|The Thai Packaging Centre opens its doors|
Host of the 2022 IAPRI World Packaging Conference, the Thai Packaging Centre (TPC) plays a central role in the industry, both nationally and regionally.
It was created as part of the Thailand Institute of Scientific and Technological Research (TISTR) in 1984 and is affiliated to the country’s Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation. Currently, 27 staff work at the TPC.
Acting director Rachaneepen Pensit explains the TPC’s core activities. “We carry out comprehensive services in research, testing, education, training and events related to packaging,” she says. It also offers consultancy and information services, and helps to co-ordinate users and manufacturers of packaging, both in Thailand and further afield.
The primary focus for research and development is on “the creation of innovative, functional packaging, with the potential for commercialization”, says Rachaneepen. Examples of packs developed following internationally accepted design principles include bruise-free packaging for fresh peaches and what TPC calls “100% odor-lock packaging for fresh cut durian”. Considered a delicacy by many, the durian fruit is famed for its pungent aroma.
Overall, packaging for fresh produce is an important R&D area, given the sensitivity of certain fruits, their susceptibility to damage and their relatively short shelf-life. Export markets are often a high priority. “In consideration of these issues, for example, TPC in collaboration with mango farmers conducted joint research to develop shipping containers for mangoes for e-commerce sales,” says Rachaneepen.
These types of projects go well beyond mangoes, peaches and durian. “TPC has developed transport packaging for products such as pineapples, kiwis and strawberries, too,” she explains. “In addition, quality materials and good packaging design for value-added consumer products are also in demand.”
The sustainability of packaging systems has only grown in importance, in Thailand as elsewhere. “Recyclable materials are the priority,” Rachaneepen states. “Moreover, materials from natural resources and biodegradable packaging are in focus.”
TPC has worked with biodegradable materials from paper to compostable bagasse pulp, and from vacuum thermoform packaging to recyclable PET. Mono-material packaging for ease of recycling will sometimes go hand-in-hand with source reduction. For example, by reducing the use of reinforced ribs in plastics packaging, sheet thickness can be minimised while keeping pack strength within appropriate limits, says TPC.
In the case of bagasse, trays were developed initially for serving meals to hospital patients. The principles of Universal Package Design and Eco-Package Design were applied, according to TPC, to produce packaging which is user-friendly, environmentally responsible and minimal cost. The idea was that the same concept could then be transferred to other applications such as ready-to-eat food and deliveries.
Training and seminar programs are an important part of TPC’s offering. Presentations span everything from academic papers to the latest packaging technologies, with target audiences including entrepreneurs, exporters, representatives of government agencies and other interested parties. Where organizations have specific needs, TPC says it can tailor courses and presentations to meet those requirements.