Could polyolefins, such as PP and HDPE mount a serious challenge to PET’s efforts to dominate value-added categories such as dairy-based beverages, juice and juice drinks, nutritional drinks, and food products?

Looking at both recent and forthcoming technology developments, it’s a possibility, says a new study* published by analysts PakIntell.

“PET container producers, having captured big shares of the carbonated soft drink and water markets, are now looking for greater value-added opportunities in a host of single-serve beverage categories and food applications,” says William H. LeMaire, managing director of PakIntell and editor of the study.

“With CSDs and water increasingly commoditised, it’s critical to the business strategies of PET packaging producers that they bulk up their margins by converting these segments from glass or cans to PET,” Mr LeMaire adds.

According to the study, there are numerous food and beverage categories where emerging material and processing technology advances could make PP, and to some degree HDPE, more competitive in performance to PET.

PET is a highly versatile resin, teaming clarity and barrier and, with heat-setting, hot-fill capabilities. What the study authors, Gordon Bockner and Bob Miller, examine are whether those material and process advances in PP and HDPE are sufficient to level the playing field in certain product sectors.

The central question, William LeMaire suggests, is whether the price advantage for polyolefin resins will be lost through the cost of additional processing technologies or materials needed to bring the olefin containers up to PET’s performance.

“That’s why a key value of this study,” Mr LeMaire claims, “lies in the 40-plus manufacturing cost estimates for containers for nine end-use applications using six basic manufacturing costs models. The models were developed by BDA to examine just this question.

Which food and beverage categories might be in play in the future? The study examines how current and future technology advances could propel polyolefins to be competitive with PET in dairy based beverages, juice and juice drinks, ready-to-drink teas, nutritional beverages, and foods such as spaghetti sauces, condiments, apple sauce, and many others.

A number of leading companies produce containers in both polyolefins and PET. Those with flexibility, both on the supplier and end-user side, will be better positioned to take advantage of any future market shifts.