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A. Fall River's retort pouch for rice
B. Gravure-printed film
C. Microwavable standup popcorn bags
D. Smithfield's heat-and-serve entrées
E. Aseptic bottle for Raging Cow drinks
F. Foster Farms chicken pouches
G. Inverted squeeze bottle for Heinz
H. Cohesive peel lidding
I. Stick-packs for pudding
J. PET shaker for Kraft's grated cheese
K. Foodservice dispensing valve
L. Shrinkable bag for bone-in meats
M. Antibacterial sausage casing
N. Compartmented drug delivery pouch
O. Disk-like dispenser for asthma medication
P. Flexible/retractable LDPE tube
Q. Water-soluble pouch for cleaners
R. Lifescan's desiccating sealant-film pouch
S. Inflatable bubble wrap
T. Multilayer peelable medical pouch
U. Peelable catheter package
V. Single-dose applicator

Be it a standup "serving-bowl" pouch for microwavable popcorn, a shelf-stable retort pouch for rice, an aseptic bottle for shelf-stable, low-acid dairy drinks or an easy-to-use, disk-shaped inhaler for asthma medication, the 22 winners in this year's DuPont Awards packaging competition meld breakthrough structures and technology with advanced converting processes to create clever convenience features and explore new visual vistas.

The winners also demonstrate new dimensions in durability, structural stability that can withstand extreme temperatures and product integrity, resulting from sophisticated converting and printing techniques, including solventless laminating, new overprinting technologies and new ink systems.

Usually, the competition encompasses gold, silver and diamond award levels in food and nonfood categories. This year, however, the judges also awarded a fourth, Special Citation category to three entries they felt deserved recognition for being so unique. And because the winner's circle this year was so large, we divided our coverage into two articles–one recognizing the food-related winners (which doesn't necessarily mean they won in the food category) and one for nonfood winners. Selected from 65 entries, the winners were honored Aug. 8, at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

Heat-and-eat rice takes top spot
This year's Diamond Award winner, deemed most innovative by a seven-member judging panel, went to CLP Industries Ltd., for Fall River's retortable standup pouch for ready-to-eat, cooked rice (A). The glossy, microwavable structure for the shelf-stable pouch, supplied by CLP Industries Ltd. in Israel, with a U.S. division called CLP Packaging Solutions, can go from the shelf to the microwave and then to the dinner table in a mere two minutes (also see PD, March, '03, p. 34).

That's a key advantage for home cooks, since wild rice can take time to prepare and cook conventionally. The container is applicable to a number of convenience foods, from side dishes to whole meals, providing the flavor, taste, aroma and appearance consumers want and the convenience busy families demand. Pouchstock is a nonfoil barrier material that combines 48-ga polyethylene terephthalate/48-ga PET copolymer, coated with silicon-oxide (glass)/65-ga biaxially oriented nylon/2.4-mil cast polypropylene. Despite the lack of a foil layer, the combination, including the SiO2 coating, affords at least a 12-month shelf life. Notched for easy-tear access, the microwavable pouch also provides the essential oxygen and moisture barriers needed to handle shipping and retorting extremes, while the absence of foil also allows packagers to create windowed or clear-film pouches.

Using glass-coated PET demands a significant amount of care during the converting process, notes Pat Eder, marketing coordinator for CLP Packaging Solutions (U.S.), but the advantages make it well worth the effort and allow CLP to deliver the shelf life and product protection with the caliber of foil. "This pouch represents the only nonfoil retort pouch for wild rice that we're aware of," says CLP's John Pahl.

However, the California Wild Rice Growers Association (doing business as Fall River Wild Rice, a Fall River Mills, CA, farmer cooperative), which produces and markets the rice, uses opaque pouches. It just launched the new rice pouch as a replacement for a retortable foil pillow-pack that couldn't be microwaved. "We are trying to sell convenience too, and with the former package, we were just one step short of having a truly convenient package," says Hiram Oilar, general manager of Fall River Wild Rice. "The gusseted bottom allows the pouch to self-display without the use of a carrier or a tray."

The 10.5-oz pouch of precooked wild rice contains no preservatives, excess water or salt. Instead, the rice is processed using a retort that cooks and sterilizes the contents of the package. CLP Industries converts, prints and produces the pouch in Kubbutz Negba, Israel, adhesive-laminating the films on a Rotomec system from Valmet Converting. Reverse printing of the outer PET layer is in eight colors by gravure on a Cerutti press. Graphics include an attention-getting, deep burgundy background color and a tasty-looking photo vignette of a plated dish. Special inks are used that withstand the retort process, PD is told.

The finished filmstock is then made into pouches on Totani equipment (available in the U.S. from Amplas). Only the bag's outer layer is laser-scored on front and back panels to create a tear-strip device that tears cleanly, straight across the top. The finished package is shipped to Fall River's copackers, including Shoei Foods USA, Marysville, OH, and DDM Foods in Simpsonville, SC, where it is filled, sealed and retorted. The handsome premade pouch stands about 8 in. tall and is 5.5 in. wide.

