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Pack Expo 2018: 8 advancements in food and beverage packaging

Pack Expo 2018: 8 advancements in food and beverage packaging
These eight typify a banquet of food and beverage innovations that packaging professionals feasted on during Pack Expo 2018 last month.

Each of these eight innovations brings something new and different to the food packaging table, accompanied by beverage packaging breakthroughs as well.

One of the best ways to get a comprehensive, wide-angle snapshot view of all things packaging is to attend a world-class show like Pack Expo Intl. The semi-annual iteration that ran Oct. 14-17 in Chicago boasted 2,500 exhibitors across 1.25 million net square feet of McCormick Place exhibit space and drew nearly 45,000 attendees.

There attendees could zoom in on any of a myriad of individual products of interest such as these eight hand-picked selections chosen from among an impressive number of unique food and beverage packaging innovations and launches. Our octet of innovation starts with a barrier tray that looks and feels like kraft paper with the distinct advantage that it can be molded into trays that are recyclable.

Mondi Group impressed attendees with combination paper and plastic perFORMing shallow tray packaging for food products that offers barrier protection. It’s suitable for cheese, meat and other deli foods sold in supermarkets. The breakthrough multilayer formable tray structure eliminates the typical plastic tray to reduce the amount of plastic by 75% while providing a familiar and on-demand natural, eco-friendly look and feel to the packaging with the natural brown kraft paper presentation. The barrier lidding can be obtained by Mondi or another source.

From a technical aspect, the tray material allows a highly symmetrical stretch for pleasing uniformity and the tray’s paper construction allows exceptional printability.

In markets featuring a majority of plastic trays that are typically made of expanded polystyrene, the paper-plastic-hybrid tray provides a distinctive differentiator that can be used on existing packaging lines.

The company is licensing the patented technology from partner Packartis of Switzerland, which has considerable expertise in flexible and formable packaging.

Verena Schnedl, Mondi’s marketing manager, extrusion coatings, tells Packaging Digest that “we now have a certificate from an independent laboratory that rated the material ‘recyclable.’ The recycling rate of course still depends on the individual waste handling structure of the various cities and counties.”

Schnedl indicated there’s plenty of interest in the development. “Trail runs are being conducted now,” she adds.

Manufactured in Austria, perFORMing trays supplied in rollstock are available in Europe and will be shipped to customers in the United States.

Next: NFC development yields smarter, better and faster bottles


PackEx Montréal 2018 (November 14-15) offers everything from design to manufacturing—concept to market—with valuable free presentations throughout the event at Center Stage. Come explore the latest innovations, processes and new products.



While it opens up incredible consumer engagement possibilities including real-time Augmented Reality interaction, a knock to adding near-field communication (NFC) tags to produce smart packaging is that it usually ends up as an add-on sticker or under a label. It turns out that’s a turn-off for major beverage brands who manage big-volume campaigns, not just due to the bump under the label that can undermine a perfect presentation, according Closure Systems Intl.

The main reason: the application of using labels pre-applied with the NFC tags greatly slows down production speeds, a deal breaker for major brands operating high-throughput bottling lines.

What if NFC could be integrated into the packaging via the cap and made seamless on bottling lines?

That’s CSI’s ingenious Talkin’ Caps solution offered by a partnership with Talkin’ Things out of Poland: the NFC tag is sealed inside the polypropylene cap by the plastic liner. And while bottling line rates remain speedy and undiminished, the NFC tag that permits IoT connectivity anywhere remains totally protected.

Referred to by CSI as “Gen 2 NFC,” Talkin’ Caps allow consumer interconnectivity at the point of consumption, giving brand owners the unique ability to have dynamic interaction and gather actionable insights based on consumer location and usage history.

CSI currently offers 28mm, 38mm (shown) and larger diameter Talkin’ Caps caps.

Next: First holographic aseptic cartons bring surprises


Holographic cartons were not at all on my radar while roaming the lengthy aisles in McCormick Place. However, as I walked past the Uflex Ltd. booth in the far North Hall a display case of cartons that sparkled caught my eye. I stopped in place and then went over to the shelf to see what this was about, which is exactly what brands want shoppers to do in stores.

The shiny cartons’ debut at Pack Expo was the first appearance of the Asepto aseptic system for beverage products in North America. As startling to me was that global flexible packaging supplier Uflex not only provides the laminated paperboard cartons, they provide the form-fill-seal aseptic packaging production systems as well.

The holographic Asepto Spark and Premium lines are “a new generation of premium packaging with shelf impact,” said marketing manager Sanghmitra Lodh. Using the same laminated structure as conventional cartons, the from-rollstock cartons are made holographic during flexographic printing. The carton materials can be foil stamped and embossed.

