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Flexibles stay resilient

The word flexible is taken from the Latin flexibilis and flexus, which mean to bend. And when it comes to flexible packaging, indeed, being able to bend and flex to meet the changing needs and demands of converters, suppliers, packagers, retailers and consumers, is always the whole reason for being. As exemplified by the winners of the Flexible Packaging Association's (www.flexpack.org) 2005 Flexible Packaging Achievement awards, flexible packaging must be able to roll with the changes. But as buoyant and pliable as flexible packaging can be, in fact, flexibles remain a rigid, stalwart package of choice in the U.S., as demand for flexible pouches is anticipated to climb a steady 7 percent annually through 2008, according to a report from Cleveland-based researcher The Freedonia Group (www.freedoniagroup.com).

Freedonia says the growth in flexible packaging has been driven in part by the rapidly expanding standup pouch segment as well as healthy gains for flat pouches. The incorporation of such value-added convenience features as zipper reclosures, sprayer fitments and dispensing spouts and functional characteristics including retortability, shelf stability, extreme temperature-and weather-resistance, as well as oxygen-scavenging technology, aseptic filling and digital printing expertise, will further stimulate advances for all flexible packages, particularly standup pouches.

But while pouches alone comprise a $3.7-billion industry in flexible packaging, there are many other flexible materials and package structures that contribute to the flexible packaging phenomenon that's here to stay. As one competition judge put it, the focus of many products is often the packaging that surrounds them.

So it makes sense that this year's circle of winners, announced at FPA's annual meeting in Carlsbad, CA, on February 25, is grand. The group includes 28 Gold, Silver and Highest Achievement award winners, selected from an unprecedented 89 entries in four categories: packaging excellence, printing achievement, technical expertise and environmental significance. The many awards represent a profusion of new structures, converting and printing techniques, dynamic graphics, and ideas developed from "thinking beyond, not just outside, the box," with examples such as the first pouch to be equipped with a trigger sprayer for dispensing a wild game bacteria inhibitor to a barrier laminate material that eliminates the need for metal housings or cases for batteries.

There is also a set of eye-catching, metallized polyester standup pouches for instant potatoes that are printed using digital photopolymer plates, a large, glossy carrying/heat-in bag for oven-ready turkey, innovative printing techniques and graphics for multiwall film petfood bags, interestingly shaped pouches for chocolates and a nonwoven/PP coex pouch for large medical devices that's perforated and capable of being sterilized but also acts as a barrier to bacteria.

With such a large group of winners, PD can only cover a portion of the total group here, including the two Highest Achievement winners. PD will feature the rest of the winners in subsequent issues.

HIGHEST ACHIEVEMENT

For the fourth year running, two packages share the coveted Highest Achievement award—the first is for a medical application and the second is for a food product.

The Microperf Dialyzer package, a newly designed, ethylene oxide (EtO)-sterilizable pouch adopted by Baxter Healthcare Corp. (1), McGaw Park, IL, for its single-use dialyzer, a cylindrical blood filtration device needed for patients diagnosed with kidney failure, was developed by Rollprint Packaging Products (www.rollprint.com). Winning the first Highest Achievement award as well as a Gold in environmental achievement and a Gold in technical innovation, the end-sealed/fin-sealed package consists of a 3-mil blown polyethylene copolymer film that has been optimized and precision-perforated to provide controlled porosity for effective EtO sterilization while maintaining product cleanliness.

Replacing premade pouches filled and sealed individually by hand, Baxter designed the film pouch to attain reproducible perforation results so that it could automate the packaging of the dialyzer via a horizontal form/fill/seal machine.

"We approached Rollprint to help us develop a perforated package," says Baxter Healthcare's principal packaging engineer Cathy St. John. "There are so many unique packages out there for food applications, but many years ago, there was a perforated boil-in-bag package for noodles. We thought of that package when we created the packaging concept for the dialyzer. We needed breathable structure that had to be economical and durable in order to keep costs down."

St. John says that Baxter looked at various medical-grade materials, but nothing seemed to be as cost-effective as her idea about a perforated film. "Given that we EtO-sterilize these devices, we thought a perforated material could work, but the perforations would have to be so small, you would barely be able to see them."

Pouch development work began in 2003 and the package was validated and was commercialized in 2004. While the former two-layer pouch had a vent strip, the new single-layer film structure, with its all-over perforated design, provides the required package breathability. The controlled perforation obviates the need for the vent. It also keeps the injection-molded, cylindrical polycarbonate dialyzer device clean.

Recognizing that the product only needed to be sterile in the path of the fluid running through it, Baxter's package design team explored options that maximized economics in a f/f/s pack that offers several benefits, and automating the production process was one of them. Automatically packaging the product at one of its Mountain Home, AR, facilities on horizontal f/f/s equipment from Ilapak (www.ilapak.com) has also increased output dramatically, and provided even more cost savings, St. John says. "Without the help of the folks from the Baxter Mountain Home facility, this project would have been very difficult," she tells PD. "They really deserve credit for seeing this project through."

One advantage of the new, single-layer pouch is the time and manufacturing steps it saves versus production time on the former, three-component pouch. Rollprint perforates the film by a proprietary needle-perforation process that's both economical and results in a material with significant puncture-resistance. The package also exhibits good heat sealability and hot tack, and the right amount of slip to allow the dialyzer to be loaded in without sticking or sliding.

Other bonuses come from Baxter's ability to automate the packaging function using the PE film rollstock. Rollprint provides the material in an 11 1/4-in. width. Using rollstock wasn't possible with the former premade pouch structure, which, St. John tells PD, while highly functional, due to its complexity, had to be made in a separate manufacturing step and filled and sealed individually by hand. Automating the process meant the pouch could be significantly downsized, saving about 40-percent in packaging material.

Now, the dialyzers can basically be put on a conveyor and flowrapped, whereas previously, they had to be hand-loaded and put through a sealer," explains St. John. "That can be very labor-intensive, tedious and slow, because care had to be taken with the packaging materials. So this change was a major win for everyone."

While the former multilayer pouch measured 6.75 x 17.5 in., the updated version measures 4.25 x 13.5 in., so also saves on packaging material.

