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Plastic Packaging Plaudits

Be it a glossy standup pouch that transitions snack cracker chips into an entirely new package platform or a vibrantly sleeve-decorated, plastic dispenser for coffee creamer designed for one-handed opening and pouring, winners in the Seventeenth annual DuPont Awards (www.dupont.com/packaging/awards) for Innovation in Packaging feature breakthrough structures. These containers aim to please with convenience, barriers, functionality and imaginative printing and/or converting techniques that set them apart-and set the pace-in their product categories.

Entrants are required to include plastic materials as an essential component. A total of 22 international food and nonfood packaging advancements, hailing from countries including Spain, India, Canada, Columbia, Germany and the U.S., were selected from an astounding 104 entries and granted awards. Submitted by packaging designers, converters, consumer and industrial packagers and equipment manufacturers, the honored entries include three Diamond Awards-the top, most prestigious winners deemed most innovative by the seven-member judging panel-as well as gold and silver award levels in food and nonfood categories. A fourth category, Special Citation, was presented this year to two entries the judging panel felt deserved recognition.

Because there are so many winners, PD will cover the top food and nonfood winners in the article below and will publish the rest in subsequent issues. All of the winners were recognized on Aug. 6, at a ceremony held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia.

Online Exclusive: See the entire list of winners here.

Foil provides only the real thing

Issuing three Diamond Awards this year may be a first for judges in this competition. One such winner is an anticounterfeiting holographic foil lidding material from India for use in pharmaceutical blister-packs (1), entered by The Paper Products Ltd. (PPL) (www.pplpack.com.) for GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria. A technical innovation that also protects against tampering, the foil material incorporates what is described as continuous hologram security seals. Surface-printed by gravure in four or five colors and in three designs in-register, the cold-formed foil lidding for a Panadol? analgesic receives a heat-sealable lacquer on the reverse side, allowing it to seal to a 250-micron thermoformed polyvinyl chloride blister supplied by the customer.

In 2003, GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria first marketed the product in this packaging. The material proved so successful at preventing bogus duplication of viable pharmaceutical products merchandised in West African markets, that according to PPL, market share grew by an astounding 60 percent.

Used as the lidding for a continuous strip of four-pack blisters, the foil is notable for helping to ensure that only genuine pharmaceuticals reach end users, preventing unsuspecting consumers from the potentially deadly menace of counterfeit drugs. GlaxoSmithKline's packages are produced on a blister-packing line from IMA Pharma of Italy (www.ima.it), PPL tells PD (IMA is represented in the U.S. by IMA North America, Bristol, PA).

Tony Sirohi of PPL, a member of Huhtamaki (www.huhtamaki.com), says that unlike holographic pressure-sensitive labels adhered to conventional foil blister materials, the holographic portion of the material in this case is integrated into the foil, courtesy of "a proprietary process," Sirohi says. Thus, the hologram will show visible signs of tampering if disturbed. The 20-micron-thick foil is produced in roll form and printed on Japanese gravure presses. The holography is designed by PPL. Sirohi notes that the material can be used with most blister-pack foil applications to create a premium image for pharmaceutical products. Other applications of the material are being evaluated, he says, adding that PPL expects to introduce the holographic foil in europe and the U.S. some time in the future. Circle No. 228.

HDPE can perks at Folgers

foldgersThe other two Diamond Award winners are food-related, including Procter & Gamble's Folger's AromaSeal, LTM (2), canister, a shaped, high-density polyethylene coffee container that replaces a traditional three-piece steel can. The can is blow-molded of a proprietary six-layer barrier coextrusion that P&G's Gerard Buisson says provides all of the properties required by the product, such as the 12-month shelf life that consumers expect, as well as the same taste and aroma. The new plastic container is dent-resistant, lightweight and stackable. A built-in handle makes the large-mouth can easier to hold. P&G's Folgers Div. adopted the AromaSeal for the top-selling Folgers' 39-oz size of coffee as a new alternative to the metal can, in use now for 150 years. Other metal can sizes for Folgers brand coffee products are gradually following suit, P&G says. Standing 6 in. tall, the bright red container is 6 in. in dia and has a slightly shorter and wider configuration than a standard steel coffee can. Blow-molded by Liquid Container (www.liquidcontainer.com) in either bright red for regular or green for decaffeinated coffee, the AromaSeal also has four panels produced in a manner similar to that of a heat-set PeT bottle, with vertical recesses running its length. The plastic can won't rust and has a smooth rim with no sharp edges. The canister is capped with a black, snap-fitting overlid, injection-molded of low-density Pe by Erie Plastics (www.erieplastics.com) over a light-gauge metallized polyester-containing laminated membrane seal from Amcor Flexibles Raackmann (www.amcor.com) that eliminates the need for a can opener.

Amcor describes the peelable seal as having extremely thin barrier layers. The seal features Amcor's SoftValve, a patented, one-way valve in the center, that allows the freshly roasted coffee to off-gas in the container, eliminating back pressure and the potential for package explosion. The seal is a plus, because the product can now be filled and sealed immediately after it's roasted, instead of having to cool and naturally off-gas prior to being packaged. The seal also helps preserve freshness, keep air out and equalize pressure during shipping. Having to cool roasted, ground coffee before packing it in a metal can takes time and additional equipment, P&G says.

Multi-Color Corp. (www.multicolorcorp.com) prints the eye-catching heat-transfer label in five colors with the brand's Mountain Grownw graphics. Libby Perszyk Kathman (www.lpkdesign.com) was also involved in the package design. Several years of development went into the plastic package project, PD learns, which included designing the special lid that helps to ensure a tight fit and a tight seal, as well as the one-way degassing valve in the tabbed, peelable membrane.

PD covered the first-of-its-kind package (see www.packagingdigest.com/info/folgers) in 2003, following its introduction, when the can was starting to gain ground in supermarkets across the country. At that time, the Folgers Div. indicated that it would eventually convert entirely to plastic cans for all of its ground coffee, which could put an end to steel coffee cans.

Since then, Liquid Container reports that it has made no changes to the new plastic can's structure. The new coffee canister was initially filled at the company's eastern New Orleans coffee packaging plant on a line reconfigured to accommodate the plastic canister.

Today, P&G's Gerard Buisson says multiple lines have been configured to package the HDPE can. "The goal is to move the entire line of coffee skus from metal into plastic," he says. "We have converted our twenty-six-ounce can size to the AromaSeal and introduced a fifty-two-ounce size, which is likely to be made available in the [warehouse] club channels."

Maintaining product freshness was key to the design and was given plenty of consideration, says Product Ventures (www.productventures.com), which was involved in developing the structural design concept. The snap-fitting overlid is resealable, which increases the can's convenience. Tonya Hyatt, P&G's spokesperson, says, "Overall, the Folger's business is up on that thirty-nine-ounce sku, by four percent," she says. "Not only has the consumer response been amazing, but the resulting sales have been, too." Circle No. 229.

Cream of the crop in closures

international delight coffeeThe third Diamond Award went to a customized toggle dispensing closure on bottles of Dean National Food Group's Morningstar International Delight liquid coffee creamer (3). ergonomically fashioned so that it only requires one hand to open and close, the unusual toggle-closing cap grabs attention with its dollop shape and deep blue color. Lending consumers "a helping hand" with one-handed dispensing, the two-piece closure is injection-molded of polypropylene by Owens-Illinois (www.o-i.com). easily opened and closed with the touch of a finger, the cap tops a polyethylene terephthalate bottle with an ergonomically shaped, easy-grip neck.

Morningstar, a Dean Foods subsidiary, says the new package and closure were created in response to consumer research, and were highly rated in tests. "Dispensing closures such as this are [serving] a growing convenience market category and are enthusiastically embraced by consumers," says Owens-Illinois' Timothy McAshlan, of Closures & Specialty Products. "They are becoming a focus for consumer products companies. Food products continue to be at the forefront of exploring new package shapes, package concepts and materials."

Designed by Morningstar's marketing team along with input by Lipson Alport Glass & Associates (www.laga.com), the 38-mm closure features a toggle-style end that cleanly cuts off the product with minimal dripping and no residue and securely seals the bottle for refrigerated storage. The pour spout directs creamer contents, while a peelable foil membrane on the bottle mouth (from multiple sources) guards against leakage and helps keeps the creamer fresh in the refrigerated dairy case.

Introduced in March 2003 in supermarkets and clubstores nationwide (see packagingdigest.com/info/sleevelabels), the product has become a hit with consumers. The patent-pending, hourglass-shaped PET creamer bottle in 16- and 32-oz sizes is either blow-molded by Morningstar from a PET preform or is supplied by Amcor PET Packaging(www.amcor.com). The bottle replaces a gabletop carton in the movement to rigid plastic packaging and full-body sleeve labels.

The eye-catching, heat-shrinkable, full-sleeve label is made of polyethylene terephthalate glycol (PETG) by American Fuji Seal (www.afseal.com), which gravure-prints it in nine colors. The wraparound graphics display the creamer swirling in a steaming cup of coffee beneath a colored banner that indicates one of 11 flavor varieties. The graphics are visible regardless of the product's orientation on stores shelves. Circle No. 230. Ritz® gets flexible for chips

ritzRitz® Chips, described by Kraft Foods as a "straddle snack that delivers the wholesomeness of Ritz® crackers in a chip-like format," are available in a new gold-award-winning standup bag (4) created by Printpack (www.printpack.com). The flat-bottomed, easy-open proprietary film structure earlier this year won a silver award for technical innovation from the Flexible Packaging Association (www.flexpack.org) (go to www.packagingdigest.com/info/fpa04). The custom standup bag holds about 9 oz of Original, Cheese and Sour Cream & Onion chip flavors. Made of a flexible film, the bag has a peelable opening feature and a handy peel-off tab reclosure on the back of the package. The side-gusseted format affords easy access to the chips. A tandem adhesive lamination structure, the bagstock provides barriers to extend product shelf life as well as high-speed machinability and crispness. Beyond the structure, the innovative flat-bottomed bag is impactful on store shelves, with its attention-getting, gravure-printed graphics. The design scheme presents the familiar blue circular Ritz® logo and vignette elements that Printpack says mandated reverse eight-color gravure printing's inherent fine-screen capabilities. Kraft says little about the new package, but spokesperson eva Peters does point out that sales of the chips have surpassed expectations, and the package is part of the reason.

Peters says that since the bag was introduced on the market last year, nothing about the flexible package has changed dramatically. "It's really selling very well," she says. "We think packaging is so much a part of why." Peters adds that the standup bag could potentially be used for other Kraft products in the future. Circle No. 231.

Retort bottle kicks the can

ensureEase of use is also emphasized in a highly functional retortable plastic bottle that won a gold award for the Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories. Dairy-based Ensure® nutritional supplement drinks (5) now come in a portable, reclosable, lightweight 8-oz bottle. Made of a six-layer material incorporating PP/adhesive/EVOH/adhesive/regrind/PP, the diminutive bottle replaces a thermoformed plastic can with a double-seamed steel end for the single-serve drink. Ross Products, Columbus, OH, says a metal can for Ensure® is still currently available. Small, but quite sturdy, the plastic bottle is extrusion/blown by Owens-Illinois' Plastic Group and is designed to hold up to stress during thermal processing at retort temperatures of 265 deg F.

Integrity of the hermetic seal is delivered through a closure system in combination with a unique neck finish. Shelf-stable for at least 12 months-the same amount of time achieved by the previous two-piece PP/EVOH can-the bottle builds on consumer convenience with reclosability, portability, opening ease and an improved grip.

Launched nationally last August, the bottle is capped with an equally innovative retortable closure from Crown Cork & Seal (www.crowncork.com) called the TRR-Tamper Resistant Retort combination plastic/metal cap. Made tamper-evident with a twist-off drop ring, the linerless, two-piece composite closure is injection-molded of PP in a 40-mm size and has a steel disk insert.

