Flex-pack printing, decorating triumphs

19 Min Read
Flex-pack printing, decorating triumphs


This year's Flexible Packaging Assn. Packaging Achievement Awards competition received a record-setting 126 entries, 28 of which received 36 gold, silver or highest achievement awards in four categories: packaging excellence, printing, technical expertise and environmental significance. While PD reported on the bulk of the 2004 FPA winners last month (see PD, March 2004, p. 30, and www.packagingdigest.com), the following descriptions detail the flexible packaging winners in the Printing Achievement category, one of which we covered last month: Amcor Flexible's glitzy demetallized standup pouch for Kraft's Tiny


Toblerone individually wrapped chocolate miniatures. This printing award winner also garnered one of two highest achievement honors as well as a gold award in environmental achievement (see our March 2004 issue).

Tiny pouch carries big impact for condiments
Winning a gold award in printing achievement, Pechiney Plastic Packaging proves that a package doesn't have to be large to be impressive. No bigger than a credit card, the 31/2-in.-tall, gusseted standup pouches for H.J. Heinz Select Premium Condiments from H.J. Heinz, Pittsburg, (1) present a charming, vintage look and technical distinction as some of the smallest gusset-bottomed standup pouches around.

Geared to the hotel market, the single-serve packs contain 1 to 11/4 oz of seven different shelf-stable condiments or toppings, including breakfast syrup, dijon mustard, mayonnaise, blackberry and raspberry jams, concord grape and strawberry jellies, orange marmalade and Heinz's signature 149923-0404fpa3.jpgpremium ketchup.

The pouch structure is also something new for Heinz's portion-packed condiments, which, until now, have been packaged in tiny, single-serve glass jars distributed mostly to upscale hotels and resorts. Pechiney describes the pouch material as polyethylene terephthalate/ink/a coex film Pechiney says was "created internally"/foil/ethylene acrylic acid (EAA). The thickness of the tiny pouch is just a bit more than 3 mils.

While the PET provides moisture-resistance, the EAA adds stiffness, machinability and functionality at filling temperatures of 180 deg F, while the foil provides essential barriers, Pechiney's marketing manager Christine Schaefer, tells PD. The pouch materials were also chosen to enhance shelf life and promote easy-tear characteristics. Shelf life ranges from nine to 12 months, depending on the condiment.

Beautifully illustrated on the front and back, the squeezable pouches present historical Heinz turn-of-the century advertising artwork, logos and vintage typefaces, as well as a few whimsical and amusing quips from Henry Heinz himself. These include such statements as "Luck will help a man over a ditch if he jumps well," "Heart power is better than horsepower," and "To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success."

The color scheme of sleek black departs from Heinz's traditional scheme, with shimmering gold and rich cream-colored accents. A Heinz logo used on bygone-era Heinz packaging and ads is bannered across the center of the main pouch panel for a classic look, while brightly colored, cheerful illustrations depict the fruit, key ingredient or color of the condiment contained inside. Conveying the upscale quality of the products, the design also provides a bit of Henry Heinz's story on back panels in a script typeface beneath the H.J. Heinz Select moniker.

Pechiney flexo-prints the pouchstock in eight colors–four process and four line–using Flint Multiflex solvent-based inks. The shiny extrusion-laminated film structure makes a big impression with a touch of class that's furthering this well-established brand's presence in more hotels than ever before, says Heinz's Rebecca Sarafini, product manager-foodservice marketing.

Pechiney says the use of transparent gold inks on the Heinz keystone and border on the front and back panels creates a shiny, gold framework for the product copy. Heinz's Portion Pac, Inc. division packages the products on proprietary horizontal form/fill/seal equipment, which is another technical achievement, PD learns. An addition to condiments in single-serve glass jars, the new package allows Heinz to supply a previously 147718-0404fpa4.jpgunserved market–mid-tier hotels–and expand its product portfolio, offer more products within its line and make the condiments more accessible to more consumers.

Launched across the U.S. in October 2003, the lightweight, break-resistant pouch may be small, but it commands huge attention from consumers and gets the premium message of the products across, Sarafini says. "This is a fun package," she tells PD. "We were trying to come up with something unique, with value added at a good price point and investigated different avenues. We look for innovative opportunities, and Pechiney brings innovations to the party. The pouches serve poolside café use, upscale catering box lunches and other venues that rigid plastic or aluminum cups may be in. But, while the glass jars will always have a market, this [pouch] is unique. The flexible film's price point allows us to go after some of the breakfast-bar business you see in a lot of the hotels and some new growth areas. They've been bringing in new business." Circle No. 217.

