Green Stands for Go

Seeking an environmental solution to a growing supermarket trend, Italian converter Sacchettificio Turconi turns to Cargill Dow's NatureWorks material.

Environmental awareness coupled with perceptive business ethics have made Sacchettificio Turconi the largest converter of window bread bags in Italy — perhaps in all of Europe.

Located in Saranno, Italy — home of the famous Italian biscotti “Amaratto di Saranno” and about 20 minutes from Milan's Malpensa Airport — the firm began as a small paper-trading house just after World War II.

In 1970 the firm started manufacturing flexographically printed all-paper bags and polyethylene (PE) carrier bags. It converted to compostable starch/copolyester bags (Novamount) in 1990 and, at the same time, introduced window bread bags using microperforated oriented polypropylene (OPP) as the transparent window. (Coated cellophane also was used as the window.)

Soon after, the firm began the dedicated manufacture of window bread bags for Italy's rapidly growing supermarket industry. To project an “environmental message,” Italian supermarkets appeared to prefer a cello window versus OPP. However, there were some problems with maintaining overall bread crispness.

During an exclusive PFFC visit, Renato Turconi, the genial second-generation owner, talked about the company's success and stressed, “We have always been in the forefront of providing ecologically sound packaging to our Italian clients.”

The successful commercialization of polyactic acid (PLA) by Cargill Dow pushed the window bread bag up further on the environmental ladder.

New Material a Fine Fit for Trend
Marketed under the name NatureWorks PLA, Cargill Dow's material is made from renewable resources and can be converted much like petroleum-based resins — except that PLA is compostable.

The NatureWorks technology produces the resin by “harvesting” carbon from plants such as corn. PLA resin is extruded into film by Tresphan in Germany. This new corn-based film was introduced to Turconi and rapidly replaced both OPP and cello windows. The film, according to Turconi, has high gloss, clarity, heat sealability, and flavor and aroma barrier.

A significant trend in Italy's many sophisticated supermarkets is the outstanding success of the “in-store” bakery. This is the area in which supermarkets are projecting their environmental message, and a fully compostable window bread bag is a marketing natural.

Pushed along by retailers such as Iper, Standa, Essellunga, and Carrefour, Turconi soon met the needs of these huge supermarket chains. The current window bread bag is constructed of 20-µ PLA/40 gm2 paper.

An additional factor was that microperforated OPP is under hygienic scrutiny in Italy because of perceived microbial problems. PLA film does not need any perforations to obtain the retention of crust on the bread because of its superior breathability, according to Turconi.

At the time of PFFC's visit, the company was planning to convert all of its window material from both cello and OPP to PLA film. Current projections amount to more than 320 million bags annually just for the in-store supermarket baked goods industry. The capacity is slated to increase dramatically when the total baked goods is penetrated.

PLA Benefits Make Handling Easier
Turconi's plant contains 18 bread bag converting lines. Using modified Castaldini and Holweg machines, the company fully converts the bags in one operation. Printing is by four-color flexo imprinted on the Holweg machine. Simone Turconi, sales director of retail operations and the founder's grandson, explains, “PLA film is better in machinability because of a constant COF [coefficient of friction] versus a variable COF for cellophane depending on its moisture content.

“There are less handling problems with PLA versus cello, and we can reduce the overall window thickness,” he notes, adding the oil barrier of PLA film is superior to both cello and OPP. The paper is flexo printed, and either white or brown paper is used.

Turconi's plans include introducing its new “environmental” bread bag to other European retailers. Carrefour is multinational, and chains such as Essellunga have invested heavily in organic products under the brand Naturama. Plans even include possible penetration stateside.

“Green” often means environmentally sound these days, but at Turconi it also means a healthy bottom line. “Green” definitely stands for “go” at this converting operation.

CONVERTER INFO
Sacchettificio Turconi

Via Bergamo 107, 21047 Sarrano (Va), Italy +39 2 967 01182; sacchettificio-turconi.com


SUPPLIER INFO
Cargill Dow
, Minneapolis, MN; 952/742-0400; cargill.com

Castaldini, Argelato, Italy; +39 (0) 51892444; castaldini.it

Holweg, Molsheim, France; +33 (0) 3 88 47 84 84; dcm.fr


PLA RESIN IS ON THE MOVE
The outstanding success at Turconi with bread bags has caused Iper to introduce a fresh pasta line in thermoformed PLA containers — the material is converted into sheet by Autobar Disposables (U.K.) and subsequently thermoformed into trays. Iper plans to develop in-store signage to educate customers about the material. Store management also will train its employees so they can address customer questions.

Jürgen Klein, Cargill Dow's business development manager (The Netherlands), told PFFC PLA film is being evaluated as a salad bag material in Europe. Initial packages are slated to be on the market in late 2003. Cargill Dow also recently announced Amprica S.p.A. (Italy) is a new strategic partner in servicing the European food packaging industry with products made of NatureWorks PLA resin.


Stanley Sacharow has been in the flexible packaging industry for more than 35 years. His company, The Packaging Group, is an organizer of targeted conferences and a consultant to the international packaging/converting industry. He is also the author of PFFC's “Package Converting” column. Contact him at 732/636-0885; e-mail: univpac@aol.com.



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