Sales of the 100-percent-natural wild rice are exceeding expectations, Oilar says, adding that starting in September, Fall River Wild Rice will expand distribution with additional versions of the product/package that, by year-end, will be carried through some 3,000 to 4,000 retail stores. The ready-to-serve wild rice has been gaining shelf space in an increasing number of high-end shops and health stores, Oilar says. The standup feature offers high visibility for the product, without the need for the support trays that were required by the former pillow-packs. Consumer-friendly, attractive and shelf-stable for about 18 months, the pouch also won a gold award in the food category. Circle No. 216.

Glamorous, water-based gravure
Gravure-printed flexible food packaging films from Fuji Tokushu Shigyo Co., Ltd. (B), Seto-Shi, Aichi, Japan, won gold in the food category for spearheading the use of aqueous inks, advanced platemaking technology and solventless laminating. Fuji Tokushu Shigyo's process is claimed to reduce the organic solvents used in conventional gravure printing.

Also known about the printing process is what it doesn't include: no toluene, no methyl ethyl ketone and no ethyl acetate. What it does contain is 27 percent solids, 53 percent water, 15 percent isopropyl alcohol and only 5 percent ethanol. In addition, the company says its new overprinting technology is based on a unique printing platemaking method.

"We use form [sic] plates with 200- to 400-line [screens] that are 10 to 17 micron depths each," writes Fuji Tokushu Shigyo's president, Kimio Sugiyama. A polarized resin such as DuPont™ Nucrel® (ethylene acid copolymer) facilitates the bonding of the aqueous inks to the surface of the film, PD is told. Fuji Tokushu Shigyo reports that the technical innovation also marks the launch of new film extrusion laminating and manufacturing technology that reduces organic solvents and produces a glossy, gravure-printed package.

"When laminating an intermediate layer and/or a heat-seal layer over a base film printed with aqueous ink, we use a polarized resin (Nucrel or others) that requires no anchor coating," Sugiyama says. The printing/laminating combination boasts environmental friendliness and is said to eliminate the need for solvent recovery and disposal, and possible solvent-retention odors, while the eye-catching graphics promote retail shelf appeal.

Suitable for the production of such packaging as cookie, candy, dry-food, bread and sugar bags, the film constructions can include but aren't limited to oriented polypropylene/aqueous ink, extrusion-laminated without solvent to vacuum-metallized cast PP (CPP), OPP printed with aqueous inks and extrusion-laminated to CPP, and printed PET, extrusion-laminated to vacuum-metallized CPP. Many film combinations can be produced using the technology. The aqueous process is notable for giving the film a glossy shine. Advantages for converters include lower ink consumption, shorter changeover times for plates and inks, fewer plates and fewer emissions, the latter, an advantage for everyone.

Sugiyama says the films are applicable to food packages requiring low or no heat, "since the resin used in the solventless laminating process has a low [level] of heat-resistance." He adds, that the heat-sealing temperature is typically lower than for conventional films–by about 15 deg C–which allows for faster form/fill/sealing speeds. "The number of customers who are satisfied with our strategy and product concept is increasing." He cites a baby food processor in Tokyo that began working with the films last October.

Sugiyama goes on to say that sales of the films have exploded since they were commercialized in Japan in late 2001. "The results are helping our customers eliminate environmental problems and raise product quality," he reports. The use of solventless laminations can shorten delivery time of converted films and enhance print tone and quality. Since the environment and solvent safety are common issues throughout the world, he says the technology could possibly be used in nonfood packaging [applications]. "Customers who use the technology can display an aqueous printing mark on their packaging to promote a sense of safe packaging," he says. Circle No. 217.

Self-venting popcorn pouch in cool shapes
Standup pouches for ASAP microwave popcorn (C) also took gold in the food category for the convenience, multifunctional advantages and sales appeal of what the company believes is the first microwavable popcorn in a standup pouch. Whether consumers are planning a movie, game night or a party, the pouches, from LM Packaging for Solon, OH-based ASAP Popcorn, generate excitement with bold, colorful gravure-printed graphics and unusual pouch shapes that transform microwave popcorn packages into fun-filled serving bowls.

Containing 3 oz each of popcorn and oil, the gusseted popping pouches expand into a standup bowl shape when popped in the microwave. Currently in the market in a round shape, ASAP (which stands for A Super Amazing Popcorn) popping corn pouches can be made in different shapes and are printed in more than a dozen varieties with kid appeal, featuring sports themes, cartoon characters and special-occasion messages. LM Packaging designed and engineered the three-layer pouches for ASAP.

Printing is in six colors plus overvarnish on a 25# grease-resistant paper that is laminated to a metallized, coextruded proprietary PET sealant. Inside the pouch is a partially demetallized web made of Graphic Packaging's Microflex® Q, a shaped, patterned susceptor material that provides a focus pattern for popping kernels, together with a proprietary protective release coating and a venting top-seal system. The pouch material is produced and printed by Graphic Packaging and is die-cut, folded and heat-sealed by Valley Packaging Supply Co. on a "special" bagmaker, PD is told. The gusset-bottomed popping corn pouches are filled and assembled into the outer bags by RytWay Industries, Inc., Lakeville, MN.

