Food packaging has drawn increasing attention in recent years, as concerns over migration of materials into food have caused concern from consumers, brand owners and governments.
Packaging ink manufacturers are concentrating on utilizing safe ingredients that will protect consumers. For Mirage Inks Ltd., a Bath, UK-based flexo and gravure specialist, providing high quality inks and technical service for packaging is always the highest priority since its beginnings in 1983.
“Within a few months of our incorporation, we moved more towards the flexographic market, as we could already recognize innovation and development feeding through to challenge gravure print quality,” said Steve Fisher, Mirage Ink’s managing director. “Narrow web flexo, and more recently, digital
printing development has enabled our customer base to improve quality, reduce lead times and enable them to compete with the best.”
Mirage Ink focuses much of its efforts in flexible/food packaging, and the company is enjoying success in products for security applications. As a result of its focus on R&D, the company produces a full range of packaging inks, including free radical and cationic UV inks, which is fairly unique.
It has also been honored for its innovations. Mirage Inks has been granted ISEGA certification for several of its Quartz cationic UV ink systems for use in indirect food contact applications. A six-time recipient of the S.M.E. Merit Award for Research and Technology from the DTI, Mirage Inks has also been awarded the BRC/IoP Global Standard certificate for Food Packaging & Other Packaging Materials (Low Hygeine Risk).
“There are very few ink manufacturers that produce solvent, water, free radical UV and cationic UV products, which differentiates Mirage from most of our competitors,” Mr. Fisher said. “We have always placed a great deal of emphasis on R&D, and commenced developing cationic UV technology more than 20 years ago. We now sell our products all over the world, with exports contributing to almost 45% of total sales. Our commitment to R&D allows a typical SME like Mirage the opportunity to offer our customers bespoke solutions.”
As a result of consumer concerns over migration of inks from packaging into foods, European governments have legislated changes in how food packaging is produced. Most notably, the Swiss Ordinance determined what could be used in packaging food, and Germany will put forth its own rules in the next two years.
“Legislation and regulation are the main influencing factors or ‘drivers’ insofar as Mirage and our customer base in food packaging is concerned,” Mr. Fisher noted. “The Swiss Ordinance on materials and articles permitted for use in food packaging came into force in 2010 and Germany will be publishing their version in 2014. Printers of food packaging wish to know that the product they are purchasing from their ink manufacturer offers them the best opportunity to satisfy current and pending legislation.”
Mr. Fisher said that Mirage Inks goes beyond what the ordinances call for, as it is likely that legislation will become tighter.
“We have been considering UV ‘breakdown products’ (chemicals that can be created by the UV curing process that were not present in the original product) for many years, and our understanding is that breakdown products will be considered as part of the German Ordinance,” he said.
“Breakdown products did not feature within the Swiss Ordinance so one may appreciate the tightening of legislation in a relatively short time scale.”
Mr. Fisher anticipates that Mirage Inks is well prepared for the future, as the company’s dedication to R&D and the highest standards of inks for food packaging will continue to provide opportunities for growth worldwide.
“We have a good spread of customers all over the world and had a very successful drupa exhibition in May of this year,” Mr. Fisher said. “Many sample products have been shipped to companies located in countries where we do not currently do business, and our expectation is to derive a high level of success from the interest shown in our product range. We have also been encouraged by the new business opportunities gained through our web site.
“It is not always easy to predict the future in this industry, but with continued emphasis on R&D in areas such as the digital and security markets, we hope to remain a significant player in ink manufacturing,” Mr. Fisher concluded.