Good things come in block-bottom bags
Kroger's new Private Selection Chocolate Squares bag (2) for individually wrapped, caramel-filled chocolates is another gold award winner in printing achievement, this time for Amcor Flexibles. Amcor Flexibles Schroeder & Wagner prints, laminates and produces the block-bottom bags in Rinteln, Germany. Holding 8 oz of chocolate squares, the bag offers plenty of room for graphics and product branding information with its four main panels.

Amcor says Kroger launched the new chocolates in the brightly printed bag in the U.S. during the second half of 2003. The crisp, upright bag is made of clear, 20-micron oriented PP film that Amcor laminates to 120 g/sq m printed kraft. The bag has the stiffness needed to stand tall and offers high visibility and attention-getting graphics.

Amcor gravure-prints the bag in a whopping nine colors on a 10-color Windmöller & Hölscher press with finely detailed artwork and a small typeface that appear clearly and realistically.

The OPP/kraft material is formed into bags on a Triumph 2B machine, also built by Windmöller & Hölscher. The bags are filled with chocolate squares, and the top of the bag is then folded over twice onto the back side and heat-sealed on a filler/sealer from European machinery company Thürlings. The chocolates package has many of the marketing advantages of a fancy chocolate box, with all of the benefits of flexible packaging, says Martina Giesberg, account executive at Amcor Flexibles in Germany. Circle No. 218.

Outdoors-y bag for grilling chips
There's nothing like grilling in the great outdoors, and one gold award winner in printing, the Great Outdoors Hickory Chips Bag (3) for Great Outdoors Grill Co., Joplin, MO, was designed with resealable convenience and weather-resistance in mind. Produced by American Packaging Corp.'s Columbus, WI, and Story City, IA, plants, the premade, zippered bag comes in 2- and 10-lb sizes that hold 100-percent Smokey Mountain Series®™ Hickory or Mesquite natural wood chips that can be used with either gas or charcoal outdoor grills.

Moving from a surface-printed, multiwall paper bag to a reverse-printed, gusset-bottomed film laminate standup pouch with a tear notch and a resealable zipper closure at the top has taken the chips to new marketing heights, Great Outdoors says. The glossy new bag's rich graphics (designed by Southern Graphics) include highly detailed photo vignettes of grilled foods on a background of photography of the actual wood chips, which maintains the outdoors theme.

The bag stays crisp and moisture-free, thanks to a durable PET/linear low-density PE adhesive lamination that withstands moisture, and wear and tear during shipping and storing. Vent holes punched with a male/female die into the sides of the bag let any trapped moisture escape from the package, which prevents the wood chips from becoming soggy if the bag is stored outdoors.

American Packaging reverse-gravure-prints and laminates the bagstock in-line on a 10-station Cerutti press that affords superior print quality, despite the "challenging" graphic design. Printing is in seven colors, including four process and three line colors, using fade-resistant inks. The structure, from the outside, comprises 48-ga PET/ink/adhesive/4.5-mil white LLDPE. APC's Rich Black says that the LLDPE provides the bagstock with strength, puncture-resistance and durability. "Trying to duplicate printing that matches sophisticated thirty-five-millimeter photography details can be difficult to reproduce in bagstock," Black says. "That's why we printed these bags in rotogravure. Rotogravure is capable of such detailed work." The glossy PET layer increases the bag's eye-catching look and sales appeal as it also provides substrate protection.

The bags are made at the converter's Story City plant on a Proven Designs, Inc. machine. The reclosable zipper, from Presto Products, is applied in-line. Introduced in 2003, the standup film pack sold well last spring and summer, says Great Outdoors' Mike Kidwell. "We're now talking about getting ready for the marketing program this spring and summer. Not only is this pouch beautiful, but it's also so functional and protects the chips forever, though people use these chips up quickly." Circle No. 219.

Luxurious 'portrait' printing makes dogs smile
The beautiful, large-format, 30-lb film bag for Breeder's Choice Pinnacle dog food (4) from Breeder's Choice Pet Foods, Irwindale, CA, is sure to attract dog owners and canines alike, with its luxurious, glossy, high-coefficient-of-friction polyester film structure and eye-popping reverse-flexo printing in eight colors. Made and converted by Exopack LLC, the large bag won a silver award for printing achievement.