Available in 13 states since July, 2002, ASAP Popcorn comes in two- and three-pouch multipacks, unitized in an equally attractive resealable zippered standup pouch from Nordenia of PET/linear-low-density PE, also gravure-printed in six colors.

According to ASAP's Ken Wulff, despite fierce competition in the popcorn market, consumers have reacted favorably to the product and send letters of praise and requests for bag designs. "We're in many nonfood channels, including the fun-and-entertainment category, and the product has already gained more than ten percent of the market share in some of the small supermarket chains in our original test markets," he says. "Many fun themes exist, so we're going to launch additional new designs and shapes soon. But one of our biggest opportunities is to establish ventures with the movie companies." Circle No. 218.

Heat and eat entrées with ease
And, speaking of microwavable packages, the Cryovac® Simple Steps™ heat-and-serve tray-pack for precooked entrées marketed by Smithfield Packing Co. (D) gives time-pressed consumers the ultimate in convenience with an easy-open tray that allows the food to be prepared in three simple steps. Employing vacuum skin-pack technology designed to keep the product looking juicy and fresh, the package won a gold award for food and earlier this year won a Highest Achievement Award in the Flexible Packaging Association's competition (see PD, March, '03, p. 34).

With a structure consisting of a polyolefin-based, coextruded barrier film that is vacuumized to a PP tray, the package is typically heated for about four minutes in the microwave and is then ready to serve. The peel-away top film can be easily removed after heating while the hearty meal selections can be microwaved without the need to vent or puncture the film. The film covering the tray "tents up," as the product reheats, then self-vents and relaxes over the food. The tray's stay-cool side handles prevent burns or spills as the tray is removed from the microwave.

Cryovac Simple Steps cook-in technology, from the Cryovac Div. of Sealed Air Corp., is both efficient for processors and gives shoppers a high-quality entrée that needs minimal handling. Available in the fresh-meat case of stores, the center-of-the-plate entrées can be fully cooked, distributed and sold in the same package, allowing Smithfield to use just one package to ship and market the meat- or poultry-based foods. Replacing a tray with a microwavable boil-in-bag insert, the new package was at least two years in the making.

Based on Cryovac's Darfresh vacuum skin-pack technology, the tray in Smithfield's case comprises a black PP thermoform, drawn to a depth of 13/4 in., that's filled and sealed with a proprietary, polyolefin-based, coextruded barrier top web. The top web is typically 4 to 6 mils thick, PD is told. The transparent skin-film lidding contours to the product, giving the food an appetizing appearance and keeping meat looking juicy. The film also allows the product to be frozen in the original tray and reheated later. Cryovac says the package is durable enough to withstand cooking for 12 hours at temperatures up to 185 deg F.

Smithfield vacuumizes its packs on Multivac's T570 rollstock machinery in place at Smithfield's Valley Dale Foods production facility in Salem, VA. The tray-pack is then encased in an outer Robbie PromoBag® heat-shrinkable film bag made by Robbie Mfg. of 75-ga Clysar® polyolefin film from DuPont, flexo-printed in nine colors.

Smithfield's Mark Willes, vp of prepared foods, says not much has changed about the Smithfield package since PD covered it earlier this year. The product first rolled out in May, 2002, to test markets in Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and Florida and is available in nine varieties that include Beef Tips with Gravy, Caribbean Style Chicken, Mexican Pulled Pork, Italian Chicken and Pork Roast with Gravy. "The products are doing well in the market. We look forward to launching more varieties," says Willes.

Cryovac points out that the package has gained ground with several customers and has received good responses from the marketplace because of the benefits it offers both processors and consumers. Like consumers, processors also benefit from the cook-in package because it can reduce the amount of processing steps needed, reduce energy requirements and eliminate the need for a separate cooking pouch while meeting food-safety and shelf-life requirements. What's more, the vacuum-skin technology keeps the food in place inside the tray, permitting retailers to display the package flat or on its side. Circle No. 219.

Aseptic dairy drink moo-ves ahead
Dr Pepper/Seven Up's new Raging Cow™ dairy-based beverage (E) is probably the first low-acid dairy product aseptically packaged at commercial bottling speeds. The drinks are available in open-neck multilayer HDPE bottles that won Tetra Pak a gold award in food for its Tetra Plast™ LFA-20 aseptic filling technology (also see PD, March, '03, p. 28). The LFA-20 (Linear Filler Aseptic) was developed and built by Tetra Pak Plastics Packaging R&D in Germany, which partnered with Tetra Pak USA on the project.

According to Tetra Pak, the breakthrough systems technology for open-neck plastic bottles doesn't rely on cleanrooms, but instead on super-compact aseptic chambers inside the filling machine that are so small, they hold only the neck of the bottle. These chambers ensure product integrity and reduce the risk of recontamination, while the system functions at commercial filling speeds (the machine is rated at 200 bottles/min). "This is the only aseptic filler of its kind in the U.S.," says Tetra Pak's marketing vp, Jeff Kellar. "In fact, from the bottle side, this is one of the most complex extrusion/blown bottles that exists."