The dialyzer contains a fluid (blood) filtration pathway with protruding entry and exit ports for attaching the appropriate tubing used during the blood-filtration process. Though the clinical setting where the dialyzer is used isn't considered sterile, and the exterior of the device isn't required to be sterile, the fluid path through which the blood travels, on the other hand, must be kept sterile. The package film had to be breathable enough to allow the EtO gas to penetrate and to escape once the sterilization cycle is complete, so the all-over perforations very efficiently allow the outgassing of the EtO.

Critical to the packaging function is controlled porosity of the film, says Rollprint's Karen Berger. Keeping the size of the perforations "super-small" is basically handled through measuring the material's porosity. Berger adds that the porosity of this new material measures less than 100 Gurley seconds (the amount of time required for air to permeate the material). Careful monitoring of the porosity ensures that the film provides the necessary barrier to undesirable particulate ingress. Appropriate PE film selection was also critical, Berger adds, because some polymeric films will elongate at the point of needle entry, to varying degrees when perforated. That creates inconsistent perforation sizes. "A film that's not porous enough will hamper effective EtO sterilization, but a film that's too porous may allow particulate contamination to enter," she says.

The dialyzers are packaged in lots of 24 per case. The packages are unprinted, but Berger says the material can be printed as long as the needle pattern is taken into account.

"Our customers really like this new package," affirms St. John. "We made sure they had a chance to see it before we made the actual packaging change, so we've had good experiences with it. The cost savings we've realized has helped to offset the rapidly rising manufacturing costs for these critical products, so we're very pleased with the results." Circle No. 236.

A generously sized bag for Jennie-O Turkey Store(R) oven-ready frozen turkey (2) won the second Highest Achievement award for its convenient features that facilitate preparation of the product. The package also won a Silver award in printing achievement. The turkey can handily go from freezer to oven with no defrosting or cleaning required.

The gusseted outer carrier bag, made by Curwood (www.curwood.com), encloses a proprietary cook-in bag (not supplied by Curwood) that allows consumers to move the turkey to the oven without handling the product. The outer carrier bag's built-in, two-hole, reinforced handle is designed to be strong and comfortable, which makes picking up and transporting the whole bird a snap. The bag is the first package to include Curwood's proprietary IntegraScore(R) opening technology. Applied vertically along one side, the IntegraScore(R) allows consumers to open the bag without a scissors or a knife, eliminating the risk of damaging the inner bag. The feature is positioned along the entire length of the bag and initiates and guides the directional tear. A tear notch on the top indicates the starting point for opening the bag. Functional side gussets allow the packaging graphics to stand up and out in the freezer case.

Curwood describes the outer carrier bag as having an eight-color reverse-flexo-printed glossy oriented polyester top layer that's extrusion-laminated to a "rigid," white PE sealant (see PD, Nov. '04, p. 2 or www.packagingdigest.com/info/jennieo). What's most distinguishable about the flat bag is that it's a nonshrinkable structure that sets the product apart from other turkey brands in frozen poultry cases, which are often filled with shrink-bagged products. The dramatic bag graphics provide a billboard effect on every side of the package, including the gusset, displaying a highly recognizable and appealing design as well as easy-to-read cooking instructions, nutrition facts and recipes. The design on the reverse side, including a photo vignette, is enhanced with the printing of subtle images surrounding the turkey.

The prebasted, oven-ready whole bird (the giblets are removed) is available in two varieties, including Homestyle and Butter, Herb and Garlic. Willmar, MN-based Jennie-O, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hormel Foods, introduced the new oven-ready line of turkey in June 2004 in select retail stores nationwide. The product is reportedly flying out of the freezer case, the company says, and makes it possible to purchase turkeys all year long, instead of just holiday time. Circle No. 237.

GOLD AWARDS

Powerful, flexible battery pack

Picture yourself in the U.S. Infantry. Your mission? To be deployed, hit the ground running and go into battle. Sounds frightening, especially at a time when no soldier wants any of their gear to fail. In fact, one big problem the U.S. Army has had over the years is battery power. That problem could now be solved, because of a new barrier lamination developed and produced by *Pliant Corp. (www.pliantcorp.com) (3) that provides a lightweight, flexible package for batteries that's economical and can be rapidly prototyped. Used to contain battery components for the military, the material won Gold awards for both packaging excellence and technical innovation. In development for about three years, the laminate actually replaces heavier steel housings (battery enclosures) and sealant materials associated with batteries and can be directly sealed to the cell's polarity leads.

According to Pliant's Gary Reich, a department within the U.S. Army is currently using the laminate in small production runs. Commercial and military cells and batteries that are made with metallic lithium or lithium-intercalating anode materials with metal-oxide cathode materials are typically housed in steel containers, which protect the active electrode and electrolyte materials from water vapor and oxygen and other detrimental reagents that can cause cell failure and create safety concerns. But metal containers add weight and volume and require extended manufacturing time, thus adding cost.

Supplied as rollstock, the unprinted, multilayer structure of this new barrier lamination consists of (from the outside-in) a 48-ga aluminum oxide-coated polyester called GLAU film that Pliant imports from Japan's Toppan (www.toppan.co.jp), as well as a 0.001-in. aluminum foil, and a 35-ga, seven-layer coex film. The three films are adhesive-laminated with an alkyl carbonate-resistant adhesive, which provides essential chemical-resistance. Overall thickness of the laminate is 5 mils. Reich says the film is produced on a seven-layer blown-film line at a pilot plant in Chippewa Falls, WI, and is laminated on a Nordmeccanica (www.nordmeccanica.com) system with Liofol solventless adhesive from Henkel Technologies (www.henkel.com).

While the pouch's outer GLAU polyester layer is a barrier film made without the use of chlorine and provides strength and tear-resistance, the foil provides nearly a complete barrier to gas and water vapor between the environment and the battery chemicals. The inner seven-layer film, the layers of which Reich says he prefers not to identify, provide oxygen barrier, toughness and protection from migration of the battery chemicals that could affect the adhesive. They add a heat-sealable surface essential for achieving a hermetic seal, he says. Because the pouch cell is able to withstand temperature profiles from -22 to +158 deg F, Reich says the package will not explode like a sealed steel battery would when exposed to high heat.

