Ecolean packaging takes a minimalist approach

Ecolean is a Swedish packaging company with a strong customer base in Asia. Its success is due to the popularity of its flexible packaging pouches and the growing demand for food packaging in general, especially in emerging economies. The company takes a unique approach to weight reduction: Its packaging film is made of 40 % chalk blended with conventional PP and PE.

Ecolean is a Swedish packaging company with a strong customer base in Asia. Its success is due to the popularity of its flexible packaging pouches and the growing demand for food packaging in general, especially in emerging economies. What’s more: Ecolean’s packaging is lightweight and recyclable, making it an eco-conscious choice for producers of liquids and soft foods such as milk, fruit juices and yogurt.

According to a study by Smithers Pira, the global flexible packaging market will grow at a rate of 3.5 % annually until 2018, providing good opportunities for producers of flexible packaging. The Asia-Pacific region has the largest regional flexible packaging market with 38 % of the overall market.

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Ecolean’s packaging takes a unique approach to weight reduction: Its packaging film is made of 40 % calcium carbonate (chalk) blended with conventional PP and PE (plastic film). Using chalk provides added stiffness and whiteness while reducing weight. Its one-liter package weighs 14 grams, considerably less than the milk cartons popular in most supermarkets. On average, EcoLean says, its packaging is 50 to 60 % lighter than conventional alternatives.

The combination of chalk and polymers is not entirely new; it can, for example, be found in cable insulation but it is unique in packaging. By using a minimal amount of raw materials, EcoLean creates a lightweight package that also leads to less waste at the end of its useful life.

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Ecolean’s CEO Peter Nielsen is confident that the company will continue to source calcium carbonate from trusted suppliers: “Given that 4 % of the earth’s crust is made up of chalk, it’s not going to run out,” he said in an interview.

Founded in 1996, Ecolean has focused on innovation. One recent addition to the product was the SnapQuick feature, an easy-to-use integrated closing device introduced in 2013. After strong growth in Asia, particularly in China and Pakistan, as well as in Russia, the company is also seeing increasing demand in Europe. One of Ecolean’s customers is Orangina-Schweppes France. The company is using the Ecolean Air Aseptic package for its P’tit Oasis 200 milliliter package.

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Ecolean has recently started to position its products not only as alternatives to milk cartons but also to PET bottles. The company is offering a single-serve cold-fill aseptic air clear pack to address this market. But other than their flagship products, the clear pouch comes without with the carbon black light barrier and the calcium carbonate components that are part of the milk package. It retains an gas barrier layer, however, so that it has a six-month unrefrigerated shelf life. The company emphasizes the package’s printability, which gives the customer the option to decide how much of the product will be visible.

While the packaging concepts are fairly new, the company has deep roots in the packaging industry. The principal owner of Ecolean’s shares is the family of Dr. Hans Rausing, the former chief executive of Tetra Pak.