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A Balance between Function and Attraction

“The function should simply be there while the wow factor takes over when you look at and touch the packaging. The packaging should also inspire an element of surprise when opened. This packaging breathes luxury and conveys the right feeling”, says Génebaud Gérandal, a designer at Studio Gérandal, which developed the new packaging for De Jaeger’s snail caviar.

Snail caviar? Yes, snail caviar. Created by French caviar farmer De Jaeger, snail caviar is the new twist on the traditional black delicacy. After all, caviar from sturgeon and salmon has gotten quite ordinary the last years and France is France, so they developed an exclusive delicacy out of two delicacies: snails and caviar. Pink and white in colour, the De Jaeger caviar is taken from the ‘gros gris’ (Hélix Aspera Maxima) snail and treated with unrefined salt and a dash of rosemary essence. According to its manufacturer, the snails lay only 100 eggs each per year, representing about 4 grams - requiring a very slow, laborious process to obtain tiny, smooth cream-colored pearls that reportedly burst on the tongue with subtle autumn and woody flavours.

The packaging, an elegant, wine-red coloured tin, vacuum-packed and protected from light (semi-canned, shell-less and un-pasteurised, +/- 4°C) guarantees sanitary safety and allows to preserve the snail caviar flavours.
The presentation box, converted by Debrez, France, is made from Korsnäs White 240 gr/m2, which features excellent printing properties and formability, which is essential for high-quality embossing.

The packaging with the precious eggs may be procured at Harrods Food Halls in London or gourmet shops in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates at EUR 80 (USD 115) for 50 gr.

And with caviar undoubtedly goes champagne. But just don’t buy any champagne. What better in this time of the year make it an exclusive and intimate picnic and buy besides the snail-caviar a bottle of champagne packaged in a fancy ‘outdoor’ box which when folded open transforms itself in a small table plate complete with candles and flutes. Who can resist this treat when twilight is setting in?

This irresistible packaging with its many charming elements turns a champagne bottle into a genuine happening. Designed by the students Julie Valade and Renaud Petit, it received the Packaging Impact Design Award, a yearly competition for design students, organised by Swedish card board manufacturer Korsnäs Frövi. Although creative, the design is a headache to manufacture and uses a lot of carton board……. which is by the way Frövi White.

Talking about champagne, most consumers love the “popping” sound, but dislike the complicated struggle to open a champagne bottle, which always seems to go wrong. Therefore Alcan Packaging decided to develop an alternative closure. What, the traditionalists will shout, no cork? Awful, the champagne will taste differently. Champagne is no cider, they will declare. ….. continue reading

Short, Shorter, the Shortest

Bericap PCO 1881 neck finishThe item I want to handle today, doesn’t belong to the glamorous part of packaging. However its existence and eventual evolution have tremendous impact on the beverage industry and as a consequence on the sustainability credentials of the beverage packaging: the bottle.

The market environment in the mineral water and soft drinks industry, as well as in the beer sector changes rapidly. Best price offers in one-way PET are the bench mark sparking off the urgent need of a dramatic adaptation of the cost structures.

When it comes to exploiting possible saving potentials the weight of bottle and closure play an important role. Using less raw materials and moving less weight in the complete supply chain can translate in mouth-watering savings.

The new short-height neck-finish standard PCO 1881, which has been recently agreed upon within the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT), is making serious inroads in the market for plastic single and multi-serve soft drink bottles (250 ml - 2 litre), taking over from the (old standard 28 mm) PCO 1810 with enormous material savings as result.


The new standard PCO 1881 seeks to reduce resin costs associated with making polyethylene terephthalate pre-forms and polyolefin closures. It will create thinner neck finishes and lighter-weight polyolefin closures, decreasing the amount of material used in pre-forms by 1.3 grams and in standard 28-mm closures by 0.5 grams.

Material reductions totalling 1.8 grams per bottle, multiplied by the hundreds of billions of pre-forms and caps moulded worldwide each year, could yield savings of hundreds of millions of dollars annually for major brand holders like Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Cadbury Schweppes and others.
90969-pco-corvaglia.jpgEven regional beverage companies would see resin costs reduced by hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, depending on volume.
And last but not least, PCO 1881 has the added benefit of “green” engineering. Light-weighting a high-volume product like beverage bottles and consequently reducing the amount of post-consumer waste generated by the market, create savings on a global scale that not only equate to hundreds of thousands of tonnes of resin per year, but also have a tremendous impact on handling, transport and recycling.

