In this study, interaction and compatibility between sugar-beet pulp (SBP) and polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) in blend films was assessed. Film-forming dispersions of different ratios of SBP to PVA (100/0, 75/25, 50/50, and 25/75) were cast at room temperature. The effects of adding PVA to SBP on the resulting film's physical, mechanical and barrier properties and thermal stability were investigated. X-ray diffraction and environmental scanning electron microscopy (ESEM) were used to characterize the structure and morphology of the composites. When PVA was also added to the composite films, the films became softer, less rigid and more stretchable than pure SBP films. The addition of PVA gave significantly greater elongation at break (12.45%) and lower water vapor permeability (1.55 × 10−10 g s−1 m−1 Pa−1), but tensile strength did not markedly change, remaining around 59.68 MPa. Thermogravimetric analysis also showed that SBP/PVA film had better thermal stability than SBP film. The ESEM results showed that the compatibility of SBP50/PVA50 was better than those of other composite films. These results suggest that when taking all the studied variables into account, composite films formulated with 50% PVA are most suitable for various packaging applications. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Appl. Polym. Sci. 2015, 132, 41354.