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Three-piece cans play a key role within the food can segment. Most of the larger can makers have an interest in running three-piece lines as this sector has the highest number of lines and the flexibility in terms of size and shapes for food cans today.

“Food is a fragmented market, with lots of different requirements and customers,” says Luc Viardot, global segment manager for Food, AkzoNobel, which holds a large global market segment for food coatings for three-piece and easy-open ends. “There are key global, regional and local players in this market. We have a strong position in the food business in many different regions, especially in Europe and Asia. With changing requirements in the industry we have had to change – not only with our technologies, but with our mindset too. “Moving from one type of technology to another also means that you have to take many parameters into account to make sure you meet your customer’s requirements to maintain or even increase the market share we have.”

Vitalure G2 10

Central to the strategy of maintaining the market share on the three-piece side is AkzoNobel’s Vitalure G2 10, a new generation of coating for the internal protection of three-piece food cans and ends. This new internal coating is said to ensure a strong technical performance, with a chemical composition to rival any epoxy and fulfilling all the regulatory requirements needed.

“Our objective was to develop a solution with a barrier performance better than epoxy technologies, while eliminating materials of concern, including of course BPA,” says Viardot. “We aimed to provide our customers with a stronger platform in terms of chemical resistance for many types of food via a solution which can be used in multiple regions across the globe. This technology already has a proven track record in terms of application and chemical resistance in different regions.

“Our customer requirements are very varied across the metal food can business and we strive to bring global solutions that can be adapted to meet regional and local needs. We developed this platform together with our customers; we value their input at each stage of the project.”

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‘Elephant in the room’

In terms of BPA, Viardot believes the challenges the company has faced in the past few years have only made it stronger as a result. With other issues dominating the headlines, including chrome-free and the UK’s stand-off with China over waste disposal, he believes the industry has finally started to focus on solutions rather than the issue.

“BPA was a huge challenge before 2015, and continuing until 2017, but it’s interesting how much we have learnt from it,” he says. “It has only made the industry stronger – it’s meant we have had to have everybody investigating new technologies, different technologies, with different equipment and competencies. We continue to believe that BPA is safe, but have removed it when asked to do so by our customers”

“If you look into other packaging businesses – for example plastic and glass, they are also having their own set of issues. So BPA is not unique to the metal can, it’s occurring in all types of flexible packaging.”

Mr Viardot, believes that the time for talking about the issue is over, particularly considering that the new range of epoxy-free coatings compare favourably in terms of performance.

“Vitallure G2 10 is a good example of this. When looking at performance, our technology performance feedback is impressive – you can make coatings, which have same the chemical performance as an epoxy and fulfil regulatory requirements. For us it’s about being a leader in this segment by offering the right, sustainable solution.

The future

Mr Viardot concludes with an observation on the ongoing requirements of the metal packaging industry:

“The industry needs to find a way of cleverly promoting the advantages of the metal can. Using sound chemistry and making the right choices now, we will ensure that the metal can, an infinitely recyclable and sustainable package, continues to be the package of choice in the future.”