of the caps. We're giving an extremely good barrier property, and it's obviously less than glass, but it's perfectly apt for these kind of applications."
Extensive interest in the new plastic pot across the EU also meant that EDV was also hopeful of gaining new business, the spokesman said.