Issue Winter 12
Keeping food fresh was one of man’s earliest problems, and it continues to be a concern to this day. Even in an age of airtight plastic containers and refrigerated transportation, food manufacturers still struggle against the age-old enemies of freshness – moisture and oxygen being chief among them. Fortunately, modern science continues to facilitate solutions for today’s food manufacturers that their early predecessors could never have imagined.
Providing those solutions is what Multisorb Technologies does best. As the World Leader in Active Packaging Technology™, the company provides customized sorbent solutions that work to actively regulate the packaging environment. The main objective of active packaging is to enhance the product’s shelf life while protecting its quality. In some cases, oxygen removal may be the goal; in others, maintaining a specific moisture level may be required. The solution Multisorb provides is dependent on many variables, including characteristics of the food and the packaging materials.
“We’re selling solutions and innovation,” Bob Sabdo, business development leader for the United States says. “We take a consultative approach, working with our customer from concept to sorbent dispensing and beyond. We have a continuous reliability program where we come back regularly to make sure everything is running smoothly.”
The U.S.-based company was founded by John Cullen in 1961 to protect products within the electronics industry against the damaging effects of moisture. Today, the company has expanded both geographically and in terms of the markets it serves. The company has four facilities: two in New York and one each in Alabama and Telford, England. In addition to food and electronics markets, it also serves the healthcare and transportation industries.
Broad but Focused
With 50 years of experience in developing sorbent solution technologies, Multisorb has attained a leadership position in the United States and Europe.
“Multisorb’s solid reputation has been one of our greatest strengths globally,” says Stefano Santagostino, business development leader for Europe. “We have become known as a reliable company that can deliver high-quality solutions all over the world.”
Sabdo agrees, adding that customization has helped to build its reputation. “We have an excellent reputation for delivering quality,” says Sabdo. “It is our ability to tailor solutions to our customer’s needs that has made us a leader.
“By utilizing our Calculations through Operations™ corporate philosophy, we get involved early on,” Sabdo says. “We provide the technical support to select the correct sorbent, provide manufacturing dispenser support and aftermarket support – essentially it is a total systems approach for our customers.” This increases the company’s speed to market, which is highly valued by the food and beverage market.
Multisorb’s solutions for the food and beverage market consist of a wide variety of customized drop-in, fit-in and built-in solutions for moisture and oxygen control.
According to the company, drop-in solutions include oxygen- or moisture-absorbing packets that are dropped into the packaging. Fit-in solutions are attached to the product packaging, such as a self-adhesive oxygen absorber that can be attached to a deli meat package.
Another option is a built-in sorbent solution. In this case the sorbent is integrated into the packaging material; for example, an oxygen absorber built into a plastic bottle.
Multisorb has ongoing development projects to provide built-in solutions in semi-rigid and flexible structures.
Built on Innovation
Developing those customized solutions would not be possible unless Multisorb Technologies had a capability for innovation. Examples of innovative solutions for the food industry that the company has devised in conjunction with its customers include:
FreshMax® – the first oxygen-absorbing labels and patches to replace loose packets inside food packages;
FreshCard® – a multifunctional card stock with oxygen absorbing capabilities; and
FreshBlend® – an award-winning polymer blend with oxygen absorbing capabilities that can be used in molded, sheeted, thermoformed or film packaging applications.
Multisorb was also the first sorbent manufacturer to provide both the sorbent packet as well as the sorbent-dispensing equipment from one company, thus eliminating the suppliers placing blame on each other.
“Many of these innovations were initiated by the company after listening to the marketplace’s short and long term desires,” Sabdo says.
Keeping ahead of global industry trends can be one of the most challenging aspects of Multisorb’s work, Sabdo says. “It is possible to get consumed with day-to-day operations, so we must make a point not to lose sight of the big picture.”
Part of the big picture is paying attention to global trends in the food industry, such as the movement toward more natural foods. As consumers become smarter about food, they are rejecting preservatives and other artificial ingredients. However, foods still require solutions to extend their shelf life, and that’s where Multisorb can find greater opportunities. “We have to respond to these trends,” Sabdo says.
In Europe, one of those trends has been the increasing amount of regulation in the food markets. One example of this is the increase in sustainability requirements. “Active packaging can go a long way to help customers reduce waste and control their costs,” Santagostino says. He explains that Multisorb works with customers to optimize their packaging with the sorbent solution. This allows for reduced packaging in food products, an optimized package size, and results in a smaller carbon footprint. In addition, by extending the shelf life, their customers will see less food waste.
“We are really helping our partners to become sustainable,” he says. “All of these aspects together can create a sustainable attitude.”
One way that Multisorb stays current on trends and global changes in technology is by working closely with third-party organizations that have strong industry ties. This gives the company greater speed when reacting to changes in the marketplace.
The company’s expansion into Europe was a natural extension of its proactive and innovative philosophy, Santagos¬tino says.
Santagostino was hired in 2009 to help expand the company’s development of solutions for customers in Europe and South Africa.
“Europe has long been aware of active packaging, but was not fully aware of the latest technologies and solutions that were available. My main goal in the first year was to inform the market about its potential,” Santag¬ostino says.
“Active packaging can help our customers maintain quality, increasing their shelf life, and thus help them in their geo-expansion programs,” San¬tagostino says.
Of course, one of the main obstacles to working globally is the language barrier. “Our strategy is to serve the global market, and this is why we have developed internal multilingual capabilities to support our global markets,” according to Santagostino.
Strength with Flexibility
The company’s flexibility is another significant advantage in the global arena. Santagostino says having a facility in the U.K., for example, provides the capability to respond quickly to customers’ demands.
“Often people think an off-the-shelf product will work, but when we look at the whole system – the product, the packaging – we discover that is not the case,” he says. “So we work with them and provide an optimal solution.”
As a business model, Santagostino says, it works as a consultant with customers. “This is the extra-service package that we use with our partners.”
Santagostino says Multisorb projects significant global growth through 2015 because active packaging has so much room to expand. “With all the new food regulations coming out in the EU, creating a need for sustainability and clean label, the demand for active packaging is increasing rapidly.”
Sabdo agrees and adds the company will experience continued success in the United States and will place greater emphasis on global expansion. No matter where the company moves next, Sabdo says its focus on providing customers with complete answers to their needs will continue to be the backbone of its success. “We’re selling solutions.”