Transparent packaging that allows consumers to see the product inside has been a growing trend on store shelves in recent years, but metal-free packaging was often not a practical option for products requiring an outstanding barrier.
"Transparent packaging responds to several consumer packaging trends," said Marco Hilty, vice-president of strategy, marketing and R&D at Amcor Flexibles EMEA. "There is a move toward more minimalist packaging designs, while at the same time providing consumers more information to verify that products are fresh and healthy. Metal-free packaging also links to the desire for more sustainable packaging solutions."
Many products that are highly sensitive to moisture and oxygen, however, remain hidden from view inside opaque materials. "Traditionally, products needing a very high barrier were packaged in aluminium-based materials, considered the gold standard of high barrier packaging," said Mr Hilty. "With the launch of AmLite Ultra there is now another option that can meet our customers’ marketing needs and barrier performance needs for sensitive products."
AmLite Ultra is the latest addition to Amcor’s existing line of AmLite, metal-free packaging. It offers an even higher barrier, using Amcor’s Ultra SiOx coating, with oxygen barrier levels comparable to that of aluminium.
"Before going to market, we wanted to put our new AmLite Ultra barrier to the test," explained Andrea Della Torre, director R&D at Amcor Flexibles EMEA. Amcor performed Gelbo-Flex testing on AmLite Ultra and worked with the Consulting & Testing Service Group of MOCON Inc, to evaluate barrier levels after flexing. "Gelbo-Flex testing is a way to evaluate material resistance to mechanical stress, which happens during printing, converting, filling, distribution and handling. This stress can break down barrier by the time the pack reaches consumers. What the tests revealed was very exciting."
To compare AmLite Ultra’s barrier to the highest standard, both AmLite Ultra and a standard Alu-foil laminate were tested to 100 Gelbo-Flex cycles, to see how the materials would perform under extreme conditions. "What we observed is that while the Alu-foil laminate started with a slightly higher barrier, as we flexed and stressed the material, the AmLite Ultra oxygen barrier withstood the stress better. According to the MOCON Inc test certificates, the AmLite Ultra oxygen barrier eventually outperformed aluminium by 30% at 100 Gelbo-Flex cycles. This means brand owners now have the option to choose metal-free packaging, even for highly sensitive products."
The existing AmLite offering has already helped brand owners jump into the metal-free packaging trend and is on store shelves packaging products like snacks, cereals and beverages. For customers who want metal-free packaging but not transparency, all AmLite versions are also available with a white sealant layer, resulting in brighter printed colours by eliminating the grey background of metal-based materials.
The AmLite line of products also offers a significant environmental benefit by reducing material use. In a lifecycle assessment, AmLite provided a 40% carbon footprint reduction and 21% weight reduction compared to standard Alu-based materials. Additionally, it can help customers ensure product safety by allowing the use of metal detectors after packs are filled and sealed.
The new AmLite Ultra version can be used for a range of ambient dry food products, as well as medical and personal care products. It also offers excellent sealing properties and a strong seal to create a variety of pack formats, including bags, stand up pouches and spouted pouches, flow packs, sachets, and more.