A side-gusseted edge-seam structure that gives the Pinnacle brand from Breeder's Choice full-panel graphics, the 7-mil-thick bag is made of a heavy-duty, high COF PET/nylon coex that's adhesive-laminated by Exopack and formed into bags on Amplas bagmaking equipment. While the nylon provides durability, moisture-resistance and good looks, the high COF PET is critical for pallet load stability, as the large bags are bulk-loaded onto pallets and stretch-wrapped. The special PET helps keep the bags snugly on the pallets, preventing them from toppling, explains Lani Craddock, Exopack's director business development.

She says Breeder's Choice switched printing methods for the long-impression-repeat package to reduce transfer costs without compromising print quality or shelf appeal. Adds Craddock: "Large-format printing (both repeat and roll width) requires cylinders and presses geared to handle these constraints and printing requirements. This is a very tall bag, so in order to achieve continuous print, it requires a long repeat length. We use bigger presses to handle that kind of repeat length. We're seeing more of these applications, but they're still fairly unique, because traditionally, long-repeat presses are used to run industrial applications."

The bag graphics have an artisan quality, with a design that replicates a hunting landscape portrait of two golden retrievers posing in front of a tree. The art gallery appeal is coupled with a bright red, brown and blue Pinnacle brand logo centered on the front of the bag, above detailed product copy in white type and a blue border on the bottom underscoring the design. Circle No. 220.

Trading card wraps 'burn rubber'
150423-0404fpa5.jpg The Press Pass Signings autograph program, said to be the longest-running and most comprehensive NASCAR auto racing autograph program in history, this year features more than 70 different racers and legends, from Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Richard Petty. Trading card collectors across the country delight in acquiring sets of such autographed cards, and their sparkling overwraps must look second to none. That's why Amgraph Packaging won a silver award in printing achievement for a set of shiny overwraps (5) adopted by RC2 South, Inc., Charlotte, NC. Amgraph, adhesive-laminates the wrap, consisting of 70-ga polypropylene/ink/adhesive/70-ga metallized PP.

Amgraph's marketing/new product development services manager, Mike Drab, says the Press Pass Stealth 2003 trading-card overwraps are printed by web-fed offset litho on a Hamilton/Stevens press, which he says represents a different printing method for trading-card overwraps.

Unlike most trading-card wraps, which are gravure- or flexo-printed, the Stealth Press Pass wrap material is five-color reverse-printed and adhesive-laminated in-line to achieve strong graphical appeal, durability and scuff-resistance, he tells PD. Environmentally friendly electron-beam-cured inks were used in the printing, as well as computer-to-plate technology, which helped achieve first-dot generation, rendering crisp, detailed and consistent print results, overwrap to overwrap.

RC2 South, a producer and marketer of innovative collectibles, wanted winning graphics for a fin-sealed and top/bottom-crimped card wrap, Drab says. "They wanted the graphics on the outside of the package to represent the high print quality of the cards inside, and felt that our offset capabilities would give them an edge. We were able to achieve the print quality they wanted, because our offset technology enables us to print up to a 200-line screen."

Durable and scuff-resistant, the films work in conjunction with this distinctive printing and adhesive chemistry to withstand the packaging process and consumer handling.

"This technology allows us to print graphics using a first-dot generation. Our capabilities allow us to replicate that dot on the film, thus providing a crisp and clean wrap," Drab says. "We also used special screen angles and curves in our system and were able to hold tight registration. The graphics pop off the package." Circle No. 221.

149184-0404fpa6.jpgCaptivating standup pouch for canines
A knockout presentation of incredibly dimensional daffodils and violets in bright yellow and deep blue provides an unusual but eye-popping backdrop for a textured dog food package (6), which earned Exopack LLC a silver award in printing achievement. The rich texturing of the tapered dog food pouch for 6.6 lb of Precise Plus canine adult formula dog food from Precise Pet Products, Nacogdoches, TX, is achieved through the use of DimensionalFX printing, which Exopack describes as being new to the flexible packaging industry. With this system, Exopack says it can create graphic images with three dimensions as well as metallic colors. Exopack reverse-flexo-prints the polyester bagstock in nine colors plus an electron-beam etch coating.

The printed 90-ga polyester layer is then laminated to a metallized biaxially oriented nylon/PE sealant to produce the highly dimensional effects during the printing process. Transparent inks are also used to reinforce the dimensional effect of the etch coating.

