In the past few decades, the evolution of marketing has significantly transformed packaging’s role in companies’ value chains. The packaging industry has taken a giant step and affirmed its role in the economy, not only within the supply chain but also in the fields of communication, brand awareness, quality control, and environmental concerns.
In today’s world, the package plays a decisive role in the customer experience and is a major priority for every company worldwide. Creativity is fine-tuned, and the research of consumers’ needs and desires is strategically channeled toward the design and development of a unique and functional package, whether in plastic, cardboard, paper, or another material.
Along with marketing and branding concerns, several other demands have been driving the packaging industry’s evolution. The stability and safety of packaged products are a concern shared by every industry, as is environmental compliance. Concerns with global warming, emissions of polluting gas into the atmosphere, and the need to reduce waste have driven the global growth of biodegradable materials, as well as the adoption of innovative solutions that allow the reuse of these products.
This transformation demands the effort, innovation, and cooperation of every single player that acts in this field. Adhesives producers have assumed their role and have been driving a vibrant and continuous innovation journey throughout the past several years.
Adhesive Applications in Packaging
It is pertinent to understand the wide range of adhesive applications for the packaging industry, including the formation and closing of boxes, paper bags, labeling, ceramics, special applications, and palletizing. All of these applications share a common priority: to guarantee the stability, safety, and preservation of the packaged products, helping to assure that they do not yield to weight or temperature when transported.
The food industry, for instance, should be named as one of the most rigorous and challenging packaging markets due to increasingly strict food safety policies worldwide. The quality of the adhesives is vital to match the safety, stability, and hygiene criteria of this market. Adhesives for these applications must offer high adhesion to difficult substrates, low viscosity, resistance to extreme temperatures, and little to no odor.
Adhesives producers must also respond to the packaging industry’s effort for the improvement of the look and branding of the package. Toward that end, a new range of adhesives formulated with high polymer incorporation was recently launched to the market.* These industrial adhesives have high thermal stability and faint odor, as well as low density and improved adhesion properties that increase their yield.
The increased incorporation of polymers in the adhesives enables a reduction in the percentage of resin in the hot melt, resulting in a more stable solution. These adhesives offer improved performance and contribute to increasing the final appearance of the package.
The hot-melt adhesives industry has thus a wide range of requirements to match the packaging industry’s ever-evolving needs. Three core features result: good adhesion, versatility to diverse substrates, and good resistance to cold and heat. The higher the adhesion and thermal stability, the lower the consumption of adhesive. This poses two significant advantages: a safer and more stable product; and a reduction of the adhesive used, thus positively impacting the environment.
Ecological responsibility is a key driver for this industry, as well as a first priority for investments in research and development (R&D). There is a growing concern and awareness on the part of the final consumer, and the industry itself, for the choice of products that meet sustainability and environmentally friendly policies. This requirement concerns the product itself, as well as the entire industrial process.
Hot-melt producers have been providing the market with new solutions that can be applied at low temperatures, thus decreasing energy consumption during their application.** The wide range of materials and applications within the packaging industry require specific technology for each solution. For instance, in the labelling of glass and plastic bottles, which are ideally recycled and reused, the adhesives must be biodegradable and compatible with conventional recycling processes.†
Environmental concerns have been driving the growth of the paper bags consumed in several industries worldwide, given the ecological-friendly properties of this material. In fact, the use of paper bags provides consumers with a more ecological option, ensuring maximum safety and convenience in the transported products. This growth also results in the need for a stronger, safer, and more suitable paper bag that can be adopted to transport any product.
Adhesives play a decisive role in this field, not only for longitudinal seams, handle forming, and gluing windows, but also in gluing the bottom of bags and reinforcing handles. Regarding the aesthetics of the final product, the use of white resins and excellent stability make the color remain white and give a more attractive look of the adhesive points on the packaging.
The pandemic has shown how fast the economy and the market can change, and companies must always be prepared to quickly adapt to the new outlook. Flexibility, both in production and within the supply chain, is crucial in the current market framework.
The priorities discussed here represent the fundamental trends for the near future for industrial adhesives in the packaging industry. Companies should work toward greener, effective, and innovative products that match the final consumers’ demands for safe, stable, and ecological commodities. A continuous investment in R&D is required for every company that aims to identify as a trendsetter in this industry.
For more information, visit www.colquimica.pt/en/markets-and-applications/packaging.
Note: Images courtesy of Colquímica Adhesives.
*Kmelt Extend, from Colquímica Adhesives **Kmelt Ultra Glues, from Colquímica Adhesives †Koldex brand, from Colquímica Adhesives