After over 40 years of operations, former Hoechst division Depron BV is host to around 600 different models of polystyrene foam products for the packaging industry. This commitment has seen the company develop several innovative solutions including a patented dry tray design. Within the last decade Depron has introduced modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) solutions, which tied in with a shift away from meat packaging and towards the fish industry.
“As we have become more integrated into the fish packaging industry we have looked to develop our product range accordingly,” begins Peter Pleunis, managing director of Depron. “Initially we developed a fish backing board for MAP packaging, and having achieved success here are now launching a new product for
“This was a logical next step for us as although MAP is a very well known packaging process, a lot of fish is still packed in vacuum solutions. We believe that our products offer added value over the cardboard packaging currently used. Metal detection is increasingly being utilised in food packaging before products are shipped out to ensure they are safe for the end consumer, however this technique cannot be used with the cardboard trays due to their construction. In contrast our product is ideal for use with metal detection. Another nice feature for the end customer is that our backing board absorbs any extra water or oil within the packaging making it a little cleaner when unpacking. Finally, foam products are much lighter than a rigid material like cardboard,” he elaborates.
In addition, Depron’s new generation fish boards offer excellent vertical display properties due to surface design, and are odorless and tasteless. They are also extremely hygienic, as they offer no feeding ground for bacteria.
Depron products have been tested by many of the fish industry’s packagers, and awareness of these advantages is increasing. “Almost 100 per cent of fish packagers in Europe using MAP processes are utilising our backing boards,” enthuses Peter. “A number of new factories have began production in Scandinavia and Poland, and they have looked to Depron for their packaging solutions. The very specific characteristics of our backing boards gives us a definite advantage over our competitors, which is important as there is an overcapacity in the market that makes it harder to compete. As we have been active in this market for several years now, we have developed knowledge beyond our own product and are able to develop customer specific solutions if needed.”
In search of wider opportunities Depron has expanded into France, where it has identified a lot of volume for foam packaging both in the meat and in the fish market. Having been awarded a number of major tenders in the past few months, the company has worked to develop its supply chain solutions for this market: “A lot of products are actually transported by the fish packagers themselves. We have therefore utilised this to manage the supply chain as effectively as possible so that once the fish is brought to the end users the empty trucks pick up our products on the return journey. In France though it was very hard to develop this concept as the products packaged in France are often used within the country. Therefore we have entered into a new partnership with a local transport company that enables us to reduce costs on transport for this market,” describes Peter.
Elsewhere within Depron’s product range, work is still ongoing to establish a range of completely biodegradable and PLA products. Although interest is growing in such packaging, demand currently remains low, and therefore Depron is primed to introduce this new range when this increases. In the past year the company has been concentrating on creating a new design for biodegradable trays that will be recognisable by the consumer. “Specifically we are looking to design packaging that in the end can also be transferred to a biodegradable material, as if we can manufacture a product in polystyrene then we can also create it from PLA,” notes Peter.
As well as diversifying within the food sector, Depron has also looked to move outside of this traditional market towards the other potential applications for its products. “We are still focused upon the packaging industry, but of course there is a lot more to package other than food,” comments Peter. “To this end we have been working with the design academy in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, to create new designs for other types of packaging.” This includes packaging for webshops for plants, for candles and even a wine bottle package. In Depron’s favour are the other advantages of its materials namely shock absorbing characteristics, and the ability to retain hot or cold temperatures.
This is one of the three key focuses that Depron has identified as part of its strategy for the next few years. The company is now on track to see an increase in its turnover going forward and therefore is keen to have a strategy in place that supports this. The other two aspects of this are capturing part of the vacuum fish packaging market, and changing a proportion of production over to more sustainable materials such as PLA. This carefully considered approach means that Depron can not only maintain its hold over its established markets, but also take advantage of the demand for reliable and effective packaging solutions in other fields.
Products Polystyrene foam packaging