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Modified Atmosphere Packaging shows potential for growth

The detailed report, "Modified Atmosphere Packaging: U.K.," issued by Marketing Strategies for Industry (U.K.) Ltd., Chester, U.K., shows that U.K. retail sales of products packed under modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) increased from 1.7 billion packs in 1991 to 2.3 billion packs in 1995.

It is forecast that the U.K. retail market for MAP will increase by 5% this year. It is added that the rate of market growth is forecast to slow toward the end of the century, when the technique will reach maturity in many of its end-use applications. The distribution market for MAP is expected to exceed the growth in the retail market as supermarkets continue to develop the role of central distribution centers.

MAP is a technique in which the air surrounding food in a package is flushed out and replaced with a carefully formulated gas mixture such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen.

MAP inhibits the growth of pathogenic bacteria and mold, thereby extending the shelf life of fresh, chilled, and ambient foods. The MAP technique is now used in the packaging of a wide range of products, including meats, fish, poultry, bakery goods, dairy products, fresh pasta, ready meals, coffee, fruit, and vegetables.

The report says that there remains significant potential for increased penetration of MAP in a number of food sectors, and it is forecast that U.K. retail sales of products packed under MAP will reach 2.7 billion packs in the year 2000.

It is also forecast that in the year 2000 the segmentation of the U.K. MAP distribution market by food sectors, compared to 1996, will be as follows (expressed in 1,000 tons of packaged food):

Most MAP packs are constructed from four basic polymers, namely polyvinyl chloride, polyester, polypropylene, and polyethylene. There are three main types of retail MP formats:

* the semi-rigid tray, mainly used for packaging meats;

* the pillow pouch format used for foods such as fresh salads;

* the flowpack format used to package cheese and bakery products.

Courtaulds Acquisition - UCB Films, U.K., part of the Belgium-based group, is to acquire Courtaulds' cellophane films business, which includes the Bridgwater, Somerset, site in the U.K. and a workforce of 490 employees.

The acquisition brings to UCB the technology that has enabled Courtaulds to play a leading role in the confectionary and industrial market sectors. This is reflected in their launch of the world's first pearlized cellulose film last autumn as well as their 1995 development of a high-performance metallized cellulose film.

"The acquisition is great news for cellophane," says Derek Randall, who as managing director will head the Bridgwater business, to be known as UCB Cellophane Ltd.

This business will complement some of UCB's existing strengths in the technically demanding permeable films market and in its extensive range of colored films, which have proven important in a number of market sectors throughout Europe.

UCB manufactures cellulose film at Wigton, Cumbria, and Burgos, Spain, and also produces oriented polypropylene films in Wigton. The acquisition of Bridgwater, with a capacity of 20,000 tons and annual sales of [pounds]50 million, will increase UCB Films turnover to a total of [pounds]180 million.

The combined expertise of the two companies will provide greater opportunities for the development of new specialty products and further strengthen the cellulose film business.

Gordon Campbell, Courtaulds' deputy chief executive, says of the sale: "Cellophane has been part of Courtaulds for many years, and the decision to sell it was not an easy one. However, packaging film is not one of our core businesses, and cellophane no longer fits comfortably within Courtaulds."

Vladimir Wolpert publishes reports dealing with paper and plastics technology, marketing, and environmental matters. He has been in the industry for more than 50 years.

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