Gecko inks for food packs to be launched

On the sidelines of the International Conference hosted by All India Printing Ink Manufacturers Association on 28 February, 2015, Ashwani Bharadwaj, managing director at Micro Inks, had a conversation with Ramu Ramanathan, in which he discussed trends and issues in printing ink as well as what's new at Micro Inks

10 Mar 2015 | By Ramu Ramanathan

Ramu Ramanathan (RR): The year 2015 has begun with a fairly bullish sentiment, due to PlastIndia and PrintPack India.
Ashwani Bhardwaj (AB): Though I did not visit PlastIndia and PrintPack, the feedback that I received was that these events were very successful. I think this reflects the optimism and hope for growth. We are also very optimistic about the future.
RR: In that sense, what is the vision and forward going plan with Micro Huber?
AB: Competitive landscape for the printing ink industry in India has changed. Now we have more players, they are better organised. We welcome competition. Healthy competition brings out the best in you. That’s how we see the competitive scenario in India. But, irrespective of the competition we have, within the Huber Group, been aligning our sources and jointly developing common product platform. We did this in 2007-08, when we launched our Inkredible inks for offset.
RR: The competition is growing, hence what should we expect from you?
AB: Today, a common technology at a global level makes it so much easier for us to export products to different parts of the world.
RR: Packaging is the focus ...
AB: With the web market and newspaper market shrinking globally, going forward, we will be focussing more on the packaging side of the business, both for folding cartons and flexible packaging. Of course, web market will continue to be important for us since we have significant presence in this segment in India and many other countries.
RR: What's the India plan?
AB: We are now ready to launch in India a new range of flexo/gravure inks for food packaging under the Gecko brand. Our technical teams from Europe and India have been working on this project for more than a year. We are introducing the Gecko brand in India sometime in March, 2015. Gecko inks are already well established in Europe and with this new launch from India, Gecko will be made available globally.
RR: In packaging the focus will be in which segment: food grade ink and pharma?
AB: Priority is for packaging for food, pharma, toys etc. where consumer safety and regulatory compliance is important. Gecko inks comply with Swiss Ordinance and the EuPIA guidelines. These two are among the most stringent global regulations. Producing such products requires lots of internal preparation.
RR: When you say the Gecko complies with all these regulation, what exactly do you mean?
AB: The technical team works on which raw materials can be used and which cannot. Migration property is the key consideration in raw material selection, apart from the chemical composition. We work closely with suppliers to ensure compliance. Needless to say that Gecko is a toluene free, ketone free system.  
RR: Does this mean good manufacturing practise?
AB: There is work involved in terms of formulation know-how, raw material selection and implementing good manufacturing practices (GMP). GMP follows well-defined guidelines. Within the Group, we have a team that works exclusively on GMP implementation and training.
RR: Can you explain this?
AB: I am just giving a flavour that GMP is a system, which needs to be implemented. It involves well-defined set of rules to be followed in the production and material handling/storage areas. Issues like batch traceability are very important and need very reliable IT support to implement it properly. And all this requires very extensive training programs for the staff and workers.
All this is happening in the background to support the Gecko product basket.
RR: What’s the idea behind all this?
AB: See, when it comes to packaging, we want to be at the forefront, in terms of product safety.
RR: A large community of printers, print buyers and end-users are hungry for knowledge. Is there a better way where we can facilitate this, perhaps with a knowledge sharing platform? Do you think that is possible?
AB: The time is now ripe for all players in the product value chain to come together not only to share knowledge but to cooperate and support each player in order to create packaging solutions that take care of consumer safety and regulatory requirements. Someone has to take a lead to create such platforms.
RR: There’s been enormous work that has been done at Micro, with backward integration. However, one observes a lull post-Huber phase. There isn’t much news coming out of the Micro plant these days. Is there some new recipes, formulations, etc happening in the plant?
AB: Lot of things happened post our merger with Huber. We first introduced Inkredible technology in the offset segment. We have created new generation UV products under NewV brand. We are about to launch Gecko. This year we intend to introduce in India MGA – the low migration inks for folding carton application.
RR: You mentioned web market taking a dip. But there are segments like tin, metal, textile, ceramic which are talking big. This is not a Micro Inks related questions, but do you see something on the radar, which is exciting for the graphic arts?
AB: I think going forward excitement will be centred more around packaging, particularly safe packaging. Environmental concerns, consumer safety and regulation are likely to be the dominant themes in future.
We know it, whether it is today or tomorrow, regulations will have to be met even if there is no government imposition. There is an inherent need. Because the print buyers are global, the converters are going global (through M&As) and the ink manufacturers are also global. If you are not in a position to offer what the players in the value-chain know from their common experience worldwide, you will be left behind. This is our trigger.
It is in this context that we are moving forward.
RR: Your reaction about Budget 2015?
AB: This is a budget aimed at delivering growth in the medium to long term. There is nothing much to  be excited about immediately. Overall the sentiment is very positive.



Huber Group’s 250-year-old legacy, a to-be-launched range of inks for the food packaging segment called Gecko, and a new UV ink range, NewV, are the reasons for celebration at the Micro Inks stand. 
The NewV range of inks has been manufactured for process across offset, screen, and labels printing. Additionally, there are the NewV coatings and special effect varnishes. The Gecko ink, on the other hand, which are likely to be launched in March, are solvent-based flexible packaging inks. The ink, according to the company, is in adherence with the safety norms and regulations of the food industry.