Plastic from Corn Receives Japanese Food Contact Approval

Annually Renewable Plastic Desired by Japanese Consumers

Market research shows that Japanese consumers want more environmentally sound food packaging solutions. With the recent food contact approval for a plastic made from corn, Japanese shoppers will soon be able to purchase their favorite salads, fish, meats, bakery goods and produce in 100 percent nature-based, “see-through” containers.

Called NatureWorks™ PLA, in June 2004, the material received positive listing as a new base polymer on the Self-Restrictive Requirements on Food-Contacting Articles from the Japanese Hygienic Olefin and Styrene Plastics Association (JHOSPA). This listing signals a significant commercial milestone, as it allows NatureWorks PLA to be used in a wide range of food applications for everything from fresh fruit to sushi. Based on prevailing Japanese consumer attitudes, the timing is ideal to introduce branded food packaging that can help lessen dependence on limited fossil fuel resources.

According to recent market research by Grapentine Company, 56 percent of Japanese consumers ranked the concept of purchasing fresh food in nature-based see-through packaging as “very desirable.” Of those, more than 57 percent are willing to pay at least 5 yen more for products packaged in containers made from NatureWorks PLA.

“A majority of Japanese consumers want to be environmentally responsible and many are even willing to pay more for products to make it happen,” said Masayoshi Oku, general manager for Cargill Dow’s Japanese operations. “With NatureWorks PLA, retailers can simply switch out petroleum-based food packaging with corn-based packaging. And, shoppers get all of the benefits they expect from see-through plastic – such as freshness, safety and convenience – without the environmental compromise.”

In order to tap into the strong consumer interest and promising market potential of the nature-based plastic, Cargill Dow’s Japan operations and Tokyo-based Mitsui Chemicals have worked together to achieve food contact approval.

Based on the appeal of Cargill Dow’s innovative technology and partners like Mitsui Chemicals, Mitsubishi Plastics and Unitika, it is anticipated that fresh food packaging made from NatureWorks PLA will be on the shelf in Japan by this fall.

“Where NatureWorks has been introduced in North America and Europe, retailers have seen significant positive shopper feedback and increased sales,” said Snehal Desai, global commercial director, Cargill Dow. “Given the importance of fresh food and nature-based materials to Japanese consumers, we expect NatureWorks PLA to be embraced in Japan. We believe it will be just as popular, if not more popular, than it is anywhere else in the world.”

About NatureWorks PLA

Made from corn, NatureWorks PLA is the first commercially viable biopolymer derived from an annually renewable resource that performs equal to or better than traditional resins. Packaging made from NatureWorks PLA is 100 percent nature-based and can degrade in industrial compost facilities.

The technology to produce NatureWorks PLA essentially “harvests” the carbon, which plants remove from the air during photosynthesis and store in grain starches. This is achieved by breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars. The carbon and other elements in these natural sugars are then used to make plastic, called polylactide (PLA), through a simple process of fermentation, separation and polymerization.

Founded in 1997, Cargill Dow LLC is based in Minnetonka, Minnesota, USA. It is the first company to offer its customers a family of polymers derived entirely from annually renewable resources with the cost and performance necessary to compete with packaging materials and traditional fibres. The company has achieved this breakthrough by applying its unique technology to the processing of natural plant sugars to create a proprietary polylactide polymer. For more information about NatureWorks PLA, please visit the Web site

NatureWorks and the EcoPLA design are trademarks of Cargill Dow LLC.

Cargill Dow LLC
Michael O’Brien, 952-984-3306


Business Wire vom 2004-07-13.