Outside the box

| February 1, 2018

Next-generation products have prompted suppliers of tobacco adhesives to look at their business with a fresh perspective.

By George Gay

If you want to upset an industry journalist—and I can think of many reasons why you might want to do so—the best approach is not to refuse to take part in an interview but to give an interview in which you say there are lots of exciting things going on within your sector, but that you are not at liberty to disclose what they are.

Welcome to the adhesives sector of the tobacco industry in 2018.

Asked whether SPI Developments, which designs and builds adhesives- and flavor-application systems, was becoming involved in the supply of systems for next-generation products (NGPs), business development manager Danielle Roxborough hesitated for a moment before saying she had to tread carefully here. It was all very exciting, but she couldn’t say too much.

What she was able to tell me was that SPI had been approached by several companies in respect of secretive projects that SPI had assumed were for new-product developments, particularly nontraditional tobacco products. In fact, the last year had been characterized by a large number of unusual inquiries about adhesive application, some of which involved new techniques and some of which harked back to earlier projects. “What I can tell you is that we have existing technology that we can adapt to fulfil these needs,” said Roxborough.

SPI, she added, kept records and could refer back even to projects that were thought to have led nowhere. “You think it is a dead project, but a few years later somebody else wants it and it resurfaces,” she added. “Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much more than that.”

Serious buzz

Nevertheless, it is clear that NGPs are creating a serious buzz in the adhesives industry. And that can only be a good thing. For a long time there were few radical changes in cigarette production, at least as far as adhesive-sector suppliers were concerned, with the exception perhaps of the requirements created by the rise of multisegment filters. Of course, important innovations have been made on a continuing basis because of required changes to adhesive ingredients and changes to product substrates, and in respect of increasing speeds of application and efficiencies, but these have tended to be incremental.

Now, some of the NGPs that have come and are coming to the market demand that all those companies that supply manufacturing requirements and equipment—not just those working within the adhesive sphere—make innovative leaps. They are having to provide or deal with new materials, old materials presented in different ways and new ways of putting everything together.

Roxborough said that some of the inquiries SPI was getting required a new set of rules—they constituted a new world. “It is quite exciting for us because it is giving us new challenges and demanding new ways of thinking about things,” she said. “All of a sudden it is a whole new ballgame. We are having to think outside the box more.”

H.B. Fuller, too, is excited about NGPs: the opportunities they have created already and their potential to generate further business in the future. Andrzej Dabrowski, the company’s business manager for tobacco, said, for instance, that while some adhesive applications for heat-not-burn (HnB) products, such as those concerned with the side seam, tipping and packaging, were similar to those used with conventional cigarettes, those to do with HnB filters were different because the filters were different—a lot more complex. And for these filters H.B. Fuller had, working closely with machine suppliers, developed two water-based products, Ipacoll 2790 and Ipacoll 2626. These products had provided very clean running, operating at the highest speeds of HnB machines, but H.B. Fuller was continuing to work with the machinery suppliers because it wanted these adhesives to run faster in the event that manufacturers demanded higher speeds and the machinery suppliers were able to deliver those speeds.

All of the adhesive suppliers I spoke with were convinced of and excited by the possibilities presented by NGPs. Lara Kaslowski, sales executive at Turkey-based Organik Kimya, said her company had a dedicated R&D team for each of the markets it served and put enormous effort into innovation. In fact, Organik had recently received a “best innovation strategy” award in Turkey. “Innovation is at the core of our strategy,” she said. “We aim to partner up with our machine suppliers and our customers to develop new products for NGPs that will make a difference in the market.”

Sisyphean task

There is something slightly perverse—though admittedly inevitable—in adhesive manufacturers becoming excited about developing special products for NGPs because they have developed and are developing multifunction products for traditional cigarettes with the ultimate aim of reducing stock holdings for both them and their customers. Marc Gonzalez, technical director of Spain-based PJM Pujadas, mentioned particularly that one of his company’s main objectives was to develop multipurpose adhesives that could simplify the logistics and production processes of its customers by reducing the number of adhesive products they had to deal with. For example, PJM Pujadas had introduced recently filter seaming adhesives that could be used with low- and high-porosity papers, as well as packaging adhesives for difficult-to-bond packs that provided for good performance on a wide spectrum of machines equipped with rollers and/or nozzles.