Tetra Pack received acceptance from the Food and Drug Administration for the LFA-20 aseptic system in late 2002, and soon thereafter installed one at Jasper Products, Joplin, MO, which aseptically packages the Raging Cow products. Said to double the output of existing low-acid aseptic systems already on the market, the linear LFA-20 system moves the bottles through the machine to a preheating station and then to what's often called a dry-sterilization process, where a peroxide-gas sterilizing medium is added to the bottles in an ultra-high-heat process, before the bottles are dried, filled and hermetically sealed. All critical parameters are continuously monitored, Kellar notes. The technology permits the use of ingredients and nutrients that are highly heat-sensitive for most product formulations, and allows for the distribution of low-acid foods and beverages without the need for refrigeration.

The lightweight, 14-oz bottle is extrusion/blown of a six-layer, HDPE-based material and is produced on-site by Jasper. "Molding bottles on-site creates a cost-effective, just-in-time manufacturing system and provides a high-quality bottle, which is extremely critical in terms of the aseptic filling process," explains Kellar. "The manufacturing site at Jasper is the only one we know of that is blow-molding a six-layer HDPE bottle with light and oxygen barriers that starts out with a sealed-neck. When the bottle leaves the blow molder, it's hermetically sealed until it goes the to the [LFA-20] filler, where the neck is then demoiled (trimmed), filled and sealed."

The multilayer bottle protects sensitive products from light, oxygen and other contaminants and is hermetically sealed with a multilayer PE/foil-based laminate innerseal produced by several sources according to Tetra Pak's specifications. The LFA-20 technology is a development that paves the way for other low-acid products to be bottled in plastic. "The real key to the technology is the gas peroxide sterilization medium," Kellar says. "When you're sterilizing a rigid container with a given shape, there are angles and bends inside. You really need the peroxide in a fully gaseous state to achieve the kind of safety and [sterilization] performance that it does."

Another pivotal part of the technology owes its success to a special HDPE resin from ExxonMobil that maintains bottle rigidity during the high-temperature (often 70 deg C) aseptic-filling process.

Outfitted with a tamper-evident, breakaway tear-band that can be stored in a tiny pocket at the back of the cap, the bottle closure, named Bebop, is also noteworthy for its convenience and one-handed opening and closing features. The proprietary, injection-molded PP closure has a sport-like oval design and a hinged flip-up tab that lets users remove the protective PE/foil innerseal without having to completely remove the cap.

Tetra Pak collaborated with Graham Engineering Corp. on the extrusion/blow-molding technology for the aseptic HDPE bottle, Kellar notes. With an impressive 180-day shelf life, the single-serve Raging Cow dairy drinks are being embraced by on-the-go 18- to 24-year-olds. Sold refrigerated in the dairy section of stores and in vending machines, the drink line comes in five flavors, with such unusual names as Chocolate Caramel Craze, Berry Mixed Up, Chocolate Insanity and Pina Colada Chaos, and retails at $1.49 a bottle. Tetra Plast bottles can be produced in a variety of shapes, in sizes from 0.2 to 1 L and in various designs to offer packaging solutions for low-acid products such as flavored milks, infant formulas, nutritional drinks, coffee and prepared foods.

Bottles of Raging Cow began appearing on store shelves in select markets in March and were slated to head to the Midwest in a matter of months, after a "moo-ving" retail reaction to the drinks. The bottles feature Raging Cow's mischievous bovine mascot, displayed on vividly printed shrink-sleeve labels from Multi-Color Corp. Dr Pepper/Seven Up president/COO Mike McGrath has described the product as a milk-based drink "gone wild," because of its outrageous, intriguing and delicious flavor combinations. Circle No. 220.

Chicken pack worth clucking about
The packaging for Fresh & Easy, a premium, fresh, boneless, skinless chicken product from Foster Farms (F), Livingston, CA, won a silver award in food for a standout structure with superior convenience and excellent clarity for the way in which it serves as an alternative to tray-packs for chicken. Merchandised in three individual vacuum-sealed pouches that are packed into a clear-film zippered bag, the fresh chicken is convenient to prepare and clean, and offers a safe transition from the package to the oven or grill.

Foster Farms produces and vacuum-seals the inner pouches on more than one Multivac R530 form/fill/seal rollstock machine using Cryovac® T-series rollstock films from the Cryovac Div. of Sealed Air. The forming web of the pouch is described only as a 4-mil, multilayer coextrusion incorporating a proprietary, enhanced sealant. After the product is placed in the formed web, a 2.7-mil top web incorporating the enhanced sealant is placed over the product, and the packs are vacuumized and heat-sealed. Three of the pouches, containing either two chicken breasts weighing 2.5 to 3.5 lb or four chicken thighs weighing 2 to 2.5 lb, are then loaded into an outer, resealable, zippered bag from Pliant Corp. of clear, 3.25-mil LDPE/LLDPE that's flexo-printed in eight colors. According to Cryovac, the refrigerated shelf life of the package is comparable to fresh chicken that's packaged in a film-wrapped foam tray.