One other major benefit is that the seven-layer coex is polymer-based, and is directly heat-sealable to the electrodes. This film offers an oxygen barrier (OTR) of less than 0.0038 cc/100 sq in./24 hr at 23 deg C/75 percent relative humidity and has a moisture vapor barrier rating (MVTR) of less than 0.0003 g/100 sq in./24 hr at 37.8 deg C /100 percent RH. The GLAU polyester was chosen for its superior moisture barrier properties, and helps protect the foil from external sources of moisture and oxygen. Toppan aluminum-oxide-coats the GLAU polyester. MaxPower, Inc., in Harleysville PA, produces the heat-sealable pouches from rollstock 12 in. wide.

According to Reich, the film structure was successfully used to assemble prototypes of a nominal 9 Ah Li-ion cell, or a cell that can deliver 9 amp hours of energy. Li-ion refers to the chemistry of the battery. The cell also demonstrated energy densities of 214 watt hours/kg and 318 watt hours/L. He adds that the energy densities, or a measure of how much energy that can be generated per amount of battery, are measured in weight and volume. This cell has demonstrated 214 watt hours/kilogram (the energy density by weight) and 318 watt hours/liter (the energy density by volume). Thus, this battery can pack much higher energy or watts than a car battery, he says, which is said to carry 35Wh/kg and 70Wh/L.

As the military continues to add new and improved communications, situational awareness and navigation and other electrically operated equipment to its foot soldiers, it needs batteries to power this equipment that can keep pace with such energy requirements. Reich says this flexible laminate can provide the means for the military or others to custom-design individual cells to conform to new and innovative battery designs, allowing the battery to be made in a flat configuration or easily incorporated onto belts, vests or another apparatus to power the equipment.

"Many of the specific applications are unknown to us," Reich admits. "The one we have been referencing is an application with the Land Warrior system." According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the Land Warrior integrates small arms with high-tech equipment, enabling ground forces to deploy, fight and win on the battlefields. Among the system's many components are the weapon, an integrated helmet assembly, protective clothing and individual equipment, a computer/radio and software and battery packs.

Pliant's flexible pouch material has been successfully used to replace a traditional steel battery housing one would see in a typical retail battery, Reich adds. It has also been used to contain a Li-ion rechargeable battery for the military, which involved direct sealing of the electrical leads to the laminate. "We used an ethylene acrylic acid (EAA) copolymer to give good hermetic seals to the leads," he says.

Reich points out that while the Army says it hopes to use the material for many different cell sizes and uses, undoubtedly, other battery makers will evaluate this breakthrough packaging material. Reich says Pliant is also working on nonfoil alternatives. Circle No. 238

Flexible pouch with a trigger on wild game

Also winning a Gold award in packaging excellence, the new Wild Gamekeepers spray-pack from Cedar Rapids, IA-based Hunter Specialties (4) represents the first commercial U.S. package that mates a flexible pouch with a trigger sprayer. The result of teamwork between pouchmaker Kapak Corp. (www.kapak.com) and contract packager/manufacturer Fortress Systems International (www.fsinutrition.com), the spray-pack was launched in the summer of 2004. The new, wild game spray is formulated to help prevent bacterial growth on just-harvested game. The packaging challenge was how to make the dry, granular formulation functional in an outdoor environment, particularly after water is added to the package, to activate the ingredients in the field. Working on contact, the solution is sprayed onto the game to prevent bacteria from forming. As the product is used, a vacuum is created inside the pouch. Kapak's facility in St. Louis Park, MN, produces the pouchstock, a 4.5-mil, two-ply lamination of polyester and linear low-density PE, and premakes the pouches on its Totani America (www.totaniamerica.com) machines. It also hermetically seals a canoe-shaped fitment collar into the neck of each empty pouch. The fitment accepts a threaded trigger sprayer that can be removed so that the pouch can be filled with 22 oz of tap or bottled water to dilute the granular mixture. After the trigger is reapplied to the pouch, the product is ready to spray onto a fresh carcass.

An extended bottom gusset accommodate the water that will be added to the package, and a punch hole is made to the top for hanging the pouch trigger-side-down on pegboards. The adhesive-laminated pouch structure was specifically designed to contain the food-grade, salt-based granular product and is durable enough to withstand toting along in a rigorous outdoor environment.

Says Hunter Specialties' marketing manager Tim Anderson, game hunters often have concerns about how to properly preserve just-harvested meat. "There was a need for a product that could minimize the growth of bacteria, such as E.coli and salmonella," he says.

After developing and testing a formulation that could do just that, the company's challenge was to create a system that could transport and display the dry product, be easily used after the package is filled with water and function properly in the field as a mixture that can be sprayed on the game. Hunter called on contract manufacturer/packager Fortress to find the right package to help bring the product to market.

Fortress evaluated a variety of packaging options, including a traditional bottle with trigger sprayer, but didn't feel that the traditional combination was the best alternative. "We thought Kapak would be up to the challenge," explains Scott McGill, product manager at Fortress Systems.

In addition to performance challenges, Hunter's Specialties also had several marketing targets to aim for. Among them was creating a pouch that displays well on peg hooks and at point-of-purchase, boost shelf facings and optimize billboarding of the brand. All of this was accomplished within a tight, 60-day timeframe, from concept to package-delivery launch date.

Hunter's Specialties worked on finalizing the package graphics while Fortress concentrated on sourcing the optimum trigger sprayer. The objective was to source a trigger component that was capable of evacuating as much of the diluted liquid from the pouch as possible. Kapak, meanwhile, worked on producing the primary package and the cylinders that would be used in the rotogravure printing process.

The pouch itself also had to be leak-free when filled with water and durable to use even in harsh weather. Fortress discovered that the desired sprayer stem length would have to be a custom 9 3/4 in., which McGill says his company found after an extensive search. With the pouch laminate and trigger sprayer selected, the team put the package through performance tests. The water-filled pouch/trigger sprayer combination was put through repeated 10-ft drop tests with successful performance results, McGill says. The pouch structure was a direct hit on all counts.

