NatureWorks and IMA Accelerate on Testing Phase of the Compostable Coffee Pod

NatureWorks and IMA Coffee’s joint strategic partnership, announced on April 27th, 2021, accelerates the first significant trial phase on compostable K-Cup compatible coffee pods.

The collaboration between IMA and NatureWorks will expedite the availability of a turn-key solution for compostable coffee pods compatible with K-Cup in North America. (Photo courtesy of Business Wire)

At the IMA Coffee Lab, compatibility testing on capsules, filter, and top lid films is being conducted with the specific goal of identifying and achieving the optimal material sealing parameters and limits, as well as a suitable setup of IMA packaging machineries to handle the pods successfully.

The tests are conducted under the supervision of the IMA Coffee R&D team and in close and continuous collaboration with NatureWorks specialists: dedicated tools are used to simulate the sealing phases of the filter and top lid films and to adjust parameters based on test results.

The sophisticated microleakage detection testing conducted at IMA Coffee Lab has yielded extremely encouraging and optimistic results, allowing for a significant step forwards in the process, which will continue thoroughly into the following coffee extraction testing phase.

At NatureWorks, the development of new single-stage thermoforming processes and capsule designs continues to result in precise capsules that meet the IMA’s filling and sealing specifications on their packaging machines.

Additionally, NatureWorks developed a custom Data Acquisition System for K-Cup compatible pods, which is being used to understand and benchmark the performance of various capsule designs under a variety of brewing conditions.

“Based on the encouraging results thus far, we have already begun the next phase of development by partnering with converters in North America to bring these new compostable pod designs to commercial scale, making them available to brands and roasters seeking to meet consumer demand for more sustainable packaging and circular economy directives that specify compostable packaging as a critical enabler of food waste recovery for compost,” said Flavio Di Marcotullio, Glo.

Coffee capsules are intricate structures that require precise design of the capsule body, lidding, and filter to ensure a consistently high-quality brewing experience. It is critical that these components perform well during assembly and filling, as well as on the shelf and during brewing, before the capsules reach consumers. By combining NatureWorks’ material and application expertise with IMA’s machinery expertise, the partnership aims to provide a turn-key compostable coffee pod solution to the entire coffee industry, making it simple to enjoy a great cup of coffee while also disposing of the used pod in the most environmentally friendly manner possible.

With this in mind, and in order to galvanise support for the cause and steer the supply chain towards greater environmental sustainability, IMA launched the IMA NoP – No Plastic Program in 2019. ” NOP (No-Plastic Program) signifies that we promote environmentally friendly plastic alternatives for packages manufactured on IMA machines. We promote plastic-free and sustainable, compostable packaging solutions by conducting research and testing on alternative processes and materials in collaboration with customers, material suppliers, and partners. Additionally, IMA has established the Open Lab, where Material Technologists research, develop, and test compostable and recyclable materials for use on our packaging equipment,” explains Nicola Panzani, IMA Coffee’s Sales Manager and IMA Coffee Petroncini’s CEO.

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