Pushing the frontiers of Flexible Packaging

Note made for Argentina Gráfica Cromática in September 2023 where the history of Celomat and the current challenges faced by the dynamics of the flexible packaging market are explored.

In our daily lives, flexible packaging has become indispensable companions, containing a variety of products ranging from food, cleaning products, personal care, industry and pharmaceuticals. Its versatility and efficiency have transformed the way we store and transport various products. In this context, it is essential to highlight the essential role they play in our society.

One of the prominent players in the flexible packaging industry is Celomat, an Argentine company that has consolidated its leadership position under the umbrella of the HZ Group. In this note, we will explore the history of Celomat and the current challenges it faces in the dynamic flexible packaging market.

The HZ Group began its operation in the cardboard packaging market and as part of a strong strategy of business diversification and vertical integration, today it has the only paper mill in the country that manufactures recycled coated cardboard, packaging production plants of cardboard, micro corrugated and flexible packaging in the region, also having international joint ventures for the manufacture of containers for liquids, multi-packaging and pharmaceutical packaging.

In an exclusive talk with Juan Carlos Sarti, currently Technical Manager of the Industrial Division of the HZ Group and Development Manager for more than 35 years at Celomat, he shares his vision on the evolution of Celomat over the years and the challenges of the Flexible Packaging Industry.

Juan Carlos we tell you, when did Grupo HZ start operating in the flexible packaging market and what was the arrival of Celomat to the Group like?

In 1983 Herman Zupan, our founder, acquired the company Flexibles Argentinos S.A., focused on the production of laminates, located in La Rioja. Although the purchase of Flexibles Argentinos did not imply more for the company than implementing the same printing techniques, it did mean diversifying activities in the packaging industry, then beginning to operate in the flexible packaging market. Thus, laminated sachets for juices and instant soups, containers for cold cuts, sweets, cookies, noodles, yogurt lids, yerba mate, ice cream and other foodstuffs were added to the product portfolio.

In the mid-90s, this business gained new momentum with the joint venture between Flexibles Argentinos and Celomat, a company that belonged to the Matarazzo family with a production plant located in Villa Martelli. During the beginning of the new millennium, this company continued to grow and in 2007 acquired a new plant in the Pilar industrial park.

In 2011, the HZ Group acquired the entire shareholding of Celomat, to subsequently centralize the entire flexible packaging conversion operation in the plant located in the industrial property of Pilar, province of Buenos Aires. The current Celomat property It has 50,000 m2, of which approximately 22,000 m2 are built. On this property, we carry out the entire production process in-house, covering the polyethylene co-extrusion process, gravure and flexography printing, lamination, cutting, as well as various packaging manufacturing lines such as wickets, doypacks and various bag formats.

What are the markets and products manufactured at Celomat?

Celomat is consolidated in supplying the main mass consumption brands. Having a portfolio of diversified products allows us to obtain sustained growth, specialization and leadership in markets such as trilaminates and complex structures, such as powdered juices, doypacks to contain aggressive liquids and bilaminate products for mass consumption food markets.

At the same time, over the years we have developed new markets such as preformed packaging such as standup pouch, large format bags and wickets.

What technological advances and/or product innovations would you highlight from Celomat in recent years?

At Celomat we stand out for being technical references in the flexible packaging market and in the development of highly complex structures and requirements, which require knowledge and technology. We accompany our mass consumption clients in these types of development, which mostly meet international standard requirements. Being on top of delivering value to needs is what we know how to do best and what motivates us in our daily lives.

What are the main challenges facing today’s flexible packaging market?

In a situation of import restrictions, the main challenge is the supply of raw materials and the continuity of production. Celomat has the assumed commitment to assured supply, as flexible packaging is an essential product for the supply of food and essential products.

In the medium and long term, it is to insert flexible packaging into the circular economy, educating the consumer about its recyclability, and accompanying brands in the development of alternatives for recyclable packaging or with a recycled component. Many times, these developments entail technological changes and incorporation of new raw materials, along with the support of our suppliers.

Sustainability and caring for tomorrow is one of the pillars we have as a Group. We are willing to invest time and resources in accompanying our clients in meeting their sustainability objectives with implementation target years 2025/30, replacement or redesign of packaging structure, aligned with international requirements and/or standards.

Mentioning the issue of the sustainability of flexible packaging, what is the main challenge in this field?

The main challenge lies in ensuring that flexible packaging rigorously retains its essential features such as protective barriers, high operational capacities and competitive costs, while evolving towards more sustainable materials, such as monomaterials and those with post-consumer recycled (PCR) content. In this sense, it is crucial to remember the fundamental role that flexible packaging plays in terms of sustainability, acting as a guardian in preserving food and reducing food waste. The path towards a more sustainable future not only benefits our industry, but also directly contributes to the decrease in pollution and the reduction in our carbon footprint.

Finally, speaking of market challenges, what were the essential factors for Celomat to maintain its leadership in the market more than 40 years ago?

Firstly, the solidity and support that being part of a Leading Group in the Packaging Industry gives us has played a vital role. Being part not only provides us with the necessary resources for technological updating and replacement, but also allows us to be active participants in international packaging organizations, which strengthen our global perspective and take us to the forefront.

Secondly, our focus on the continuous development of new products and the exploration of new markets has been a fundamental pillar. By materializing the innovation needs of our clients, we have established solid and lasting relationships, based on mutual trust. This dynamic has allowed us not only to meet the changing demands of the market, but also to anticipate them.

Last but not least, our most valuable resource, human capital. The combination of a highly dedicated and trained team along with updated management systems, international certifications and good manufacturing practices. Our commitment to continuous improvement drives our evolution and leads us to live up to the requirements.

Together, this combination of Group synergy, innovation with a customer focus and operational excellence supported by human capital, drives us to maintain leadership for more than 40 years in the flexible packaging market and more than 70 years in the Industry. of Packaging in the Region.