Asepto Spark offers holographic distinction in pack sizes ranging from 100mL to 1000mL for markets including milk, juice and alcohol-containing beverages, Lodh pointed out.

The specialty cartons have gained plenty of traction in the company’s home country of India where 10 machines have already been sold in which 2 have been commissioned and eight are being built.

“We have 32 customers in India already using our Asepto Packaging and one international brand in Tanzania, Africa,” Lodh said.

Fresca, the leading brand in India, launched premium Tropical Mix and Guava juices in the 200mL Asepto Spark holographic packs (shown above).

“We’ve had a positive response to Asepto at Pack Expo,” said Lodh, “and we might see holographic cartons in the U.S. market and global market ver soon, too.”

Next: Familiar name moves into resealable FFS liquids


This contribution is courtesy of my colleague on Packaging Digest, executive editor Lisa Pierce, who uncovered ValvPak, the first foray into liquids by the resealable packaging specialists at Zip-Pak (Carol Stream, IL).

The new and patented flexible valve technology provides controlled dispensing and spill-proof containment of liquids in flexible packaging. It’s a discrete flexible valve that yields when pressure is applied to the product compartment, enabling controlled dispensing. When squeeze-pressure is released, the valve reoccupies and closes the dispensing channel. The design is based on trapped air bubble within layers of film.

Zip-Pak provides spooled valves for inline application on vertical or horizontal form-fill-seal machines.

A beta launch is planned in 2019, with commercialization in the second half of the year with a global brand owner in the home care or personal care area.

Food and beverage applications are in the future, as well as valved pouches for dosage opportunities, she reports.

It’s also attracting interest in brands involved in ecommerce where, according to Zip-Pak via Pierce, “ValvPak customers centered around ecommerce are looking for less weight, no leakage and concentrated products.”

Next: PET trays enable greener food packaging

Pack Expo served as a large stage for the North America introduction of Klöckner Pentaplast’s Elite tray, the company’s first entry outside Europe in the fresh protein food packaging market. Elite offers a unique recyclable modified atmosphere packaging (MAP) solution using high-clarity—just 5% haze—PET trays thermoformed using up to 95% post-consumer recycled PET. The trays, which are 100% recyclable into other plastic items, support goals that align with a circular economy model.

Justin Glass, kp Americas marketing director, says “This is a new vertical market for kp. And imagine being able to reduce the amount of PET waste from ending up in the oceans or landfill and instead turn them into trays that can also be recycled.”

Glass tells Packaging Digest Elite trays are positioned as a more sustainable option to expanded polystyrene trays and non-recyclable polypropylene trays that use an ethylene vinyl alcohol barrier (EVOH). Key benefits include:

  • Reduced sealing time and temperature to yield higher packaging rates;
  • Excellent sealing, barrier and shelf life to reduce food waste;
  • Superb on-shelf presentation; and
  • High strength, minimum weight trays;

The trays are available in assorted sizes and can be colored if desired.

The corresponding lidding film offers high barrier and anti-fog properties for high clarity and allows for full-color printing. The trays are produced in a facility in Montreal, Canada.

The tray represents a technology transfer from Europe, Glass tells Packaging Digest. “We’re ramping up now for a soft introduction in Q4 2018.” Already, he adds, companies are in beta test.

In a similar vein, kp’s parallel Evolve vacuum skin packaging tray solution also uses up to 95% post-consumer recycled PET and increases shelf life while preserving taste and texture. Evolve trays offer a versatile and compact footprint for easy single packing and hanging tabs for vertical display options.

These sustainably enhanced trays align with the company’s recent #PositivePlasticsPledge (see Unpacking Klöckner Pentaplast’s Positive Plastics Pledge, published September 2018 by PlasticsToday).

Next: Ecommerce refill system debuts


The industry had its first look at the ecommerce-optimized Dromo PET packaging system from PTI (Holland, OH) that was launched at the show.

Dromo, which in Greek means road, is a PET bottle engineered specifically for liquid or semi-viscous products sold through ecommerce channels. 

In addition to personal care and household chemical applications, the Dromo bottle could also be used in food and foodservice applications. Ideal would be any ambient-filled liquid or semi-viscous products such as honey, syrup, condiments and more that don’t require refrigeration, according to PTI.

“Consumers have never been more vocal about reducing plastic packaging consumption,” explains Thierry Fabozzi, PTI president. “Along with this has come the significant shift in buying habits, moving away from retail stores toward ecommerce. Different times call for different packaging solutions and that’s what this innovation represents.”