Both the outer bag and the inner pouches are clear, which, unlike traditional film-wrapped foam tray-packs, allows consumers to inspect the front and back of the chicken pieces. The formability of the primary pouchstock contributes to the machinability of the package, while providing a controlled oxygen transmission rate specifically suited to raw poultry applications. The proprietary sealant has the ability to seal through natural raw-poultry juices. The package also helps the chicken stay juicy and moist, because no tray pad that could soak up juices is required. Since the fresh chicken pieces are hand-trimmed, prewashed and individually wrapped, consumers can easily store and grill the chicken without having to touch it, wash it or repackage it for freezer storage. The inner pouches even protect against freezer burn.

Launched in January in California stores, the new ready-to-use/ready-to-store product subsequently rolled out to Washington and Oregon in April, showing a "net incremental increase in store sales," says Foster Farms' Lori Pierrou. "Consumer feedback has been very positive, and it's doing well in the stores." Fresh & Easy allows consumers to easily store remaining chicken and use only what they need. Pierrou says Foster Farms is planning to expand its use of the packaging to other products. Circle No. 221.

Squeeze bottle turns ketchup upside-down
Heinz Easy Squeeze!™ ketchup, from H.J. Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, has become such a success in its new inverted bottle (G), it seems they can't make it quick enough. Produced by Owens-Illinois Plastics Group, Food & Beverage Products, the upside-down bottle of ketchup gained 11 percent of U.S. dollars spent on ketchup in its first 12 weeks of introduction (also see PD, July, '02, p. 4). Since Heinz is the top brand of ketchup, with a reported 60-percent market share, the ketchup maker says it continues to run its bottling lines 24/7 to keep up with consumer demand. The new bottle so improves the dispensing of the ketchup, that it eliminates the watery separation that can sometimes occur when the ketchup isn't properly shaken.

Winning a silver award in the food category, the inverted multilayer bottle, in 20- and 32-oz sizes, minimizes the mess and, ironically enough, the wait–something Heinz once promoted in its "Anticipation" ad campaign, which found great benefits in a slow-pouring ketchup. But with instant-gratification a must these days, that slow pour is now taking a back seat to quick dispensing. The squeezable bottle, courtesy of O-I's proprietary SurShote multilayer injection-molding technology and a no-drip dispensing closure, Seaquist's stay-clean SimpliSqueeze, a 2/8-in. PP cap with a patented silicone valve, gives consumers great control over the ketchup by directing the product only where the user wants to put it.

Launched in July, 2002, the bottle features a three-material, five-layer construction with (from the outside) virgin PET, what is only being described as a CPTX 312 oxygen barrier, and a core layer having as much as 35 percent post-consumer-recycled content. In development for about two years, O-I's SurShot multilayer injection technology is said to allow for precise pre-measuring of the exact amount of each material and builds the bottle wall, one layer at a time. The virgin PET assures no scraping, flaking or peeling from the container's outer layers, while protecting the barrier material inside, according to O-I's Paul Butts. "The amount of barrier incorporated into the bottle can be configured according to customer requirements," he says. "Adults and children alike appreciate the ergonomics and squeezability that went into this innovative bottle design."

Initial demand for the consumer-driven innovation was so great, that Easy Squeeze has seen a 17-percent jump in sales since last summer. The bottles are filled and capped at a Heinz facility in Fremont, OH, on existing equipment, says Heinz's Robin Teets.

He says turning the bottles on their heads was worth the investment, because it turned ketchup sales skyward for Heinz. The response to Easy Squeeze no doubt proves that consumers' cravings for convenient packaging have only just begun.

"Based on the success of the Easy Squeeze package, we've recently introduced our Hot & Spicy Kick'rs product in the upside-down package," says Teets. "This packaging has resonated well with consumers, and we'll continue to explore opportunities to leverage the upside-down packaging concept to meet consumer needs."

For O-I, the concept of inverted packaging using SurShot injection technology isn't just limited to ketchup. The company says food manufacturers are using the technology to package condiments, salad dressings, barbecue sauces, mayonnaise, dipping sauces and a bevy of other things. Says Butts: "Watch out for announcements about O-I advances in barrier materials and for larger-cavitation SurShot multilayer injection technology platforms." Circle No. 222.

The peel's in the seal
Sure-Peel™ patented cohesive-peel barrier lidding material from Alcoa Flexible Packaging (H) separates seal integrity (as measured by seal-burst pressure) from actual peel force. This characteristic allows for easier, more consistent peels with high burst strength. The extrusion-laminated structure consists of primer/1.5-mil foil/7# Nucrel® ethylene acid copolymer from DuPont/1-mil "patented," proprietary film. Sure-Peel can be used as a lidding structure for hot-filled and aseptic cold- filled products requiring barrier lidding, such as salsa, apple sauce, apple juice, tomato sauce and yogurt.

