From granules to flexible films, from neutral to printed bags, Niederwieser is a Group with offices in Italy and Germany and a turnover of 120 million per year, providing innovative solutions for food packaging, with a special focus on sustainability. We asked Matteo Pozzesi, Sales Director of Niederwieser Spa and Marketing Director of the Niederwieser Group, about the prospects for the sector in the coming months, with a look at the most topical issues.
"The Niederwieser Group is made up of three locations", says Pozzesi, "one in Germany, where the extrusion of flexible plastic film takes place, one in Bolzano, where the group's headquarters is located and a division that follows the processing side, i.e. the sale of machinery and industrial slicers, concluding with Niederwieser in Campogalliano, where film processing takes place and then production on the converting side. Here we process both vacuum pouches and printed film for the top of the packaging. We are a family company that plays the role of a key player in the flexible film market, both for vacuum and modified atmosphere applications. Our main target is the world of meat and cold cuts, but we also have applications for vegetable and medical products. However, it is the core meat business that motivates our participation in MEAT-TECH: a trade show that perfectly matches our needs."
What will we see at the show?
"Obviously the theme is sustainability, environmental impact. We have customers trying to find alternatives to plastic, a material demonized in recent years, to which we see no alternative. Our job is to preserve food for a long time. Producing a slice of meat has a very strong impact in terms of CO2 emissions, so securing it and being able to preserve it for a long time, reducing food waste, is an important goal for us. For this we need material characteristics such as the ability to act as a barrier to oxygen or gases; sometimes to light, as for sliced meats. And plastic is the best element to perform this function. It's lighter than other materials, such as aluminum and glass, but it has barrier properties that paper struggles to achieve. Our concept is moving toward recyclability as we've created these thin, lightweight, "safes" that protect food for a long time. We have invested in recent years on technology, to be able to reduce thickness, thus placing less plastic on the market, but increasing the barrier capacity, to have a longer shelf-life of the product, with products that are also recyclable.
At MEAT-TECH we will therefore be presenting recyclable solutions based on PP and PE that can combine thickness reduction, longer shelf-life and recyclability. In our sector it is not possible to use recycled plastics on an industrial scale, because there are no granules, polyamide or polyethylene, recyclable in sufficient quantity. But we are developing pilot projects with our suppliers, who have made small quantities of chemically recycled material available to us. It's a way to be ready when chemical recycling gets more international coverage. Chemical recycling plants will allow us to re-obtain virgin material that can be put back on the market with a good dose of recycled material. The tests we have done so far, lead us to have the possibility to replace 60% of plastic, with recycled plastic leaving the remaining 40% in virgin material.
From January, then, begins our journey to become a zero waste company. An in-house recycling plant has been installed at our headquarters in Germany. The results achieved so far are excellent, in fact we have managed to achieve zero waste impact in the extrusion plant. It should be remembered that extruders have very high waste: we are talking about many tons that, since January, no longer enter the waste cycle. "
What expectations do you have about the event?
"We expect a good participation of the Italian market, also thanks to the synergy with TUTTOFood and Host. If then the vaccination campaign at European level will continue in this direction, we also imagine a European audience. We believe a lot in this event, which will be the only fair we attend this year."
What do you see in the market in the coming months?
"We are noticing a restart, spotty. First the GDO channel sales started, while the decline was strong on catering and restaurants. Then, restaurants and vendors started again.
Now the problem is raw materials, which have increased significantly since January and are continuing to do so, due to reduced oil extraction, which has had a direct impact on plastics, but also on the energy account. The raw material shortage problem is global and across all materials. For example, the cost of pallets has doubled, cartons have increased and aluminium has also risen. A crisis, therefore, that affects the industry, but will eventually have an impact on consumers.
We have noticed, however, that plastic is becoming a little more friendly again, because it's still proving that, when there's a health problem, it's a great material for securing sterile and cleanly anything from food to medical."