Imagine a glue that doesn’t feel sticky. Now think about that same adhesive on a reclosable snack bag that won’t pick up crumbs from crackers, chips, or cookies. The stuff of the future? Hardly.
Scientists at Battelle, the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, along with global snack giant Mondelēz International, have accomplished a seemingly impossible feat. Their new breakthrough technology, Low Tack Adhesive (LTA) is poised to turn the reclosable packaging industry on its head. LTA combines high self-adhesion with low tack in an adhesive that is low-cost, easy to use, easy to apply, and only sticks to itself.
“Sometimes simple-looking products have the most elaborate and complex designs, and that is the beauty of LTA,” says Cindy Conner, Battelle senior market manager of consumer, industrial, and medical products.
Battelle’s team of scientists and engineers are used to tackling projects at the forefront of scientific innovation, such as developing predictive collision avoidance systems for industrial robots. But when Mondelēz approached Battelle about developing an adhesive with these unique and seemingly paradoxical properties, the idea raised some eyebrows.
“From a scientific perspective, the notion of an adhesive that will only stick to itself seemed counterintuitive,” says Battelle researcher Jeff Boyce. “It goes against the nature of what an adhesive is supposed to do.”
Seven years later, Boyce’s team has turned concept into reality: an adhesive that creates strong closure, without feeling sticky. Users only need to press two strips of LTA together to create an effective and consistent seal that maintains performance through repeated cycles of opening and closing. Additionally, products employing LTA do not require precise alignment to reclose a package. Anyone who has ever struggled to re-close the zipper fastener on a plastic bag, for example, knows how annoying that can be.
LTA should also perform commercial magic for packaging manufacturers by providing an easy-to-produce and cost-effective solution for reclosable packaging designs. Zippers are often produced at a separate plant, shipped, and then attached to the final package. LTA can be pre-applied to packaging films using simple ultra-violet cure technologyand formed into bags, without costly, additional steps.
The food industry is a significant market opportunity for LTA. The adhesive can be employed in packaging and storage applications for snacks, salads, produce and lunch meats, cereal, as well as custom applications.
“We’ve always been at the forefront of food-packaging innovation, ever since National Biscuit Company developed its ‘in-er-seal’ package patent in 1899,” says Stu Stein, director of open innovation at Mondelēz International. “We believe LTA represents the next evolution in reclosable food packaging and can’t wait to see the reaction from consumers when they experience it for the first time.”
The non-food packaging possibilities are equally extensive, and Battelle believes LTA will generate significant interest from all segments of the QSR industry.
“While LTA was invented for food applications, we quickly realized it could provide a cost-effective packaging solution up and down the foodservice supply chain for things like disposable utensils, paper products, and dozens of uses we haven’t thought of yet. We’re just starting to realize the potential of this design,” Conner says.
If Battelle’s team is right, the launch of LTA might herald more than just the death of the chip clip. The quick-service restaurant industry would be well-advised to stay on the lookout for LTA, and see if the innovation sticks.