Bright yellow, red and black front- and back-panel graphics were developed to help billboard the product and provide usage instructions. Interestingly, the front panel is intentionally printed upside down so that the copy is readable when the package stands on its trigger or the dry product is inverted and hung on a peg hook. The back panel is printed right-side-up so that the hunter can easily follow dilution and usage instructions in the field.

Kapak uses an eight-color Toshiba (www.toshiba.com) sectional drive GSN 120 press to gravure-print the body of the package. The press employs new technology that relies on a sectional drive and hollow, reusable cylinders that can lower costs by bringing rotogravure quality to an affordable level, PD is told.

A typical cylinder for this press costs about 25 percent less than traditional rotogravure cylinders, mainly because the cylinders are hollow and reusable; each cylinder is encased by a steel shell and then is covered with layers of copper. Until recently, gravure printing was used for longer print runs that could justify the cost of the print cylinders. Suitable for a variety of flexible packaging applications, the sectional drive press makes high-definition printing possible at a 25-percent lower price.

Kapak ships the empty, triggerless pouches to Fortress's plant in Omaha, which manually applies the trigger sprayer and fills the package with 1.5 oz of the granular product mixture on a semi-automatic AMS Filling Systems (www.amsfilling.com) vertical auger filler. For the first production run, the trigger sprayer assembly was manually screwed onto the threaded neck finish of each pouch to complete the package, McGill says. adding that he expects this process to be automated soon.

Without the trigger, the pouch itself measures approximately 10 in. long and 5 in. wide. The new spray product provides hunters with a way to prevent bacteria from forming or growing in the field and works on most types of game animals, including elk, deer and squirrels—even fish. Anderson says the product is also appropriate for use away from civilization, where transporting meat home may take several days.

Adds McGill, "Hunters are already packing a lot of items when they go out into the field for two or three days. So there is great benefit to a package that's flat and can handle the abuse." The flat pouch is reportedly less expensive to ship than a bottle/trigger sprayer combination, and offers great shelf facings via the flat-panel graphics. "The manufacturing costs are also less expensive," McGill points out. "Instead of having to label a bottle, you simply fill and seal the pouch." Wild Gamekeeper Spray is available nationally in outdoor and sporting goods stores at a suggested retail price of $3.99. Circle No. 239.

Retortable pouch 'cooks' for Asian entr?es

Alcan Packaging also won multiple awards, including a Gold for packaging excellence for Wornick's Homestyle Express (TM) Asian Style Selections(TM) (5). The shelf-stable products may be the first available in the U.S. in a high-barrier, nonfoil retortable, standup pouch. Produced by Alcan Packaging (www.alcan.com), the pouch construction incorporates CeramisR silicon oxide (Si0x)-coated film as a clear barrier layer. Alcan says the Ceramis improves shelf stability adds and microwavability. Shelf-stable for a year, the flexible gusset-bottomed pouch holds 18 oz of one of four fresh-prepared meals, including Sweet & Sour Chicken, Szechwan Chicken, and Beef Teriyaki and precooked Long-Grain White Cooked Rice. Covered by PD in September, 2004, when it was first introduced (see PD, Sept. '04, p. 1, or www.packagingdigest.com/info/wornick), the package is the result of coating technology that took more than 10 years to develop.

Concinnati-based Wornick Company is all for convenient packaging of these heat-and-serve ready meals for time-starved consumers. Added to the Homestyle Express line of retorted, packaged meals in rigid bowls, Asian Style Selections comes in flexible, gusset-bottomed film pouches that can be cut open with a scissors at a tear line prior to heating.

Wornick originally introduced its single-serve Homestyle Express meals in 2000 and has received national recognition for their taste.

Development of the Asian entr?es was driven by consumer demand for still more convenience, more variety and larger portion sizes (Worknick says the 18-oz pouches act as two-component kits: One meat and vegetables pouch; plus one rice pouch of exactly the same 18-oz size serve four). The products were launched in September, 2004, in Wal-Mart Supercenters nationwide.

"A lot of people are looking for quick and easy meal solutions, but they still want great-tasting food that's good for them," said Worknick's director of sales and marketing Paul Dupont, at the time of the multiserve entr?e launch. "Saving time is a big plus for people with busy work schedules, family obligations and activities. Half of all households are too busy and too tired to put much time or effort into preparing a meal."

Unlike Asian-style entr?es in cans, the shelf-stable pouches, which are notched at the top for easy-tear access, can be placed directly in the microwave and need no defrosting like frozen meals. Prep time takes about five minutes compared to the typical 20 minutes it takes to cook a conventional rice-based Asian meal. And the packages take up little storage space in the cupboard.

Alcan says the choice of printing substrate and inks achieves the look Wornick required and they have the properties needed to withstand retort cooking and cooling processes. A proprietary sealant film adds ample stiffness and the opacity and a clean background to display the graphics, which Alcan gravure-prints in eight colors. The design presents the entr?es enlarged to show key ingredients on the front panels. Alcan says that foil and nonfoil retort laminates have been produced off shore for many years but domestic production of retort pouches has basically been limited to foil pouches for the MRE rations used by the U.S. military.

Thus, food producers wanting microwavable, retortable pouches were forced to source their packaging offshore. Not any more.

Producing this type of packaging in the U.S. is a technical achievement, the companies says, because the potential packaging components and laminations have to be carefully screened to ensure that the finished pouches are free of any organoleptic issues with food. In addition, the components can withstand the requirements of various distribution channels and meet regulatory requirements, a feat in itself.

Wornick fills the pouches at its Prepared Foods Div. in Cincinnati. Circle No. 240.

Popcorn and bowl in one

The Insta-Bowl(TM) self-contained bag-and-bowl microwave popcorn bag (6) from multiple award winner Exopack (www.exopack.com), which earned Gold in technical innovation for its convenient heat-seal construction with exceptional product protection and sifting prevention and a silver award for packaging excellence.

The versatile package can be brought to the office, allowing easy access to the popped corn with its large opening, or kept at home, where it goes from the microwave directly to the consumer's lap. A convenient, easy-open string-pull feature with the fin seal along the length of the bag allows the user to open the package to form a handy, shallow eat-from bowl.

The self-contained, ready-to-eat aspect of the bowl package eliminate the need to transfer the hot, cooked popcorn into a separate bowl. This saves on cleanup too.

Triangular in shape, the laminated bag's low-profile design allows it to stand upright without tipping. Exopack laminates the bagstock using two different grease-proof bleached paper plies with a microwave susceptor patch trapped in between. The outer paper ply can be printed in two to four colors, while the inner is unprinted. The susceptor patch, which measures roughly 5 in. sq, is laminated to the inside of the outer ply before the second ply is laminated to the web. Once the rollstock is produced, Exopack's facility in Sibley, IA, forms the bags on a specially modified bagmaking machine Exopack says is no longer available.

Exopack's business development manager Paul Kearns says that proprietary water-based adhesives were specially formulated to be used in the triangular end seams to form a vent at one end of the bag. This permits the product to vent or breathe during popping. Targeted for vending and convenience-store sales, the bag was launched commercially last summer by General Mills, Minneapolis, for a snack-sized Pop Secret(R) microwave popcorn developed exclusively for Sam's Club stores. Flexo-printed in blue and yellow with the Pop Secret graphics, the bag was merchandised in a 30-count paperboard display sleeves. Each package contains two display sleeves with folding header cards.

"There has been additional interest expressed by other popcorn manufacturers, both domestic and international," says Kearns. Exopack has a patent on its bag invention, which also won a 2004 AmeriStar Award in the food category from the Institute of Packaging Professionals (www.iopp.org). Circle No. 241

Preset DVD movies are disposable

Winning a Gold award in technical innovation, the Cryovac(R) OS Systems Technology from the Cryovac Div., of Sealed Air Corp., (www.sealedair.com) (7) is used for the unique product requirements of the Flexplay enabled DVD disk. Created by Flexplay Technologies, Saco, ME, as a convenient new way to "rent" DVD movies, the disk's specialized film package with integral oxygen-scavenging technology also won a Silver award in the nonfood category in DuPont's annual DuPont Awards packaging competition (see PD, Sept. '04, p. 24, or www.packagingdigest.com/info/dupont0409).

The DVD has a preset, 48-hour viewing window that begins when the disk is removed from the package. Once the disk is exposed to air, a reaction begins that renders the DVD unplayable after the viewing period elapses. When the time comes, the disk will stop functioning. The viewing time window is actually determined by the chemistry within the disk (Flexplay Technologies can provide a range of viewing times, depending on customer needs). But before that, it's operable for viewing as many times as the consumer desires.

The limited-play technology offers a hassle-free option for home entertainment with unmatched flexibility and convenience. The viewing window begins only after the packaging is opened, so consumers can watch Flexplay DVDs anytime, anywhere, without late fees, scratched disks and best of all not having to return the DVD to a rental store.

Says Thomas Kennedy, business development manager at Cryovac, the OS film is a fully coextruded multilayer film that contains oxygen barrier layers along with the OS layer. The films used to produce the package incorporate a multilayer structure of at least six layers, including a proprietary film layer, a layer for abuse-resistance, oxygen barriers, sealing and oxygen scavenging. Both the forming and lidding webs are provided by Cryovac. The package comprises a shallow pocket forming web of T6010B 10-mil barrier film with an EVOH barrier that is evacuated of oxygen and back-flushed with nitrogen. The oxygen-scavenging lidding film of 3.5-mil Cryovac OS is then heat-sealed to the forming web.

Kennedy says this is the first and so far only nonfood use of the Cryovac OS Systems technology, though there have been a number of inquiries from nonfood packagers. The films's proprietary oxygen-scavenging technology incorporated in the outer flexible film package creates and maintains a low-oxygen environment inside thne package.

"We believe there are opportunities for packaging that can corrode or discolor in the presence of oxygen, such as automotive parts, electronics, chemicals and dyes that are known to be oxygen-sensitive, " Kennedy says.

Cryovac describes the technology as having three key components. First, at the heart of the Cryovac OS Systems technology are proprietary materials in one layer of the multilayer film (both coextruded and laminated films have been developed for the application). Second, Cryovac says the film is activated with UV light at the point of packaging, which doesn't change the look or feel of the package and no moisture is used as an activator.

Instead, oxygen scavenging is initiated on-demand by passing the film through Cryovac's patented UV-light-triggering process delivered by its Model 4104 system. Once the film receives the triggering dose, it begins scavenging oxygen within minutes.

Third, the film must pass the quality-assurance component of the equation, the Scavenging Verification System, which quickly and easily provides a verification that the film has been properly triggered and is absorbing oxygen.

The disk is first packed in a paperboard sleeve that's then placed in the flexible film. During shipping and handling, the OS package's oxygen scavenging properties can keep the DVD in an oxygen-free environment for at least a year. Because it's integral to the film and invisible, the oxygen scavenger doesn't detract from a clear view of the DVD. The DVDs are manufactured, packaged and distributed by Technicolor Home Entertainment (www.technicolor.com), Cammarillo, CA, a Flexplay technology licensee. Circle No. 242

Sterile medical pouch offers a clear view

Alcan Packaging won another Gold award, this time for technical originality with a medical pouch for Cardinal Health, McGaw Park, IL, that's both breathable and steam-sterilizable. The Autopak(R) Sterilization pouch (8) incorporates an outer base ply of SMS, a nonwoven substrate produced by BBA Group (www.bbagroup.com), comprising what BBA refers to as a spunbond/meltblown/spunbond.

The substrate allows sterilization gases to permeate the medical packaging while also providing a barrier to bacteria. This spunbonded material from BBA is the same type of material hospital supply rooms all over the country use to wrap surgical instruments, often in stainless-steel trays.

The trays are steam-sterilized, stored and wrapped until they are required in the operating room. The wrapped package is breathable, and the fabric provides a microbial barrier, ensuring the devices remain sterile, says Cardinal Health's senior specialist engineer David Rudd. "The new Autopak pouch isn't intended to replace all wrapped, sterilized packs, but it has a huge advantage over [other] wraps," he says. "The user (nurse or hospital staff) can see inside the pouch and verify its contents, unlike conventional sterile, wrapped packages."

The AutoPak pouch's unique construction helps make aseptic presentation quick and easy without compromising the sterility of the contents. This is made possible by proprietary materials, creating the first steam-stable, nonlinting, tamper-evident, peelable seal.

Alcan coextrudes the peelable, middle ply of what it will only say is a proprietary, PP-based material. Cardinal perforates this ply during pouchmaking for permeability, which adds strength and stability, protects the SMS barrier layer from direct contact with instruments, baskets and trays, and contains what Alcan's senior research associate Rick Johnson defines as "a unique, autoclavable peelable-seal feature that primarily activates after sterilization." Alcan also produces the top film ply, which comprises a lamination of DuPont Canada's (www.dupont.ca) cast nylon and PP that creates a clear and tough , nonpermeable layer, according to Johnson.

Johnson reports that the Autopak pouch was developed to allow hospital personnel to view medical instruments in the package, a real benefit over opaque medical device packs. Opaque packages can result in instrument trays being accidentally opened when they are not needed in surgery, he says. The clear package prevents waste and ensures that only packages that are really needed are actually opened. As long as the package isn't compromised, the contents will remain sterile.

Highly transparent and abuse-resistant for large devices, the heat-sealed Autopak pouch provides visual access to its contents, so the fact that the package is transparent on one side, breathable and autoclavable is a breakthrough in convenience for medical packaging, reports Rudd. What's more, the pouch can hold substantially more bulk and weight than a peelable paper pouch.

"The Autopak pouch is ideal to use in the OR, on a 'have-ready' basis, meaning that it can be opened quickly, and with confidence," Rudd tells PD. "This also means fewer packages are opened in error, less packaging is used and less sterilization resources are required."

Cardinal launched Autopak in October 2003. There are currently seven different sizes ranging from 7313 to 19332 in. Cardinal makes and sells the package to hospitals and surgery centers that use it to package reusable surgical instruments including large instrument trays. Rudd says its use can eliminate the need for dust covers and indicator tape. Contents can be visually inspected for defects at any point in the surgical chain, which reduces the possibility of errors and ultimately the cost of instrument processing.

"The pouch heads to hundreds of health care facilities," Rudd reports. "To the best of my knowledge, no one else distributes this type of pouch."

Cardinal produces the pouch on a "purpose-built" packaging machine in a facility in North Carolina. The finished pouch is hermetically three-side-sealed with a portion of the fourth side left open for insertion of a medical device. A wide variety of devices requiring steam sterilization may be inserted between the center film and the clear top layer before teh pouch is closed with the final hermetic end seal.

Prior to sterilization, the pouch essentially won't peel open and is in fact difficult to open. The peel seal is what Rudd calls a fracturable coextrusion. The pouches are available in both a heat-sealable and a self-adhesive version. Says Rudd, "Many hospitals have small heat sealers that we can make available to them."

Cardinal Health owns seven patents on the Autopak design, and Alcan Packaging owns a patent on the peelable, middle, coextruded film. The construction's unique peel feature of the middle web can survive steam sterilization, but it's the very same steam that activates the peelable opening mechanism. Applicable to both lidding and pouch laminations, the peel technology used in Autopak has successfully been evaluated in retortable food containers, but with slight modifications, Johnson adds.

Sums up Rudd: "We are pleased with what this development offers customers. We can offer an alternative wrap with the very big advantage of seeing the contents in the pouch before opening it, thereby increasing confidence and reducing waste." Circle No. 240

'Tree-mendous' shaped pouch for holiday sales

Competing for impulse sales where tins and fancy paperboard boxes are di rigeur for special gifts of chocolate, the Chocolates Britt Christmas Tree Pouch (9) from Grupo Caf? Britt, S.A., Costa Rica, no doubt was a hot item at holiday time, 2004. Converted in Israel by CLP Industries Ltd. (www.clppackagingsolutions.com), the package was a hot, seasonal holiday promotional item at point-of-purchase in stores, supermarkets, and airports, and did brisk business on the internet (Grupo Caf? Britt has built a handsome following among international travelers, PD is told).

The novel pouch, which is shaped and printed to look like a Christmas tree, holds 6 oz of confections in two varieties—white and dark chocolate-covered gourmet coffee beans and dark-chocolate-covered tropical fruit, including guava, passion fruit and pineapple jelly.

The festive pouch got plenty of attention from the FPA judges, who gave it a Gold award in printing achievement for its clever converting techniques. A fabric hanger loop at the top of the "tree" provides more display options for retailers on Christmas trees in stores and adds fun for consumers after purchase. CLP converted, printed and constructed the pouch in Kibbutz Negba, Israel, on a Totani pouchmaking machine. The fabric loop is inserted into the filled pouches by hand and is affixed during the sealing process. The pouches are available in the U.S. through CLP's U.S. subsidiary, CLP Packaging Solutions, Fairfield, NJ.

A coffee roaster and chocolates manufacturer since 1985, Grupo Caf? Britt says the flexible pouch is a lot easier to hang on a tree or a door than a metal tin filled with chocolates. Monica Carballo, marketing and development products manager at Caf? Britt, Costa Rica, affirms that her company has received a very enthusiastic response to the tree pouch and plans to conduct another holiday chocolates promotion in 2005, as well as to introduce a special holiday coffee blend.

CLP describes the shaped pouch as an adhesive-laminated structure made of the following: registered matte spot varnish lacquer/12-micron (47-ga) polyethylene terephthalate/ink/adhesive/8-micron (31-ga) foil/adhesive/110-micron (4.3-mil) PE. The total thickness of the shaped pouch is between 5.5 and 5.6 mils.

