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Canning the tin can

Canning  the tin can
The importance of tin cans, as one of the safest mediums in the packaging industry, was highlighted recently at the 4th edition of “CANNOVATION” – the International Seminar on Tinplate Packaging, organised by the Tinplate Promotion Council (TPC) India, a body of Indian Tinplate manufacturers and can fabricators engaged in promoting tinplate for packaging. Today, food cans are lighter and easier to open than ever. Since the first patents were filed in 1810, can-makers have developed them into an incredibly sophisticated and functional package. Recent pressures for sustainable systems have also redefined metal packaging as the best packaging in the world for recyclability and long term storage of food products.

Emerging economies like India have witnessed a strong demand for packaged foods in tin cans, and with the Government of India’s thrust on the “Make in India” campaign, there is a renewed impetus in the food processing industry. CANNOVATION is one such forum that has been recognised to drive excellence in the field of Tinplate packaging. The event was held following the initiative and support provided by the Indian Institute of Packaging (IIP) and International Tin Research Institute (ITRI), who spontaneously joined hands with TPC in hosting the Seminar through the 2nd, 3rd and now the 4th edition.

CANNOVATION focused on innovation, consumer convenience and cost effectiveness related to metal packaging in India. “In an age when packaging is increasingly gaining importance in determining the ‘value’ of a product, CANNOVATION facilitated valuable insights on the various issues from a global perspective as India is all set to emerge as the food factory to the world – given its vast potential of fruits, vegetables, dairy, marine and agricultural products. Global marketing of these products will largely depend on the Indian industry’s ability to provide these in packaging forms that will not only ensure freshness of the product but also meet consumer convenience and emerging environmental and sustainability concerns,” said one speaker.

Over the years, the world has come to acknowledge Tinplate as the most preferred packaging medium for preserving perishables like fruit and vegetables, processed foods, fruit juices, dairy and marine products and edible oils. However, the versatile packaging medium has also proved its mettle in applications like closures and crowns, battery jackets, general line cans, paint cans, aerosols and is finding increasing usage in a host of new composite and other challenging packaging solutions. In the light of the growing GDP rate in India, the increasingly health-conscious consumer in search of branded, safe, convenient and healthy food – coupled with the country’s vast agricultural resource – the packaging industry has a lot to look forward to.

The new government policies too are being strengthened in favour of processing of food in greater volumes and faster seasonal packaging. The Tinplate industry has the potential and strength to take on the responsibility, create an integrated environment of technology and innovations on a global scale, to deliver new, value-added and safe packaging solutions to the consumers – engaging them both by way of freshness of the content in the can as well as exciting outer designs.

The gathering highlighted the fact that Tinplate, the “green” packaging medium is not only safe for products, but is totally recyclable and renewable. Moreover, with its excellent printability, Tinplate ensures a distinct brand differentiation. The seminar brought together a wide number of participants including senior decision makers from the government and industry, besides national and international experts in the field who were also distinguished can-makers, metal packaging
technology providers as well as several renowned brand owners and marketers, to create a meaningful interface on the current and future needs of the metal packaging industry.

Keeping in mind the changing consumer needs and the relevance of eco-friendly packaging solutions, the event covered a range of viewpoints and studies on the latest trends and mechanics of can making, coatings and designs.  Tarun Daga, Chairman-TPC & MD, The Tinplate Company of India Ltd. (TCIL),  said  this year’s theme highlighted “driving sustainable packaging” with focus on minimisation in usage of inputs across the packaging value chain and compliance with the 3 R’s – Reduce, Re-use & Re-Cycle – drawing all attention to packaging life cycle and sustainability of a packaging substrate.

The event drew industry stalwarts including Prof N C Saha, Director Indian Institute of Packaging, Dr Jeremy Pearce, Chief Technology Team Leader, ITRI,  Ashwani Kumar – renowned design and trademark expert from ITC, Dr Shubh Gautam, President & CEO, SRISOL Group, and several eminent global speakers. One speaker noted that Tinplate, the “green” packaging medium is not only safe for products, but is totally recyclable and renewable. Moreover, with its excellent printability, Tinplate ensured a distinct brand differentiation. The tremendous potential that Tinplate as a packaging medium possesses and the usability in varied applications was highlighted in a concurrent Exhibition which was organised on the same day at the venue where one got a firsthand look and feel of the latest happenings in metal packaging. CANNOVATION 2015 showcased why Tinplate is the packaging solution of today and the solution for a green future.

