Despite Problems, China Presents Hot Market for Packaging

Often called a sleeping giant in the past, China certainly has stirred from its slumber and awakened in many areas. In the approximately 25 years since the death of Chairman Mao and the drastic shift away from his policies, China has become an important factor in global economics, demographics, politics, and competition. To paint a small picture of the role China is playing in the converting and packaging industries, consider two areas: in-mold labeling and pressure-sensitive adhesives.

Shanghai, China, was the setting for a conference sponsored by RBS Technologies Inc. of Scottsdale, AZ, in September 2002. Two technical presentations at this IMLCON2002/Asia offer interesting insight into some aspects of the converting and packaging industries in that country.

As the 1.2 billion Chinese improve their economic status and enjoy disposable income, they become increasingly more Westernized. A burgeoning city such as Shanghai bears witness to this in the many inhabitants that wear designer jeans and shop for personal care products in stores.

“The China Pressure-Sensitive and In-Mold Label Market” was the title of a paper presented by David Xu of Avery Dennison China Co. Ltd. He noted the packaging industry in China is still in its infancy, and reliable statistics are difficult to find.

China also presents some unique problems for label markets. “Rough handling, high humidity, and poor roads all contribute to the importance of a high level of ink anchorage and scuff resistance in China,” Xu noted. In the p-s label area, paper is the primary substrate. Film is a rapidly growing substrate as the Chinese markets demand labels that are more elaborate and perform better on their products.

Brigitte Wolff of Abacus Corp. addressed “Packaging and Labeling Strategies in China.” She provided a case study of the introduction of a hair shampoo in-mold label by a Chinese manufacturer that wanted the product to have outstanding esthetics and to be difficult to counterfeit. They encountered many problems, starting with their need to find a blow molding operation. Because they could find nothing suitable, they decided to devise an in-house operation. They also had to find a suitable substrate and make labels. Although they had to do all steps of the in-mold labeling process themselves, eventually they made a product that fulfilled all their needs.

Wolff explained that in China “various industries are still underdeveloped.” She and Xu both stated that introduction of the p-s and in-mold label industries into China is difficult. Despite this fact, the Chinese packaging industry wants this technology and will strive until it achieves results equal to what the Western world has. They want support from other areas of the world; such support should be both technical and financial.

What do these two isolated examples of labeling in China teach the remainder of the world? First, China today is an important factor in the packaging and converting industries. The Chinese want to have packages equivalent to those in the fully developed areas of the world. They will do whatever they must to accomplish this.

There is a great deal of skill and resourcefulness in China. They are similar to “the little engine that could” except they are the big engine that can. These qualities of the Chinese people lead to the second point. The packaging and converting industries in China will grow in the future and undoubtedly become as important in that country as they are in any of the more developed countries.

The final point is that anyone who wants to participate in the emergence of the converting and packaging industries can do so. Other parts of the world can provide money, people, equipment, and ideas to the Chinese. Such investments undoubtedly will offer an excellent return to anyone who provides this help.


David J. Bentley Jr. is a recognized industry expert in polymers, laminations, and coatings with more than 30 years of experience in R&D and technical service. Contact him at dbentley@unm.edu.



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