The PET outer layer is reverse-printed on a Cerutti (www.cerutti.com) gravure press in six colors plus a glossy spot varnish. Graphics capture the look of a fanciful tree with faithfully reproduced, paintbrush-style features, such as a star at the top of the "tree," fruit, a tropical toucan, leafy greenery, brightly colored ornaments and the company and product names. CLP uses Siegwerk Druckfarben (also available from Siegwerk USA at www.siegwerk.de) inks for beauty, durability and richness.

The printed PE layer is then laminated to the foil and PET, the latter two selected for their structural and barrier properties. CLP says that in order for the pouchstock to be printed and die-cut to properly yield the distinctive evergreen-tree silhouette, all stages of the converting process must be executed with extremely tight registration.

Honing its gravure printing skills on films, CLP says what makes this package unique is the combination of reverse printing, surface varnish and die-cutting precision delivered to the client as if it were a much simpler, more conventional stand-up pouch. Grupo Caf? Britt chose rich colors and the bright spot-varnished highlights to help convey the beauty and joy of a tropical Christmas, along with the unique shaped silhouette to attract attention, especially challenging when competing for impulse sales in a sea of fancy paperboard boxes and tins for chocolate. The pouch measures 57/8 in. at its widest point and stands 81/2 in. tall.

"The Christmas Tree pouch helped us create a successful promotion for Christmas," Caballo summarizes. "This season is very important for us, and we reached our goals in terms of sales, thanks to this new product. Consumers loved the pouch. We have a lot of positive comments from customers and dealers in every point-of-sale. It was considered the perfect gift." Circle No. 243

All-film, multiwall bag refreshes petfood

Converting large-format, 30-lb bags isn't the easiest task, which is why the beautiful version with portrait-like graphics for Nature's Variety Lamb & Rice Medley petfood (10) such as the New Zealand Venison Medley for dogs, was most noteworthy for printing achievement. Multiple award winner Pliant Corp. and converter Bryce Corp. (www.brycecorp.com) won a Gold award for the luxurious, pillow-style bag, which Bryce produces in Memphis on a tandem extrusion lamination system Bryce specially built.

Lincoln, NE-based Nature's Variety offers pet products in bags and cans, as well as freeze-dried diets, bones and dry, roasted treats that have been developed and tested in cooperation with leading nutritionists and veterinarians. The products contain certified, organic meats, fruits, vegetables, sprouts and eggs. The company replaced a paper multiwall bag for the products with this all-plastic bag structure in 2004.

The stunning, flat-bottomed bag structure features an advanced multilayer, all-film construction that's resistant to puncturing and tearing, helps increase shelf life and lowers packaging production costs. Made of five layers, including two extrusion-lamination layers—the bagstock features Pliant's Maxilenee octane-based, LLDPE-blend sealant film, which was designed to afford superior sealing performance. The new, all-film package, consists of, from the outside, reverse-printed, clear PET/polymer extrudate/metallized PET/white extrudate/Maxilene sealant film. The total thickness of the bag is a sturdy 6.3 mils.

The metallized layer adds a luxurious look and is printed to elevate shelf appeal to a new level. The combination of flexo printing that rivals gravure and metallics give the film structure a reflective three-dimensional appearance. Bryce reverse-prints the clear outer PET layer (which has a high coefficient of friction) in eight colors. Tight control of the press and a generous dose of printing know-how were heavily involved in producing the desired graphic effects, says Bryce's vp of technology Mark Montsinger.

Created with assistance from Bryce's internal cyber graphics design group, the lavish graphics present a portrait-quality photo vignette all over the front panel of the bag of a dog or cat posing in a field. To print the bagstock, Montsinger says Bryce chose low-odor, water-based inks from Sun Chemical (www.sunchemical.com) that rival gravure quality. The bag's printed, transparent high COF PET layer gives the bag significantly improved gloss and protects the printing. Mitsubishi Gas Chemical (www.mgc-a.com) provides the PET resin. "There's no comparison between the glossy look of this bag and regular, paper multiwall bags," Montsinger says. "The printing has to be sharp with an all-film bag like this, and we take great care to achieve the right look."

The antiskid surface of the high COF PET film is also critical, he says, because it helps keep the bags snug on pallets, preventing them from toppling as the large bags are stacked, bulk-loaded onto pallets and stretch-wrapped.

Bryce sends the bagstock to Valley Packaging (www.vpind.com) in Appleton, WI, which converts the film into thermally sealed, flat-bottom bags and also applies a one-way valve to the back panel in order to purge the air from it and allow the bag to flatten. A new reclosable zipper feature from Zip-Pak , a division of ITW (www.zippak.com) is applied to the top of the open-mouth bag for even more consumer-friendly convenience. The zipper reclosure, which could be a first for large petfood bags like this, helps keep the product fresh and free of infestation, and protects it against moisture and oxygen and prevents it from spilling out of the bag. Circle No. 238.

SILVER/ENVIRONMETAL AWARDS

Potato packs with panache

Potatoes may seem pretty commonplace, but the glittering graphics for Betty Crocker's new Au Gratin and Scalloped Potatoes in pouches (11) from General Mills, Minneapolis, are anything but. Making their maiden voyage into the flexible packaging category, the convenience potato line, now in lightweight 2.4- and 2.2-oz standup pouches, nabbed a Silver award for Printpack, Inc. (www.printpack.com) for its expert printing abilities with digital photopolymer plates. A line extension of the potatoes in several rigid paperboard carton sizes, the lightweight, gusset-bottomed pouches well exceed key attributes, including high-impact graphics, product shelf-life barriers and consumer convenience and functionality. Introduced in 2004, the standup pouches contain dry ingredients that are mixed and reconstituted with wet ingredients and heated on the stove in a pan or in the microwave.

Printpack converts and extrusion-laminates the pouchstock at its plant in St. Louis, producing a 4-mil rollstock that it describes as a reverse-printed PET/PE/metallized PET/PE/film sealant. The digital DuPont (www.dupont.com) DPL plates are separated by Schawk, Inc. (www.schawk.com). The crisp, shiny rollstock's glossy polyester film top layer is reverse-printed in seven colors on an eight-color Windmoeller & Hoelscher (www.whcorp.com) Starflex(R) flexo press. Printpack then laminates the printed PET to a metallized polyester layer.

