Our experience with EU projects: industrial application of whey protein based coating

plastLajovic Tuba embalaža, d.o.o. (Tuba) is Slovenian company with more than 85-year tradition in producing aluminium, plastic and laminate tubes.

The Company’s main goal is to provide complete services in the field of packaging to our customers which come mainly from pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food and chemical industry. To keep and grow our competitiveness, being able to offer new solutions, supplementary/additional services and new types of products to our customers, more and more means are invested in research and development.

Therefore Tuba participated as one of SME partners in the Wheylayer research project that was funded in the FP7 programme, under the scheme “Benefit of SME associations” which ended in 2011. The goal of Wheylayer was to obtain a coating for plastic films based on whey protein, a by-product from the dairy industry, to replace current synthetic barrier layers used in food packaging. The whey-coating application was performed at semi-industrial scale showing excellent barrier to oxygen but also interesting humidity barrier, outperforming existing biopolymers.

During this project some of the consortium members including Tuba applied for a patent regarding the developed coating process and also registered Wheylayer® Trademark. Tuba invested a lot of funds in this research project to acquire the prototype coating machine built and tested with IRIS.

Indeed, the project results perfectly fits in Tuba’s green policy of development and if the Wheylayer coating is combined with a biodegradable substrate, the use of this new material could not only lower the use of resources but also lead to fully compostable solutions, thus adding huge value for our customers and consumers. In addition to that we do believe that Wheylayer can add value also to the packaging used especially in the cosmetic business whereby Tuba has a strong presence.

Since the results of the Wheylayer project appeared very promising and strategic for Tuba, we decided to accept the role of coordinator for the follow up project targeted at getting to the commercialisation of the Wheylayer coating. The Wheylayer 2 project, which is dedicated to industrialization of coating process with whey formulation and to production of films, tubes, blisters and trays using Wheylayer® coated material, stated on August 1st, 2012 with a funding from the FP7 Demonstration Activity scheme. Industrial partners are Ilirija d.d., Manufacturas Serviplast s.a. and Nutra Research s.l., Dunreidy and Meierei Langenhorn. The further development needed in this project will be supported by, IRIS, Fraunhofer IVV and University of Pisa. The Slovenian plastic cluster GIZ Grozd Plasttehnika will also support us.

We believe that results of both Wheylayer projects will help us in finding and implementing new ideas in the demanding packaging market. We intend to put first Wheylayer® derived tubes on the market in the following two years. Overall, for us, European project are a great opportunity to help us investing into research and we are determined to gain the maximum out of it.

Urška Sušnik Pivk
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Lajovic Tuba embalaža, d.o.o., Verovškova cesta 66, 1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia