Canadian Plastics

Earthy Palettes, shiny effects to dominate in 2008

By Umair Abdul, editorial assistant   

Colours are one of the strongest communicators the plastics industry has at its disposal. The right colour choice can set the tone or create a strong impression with consumer markets.

Colours are one of the strongest communicators the plastics industry has at its disposal. The right colour choice can set the tone or create a strong impression with consumer markets.

But colours can also be fickle, trending to reflect cultural mood changes and socio-political shifts. The colours and special effects that curried favour with consumers this year may not have the same impact moving forward.

What’s on the palette for 2008? Natural, organic shades are gaining market share, and the green family of colours is moving in. As for special effects, major colourant suppliers are opting for product lines that shimmer, glitter and create visual intrigue.



According to Linda Carroll, colour insight manager for Tarrytown, N.Y.-based Ampacet, neutral and natural colours have been strong for the last 12 months in North America. Earthy undertones such as neutral browns will continue to gain popularity, and the green family of colours has a strong future.

“Green is far and away the colour family moving forward,” she said. “This movement is influenced by the global interest in sustainability. In North America, the colours of the earth are coming through, reflecting the desire for a return to authencity.”

The company’s 2008 Global Color Palette includes Organic Green, a natural green colour with strong yellow and earthy brown undertones.

Clariant Masterbatches’ ColorForward 2008 has also identified the five colour families for the year. In addition to the green family, Clariant sees the red and brown, yellow, blue, and purple and pink families as the colours for 2008.


In the competitive world of consumer products, where companies are often fighting for shelf space, it is essential to have a package that catches the customer’s eye. Addressing this need, colourant suppliers are developing a range of effects that grabs the public’s attention from every direction.

BASF is introducing a new effect pigment portfolio that emphasizes shine and lustre. Lumina effect pigments provide very high chromaticity, resulting in rich shades and strong colour-flop effects. The company’s Firemist effect pigments, with their particle size and fine surface, allow processors to create brilliant, star-like glitter effects.

In addition, the company’s Firemist Colormotion product range combines the glitter effects with a changing play of colours that depends on the viewing angle.

Several companies are introducing colours and effects that provide this multidimensional look. For instance, Ampacet’s colour palette features Introspective, a dark colour with a midnight blue effect. The company said colours that travel when you look at them add another element of intrigue to the product.

“It’s another way of having the package entertain the consumer,” noted Ampacet’s Carroll.

Teknor Color Company also introduced the custom-formulated ColorMorph concentrates for beauty product packaging at the HBA Global Expo in September. Using new types of raw materials, the company noted that ColorMorph concentrates yield far more distinct colour shifts at different viewing angles than conventional “colour variable” concentrates.

ColorMorph can be used to achieve a number of special effects, such as literally changing from one distinct hue to another.

According to Teknor, it is possible to specially orient the colour in thin PET sheet so that a product is both opaque and transparent, depending on the viewing angle.


Ampacet also made note of a continuing trend towards plastic products that don’t look like plastic.

“In their branding strategies, [companies] are trying to move upscale or trying to sell a product that has an upscale element to it,” explained Ampacet’s Canadian general manager Terry Elliott.

The company recently introduced a masterbatch that adds a frosted look to stretch blow molded PET bottles and thermoformed containers made of extruded sheet. The product cuts the cost of spray-painting the frosted look, while simultaneously providing a frosted glass look.

The company also has a LiquidMetal Colors line, which gives blow molded and extruded PET a highly reflective metal look. The line includes six metal colours — brass, chrome, copper, black onyx, graphite and gun metal blue — and is intended for high-end plastic packaging for cosmetic, skincare and haircare products.

Liquids versus concentrates: enhancing performance, improving usability

For decades, colour concentrate masterbatches have held on to the lion’s share of the plastic colourants market. Although alternatives such as liquid colourants offer distinct advantages in certain areas — liquid colours are particularly suitable for translucent or transparent applications — concentrates have maintained their existing markets.

“As far as market share over the last 20 years, liquid colour is not taking share away from concentrates,” said Richard Novomesky, rigid packaging business unit manager for Ampacet.

Novomesky notes that concentrates have an upper hand over liquid products because of their palletized form. “Concentrates are always going to be more compatible with polyolefins and other base products because the carrier resin you are using is structurally identical.”

In recent years, producers in both markets have worked to enhance their advantages and minimize their shortcomings. Liquid colourants are considered advantageous because they offer lower letdown ratios, reducing the amount of product consumed. Liquids also offer faster changeover rates than concentrates.

However, liquids can be difficult to work with, and spills are hard to clean up because of the mineral oil base. In response, some suppliers have developed alternative handling systems that offer cost savings and cut down on the mess.

For instance, N.J.-based liquid colour supplier Riverdale Color partnered with auxiliary equipment supplier Maguire Products Inc. to offer the Pump-In-A-Drum system coupled with a weigh scale blender or volumetric controller.

Combining Maguire’s extensive experience in peristaltic pumps and Riverdale’s product, the Pump-In-A-Drum addresses housekeeping issues such as leaks and spills.

“It’s a closed loop system with a sealed container that has its own dosing pump incorporated into the liquid container,” explained B. Patrick Smith, vice president of sales and marketing for Maguire. The company has also built in a stirring mechanism to address settling issues, which extends liquid colourants relatively shorter shelf life.

Masterbatch producers have also worked to improve letdown ratios and reduce colour changeover times. For instance, Clariant Masterbatches’ OMNICOLOR line of products can be used at an average letdown ratio of 100:1, four times less than the typical letdown ratio of 25:1.

Additionally, supplier Ampacet offers its line of SmartColor Masterbatches, which reduce colour deposit build-up in extrusion and molding equipment. According to the company, the shortened purge time reduces colour changeover times by as much as 60 per cent, and reduces the amount of scrap generated when purging the line by up to 50 per cent.


Ampacet Canada Co. (Kitchener, Ont.);; 800-265-6711

BASF Canada (Toronto);; 800-267-28955

Clariant Masterbatches Division (Toronto);; 800-265-3773

Maguire Products Canada, Inc. (Vaughan, Ont.);; 866-441-8409

PolyOne Distribution Canada Inc. (Mississauga, Ont.);; 905-405-0003

Riverdale Color (Perth Amboy, N.J.);; 800-221-6027

Teknor Color Company (Pawtuck
et, R.I.);; 800-554-9885

Univar Canada Ltd. (Toronto);; 800-268-0532

All hands on deck: Colours for WPC

The wood-plastic composite (WPC) market has made significant gains in the last few years, and the Freedonia Group estimates it will be a US$5.5 billion industry by 2011.

Colour suppliers are responding to the specific and growing needs of WPC processors — namely, excellent colour distribution and formidable durability — with new product initiatives.

Univar Canada Ltd. Has introduced the weather resistant pigments Ferritan FZ1000 Zinc Ferrite Yellow and Ferritan FM2400 Manganese Ferrite Black from Elementis Pigments for WPCs. The company noted that the weather resistant and UV stable inorganic pigments can be used to create various shades of brown WPC decking, and have the heat resistance to prevent colour change during extrusion.

The two pigments are also light stable and exhibit long-term durability, making them ideal for WPC applications.

PolyOne has also introduced its new OnColor WPC colour and additive concentrates, suited for applications such as fencing, decking, and window and door profiles. The colourants provide excellent colour distribution, improved feed accuracy and processing cost.

“Our new WPC concentrates bring the value of high loadings, small bead size and other factors that improve colour distribution to the difficult process of extruding and molding simulated wood products,” said the company.Product Features: Colourants for bioplastics

Natural masterbatches

Unlike traditional colourants for biopolymers that are derived from fossil fuels, the RENOL-natur from Clariant Masterbatches is derived mainly from plants.

The available line of colours includes red, orange yellow and green, while blue is in the final stages of development.

The colours can be combined to create additional shades and tones, but physical properties are not as high as non-renewable pigments.

Carrier resins can include any of the popular biopolymers, and processing characteristics are similar to conventional masterbatches. RENOL-natur meets or exceeds the EN 13432 standard (European Union) for biodegradable plastic packaging.

Colourants line for end-use applications

PolyOne Corporation’s new OnColor BIO Colorants are intended for use in biopolymers such as polylactic acid (PLA), polyhydroxybutyrate-valerate copolymer (PHBV), polybutylene succinate (PBS), polybutylene adipate-co-terephthalate (PBAT) and starch blends.

The colourants are available in a wide range of transparent and opaque colours. PolyOne also offers OnColor Smartbatch BIO masterbatches, which combines the colourants and OnCap BIO Additives into a single masterbatch.

OnColor BIO Colorants are ideal for a variety of end-use applications, and can be used in extrusion and blow molding processes. The colourants also meet several composting standards, such as EN 13432, ASTM D6400 (U.S.), BPS GREENPLA (Japan) and DIN CERTCO (Germany)

Photo Credit: Clariant Masterbatches Division


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