In addition to its applications in daily life for consumers, plastic packaging also plays a vital role in the food manufacturing industry, particularly in the transfer of food products between production lines. Packaging researchers and developers are therefore responsible for developing packaging that meets usage needs while also taking into consideration environmental impact and resource maximization.
As Thailand’s leading integrated agro-industrial and food company, Betagro Group strives to develop the most efficient plastic packaging for food manufacturing. This commitment has given rise to the collaboration between Betagro Group and Chemical Business, SCG to develop SCG™ HDPE S111F for High Impact Film, a special-grade resin with higher impact strength and toughness. Thanks to its properties, food packaging can be manufactured with less material while still meeting the requirements of the production line, enabling the company to better pursue its sustainability development policy.
Getting to know Betagro Group
Betagro group is a meat and processed food manufacturer recognized and well trusted among Thai consumers for its quality and safety. The company’s success is rooted in its unwavering commitment to the consistent quality improvement of its entire production, from upstream to downstream operations, throughout its 52 years of business.
Rujawate Taharnklaew, Vice President of the R&D Center of Betagro Group, told us about the origin of the company. “Betagro was established in 1967 as an animal feed and pharmaceutical product company, before it subsequently expanded to livestock production and farming, animal breeding, meat processing, and food manufacturing for both domestic markets and export.”
“It can be said that Betagro’s business encompasses the entire production chain of safe, high-quality protein and food, from upstream to downstream operations. We have expanded our scope of business to include branding and food businesses to offer the public more alternatives and access to food that is safe and higher in quality at fair prices. As can be seen, Betagro has a distinct and well-recognized image as an organization that puts food safety and fair business practices above all else to sustainably elevate food quality and the quality of life of people in society.”
Circular Economy: The key to sustainability
The circular economy is one of the key ideas that both Betagro and SCG have taken into consideration in driving their sustainable development policies. Both companies share the view that resource maximization is one of the major goals in their product development and production enhancement which will demonstrate their corporate responsibility as manufacturers. This is a practice that they hope to expand to society at large – an endeavor that will require cooperation and collaboration across the supply chain.
This shared ambition to achieve circularity has given rise to the Packaging Roadmap. Dr. Nukul Euaphantasate, R&D Director (R&D Strategies & Packaging) at Betagro Group, recounted how the collaboration between Betagro and SCG to develop heavy duty plastic bag for transferring raw chicken parts in processing plants came about.
“The goal of this packaging development is to reduce material consumption while retaining or improving the packaging’s performance. We hope to both save and maximize resources. However, the quality of the product is still very much paramount.”
“The team started with packaging analysis, tracing its use from beginning to end to identify the requirements of the HDPE plastic bag. It was found that the packaging needed to be strong and flexible enough to hold raw chicken parts. As the bags were also carried by conveyor belts, they had to be tough and have high puncture resistance, especially by the sharp bones of chicken thighs. In addition, the packaging needed to be able to withstand impact during transfer, which was the last part of the production.”
From required properties to resin development
Once Betagro, the end user, had analyzed the usage of the plastic bag, the next step was packaging design or material design. At this stage, SCG used its expertise to design plastic resin that would best meet Betagro’s requirements. Wissanee Charoenpinijkarn, Application Development Leader, Polyolefins and Vinyl Technology, Chemicals Business, SCG, told us about the designing process of the plastic resin.
“In addition to our discussion in meetings, we also visited the plants to see how the bag was used and talked to the users. This process not only helped us understand how the product was actually used but also gave us finer details about its usage throughout the process, which were extremely beneficial to the designing process.”
“After obtaining insights into their needs and pain points, we regrouped to design a prototype. The first requirement of any food packaging is safety, which includes safety for food contact, absence of contamination, and the ability to hold the product throughout use. The objective of the project was to reduce material consumption and reduce the thickness of the product from 35 microns to 25 microns. Therefore, the plastic resin had to have higher strength, so that the packaging could hold up to 10 kilograms.
“Ease of handling is also another important consideration. The plastic film must not be so soft that it sags when handled or so hard that the plastic bag becomes difficult to tie or that the knot loosens too easily.”
Special-grade plastic resin: The fruit of collaboration
After lab works came prototype testing, for which Betagro, as the end user, was responsible. The mechanical properties tested included tensile strength and different types of resistance. The process was also observed by SCG to ensure that modifications and improvements were made accordingly.
“The next step was production testing. We packed raw chicken parts into these bags and tested them in simulations of actual-use environments, such as drop tests from defined heights. After that came the final step, which was implementation. Once these steps were completed, the product was considered ready for actual use,” said Dr. Nukul, giving us a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the collaboration.
Thanks to the properties of the special-grade plastic resin, the plastic packaging not only fulfils the organization’s aspiration to achieve sustainable development but also meets all the needs of the users on the production line. Despite the reduced thickness from 35 microns to 25 microns, the packaging has retained the same level of strength, toughness, and impact resistance and can hold sharp chicken pieces well. As the thickness is reduced, 30% more bags can be manufactured from the same amount of material, making it easier to manage packaging costs efficiently as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact.
The future of the collaboration
The successful development of SCG™ HDPE S111F for High Impact Film has marked an important step in the strategic partnership between Betagro and SCG, and each has been thoroughly impressed with the other as they work towards the shared goal of achieving a circular economy.
In addition to the new plastic packaging that meets all its requirements, Betagro has also received the opportunity to share knowledge with SCG in each of their areas of expertise. “This collaboration has created a bridge between our innovation processes and mutually synergized our businesses, enabling us to prosper and grow together. Right from the beginning, we worked together to understand the usage context of the product, and now, we have successfully developed high-quality packaging that Betagro has been looking for.”
On the other hand, SCG has used its knowledge and innovation to develop a product that elevates the quality of life for consumers. “This project marks the beginning of the collaboration between SCG and Betagro. It has opened up a dialogue between us, enabling our company to understand other ideas Betagro would like to pursue and show our technology that may help bring those ideas to life. This collaboration has allowed our ideas to crystallize and will lead to several other projects in the future.”
The key component of innovation is cooperation and a clear shared goal to develop a product that truly meets user needs. Leveraging its expertise on polymers, SCG remains committed to its role as the supporter and advocate of innovations of all kinds and its mission to develop new technologies to achieve mutual and sustainable success with its partners and create better quality of life for all.