UPM Specialty Papers and Henkel Develop New Packaging Concept

UPM Specialty Papers and consumer goods giant Henkel have developed a recyclable, heat-sealable packaging material that is compatible with existing packaging lines. The performance of the barrier papers is now particularly high, they say.

The plastic coating required for food protection and heat sealing makes end products difficult to recycle. Inspired by a shared focus on creating sustainable alternatives, UPM Specialty Papers and Henkel have further developed a concept to help brand owners and manufacturers meet the growing demands for easily recyclable packaging. In line with 2030 sustainability goals, the new water-based heat-seal and grease-barrier coatings are easy to recycle, the companies say. This helps recover more fiber and support a circular economy, they say. “In cooperation with UPM Specialty Papers, we are one step closer to bridging the gap between sustainable, fiber-based packaging and traditional plastic packaging to help brand owners and manufacturers make the switch to paper,” says Christin Noack, Market Strategy Manager Paper Solutions at Henkel.

The existing barrier papers UPM Asendo and UPM Asendo Pro were the starting point. Their fibers are recyclable and produced from sustainably managed forests. In addition, the papers offer grease repellency and moisture resistance without the need for a plastic coating.

The goal of the partnership was to push the boundaries of performance to develop paper packaging that could be heat sealed, protect food, and be incorporated into existing fiber recycling loops. This is where Henkel’s expertise came into play, optimizing its innovative coatings specifically for the UPM papers to reinforce their original barrier properties and provide unmatched grease resistance.

“Barrier and heat-seal coatings behave differently on different paper substrates, so it can be difficult to find the best combination of paper substrate, coating, and optimal application,” Noack explains. “We have optimized our heat-seal and grease-barrier coatings through a series of tests and a lengthy development process. Together with UPM, we have developed innovative coating products that will enable paper to reach new and unmatched performance levels.”

The resulting high-performance packaging concept is ideal for a variety of dry foods that require fat resistance. These include party snacks and breadsticks, for example. “This solution shows what we can achieve with jointly developed fiber-based materials. Packaging manufacturers can choose from a ‘ready-to-use’ combination of paper and coatings that have already been tested and approved. This allows them to quickly find the right solutions for their end use without the need for trial and error. Brand owners now have another alternative aimed at supporting the transition from fossil to renewable materials and packaging,” says Mika Uusikartano, Senior Manager Product Portfolio Management at UPM Specialty Papers.