Exopack says that unlike holographic printing, DimensionalFX can be placed in-register anywhere on a package to make it "pop." Licensed from UV Color, Roseville, MN, the DimensionalFX technology can also be used in applications to protect against counterfeiting.

Pouch material is converted into bags by TechniPac, Inc. Packaging consulting group PrimeSource Packaging Ltd. partnered on the packaging project with Exopack to deliver the package to Precise Pet Products. The tapered-pouch shape allows the pouch to look more uniform when filled. "The taper compensates for the traditional flare of a filled, nontapered standup pouch," notes Lani Craddock, Exopack's director of business development. "Consumers can easily identify this brand on stores shelves." Craddock adds that specialty EB-cured coatings produce the dimensional effects in the graphics, and the textured effects of the DimensionalFX process enhance the package's eye-catching qualities. Various etch patterns can be used to achieve different textures, colors and other effects. Circle No. 220.

Everything's coming up roses for seed bag
Canadian converter Genpak LP sowed the seeds of its technology in fertile ground when it created a flexible standup pouch for Fafard Seed Starter Potting Mix (7), which was chosen as a gold award winner for printing achievement. Decorated using the Opaltone® seven-color printing process and constructed with a metallized polyester film, the bag blossomed in the independent garden centers into which it was introduced late last spring.

The Seed Starter Potting Mix is a product of Agawam, MA-based Conrad Fafard, Inc., a leading producer and supplier of Canadian sphagnum peat moss, professional soil-less growing mixes, retail soils and landscape bark products. Previously packed in a different style of bag, the Seed Starter joins a number of other Fafard formulas already using Genpak-produced standup pouches for convenience and point-of-purchase impact. Unique to the bag is its use of Opaltone printing technology, which adds red, green and blue to traditional four-color process.

"Opaltone's obvious advantage is that you get much deeper reds, greens and oranges," says Bill Reilly, prepress manager for Genpak. "Almost any color can be enhanced, because there's more color to support it."

Graphics for the bag, designed by Fafard, comprise bright, vibrant flowers in red, yellow and blue, against a solid, grass-green background.149945-0404fpa7.jpg Relates Charles Ratterree, art director and senior buyer for Conrad Fafard, "Opaltone does a very good job on base-level reds and greens. The printing process is very evident in this bag. Compared to other jobs that we have run in the past in eight, nine or ten colors, the richness and trueness of color is very unique to this bag."

Digital prepress work for the Seed Starter pouch was provided by GMF Flexo Prepress. Film was reverse-flexo-printed by Genpak on a 10-color Fischer & Krecke wide-web press, using specially formulated inks from Sun Chemical Corp. Explains Reilly, "Our gearless press is vital for printing with Opaltone. The most important thing to watch for with the Opaltone process is that you are holding down the register, because you're really holding seven process colors in dead register. Without a gearless press, I don't know if you can achieve this."

Another advantage to the Opaltone process, Reilly remarks, is that it allows Genpak to gang orders back-to-back for efficiencies in production, and reductions in ink waste and ink inventories, resulting in considerable cost savings.

The bag is constructed from 48-ga PET/48-ga metallized PET/2.5-mil PE, using materials supplied by Kolon and metallized by Celplast Metallized Products. Bags are produced by Genpak on GN pouch machines, before being supplied to Fafard.

While the Seed Starter Potting Mix product in the standup bag was not available until nearly the end of last year's seeding season, Ratterree says that the response from consumers exceeded Fafard's expectations. This spring, several other products in the Seed Starter family will be launched in standup pouches printed via Opaltone as well. Circle No. 222.

Potting mix flowers with EB coating
Previously packaged in a PE/PE-laminated bag that required a specific adhesive suited to all weather conditions, the new Scott's Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix bag (8) was granted a silver award for printing achievement for its use of electron-beam-cured coatings in conjunction with eight-color flexo printing to eliminate a lamination layer. Once again, converter Exopack LLC produced the colorful, 32-dry-qt pouch at its Tomah, WI, plant, for Maryville, OH-based Miracle-Gro Lawn Products, Inc. The pouch is the first of its kind in the lawn and garden marketplace to use an EB coating for scuff-resistance and weatherability.

"The EB coating system used is new for this market segment," says Lani Craddock, director business development, for Exopack. "Replacing laminated packaging with a stable coating maintains package performance and lowers costs, through the elimination of manufacturing steps in the converting process. This also eliminates the wait for the typical lamination cure time, allowing the converter to be more responsive."

