ACTEGA Launches new Effect Coatings

How new creative coatings are helping converters to future-proof business

Having had to navigate a challenging landscape over the past two years, we are thankfully now seeing retailers bounce back after the pandemic and consumers finally stepping back into real-world stores and marketplaces. However, with prospective purchases physically back in buyers’ hands rather than on-screen, this brings a renewed pressure to an already competitive market for converters to deliver packaging solutions that truly make products stand out on the shelf.

With the flexible packaging market boasting a growth rate well above the rest of the print industry, 1 this sense of increased pressure and competition goes hand-in-hand with increased demand, meaning converters are now working harder than ever to develop creative packaging solutions that offer something different. In this plight to provide real product differentiation, many are now venturing beyond standard printed packaging and into the realm of special effect coatings.

With a host of possibilities, ranging from matt and gloss to sand-effect and paper-touch finishes, visual and haptic effect coatings are providing brands with a way of enhancing their labels and packaging to get their products noticed. ACTEGA’s latest offering, for example — its ACTEcoat® range — brings four new coatings in its initial introduction to market: Matt, High Gloss, Papertouch Matt and Papertouch Transparent. As well as offering functional benefits such as scratch- and chemical-resistance, special-effect coatings such as these add high-value, aesthetic and haptic elements to packaging designs, adding a new dimension and ultimately influencing brand perception, conveying high-quality, superior products.

The real challenge, perhaps, lays in the fact that — whilst design, aesthetics and haptics are undoubtedly an important draw for consumers — so too is sustainability, with an increasing and unavoidable pressure for packaging materials, inks and coatings to ‘go green’. So, with sustainability seemingly at the top of the agenda for consumers, brands and converters alike, what does this mean for the future of solvent-based solutions such as ACTEGA’s ACTEcoat® coatings?

Having, until now, typically been considered lower down the list of eco-friendly solutions than some of its counterparts, solvent-based products still account for up to 85 percent of the flexible packaging market. While this may seem incongruous, Dr. Bernd Elsler, Global Market Manager Aluminum Film, ACTEGA, explains that for companies like ACTEGA, who base their entire ethos and corporate identity around a sustainable approach to packaging, it’s still entirely possible — and even important — for solvent-based solutions to sit alongside these operations in perfect harmony.

“When you look at flexible packaging, the biggest proportion of this market has historically been based on solvent-based solutions. So, whilst new products are coming into the market that could change the landscape in the long term, it makes sense that right now, the infrastructure is set up for solvent-based products. As a business, we take a holistic approach in our commitment to sustainability, which means that as well as planning for possible future visions of the packaging landscape, we also want to ensure we are engaging with this sector of the market as it stands today, optimizing these products and processes to the greatest extent possible and ensuring that they sit within an environmentally robust portfolio of end-to-end solutions.”

In terms of the specific production processes, solvent-based products — and ACTEGA’s ACTEcoat® range, in particular — do have some lesser-known advantages — aside from the obvious benefits in providing stand-out print finishes. As well as being more cost-effective than UV alternatives, minimizing the risk of migration and eliminating the need for UV curing, any waste that evaporates whilst working with solvent-based inks and coatings can be captured and reused for additional batches, or can be burned instead of fossil fuel and utilized for heating up the production facility, therefore being fully reinvested back into production. Looking at the ACTEcoat® range specifically, the coatings are also designed for surface printing, therefore providing the opportunity for converters to switch from multi-layer to mono-layer materials, reducing overall plastic use and boosting recyclability.

“From an ecological perspective, it’s also important to consider the full lifecycle of any new product — from producing and applying the coatings to consumers opening and hopefully recycling the packaging, as well as the deinking process that could follow in the future,” continues Dr. Elsler. “If you truly build sustainability into your foundations as a business, there are countless ways to prioritize this throughout the production process and make a valuable impact, regardless of which type of product you’re working with.”

From a practical perspective, ACTEGA’s special effect coatings can be delivered to customers as concentrate, with a higher solids content, to be diluted on site — optimizing transport and offering both additional cost savings and a reduction in CO2 emissions. The flexible nature of the ACTEcoat range also provides converters with the ability to tailor the effects to brand owners’ specific needs — for example mixing matt and gloss coatings to achieve a particular look and feel or varying the degree of each effect — effectively providing converters with the building blocks to create endless custom finishes for their customers. “Our customers were convinced of our effect coatings due to their flexibility and adaptability. The coatings can be used individually, meaning our customers can achieve the exact effect grade they want for their products”, explains Holger Schmitz, ACTEGA Technical & Area Sales Manager.

“With the market as it stands, it’s impossible to know exactly which direction the market will steer in, or which solutions customers will call upon in the future,” concludes Dr. Elsler. “This is why, as a company that’s committed to building a sustainable future for the entire packaging landscape, it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re reaching every sector of the market, ensuring that however the market develops, converters are equipped with the best solutions across the board. With these new coatings, we are addressing one of the key challenges for brand owners today, providing them with the means to make their products truly stand out amongst a competitive market –but, critically, we are also empowering converters with the means to respond flexibly to changes in the market, whatever they might be.”

ACTEGA is a division of the internationally operating specialty chemicals group ALTANA. With production facilities in Europe, North and South America and China, ACTEGA develops, produces and distributes specialty coatings, inks, adhesives and sealing compounds with a focus on the packaging industry. Following the motto "Packed with Expertise", ACTEGA does not only offer technically sophisticated product solutions, but also meets the high safety standards of the food, beverages, pharmaceutical and toy industries. Whether for flexible and metal packaging, folding cartons or labels, products by ACTEGA provide packaging with a high-quality appearance and innovative functionalities.