The cylindrical Dromo bottle is a cartridge with opposing flat-side panels that provide sidewall strength and facilitate stacking prior to shrink wrapping into optional double packs. Those flat areas prevent the bottle from rolling and offer a landing place for a label. The bottles can be made from virgin PET or up to 100% recycled PET (rPET).

Up to 75% lighter weight than traditional personal-care PET bottles, the 16-ounce bottle weighs 9.6 grams versus an industry standard 39 gram. The bottles can be embossed and may be sealed with a traditional threaded closure or accommodate a foil seal.

Fundamental to the Dromo system is that brands and consumer adopt a new reusable at-home dispenser; PTI displayed several dispenser styles, each engineered with specific features to address brand preferences.

PTI claims the Dromo bottle offers better evacuation of the product than traditional products bottles because it is positioned inverted with the opening-down position; PTI says it a less messy for consumers than pouch refill systems.

Notably, the expectation is that the secondary packaging requirements for Dromo will also be reduced versus traditional packaging.

The development of Dromo was initiated internally by PTI, which represents a new approach for the company to proactively develop new concepts not tied directly to customer partnerships. Dromo has been in development about a year, according to Fabozzi, who expected to firm up partnerships during the show.

Next: BAP bulks up

A visit at the Aptar Food + Beverage booth yielded several noteworthy introductions, but in this report the focus is on what is certainly the biggest in terms of physical size: The BAP Olympian Closure, a 120mm, much larger version of the Bonded Aluminum to Plastics closure that the company has had available for years for smaller, single-serve size containers. BAP integrates an aluminum laminate seal with a plastic base with convenient pull-ring removal with an attached or separate overcap. Benefits include built-in tamper-evidence and tool-less easy opening.

The new bulked-up version is intended to address consumer frustrations with protein powder packaging and other larger size canisters of granulated and powdered products.

Once the domain of bodybuilders and athletes, a growing number of health-conscious consumers with exercise and healthy living as a high priority are integrating protein products into their diets.

“In the fast-paced era we live in, consumers are placing increasingly higher value on their time and convenience that a brand offers them. Often a simple twist of package to provide rapid access to the product and its safe re-closure is what makes users repurchase a product,” explains Anna Frolova-Levi, Director, global business development, nutraceuticals at Aptar.

This wide snap-top closure allows consumers quick product access without the need to unscrew a cap. Olympian also provides a scoop holder for consumers to attach the scoop to the lid, avoiding mess and product contamination.

Next: Turning bagged products from boring to beckoning


The little things do count for something and can be counted on to do more. Take for example a common bag of bread and its twist-tie reclosure or the small plastic tag that’s barely noticed by consumers except to check the sell-by or freshness date printed on it.

Bedford Industries is taking that lowly tag and similar reclosures to the next level and turning them into a mini branded billboard through three new products: ClipTag and CloseIt Tag and CloseIt Clips. The new custom-printed products bring branding and promotional opportunities to otherwise common closures for bagged baked goods, produce, confections, and more. Specialty printing along with different sizes and shapes of clips and tags become the promotional canvas for causes, seasonal pushes such as holiday cookies and other efforts worth highlighting.

Packaging Digest learned that the products are being used by several bakeries.

Lastly, a bonus: A horse and an elephant spotted at Pack Expo

For no other reason than it was attention-getting interesting, these two sightings involving corrugated packaging pointed dramatically and visually to the vendors’ products and capabilities.

First up, the life-size Clydesdale on display at International Paper’s booth pointed to a recent Anheuser-Busch Budweiser in-store promotion. The fall promotion involved designing, crafting and assembling 9-piece micro-fluted horses—some 1,100 in total, according to an IP representative. The project was handled at IP’s suburban Chicago plant in Carol Stream, IL, meaning the in-booth horse didn’t have to travel too far to get to McCormick Place before it was assembled by two salespeople “which shows you how easy that was to do,” added the booth contact while horsing around a bit.

DC Smith’s slowly melting ice sculpture of an elephant—changed daily throughout the show—demoed perfectly the water resistance of the company’s 100% recyclable and repulpable Greencoat box as a far more sustainable alternative to wax-coated corrugated. It’s available for cold and wet products from seafood to produce to poultry and more. The company states that, over the past five years, more than 375,000 tons of the Greencoat boxes were recycled instead of the same amount of wax-coated boxes going into landfill. If you’ll pardon the expression, that’s an elephantine improvement in sustainability.

Stay tuned to Packaging Digest where we’ll be reporting on other innovations that include more “good stuff” from Pack Expo and wherever good new packaging developments and ideas are found.


PackEx Montréal 2018 (November 14-15) offers everything from design to manufacturing—concept to market—with valuable free presentations throughout the event at Center Stage. Come explore the latest innovations, processes and new products.


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