150484-0404fpa8.jpg The proprietary film is printed using a solvent-based, fade-resistant ink system from CCI (Color Converting Industries). The EB coating is applied using a curing system from Energy Sciences, Inc.

According to Craddock, as the Scott's project demonstrates, the EB-cured coating process has the potential to advance the use of flexible packaging by its cost-effectiveness and package-enhancing capabilities. "By offering a cost-competitive comparison to lamination, more packages will be able to move to enhanced graphics without fear of losing this advantage to scuff and/or fade," she says. "The potential to reduce material layers will also increase the cost between rigid and flexible." Circle No. 220.

Pasta pouch whets the appetite
Striking gold in the printing achievement category is a flexible, zippered pouch, gravure-printed in six colors by Nordenia USA for Kirkland Signature Four Cheese Ravioli (9). The pouch is said to have boosted sales of the product by 112 percent when it was first introduced in 2001 (see Sept. '01, p. 88). Used by Issaquah, WA-based Costco Wholesale Corp., the package replaced a traditional paperboard carton, providing enhanced shelf appeal and consumer convenience.

"The Kirkland Ravioli package was an ugly green box-very unattractive-and sales were down," admits Shay Quigley, packaging art director for Costco. "It was also an inconvenient product to store at home because of its awkward size. We knew we had to do something."

In 2000, a collaboration between Costco and Nordenia, Jackson, MO, resulted in a 4-lb flexible, zippered pouch measuring approximately 11316 in. Made from 48-ga PET from DuPont/ink/adhesive/3-mil coextruded PE, manufactured by Nordenia. The graphics for the pouch were the same as those used 148867-0404fpa9.jpgfor the paperboard carton. The film construction, an existing commercial structure formulated by the converter for similar applications, was chosen for its direct food contact characteristics, its puncture-resistance and its good seal characteristics.

After the pouch had been on the market for one year, Costco upgraded the packaging to include more-sophisticated graphics, taking full advantage of Nordenia's gravure printing capabilities. Luckily, the film chosen for the product provided excellent printability. Says Jim Ray, senior product development engineer for Nordenia, "Costco was looking for high-quality graphics, which we achieved with gravure printing. The polyester surface really allows you to produce the best resolution, because of its flatness and gloss."

According to George Weldon, sales and market manager for Nordenia, because all prepress and gravure cylinder engraving was done in-house, the converter was able to print the job in six colors, rather than eight. "These capabilities, along with the expertise of our engravers and press operators, at times will allow us to combine certain colors to reduce the absolute number of colors, attaining the desired reproductive and aesthetic results," Weldon says. "At the same time, this saves the customer money by reducing the number of cylinders needed to be engraved."

The job was printed on a Windmoeller & Hoelscher Heliostar seven-color, 51-in. press. Transparent, fade-resistant inks, the MX 53-2 ink system from Siegwerk Farbenfabrik, provide excellent color strength and lamination bond properties, says Nordenia, while a special 100-percent-solids adhesive system ensures a high lamination bond strength and excellent, post-lamination package appearance. Bags are premade by Nordenia with a Presto press-to-close zipper and supplied to Seviroli Foods, Garden City, NY, which packs them and distributes them to Costco. Circle No. 223.

More information is available:

Awards program: Flexible Packaging Assn., 410/694-0800. www.printpack.com.www.flexpack.org. Circle No. 216.

Condiment pouches: Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Inc., 773/399-8000. www.printpack.com.www.pechineyplasticpackaging.com. Circle No. 217.

Block-bottomed chocolates pouch: Amcor Flexibles, Germany, 49 5751 179785. www.printpack.com.www.amcor-flexibles.com. Circle No. 218.

Hickory chips bag: American Packaging Corp., 585/254-9500. www.printpack.com.www.ampackcorp.com. Circle No. 219.

Large-format edge-seam dog food bag, textured standup bag for dog food, potting soil mix standup bag: Exopack LLC, 877/447-3539. www.printpack.com.www.exopack.com. Circle No. 220.

Press pass ovewraps: Amgraph Packaging, 800/243-0294. www.printpack.com.www.amgraph.com. Circle No. 221.

Seed starter bag: Genpak LP, 800/724-2903. www.printpack.com.www.progressivepac.com. Circle No. 222.

Gravure-printed ravioli bag: Nordenia Intl., 573/335-4900. www.printpack.com.www.nordenia.com. Circle No. 223.

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