Replacing an adhesive-mounted version of Sure-Peel, the extrusion-mounted generation improves the sealing window, which exceeds 150 deg F and, according to Alcoa Flexible Packaging, leads to process efficiencies such as reduced leakers, shorter dwell times and reduced downtime. The lidding can be either gravure- or flexo-printed using water-or solvent-based inks.

Designed for single-serve, portion-controlled containers, the lidding can be sealed to PP, PE and ethylene copolymer containers. Taking a silver in the food category, the Sure-Peel lidding is easy to remove and provides high-performing seals, which decrease the potential for leakers, spillage and spoilage during distribution. Alcoa Flexible says the lidding's new extrusion-mounted specification that calls for Nucrel® EA copolymer resin as an integral material in which to mount the film to the foil helps the structure achieve a broader sealing window. This gives it the ability to seal tightly under a wide range of sealing parameters, including product contamination in the seal area.

Alcoa Flexible's lidding business manager, Brian Erwin, adds that the new system deviates from traditional adhesively peeling lidstocks, in which an adhesive is applied to the rim of a cup using heat and pressure. These latter stocks usually require high peel strengths that can make it difficult for the user to open the package and can cause spilling or incomplete peels, PD is told. The cohesively peeling product is said to be a more forgiving structure, and instead, arranges burst and peel functions independently of each other rather than together at the film/container interface, allowing for more consistent peels.

The Sure-Peel lidding was first marketed beginning in September, 2001, when Alcoa Flexible Packaging shipped rollstock of the material to KraftSeal, a Lake Forest, IL, converter, that supplied it to Knouse Foods for Musselman's single-serve cups of apple sauce. KraftSeal continues today to flexo-print rollstock of the material in as many as six colors and to die-cut it for the Musselman's apple sauce.

"The Sure-Peel lidding performs very well for us," affirms Pete Adelmann, director of technical specifications and packaging for Knouse Foods, Peach Glen, PA, which packages Musselman's in 4-oz hot-filled PP apple sauce cups. "We've been using this lidding since its inception. We've tried other lidstocks, but this performs more reliably and securely. It's an excellent material. It seals through moisture, where other lidstocks won't. Regardless of how much heat or pressure we use to seal, we get consistent, uniform peelability or uniform peel-removal force."

Adelmann also says that the stock machines well on Knouse's high-speed packaging lines. "We haven't been able to qualify any of the adhesive lidstocks in our operation at the speeds we run." Erwin says that nonfoil structures and developments with PVC and PET containers are in the works. Circle No. 223.

Tube snacks put the squeeze on portability
Aseptic stick-packs earned Hassia USA the final silver award for ConAgra Grocery Products' Squeeze and Go Pudding Snacks (I). The epitome of convenience, the spoonless, shelf-stable pen-sized tube of pudding couldn't be more totable. Aseptically packaged from rollstock on an eight-lane aseptic SAS-20/30 system from Hassia USA, the new package has also created a new shelf-stable category within the pudding/snack category. No refrigeration is needed for the Hunt's Snack Pack Squeez n' Go pudding, which has a shelf life of one year, while the packs for Hershey's Portable Pudding! also post a 12-month shelf life but are sold refrigerated.

Kids love the package, which makes eating the pudding even more fun, says Kelly Grayson, director of operations business management at ConAgra Foods, Irvine, CA. The primary package structure, provided by Curwood, is a laminate comprising OPP/ink/adhesive/metallizedOPET/adhesive/ ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) coex sealant. Reverse printing is by flexo in eight colors. The entire tube exterior is printed, which heightens the sales appeal of the tubes all the more.

Also winning a Highest Achievement Award in packaging excellence, a Gold Award in technical innovation and a Silver Award for environmental achievement in the FPA competition for Hershey's Portable Pudding! (see PD, March, '03, p. 34), the stick-pack is a single-serve, 2.25-oz squeezable tube that lays claim to being the first portion-controlled, aseptic stick package on the market.

ConAgra Foods launched the packages in 2002 to high praise from consumers who like the structure for its shelf stability. Lightweight and slim, the stick-packs are ideal for school lunches and are said to reduce waste, packaging weight (and, consequently, material costs) and storage space versus rigid pudding cups with film lids.

The products can go just about anywhere. The vertical SAS-20/30 system is capable of churning out as many as 500 stick-packs/min. The tubestock's metallized film construction is designed to maintain the integrity of the preservative-free product formulations for an extended timeframe as well as incorporate the necessary elongation and tensile strength and endure a peroxide bath just prior to filling. The structure also is said to be less expensive than many rigid cups with lidding and provides substantial barriers to oxygen, moisture and peroxide.

In development two and a half years, the SAS-20/30 system is in place at two of ConAgra's plants in both Menomonee, WI, and Rossford, OH. The machine combines technical innovations such as scoring lasers that can cut through multiple layers of tube material while leaving the inner PET layer intact to keep the webstock intact until separation is required. Registered or unregistered wrapping material is taken from a roll and cut into strips. The strips are then sterilized and formed into tubes. The web is then sealed lengthwise and aseptically filled. Transverse sealing tools create the top seam of one filled stick-pack and the bottom seam of the next stick-pack. The sterile packaging material is maintained in a sterile over-pressurized tunnel until the package is completely sealed.