Tarun Daga, Chairman, TPC, said tin cans have been part of human life for centuries as being eco-friendly, 100 per cent recyclable, saving precious natural resources and keeping the planet fresh and green. “India – with its rapidly growing consumer market, booming retail culture, rich
fertile fields and the new “Make in India” campaign – made for a perfect backdrop for this event in exchanging new ideas in packaging. This is also the right time for the packaging fraternity to improve communications in regard to global environmental concerns, especially with brand-owners and consumers whose choice of the packaging medium would impact society,” he said.

David Bishop, Managing Director, ITRI Limited, said ITRI represented the tin producers of the world in promoting tin products and pushing forward sustainable tin technologies. “Tinplate uses around 16 per cent of all tin consumed globally and is a key sector for ITRI activities with important growth potential. It has proved a robust sector through the recent adverse economic climate and, in fact, has strong prospects in Asian growth economies. The key to strengthening the competitiveness of the tinplate market is the establishment of new communication infrastructures that will support improved knowledge transfer and faster innovation,” Bishop said.

Prof N C Saha, Director, Indian Institute of Packaging said, “Packaging is considered to be the heart and soul of merchandising. Globally, the total size of packaging industry is about $750 billion, where the share of the Indian packaging industry is about $24.6 billion. The Indian packaging industry is growing @ 13-15 per cent annually, but the global growth rate of packaging industry is only five-six per cent. Over a period of time, a number of innovative packaging materials are developed with higher functional properties to meet the market requirements and also to fulfill the demands of modern consumers.”

“Tinplate is one of the oldest packaging mediums, which has been able to retain its position in the competitive market till today mainly due to its unique advantages of providing longer shelf life for processed food products and also for many sustainable innovations. Innovative technology has made it possible to develop new designs of tinplate containers in terms of size, shape and capacity, opening devices to improve upon the convenient features and also the reduction of tare weight of tinplate to minimise handling and freight cost etc.”

“India is considered to be the food factory of the world due to its large production base for various commodities like cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, fish  and milk products etc. Incidentally, the food products – either fresh or in processed form – are perishable in nature, and hence have a limited shelf life. In order to increase shelf life of perishable products, the most important aspect is to improve upon the barrier properties of the packaging materials. Moreover, the packaging material should have high mechanical properties to withstand the shock and hazards, which normally occur during handling, storage  and transportation.”

“Considering these aspects, the constant research and development in the materials science has been able to develop number of packaging materials like flexible, rigid and semi-rigid containers. Under flexible category, a number of options are available for the plastic-based packaging materials, either in the form of laminate or co-extruded structures, which are termed as multi-layered structures.  But the most important aspect is to consider the functional properties of the packaging materials, in terms of, their moisture barriers, oxygen gas barriers, seal strength property, tensile strength and percentage of elongation etc. but in general, the plastic-based flexible packaging materials are not 100 per cent impermeable, leading to limited shelf life of food products.”

“Due to this, it is always preferred to select a rigid packaging material like glass, plastic container or metal container, in order to have higher barrier properties. Among all, metal containers – mainly tinplate containers – are mostly preferred for the packaging of processed food products due to its certain advantages like: excellent mechanical properties, in terms of, high impact resistance as compared to glass and plastic containers; excellent formability; amenable to excellent printing and graphics; complete impermeable and thus provide excellent barrier properties; amenable to retorting and this providing longer shelf life; 100 per cent recyclable and cost-effective. Considering all this, Tinplate is the only packaging material which is considered to be the +Green Packaging+ medium.”

“It is observed that revolutionary changes have occurred in the manufacturing of three-piece metal cans for food products, so-called food cans, by way of enhancement of functional properties and reduction of tare weight of cans leading to eco-friendliness. It is also reported that, over the last 30 years, more than 35 per cent weight reduction has been achieved, which has resulted in the savings of freight cost. In addition, R&D is carried out to reduce the tin coating thickness over the base plate, thus reducing the overall cost of packaging material.

In fact, tinplate provides the ultimate ease of recyclability. Food or drink cans could be fed into the steel production furnace without subjecting to any kind of treatment. It is also reported that at present, 25 per cent of every ton of steel produced comes from scraps of metal cans. Tinplate being 100 per cent recyclable, metal cans made from tinplate can be used to produce new steel material.” The metal packaging scenario in India is witnessing a cut-throat competition, reduced margins, fragmented industry, shortage of skilled people and less growth as compared to other industries.
Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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