Crown Cork's technical services team says it specifically designed the closure for Ross's retort application and plastic bottle. The closure has to maintain product seal integrity during retorting and allow the plastic bottle to be resealable and ready to drink from, without the need for a secondary innerseal. A tamper-evident feature was also important. Crown says it developed the TRR with the barrier properties to meet Ross's shelf life and product-integrity requirements.

The cap's metal disk provides superior seal integrity, which is critical during retorting, and acts like a disk closure on a canning jar to create a tight seal. Achieving a comparable seal with a one-piece closure would have required a secondary foil seal, which Ross did not want.

Pete Macauley, manager of packaging R&D at Ross Products, says, "The two-piece closure provides added seal integrity and well withstands the stresses of retorting. The stresses of a retort situation can compromise a hermetic seal in certain closures. The metal disk stays down and creates a seal on the bottle, even if the plastic part of the closure would rotate slightly, without losing the seal. We think we have a competitive advantage in the low-acid drink market, because this cap doesn't need a removable foil innerseal. Most caps for other such products do."

The new package also gets a healthy shot of sales appeal with the use of a handsome, heat-shrinkable, 1.95-mil PVC sleeve label, reverse-gravure-printed by American Fuji Seal in seven colors with vivid, "upscale" graphics. Innovations & Development (www.idi.com) worked with consumers to generate the initial design requirements of the new package and was a Ross design partner leading up to the final design. A three-layer, 2.5-mil coextruded Pe shrink-film wrap from Bemis Flexible Packaging (www.bemis.com) bundles groups of the bottles into a six-pack. Reverse flexo-printed in seven or eight colors, depending on the product variety, the high-clarity shrink film gives the multipack extra sheen. A full-wraparound corrugated case from Weyerhaeuser (www.weyerhaeuser.com) holds four of the six-packs, for a total of 24 bottles.

Consumers prefer the reclosable single-serve bottle over the previous thermoformed can, Macauley says. "Consumer like this bottle without an internal peel-off seal," he says. "The optimized structural design minimizes product degradation and maintains flavor, nutrition and product color." Considerable package design and technical know-how went into the new package, Macauley continues. "The ability to maintain the bottle's shape and seal integrity is key while it is enduring the high temperatures, pressures and stresses of retort sterilization. The sealing technology required a robustness to withstand production line speeds exceeding those for the conventional metal can lines."

The new Ensure® bottle communicates a healthy look, not a medicinal one, while the plastic bottle differentiates Ensure® from the metal cans in the market, Macauley says. It also supports the product's younger image. "As consumers continue to increase their nutritional awareness, there will be a greater demand for convenient packaging," he adds.

Ross fills the Ensure bottles on a new production line installed at its manufacturing facility in Alta Vista, VA, that Macauley says achieves 25-percent to 30-percent faster speeds than the former line. Additional products may be converted to this type of bottle soon. "We are currently assessing the benefits of launching additional products in a plastic bottle," he says. Circle No. 232.

Pate container spreads the word about barrier retort technology

PateA new retorted plastic package for La Piara's Sabores Frescos pate spreads, available in Spain, is a breakthrough for such products. The clear rigid thermoformed tray-pack (6) also won gold for the rigid tray's unique barrier properties and rugged retortability. Holding 125 g of ham, tuna, salmon, spicy sausage and other flavors of pate sandwich spreads distributed for La Piara by Grupo Alimentario Argal, the small 135-mL tray is thermoformed by EDV Packaging Solutions (www.edvamerica.com), which has a U.S. sales location in Coral Gables, FL. Measuring 89.4 x 9.4 x 32.7 mm, the tray is heat-sealed with a peelable membrane made with Alcan Packaging's (www.Ceramis.com) heat-sealed Ceramis® silicon oxide (Si0x) transparent barrier film, chosen for its optical clarity and excellent barrier properties. Over that is a navy blue PP overwrap, injection-molded locally in Spain and topped with a PP spot label printed with product details. The package is merchandised in a paperboard overwrap (sourced in Spain), offset-printed in seven colors.