Hassia president Charles Ravalli tells PD that the web is also monitored by a specially developed system that inspects the precision scores made by the machine. Both ConAgra brands of pudding snacks come in 2.25-oz tube-likesticks, multipacked in eight-count paperboard folding cartons, brightly decorated with wraparound graphics similar to those on the tubes. Grayson says the products have flown out of refrigerated cases. "The Hershey product has repeatedly been the top-turning SKU in the category, while the Snack Pack label has been an excellent extension of the current products in an aseptic cup," Ravalli says. Circle No. 224.

Restaurant-style cheese shaker
What looks like a metal restaurant shaker is actually made of PET for Kraft Foods' 100-percent grated Parmesan cheese. The 7-oz bottle (J) merited one of the three special citations awarded this year.

Made by Plastipak Packaging, Inc., the proprietary, break-resistant bottle is topped with a vented PP screw-cap, replete with venting holes resembling those on metal/glass shakers found in restaurants. This one is molded by Creative Packaging Corp., pigmented in a silver tone and overcapped with a translucent PP overcap.

Cleverly capturing the look and feel of an Italian-cheese shaker, the winner of the Special Citation for the food category provides consumers with a bit of the flavor of an Italian restaurant at home. The overcap provides an effective seal for refrigerated storage. Circle No. 225.

Aseptic dispensing valve for foodservice
The Aseptic Gravity Flow Valve™ is International Dispensing Corp.'s new device that enables shelf-stable foods, beverages and pharmaceuticals to be aseptically dispensed from flexible bags or pouches (K). Currently used to dispense shelf-stable dairy drinks, juices and ready-to-drink coffee beverages from flexible bags and pouches, the device is used in foodservice applications as a valve bag pouch and is said to be able to extend the shelf life and usage life of the products it's dispensing.

The patented valve is injection-molded using an irradiation-grade of PP copolymer and polycarbonate (PC) and is sealed with a silicone rubber seal. The snap-action, push-button dispensing technology offers food, beverage, pharmaceutical and household detergent and chemical companies a breakthrough in barrier and dispensing technology. Winning a silver award in the nonfood category, the valve also won a gold award in the FPA competition when PD last covered it (see March, '03, p. 34). Similar to a push-pull closure for a rigid bottle, the five-piece valve includes a push-button fitment and can be used for both the filling and dispensing of aseptic product from flexible bags ranging in size from 2 to 10 L. The valve is made using what's called the GFV Tight Seal™ design that creates oxygen and bacteria barriers and features a built-in, tamper-evident, breakaway closure. The valve also allows operators to easily dispense ready-to-drink products, such as isotonic energy drinks, 100-percent fruit juices and dairy products, from any flexible bag, pouch or semi-rigid package.

Gary Allanson, president of Hanover, MD-based IDC, says this is the only aseptic gravity-flow valve worldwide capable of meeting the rigorous U.S. sterilization protocol required in the aseptic filling process. In fact, he says, it exceeds the aseptic criteria. The valve can withstand 266 deg F of steam sterilization. Since October, 2002, IDC, in cooperation with the Food and Drug Administration, the National Food Laboratory and Parkerford, PA-based Goodwest Industries, has been working to certify the technology as a single-fitment dispenser.

Allanson says that once the certification is completed, which he expects to happen by the fourth quarter of 2003, "food and beverage companies can save forty to fifty percent on a flexible bag, because the package will only require one fitment." Until now, large flexible packages weren't able to keep pace with the aseptic innovations found on the single-serve versions, which meant ready-to-drink products couldn't be made available to consumers or through foodservice in larger flexible bags. Not any more.

Goodwest, a distributor of aseptic dairy products for foodservice, chose the valve for use with its Cream Machine™ cream and milk dispenser as well as for ready-to-drink coffees in bag/dispensers. "This valve completes the work done on barrier bags," Allanson sums up. "It keeps pace with the technology of the large flexible foodservice dispensing bags." Circle No. 226.

Shrinkable bag for case-ready meat
Make no bones about it, the puncture-resistance and clarity provided by a new, patented, heat-shrinkable vacuum bag from Curwood (L) are significant reasons why the ArmorX™ ABPw (which stands for Absolute Bone-In Protection) won a silver award in the nonfood category (PD chose to cover it and the following winner here, along with the other food-related applications).

The side-seal bag is made from a dual-web lamination. Curwood describes the structure as a proprietary, biaxially oriented PE copolymer-blend film that's laminated to a biaxially oriented film with the following general structure: PE copolymer-blend layers/polyvinylidene chloride/PE copolymer blend layers. The PE-blend layers contain metallocenes, which contribute the significant puncture-resistance and high shrink. The bag was cited as technologically innovative for its ability to provide total perimeter protection of bone-in meat, leaving no edge exposed, and minimizing the chance of bone puncture. In addition, Curwood says, the bag provides high oxygen and moisture barriers to maintain and extend meat product freshness.

