Raw material costs in the flexible packaging industry have been on a steady upward trend since January 2009, and we are rapidly approaching the record setting levels of the fall of 2008. Unfortunately, nothing can be done about the market prices. Plastic resin and films are not traded on a commodity market, so there’s no way to hedge. As a result, price increases are passed on to all converters like Multifilm. When there’s a shortage on the market, most producers are simply grateful to receive inventory and not be forced to shut down.

Despite these challenges, there are measures that users can take, and the simplest is to use less material. Use 20 percent less material and you are likely to see a similar price decrease. At Multifilm, we are big advocates of downgauging, or using thinner films whenever possible.

In many cases, a packaging specification was established years ago and probably had a bit of safety margin built into it. For example, a simple bag film laminate of 48 gauge polyester and 2 mil polyethylene can most likely be reduced to a 1.5 mil polyethylene, which reduces the structure from 66 gr/m2 to 54 gr/m2, or by about 19 percent. This is most likely a very quick and easy way to shave a few percent off the price and help offset some of the price increases.

In some cases, however, downgauging can make the package feel cheap and flimsy, and in such cases, alternative structures should be considered. At Multifilm, we offer several alternative films that allow the package to maintain “body feel” while still reducing the amount of film used. Our SuperSeal sealant web is an excellent example. In many cases, a 1 mil or 1.2 mil SuperSeal can replace a 1.5 mil polyethylene sealant web and help reduce the amount of packaging used by 22 percent (in this case, when laminated to a 48 gauge polyester film).

Hi-Z, our metallized sealant web, is another great way to downgauge. Hi-Z allows for reverse printing with only two layers of film, making it an excellent alternative to heavy triplex laminations, and again, allowing the use of less material without compromising on barrier or “body feel.”