Starch Strengthens Paper and Packaging Bonds
Amid unprecedented pandemic demand for paper and corrugated packaging solutions, leading pulp and packaging manufacturer Opal can rely on six decades of stable and secure supply of wheat starch by Australian family-owned Manildra Group.
Nationwide, Opal’s world-class manufacturing sites design a range of high-quality, innovative, and sustainable paper and pulp solutions, ranging from packaging-grade and fine papers to bag and sack grades, corrugated carboard, copy papers and boxes.
Manildra Group’s first pound of wheat starch was sent to the Botany Paper Mill in 1960 and is still supplied today, to the now-Opal, to provide internal strength and enhance surface ‘feel’, printability, binding and coating features in paper and pulp products.
Opal Procurement General Manager Tyson Musker said the strategic supply partnership with Manildra Group was among Opal’s longest – stretching back to the Botany Mill established in New South Wales in 1902, along with the Maryvale Mill in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley established in 1937.
“Paper manufacturing is a complex process heavily reliant on stable inputs, and the consistent quality provided by Manildra Group underpins this process stability, ensuring we can manufacture to our customers’ specifications,” said Mr Musker.
In addition to booming demand for boxes, papers and carboard packaging for growing consumption and online markets, Opal’s innovative corrugating packaging solutions underpin essential supplies across Australia and New Zealand of fast-moving consumer goods – from fruit and fresh produce to protein and dairy, beverages, dry goods and industrial products.
With Manildra Group’s wheat starches used in paper bags, tissues, packaging paper, corrugating board and stationery, General Manager Peter Simpson said “it would be virtually impossible to make these products in current varieties and qualities without wheat starches”.
Mr Simpson said the long-term relationship with Opal had been “ultimately the foundation stone to Manildra Group’s growth into a world-class manufacturer”.
“As Opal has expanded, prospered, and revolutionised the local paper and pulp industry, the increasing demand for our wheat starches has in turn reinforced Manildra Group’s future growth and success.”
“It’s an incredible partnership after 62 years and one we are very proud of,” said Mr Simpson in reflecting on Manildra Group’s 70-year commemorations of family-owned Australian business.
Established in flour milling in 1952, Manildra Group began looking to markets to value-add to operations by the late-1950s, with the consolidation of the Australian milling industry.
With wheat comprised of protein (gluten) and carbohydrates (starch), Mr Simpson said Manildra Group could foresee demand for gluten increasing with opportunities locally for starches to bind fibres and coat papers – notably in the paper industry.
And so it was on the banks of Nowra’s Shoalhaven River, in the south coast region of New South Wales known by the 1950s for its industrial manufacturing industry, that Manildra Group acquired the former site for making Horlicks’ malted milk drinks and starches for the adjacent paper mill.
Construction of a wheat starch mill in 1970 established Shoalhaven Starches – today the world’s largest standalone wheat gluten and starch plant of its kind – followed by the 1980s expansion of Manildra Group into global markets with wheat starch supplied to Indonesian paper mills.
In the half-century since, Manildra Group has continued to invest, diversify, and expand operations at the world-class Shoalhaven facility – increasing production and expansion of the range of native, modified, and cationic wheat starches for applications beyond paper and pulp, into the construction, mining, and food industries.
Following the establishment of an advanced paper testing laboratory at Shoalhaven Starches in 2021, a state-of-the-art cationic starch plant will (from 2023) facilitate production of high-performance modified starches as a crucial wet-end additive for packaging paper, board, printing and copy papers.
Mr Simpson said Manildra Group tailored wheat starches to meet modern-day paper and pulp machinery – with quality and consistency paramount for uniformity integral to producing fit-for-purpose wheat starches.
“As a manufacturer, we know consistent inputs deliver consistent outputs,” Mr Simpson said. “From operational and functionality to performance and sustainability requirements, we formulate starch solutions specific to needs by naturally deriving only A-grade molecules, delivering a narrow gel point range.”
Mr Musker said the expertise and support provided by Manildra Group ensured optimal use of starch at Opal’s Maryvale and Botany mills and packaging manufacturing facilities.
“Procuring specialised products grown by local farmers through Manildra Group’s Australian operations also aligns with Opal’s commitment to supporting local jobs and communities across Australia and New Zealand,” said Mr Musker.
Mr Simpson said the companies’ partnership extended as mutual customers, with Opal supplying the natural unbleached and unglazed brown paper Sack Kraft for production of retail and industrial paper bags at the flagship facility in Manildra, central west New South Wales.
“Like Manildra Group, Opal is focused on delivering high-quality, innovative, sustainable and value-adding solutions,” Mr Simpson said.
Mr Musker said Opal continued to work closely with Manildra Group to procure starch at specifications required to meet customers’ evolving needs for sustainable fibre packaging innovations.
“There is a growing market demand in Australia and New Zealand for recycled and recyclable cardboard packaging, and this has been a key driver for Opal’s expansion of its corrugating and converting capacity,” he said.