But even in the traditional product field, reducing the number of adhesives is something of a Sisyphean task. New materials with specific surface properties used on tobacco products and packaging, such as coated rod and tipping paper or transfer-metalized hinge-lid blanks, made it nearly impossible to have “universal” grades, said Jean Pierre De Smet, business manager for tobacco adhesives at Henkel.

And another factor that tends to make the tobacco adhesives business more complex rather than simpler comprises regulatory requirements, which De Smet said were becoming increasingly more demanding, especially with regard to additives. “This requires constant reformulation for many existing products,” he said. “As legislation varies from region to region and country to country, the experts at Erlinsbach [Henkel’s production facility in the Swiss district of Aarau] have to work in close cooperation with its worldwide customers and original equipment manufacturers … to create tailor-made solutions.”

The question of regulations was another subject broached by all of those I spoke with. H.B. Fuller’s marketing manager for converting solutions, Judith Liddle, made the point that her company went beyond making sure that all of its ingredients met regulatory requirements. The company looked at what it should do in respect of any ingredient listed as being of very high concern by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) because the chances were that, in the future, such ingredients would become the subject of stricter regulation. “For instance, boric acid is a raw material that has been used for a long time in water-based products and it is a great additive to get a good balance of performance, but that is now listed as a material of high concern by the ECHA. So in new product development we are not using it anymore,” she said. “We try to second-guess where the regulations are going and get ourselves ahead of them because it is better for our own operations as well as our customers’.”

Gonzalez, too, made the point that the evolution of ingredient regulations was leading generally toward stricter rules and that adhesive producers had to be prepared to fulfil them and adapt their formulations and raw materials in accordance with the upcoming restrictions. The new EU Tobacco Products Directive, for instance, was in accord with REACH legislation—the EU’s Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals regulation—that regulated harmful chemical substances in the EU.

PJM Pujadas, he said, was committed to supplying the safest adhesive products of the best quality that provided for the highest production standards. But beyond the regulatory environment, he said, the final consumer was becoming increasingly interested in the use by manufacturers of sustainable or eco-friendly products. PJM Pujadas maximized the introduction of such sustainable raw materials—alternatives that offered to protect both human health and the environment.

Sustainable operations

Marc Gonzalez

On the question of environmental protection, Kaslowski said that Organik, which “eagerly” took the necessary steps to ensure a sustainable world for future generations, had recently received the “Low Carbon Hero” award in Turkey. Organik, she said, was one of Europe’s largest processors of polymer, the raw material for water-based adhesives, which meant that the company was able also to offer price stability and materials security.

De Smet said that Henkel was dedicated to the principles of sustainability and environmental protection. All Henkel products combined strong customer benefits with ecological compatibility, and the company maintained the highest standards for comprehensive product safety and health protection. According to Patrick Herzog, plant manager at Henkel’s Erlinsbach facility, the consumption of energy has been reduced by 25 percent since 2010. During the same period, water savings amounted to 48 percent, CO2 emissions dropped by 35 percent, and the volume of waste decreased by 68.5 percent. “We are constantly adjusting the levers that optimize sustainability,” said Herzog.

One thing that is perhaps surprising is the high level of confidence about the future of tobacco industry business among adhesive suppliers. Gonzalez described the tobacco market as quite stable—in some areas it was declining, and in some it was increasing. But PJM Pujadas was growing, he said, because customers were looking for increased competition among adhesive suppliers, and PJM Pujadas could offer competitive products that provided for “very high performance.” Customers wanted to have such alternatives, and PJM Pujadas had seen the evidence last year with a growth in sales as it developed its presence from the Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Russia to new emerging markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa and China.

Meanwhile, Stuart Jenkinson, business director for converting at H.B. Fuller, seemed particularly upbeat about the future. The Middle East, Africa and Asia were still markets that were growing, he said, and H.B. Fuller did a lot of business within those areas. The company had factories in India, Egypt and Africa, and overall it saw the Middle East, Africa and Asia as places where it could grow its share and also register organic growth. H.B. Fuller continued to invest in those areas, where it had dedicated people and where, as a consequence, it continued to gain new business and grow with its customers.

Roxborough, too, said that SPI was seeing an upturn in business that was coming from all angles. Some of the old systems that had been shelved were being taken back off the shelf and looked at with fresh eyes in respect of how they could meet new requirements. And this was the case in respect of both SPI’s adhesives and flavors businesses. “It’s typical tobacco industry,” she said. “You think you know everything, and then something comes along and changes your perspectives. You try as much as you like to predict what is going to happen in this industry, but you never can.”




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