Graphics, designed by Ultra Creative in Minneapolis, present a copper-colored background, the familiar Betty Crocker brand logo and product descriptions, as well as many other elements similar in style to those found on the brand's paperboard cartons. But the flexible packages utilize a registered white plate and the glossy, metallized film laminate to produce an attractive sparkle around the product photos. The shiny metallic backdrop offsets the tightly registered reverse printing and a large area of fine, small 6-point type. The illustrated graphics and product photography close-ups of the potato dishes have great definition and contrast, which could otherwise look somewhat flat, with no shape or contrast.

Printpack's graphic supervisor Jim Meyers says that a number of drop shadows in the graphics demand good registration. "The drop shadows around the Betty Crocker spoon are one color black screen. If that color moves in relation to the red spoon, it would be apparent that it was out of register. Circle No. 244

Shrinkable vacuum bag clucks for chicken

Most consumers think leaky, sticky packages for whole chicken are for the birds. That's why the Cryovac Food Packaging Div. of Sealed Air Corp. developed a more durable alternative that virtually eliminates leakage. The Cryovac(R) FC 805 bag (12) won a Silver award for technical innovation. The high-shrink bag for whole chicken broilers weighing 3 to 5 lb, is described as a hermetically sealed vacuum bag that provides exceptional resistance to abrasion and puncturing. Cryovac says the bag is currently being used by most major poultry processors, including Pilgrim's Pride. It can withstand the normal abuses of shipment and consumer handling while maintaining a sleek, smooth appearance for the chicken and outstanding consumer appeal in the poultry case.

Cryovac says that retailers are demanding leak-resistant packaging for sanitary reasons, shopper safety and for its ability to reduce labor and cleanup. The FC 805 vacuum bag is hermetically sealed to create leak-resistance and a tougher, more abuse-resistant package. Cryovac describes the bag as "an exceptionally tough, multilayer polyolefin material developed as a result of the company's advanced coextrusion technology." The bag incorporates a combination of properties that provide distribution protection and outstanding consumer appeal in the retail case because it's neater and cleaner. Fewer leaky packages helps reduce risks of cross-contamination, Cryovac notes. And by reducing leakers, retailers can cut costs and use of additional bags and paper towels at the meat case. They can also reduce their cleaning labor because there is less mess and fewer spills to clean up in the aisles and checkout counters.

The premade bag's high-shrink energy creates a package with skintight cling, according to Cryovac, for a tighter, smoother look. The cling helps to eliminate air pockets, wrinkles and unsightly "ears." The filled bag can be sealed by vacuumizing and heat-sealing it on a Cryovac rotary chamber vacuum system, the company says is used by many poultry processors. The filled bag is also put through a hot-water shrink tunnel that causes the film to shrink around the chicken at water temperatures that typically range from about 190 to 205 deg F. This thickens and toughens the multilayer bag material, making the bag exceptionally resistant to abrasion and puncturing.

A perfect example of flexible packaging that can roll with the punches, or in this case, can withstand plenty of shipping and handling abuse, the soft and pliable FC 805 material is easy for operators to handle and opens easily for loading. The tough material reduces product damage during distribution because there is no poultry purge to compromise carton strength. The bag film remains soft and pliable at chicken storage temperatures as low as -60 deg F. Cross-contamination issues throughout distribution points are reduced due to elimination of leaky packages.

The bag's shelf presence is improved due to easy-to-read, graphics that can be printed in up to six-color line print for sharpness. The skin-tight shrink of the film allows shoppers to better see the product. Circle No. 242.

Frugal formed liner provides easy release

As its name implies, the Ecolab Liner, produced by PBM Plastics, Inc. (www.pbmplastics.com) is an ecological solution to an old problem of releasing solid industrial cleaning chemical concentrates from a rigid container (13). PBM gained a silver award in Environmental Achievement for its formed, flexible film liner, which is designed to fit precisely inside a rigid, high-density PE tub from Berry Plastics (www.berryplastics.com), rated for 169 oz of liquid volume. St, Paul, MN-based Ecolab is a global developer and marketer of premium commercial cleaning and sanitizing, pest elimination, maintenance and repair products for hospitality, institutional and industrial markets.

The lip of the flexible LDPE film liner, which is 2 to 5 mils thick, is ultrasonically welded to the lip of the tub. The tub/liner is hot-filled with molten, liquid car wash cleaner that solidifies into a solid product block. The block of cleaner concentrate is then deposited into a product dispenser silo by inverting the tub and allowing the solid block to release into the dispenser silo.

PBM says the package design has a patent pending. It forms the Ecolab liner its patented deep-draw, melt-phase forming process using recyclable LDPE billets that it heats to the melt phase and uses positive air pressure to form the LDPE in a mold into the shape of the liner. Ecolab reformulated its product with an improved, more powerful chemistry that might not have been commercialized without the film liner for the tub. Being aggressive, the new concentrate for car washes was adhering to wall of the rigid tub, preventing the chemical cleaner block from releasing easily into its dispenser.

Welding the collapsible liner to the tub allows the product to slowly peel away from the tub in small increments while the tub is inverted, allowing the cleaner to dispense gradually into the silo. Inverting the tub eventually causes the filled liner to turn completely inside out on itself as it releases the cleaning chemicals.

PBM says its patented deep-draw thermoforming liner-production process generates little scrap and waste due to the billets being cut on close corners, and the minimal amount of uncontaminated trim that does exist is recycled back into the sheet stock at the extrusion process. This reduces the scrap rates from 50 percent to as low as 15 percent.

The liner facilitated the ability to add 3 more lb of product to each tub, according to PBM, increasing the total product volume from 11 to currently 14 lb, resulting in a significant source reduction for Ecolab. The packaging replaces previously-used, 50-gal drums that were reportedly more costly and wasted some product that stuck to the sides of the drums. Because the LDPE film liner collapses and turns in on itself, none of the product sticks to the sides of the tub. This, says PBM's Celeste Vaughn, reduces waste and lowers costs. The lined tub can also help reduce shipping costs because it weighs less and is less expensive than many 50-gal drums, she says. Circle No. 243.

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