The sheetstock for the tray's unique, five-layer, 55-mil-thick PP/EVOH/PP barrier structure was designed and is coextruded by the same EDV group. The package has a high oxygen barrier achieved with thermally-resistant EVOH. DuPont's Bynel® modified ethylene copolymer adhesive resin is incorporated into the structure to maintain high temperature-resistance suitable for retorting. Barriers to UV light are achieved by blending a UV additive with the PP material, explains Xavier Franco, marketing and corporate development manager at EDV. An antistat additive in the external PP layer makes the package a retail standout.

Franco says the tray-pack resists oxygen and UV oxidation and can withstand pasteurizing of the product for more than one hour. Shelf-stable for six to 12 months, the package has an attractive, glass-clear finish.

La Piara launched the new package in Spanish markets in February of 2003 and has since expanded its distribution to Chile. Franco says Spanish pate spreads such as these have traditionally been marketed in metal cans. "The transparent plastic barrier tray has practically led to La Piara's creation of a new category for the pate spreads in the market," he says. La Piara's facilities in Manlleu (near Barcelona) fills and seals the package on an elton fill/seal machine and then retorts the package. Franco adds that the container design also features technical innovations that minimize air bubbles created during the filling process that can affect product oxidation. Circle No. 233.

Water-solubles 'cascade' into detergent market

cascadeCascade 2 in 1 ActionPacse™ automatic dishwashing detergent from Procter & Gamble (7) is also a gold winner for its unit-dose, dual-purpose functionality and packaging ingenuity. Produced by Monosol LLC (www.monosol.com), the mini, dual-compartmented, water-soluble film sachet holds concentrated, powdered Cascade® detergent in one compartment and blue, liquid Dawn® grease cutter in the other. Twenty of these concentrated sachet packs are unitized in a bright green standup pouch with a gusseted bottom and a resealable zipper closure. The pouch has a transparent film base and a transparent film window on the front panel.

The cold-water-soluble film packet provides the cleaning benefits of both a powdered detergent and a liquid grease cutter, encapsulated in a single, easy-to-use premeasured dose. Thus, existing water-soluble film technology has moved a step further in packaging powder and liquids together. exactly how a water-soluble packet can contain both a liquid and a powder is the main reason the Action Pacs won a gold award.

Made from DuPont's elvanol® polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) cast copolymer film, which is produced using what MonoSol calls a solution-casting process, the individual packets are completely transparent, so that the white, powdered detergent and the bright blue liquid grease cutter show through. The combination of cleaners starts to dissolve as soon as the dishwasher begins its wash cycle.

Christian Rath, director of new business development at Monosol, says that while specific packaging details are confidential, and he can't say exactly how the packets are formed or filled, he does indicate that they're made of a custom-designed film based on the M8630 grade. In fact, three webs of film are used to produce the mini packet and accommodate both the powdered product and liquid grease cutter at one time. PD speculates that the packet is produced on specialized thermoform/fill/seal equipment designed to operate with the three webs of film.

The packet is very efficient-there's nothing to dispose of, it eliminates direct contact between the user and the product and the packet dissolves in water in seconds. But while the use of water-soluble packaging film isn't new, Monosol has taken its technology a step further in the challenge of using the film in packaging applications for a commercial product like this one. Rath points out that several issues exist, "including chemical compatibility of the product, the value-in-use of the packaging and the difficult handling conditions of the film (given its variability in different heat and humidity conditions). Some products have been successfully packaged [in this material], including agrochemicals, detergents and some industrial chemicals. However, they were all single formulations. The Cascade® 2 in 1 ActionPacs combine powder and liquid in one product."

Introduced in late 2003, the Cascade® product has met with great success, according to P&G, which PD is told manufactures the product and packages it in the U.S. "This package will impact the market by providing consumers with one product that does the work of multiple products," Rath reports. Circle No. 234.

More information is available

  • Packaging Awards Program:Dupont Packaging & Industrial Polymers, 302/992/6678. www.dupont.com/packaging. Circle No. 235

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