Ideal for packing institutional and retail bone-in meats, such as spare ribs, back ribs, bone-in lamb cuts and beef ribs, the bag is crystal clear and printable, so it especially suitable for case-ready meat products.

Any high-abuse application requiring extended shelf life is a potential for this new, innovative package, Curwood's senior marketing manager, Bill Goerich, says. Typical shelf life for fresh meats packaged in the ABP bag is about 30 days through the distribution cycle, which is comparable to other barrier bags for boneless meats.

Curwood launched the Armor X bag commercially in March, 2002, selling about 50,000 packages. Today, the company pegs current sales at more than 2 million per month. Goerich says a user would insert a bone-in piece of meat into the bag, evacuate the air by vacuum, heat-seal the bag and send it through a hot-water shrink tunnel at roughly 195 deg F. The bag would shrink tightly around the meat for a skin-tight look.

Notable about the bag is its bone-guard protection area, which is about 7 mils thick, while the head or sealing area is between 2 and 3 mils thick. "Laminating a thin area [of film] for sealability and a heavy-gauge area for bone protection is unusual. The films have quite a difference in gauge," he tells PD.

Goerich adds that the marriage between the lamination technology and shrink-bag technology is key to the structure's success. The film also exhibits good layflat properties that facilitate product loading and sealing. The high shrink can help minimize any meat purchase and reduce "ears" on the package.

"The bag took basically a year to develop, but the film technology has evolved over several years," Goerich s says. "The availability of metallocene resins helped improve the puncture-resistance and shrink of the bag. The shrink, puncture-resistance and clarity of this bag are substantially improved compared to other bags on the market."

Specially developed extrusion, lamination and bagmaking equipment is also critical to producing the new bag, he points out. Available with line or process-printed artwork in up to eight colors, the Armor X ABP bag is gaining in popularity with more and more customers, says Goerich. Circle No. 227.

Fighting bacteria in sausages
A special citation in the nonfood category went to Viskase Corp., Willowbrook, IL, for its Nojax® AL™ antibacterial casing (M), capable of transferring what's called a lethality intervention to the surface of hot dogs and other processed ready-to-eat meats and poultry. Launched in December, 2002, the casings are presently undergoing industrial trials with several U.S. processors, says Myron Nicholson, director of research and technology at Viskase.

The casings provide a protective treatment effective against inadvertent listeria contamination during subsequent peeling, collating and packaging of hot dogs and other sausages. Incorporated into the internal surface of cooked hot dogs and sausages during thermal processing, the technology provides an important intervention strategy that can control the risks of pathogen contamination in ready-to-eat meats by acting as a barrier. Viskase explains that the treatment is carried by the internal surface of the casing via a special release coating. This layer/coating transfers to the hot dog during processing and becomes part of the hot dog surface. After the casing is peeled away and discarded, the treatment remains on the hot dog surface as a protection against inadvertent microbiological contamination prior to packaging. It remains active against listeria until consumed or overwhelmed by other bacteria.

Viskase defines the treatment itself as a natural polypeptide nisin-based antimicrobial system comprising materials generally recognized as safe and USDA-approved. Nisin is an edible polypeptide produced from the fermentation growth of select bacteria, and as such, is part of many current fermented or cultured food products, such as cheese and other foods that don't have casings. It has recently been applied to meat sauces as an ingredient modification, Viskase reports. The polypeptide polymer is not a protein, but is a much smaller molecule that has no impact on the flavor, texture or appearance of the processed, packaged meat. The nonsoluble treatment is carried in casings made from polymeric materials, natural polymer cellulose or synthetic nylons, containing plasticizers such as glycerine or other polyols and water.

Test marketing of Nojax AL casings took place last year in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania. Nicholson says that there have been extensive development trials with nearly a dozen commercial hot dog manufacturers as well as with the USDA over the last two years.

Nicholson explains that the challenges in designing such a product as Nojax AL included selecting an appropriate antilisteria compound that's acceptable as a food component and also one that can tolerate the character of the food and the processing used for the food. After being cooked to the proper internal temperature for pasteurization, the hot dogs or sausages are cooled or chilled and peeled and packaged.

"The casing had to be modified to allow it to carry the ingredient and transfer it to the surface of the processed meat without loss of activity or deleterious effects on the food," Nicholson says. "The use of this natural antimicrobial doesn't really replace anything, but rather represents another hurdle in the food safety regime processed meat manufacturers now have at their disposal. The use of the treated casing approach has the potential benefit versus irradiation or post-pasteurization of saving two to three cents per pound of meat. This is based upon the capital and operating intensive nature of the alternatives."

Viskase will next test the casing on deli meats. Nicholson says that unlike irradiation and post-pasteurization, there are no capital costs, changes in processing steps or other processing bottlenecks involved in adopting Nojax AL, however "a minor labeling change is needed, to include the word 'nisin' in an ingredient statement."

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service is in the process of conducting verification after reviewing the technology and is conducting economic impact studies for this and other intervention products in the fight against listeria, Nicholson reports. Circle No. 228.

More information is available:

Awards program: DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers, 302/992-6678. Circle No. 229.

Click here to read about the non-food DuPont winners.

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