NatureWorks and IMA reached on testing phase of the compostable coffee pod

NatureWorks and IMA reached on testing phase of the compostable coffee pod

February 25 - 2022

Coffee Geography Magazine

NatureWorks and IMA Coffee started the joint partnership development on the first significant trial phase on K-Cup compatible compostable coffee pods back in April 27th 2021. Compatibility testing on capsules, filter, and top lid films are now being performed at IMA Coffee Lab with the precise aim to identify and achieve optimum material sealing parameters and limits as well as a suitable set up of IMA packaging machineries to handle the pods successfully. Tests are carried out under the supervision of IMA Coffee R&D team and in close and constant co-operation with NatureWorks specialists: dedicated tools are used to simulate filter and top lid films sealing phases and adjust parameters according to testing results. The sophisticated microleakage detection testing performed at IMA Coffee Lab has given more than encouraging and optimistic results allowing a significant step forward in the process that will proceed thoroughly towards the following coffee extraction testing phase.

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IMA Industria Macchine Automatiche S.p.A. is a multinational Italian company based in the Bologna, Italy. Established in 1961, IMA Group is a leader in the design and manufacture of automatic machines for the processing and packaging of pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, food, tobacco, tea and coffee. It has local production plants in Bologna and Florence in Italy along with other manufacturing sites in Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, United Kingdom, U.S.A., India, Malaysia and China. More than 5,000 are employed in the company, 2,600 of those work abroad. Its annual turnover in 2016 was €1.310,55 million. Its employees number more than 5,000 (with about 2,600 outside of Italy) in 41 manufacturing sites in Italy, Germany, France, Switzerland, Spain, the UK, the US, India, Malaysia, China and Argentina. Its sales network covers more than 80 countries. NatureWorks LLC is an international company that manufactures bioplastics, Polymers derived entirely from plant resources as an alternative to conventional plastic, which is made from petroleum. The commercial quality polymer is made from the carbon found in simple plant sugars such as corn starch to create a proprietary polylactic acid polymer (PLA) which is marketed under the brand name Ingeo. Headquartered in Minnetonka, Minnesota, NatureWorks is jointly owned by Cargill and PTT Global Chemical, a Thai state-owned company.

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At NatureWorks, development of new single-stage thermoforming processes and capsule designs continues to produce precise capsules that meet IMA’s specifications for filling and sealing on their packaging machines. NatureWorks has also constructed a custom Data Acquisition System for K-Cup compatible pods that is being used to understand and benchmark how differing capsule designs perform under various brewing conditions. “With the promising results we’ve seen so far, we have already begun the next phase of development by partnering with converters in North America to bring these new compostable pod designs to commercial scale making them available to brands and roasters seeking to meet consumer demands for more sustainable packaging and to circular economy directives that specify compostable packaging as a key enabler of recovering food waste for compost,” said Flavio Di Marcotullio, Global Industry Manager, Single Serve Beverages, for NatureWorks. Coffee capsules are complex structures where the capsule body, lidding, and filter must be precisely designed to deliver a consistently high-quality brewing experience. Before the capsules reach consumers, it’s critical that these components perform well during assembly and filling as well as on the shelf and during brewing. By bringing together NatureWorks’ materials and applications knowledge with IMA’s machinery expertise, the partnership aims to deliver a turn-key compostable coffee pod solution to the entire coffee industry making it simple to have a great cup of coffee and dispose of the used pod in the most sustainable way possible. “With this in mind, to give greater impetus to the topic and direct the production chain towards increasing environmental sustainability, in 2019 IMA launched IMA NoP – No Plastic Program to promote eco-friendly plastic substitutes for the packages manufactured on IMA machines. Through the research and testing of alternative processes and materials, together with customers, material suppliers and partners, the company fosters plastic-free and sustainable, compostable packaging solutions. IMA has also established the Open Lab where Material Technologists study, develop, and test compostable and recyclable materials to be used on our packaging equipment,” says Nicola Panzani, IMA Coffee Sales Manager and IMA Coffee Petroncini CEO. NatureWorks and IMA will share more about the latest innovations in single-serve compostable coffee capsules as well as developments from the partnership at AMI’s Single-Serve Capsules Global Virtual Summit from March 29-31, 2022.