A patent for a “flexible tube with gussets” from Ampac promises a source-reduced format for food, shampoo and other viscous products that improves product evacuation from the package to reduce waste.
Sal Pellingra, a popular presenter at industry conferences, is vice president of innovation and technology for Ampac. He’s also a kind of patent-generating machine who has 13 U.S. Patents assigned to his name, three of which have been while at Ampac, and also has several pending. “Ampac has a broad portfolio of design and utility patents,” he says.
One of his latest inventions is for “tube with gussets” U.S. Patent # 8,857,664 issued last October. Pellingra had referenced this one in passing in comments he made during a panel discussion at Packaging Digest's Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in early July.
It sounded to me like an intriguing kind of tube-flexible packaging hybrid, so I jotted a note to follow up. Pellingra was generous enough to share some details recently even while caught up in the activity surrounding Ampac’s merger with Prolamina announced August 19.
In short, he says it is “a unique technology that has not yet been commercialized, but could be revolutionary in disrupting the current rigid container space.”
Patent abstract and advantages
The patent abstract reads “Provided are tubes with gussets and methods of making such tubes. In one aspect, a tube with gussets includes a fitment with at least one substantially curved concave region, and a tube body joined to the fitment, wherein the tube body is interconnected at a first end to the fitment such as to form at least one side gusset along at least a portion of the length of the tube body and complementary to the at least one substantially curved concave region of the fitment, and wherein the tube body is sealed at a second end distant from the fitment. The tube with gussets allows for the thickness of the film used to form the tube body to be less than the film thickness for a comparably sized tube without the gussets due to the improved tube body stiffness.”
Pellingra provided some background as to what market needs this particular invention addresses. “Ampac focuses on products that provide consumer convenience, sustainability through light-weighting and minimizing product waste, and differentiation. Recent examples of this are the MiniMod pump and pouch system (it’s #4 in this list of 8 Pack Expo 2014 innovations) developed with WestRock and Ampac’s material-saving E-Z SnackPak (#2 in that same list). This new innovation also hits all of these targets. Rigid injection-molded bottles are widely used, but suffer from consumer frustration, waste and poor environmental impact because it’s difficult to get all of the product out of the bottles,” he explains.
“This is targeted at viscous squeezable products both in the food category such as condiments or thick sauces and pastes as well as for health and beauty for shampoos, conditioners, lotions and creams. Utilizing flexible packaging offers a significant reduction in packaging material and provides the ability to squeeze nearly all of the product out of the package. That’s done similarly to a toothpaste tube, but is much easier. Utilizing flexible packaging allows for a myriad of structure combinations and a huge improvement in the limitless 360-degree, high-impact graphic possibilities of the current rigid containers.”
The development is known internally at Ampac as the IGTP—inverted gusseted tube pouch. Pellingra outlines the advantages of the IGTP format:
Reduced package weight;
Improved product-to-package ratio;
Minimized storage and shipping of empty containers;
Reduced waste and consumer frustration through improved squeezability and product evacuation; and
Improved graphics that allow for 360-degree decoration.
Next: An image of the gusseted tube pouch plus advantages, options and plans
Potential markets for the IGTP include health and beauty creams, lotions, shampoos and conditioners as well as squeezable condiment packages like jelly and ketchup.
Advantages over rigids and tubes
“Branding can be highlighted all the way around a package,” says Pellingra. “The innovative side gusset design also helps keep the pouch upright even when there isn’t much product left in the package. This innovative package offers not only great improvements over rigid bottles but also improves filling efficiencies over thicker-tube packages. Tubes are filled and the top is sealed, but tubes use thicker materials so it’s difficult to get a good, clean and hermetic seal during filling.
“Reducing a tube’s thickness by using flexible packaging can reduce heat and dwell time, improving filling efficiencies and potentially line speeds as well.”
We asked Pellingra to detail how the IGTP would “reduce package weight significantly”.
“Moving from a thicker injection molded bottle to laminated flexible packaging will offer significant reduction in packaging,” he explains. “Although the cap will remain the same, the material in the bulk of the container will be reduced by 50 to 80 percent.
“In addition, there is an impact on product waste because almost all the product can be squeezed out of the flexible package. For comparison, approximately 5 to 15 percent of product can remain in rigid containers after use.
Last, package sizes for this flexible design can be changed simply through art and slitting whereas rigid containers require expensive mold changes.”
Options, markets and plans
We asked him about polymer and component options.
“Flexible packaging offers such a wide array of materials; matte, gloss and combinations of the two, shiny metallized, opaque,” Pellingra responds. “Barrier options are also available in foil, clear and matte. One of the benefits is the broad spectrum of available options. Also, graphics can be greatly improved with flexible packaging. Most rigid bottles are decorated using only labels or in-mold labels. Flexible packaging offers 360-degree, photo-quality graphics. There’s also more room for branding and required information and the ability to stand out on the shelf and in the home.”
Pellingra says appropriate markets targeted by the invention include squeezable condiment packages like jelly, ketchup, mayonnaise, mustard, tomato pastes, salsas, and food sauces. Other markets include health and beauty creams, lotions, shampoos and conditioners.
While this is currently what Pellingra calls a “developmental” project, “there has been tremendous interest in this innovative format for both food and non-food. The first step was to complete the IP, which we received both design and utility patents. The next step will be to implement it further in our Stage-Gate process. It currently remains as a development project only at this time and likely would not be launched before 2017. We are, however, reviewing potential partnerships for implementation that could accelerate the timing.”
For more information, Pellingra can be contacted via email at [email protected]