90969-csi-closure-forgrafenwalder_large.jpgAlthough adoption of the standard is voluntary, everybody is in on it because there are so many advantages to be exploited. Take this example: With the PCO 1881 a 600 ml PET-bottle for the Brazilian Coca-Cola is 4 mm shorter in height and weighs 26 gr, against the 28 gr of the old bottle. With the new neck-finish, the part of the bottle which is responsible for the largest share in material consumption, is thinner and smaller. The new neck-finish only has two screw threads, against three in the past. This results in a material saving of approx 1.5 gr of the PET for the bottle and 0.2 gr PP for the closure.

As the beverage industry appears to be ready to adopt the new neck-finish standard, e.g. from PCO 1810 (5.1g / 21mm length) to PCO 1881 ISBT (3.8g / 17mm), lightweight solutions are literally in everyone’s mind and consequently a number of different so-called short-neck closures have hit the market. I describe several of them in my article: “Short, Shorter, the Shortest (Part 2)”.

But what with the conversion from PCO 1810 to the new PCO 1881. The switch to PCO 1881 will lead to a major retooling of pre-form and closure moulds, but above all, a conversion also means that bottling plants must be converted to be able to handle the new thread length. Here, up to € 250,000 in conversion costs are quickly incurred - money that can be a problem to raise and invest in this financially uncertain times, particularly for the smaller bottlers.

90969-conversion-pco-1810-pco-1881.jpgThe German company CCT (Creative Closure Technology GmbH) designed the ComPetCap CC 28/21-01 especially for carbonated beverage packaging. This is a neck and closure version, called “PCO 1881 med”, which ideally combines the material-saving neck and closure version PCO 1881 with the quality of consumer-friendly neck and closure version PCO 28 (1810) being used by the market for decades. The closure is 21 mm tall and only weighs 3.9 g, resulting in a saving of at least 1.5 g for pre-form and closure in comparison with the neck and closure version PCO 28 (1810). As the ComPetCap doesn’t require reconstruction costs on moulding, filling and capping, it makes it the lightweight alternative for owners of older bottling plants, as they can often only convert from PCO 1810 to PCO 1880 at high cost.

Is this the end of the evolution in shorter caps. I doubt it. I am sure, the development of bottle closures continues in the direction of more savings in raw material. Time will tell.
90538-honest-kids-3_pouches.jpgThe alternative for bottles is of course the stand-up pouch. There are innumerable ways to design original stand-up pouches using the ultimate in technology to accentuate the brand’s presence on the shelves. The only problem is, as it often is in the packaging world, the application of revolutionary technologies and/or material compositions, isn’t always recognised or even recognisable by the consumer…. read “The Evolution of the Stand-Up Pouch (Part 2)”

Is ‘Anyway' the answer?

91136-fingerpumptip.jpgOne of the consumer’s great frustrations after buying a product with a pump spray or an aerosol, is, that in effect they are designed only to work in an upright position. Existing pump spray containers have a dip tube with only one hole, which have to ‘swim’ in the liquid to guarantee proper spraying and that only is the case when sufficient liquid is left in the container and the container is held upright while spraying. Existing spray technologies tend to create waste because product is left behind and inaccessible in the container due to loss of pressure. These conditions greatly frustrate the consumer who wants to use the product at any angle he sees fit and up to the last drop.

Imagine 12 billion spray containers and aerosols currently in use worldwide in household, DIY and personal care products. Imagine 12 billion potential frustrations. The answer of course is a trigger spray system designed to work when held at any angle and leave behind no waste. Manufacturers have been trying to solve this problem for years to no avail.

91136-productrange-xx.jpgA new concept is said to overcome these frustrations. British inventor Michael Pritchard developed ‘Anyway‘ as an alternative to conventional aerosols and trigger sprays, that can be used upside down and without leaving any residue at the bottom of the container. ‘Anyway’ is designed to work at any angle and extract ‘every last drop’. The key component is a single hydrophilic membrane tube with millions of holes that attracts liquid rather than rejects it and excludes gases. The tube is closed at one end and enters the manifold of a trigger sprayer at the other. The liquid follows the path of least resistance and so up and out of the top of the tube, regardless of how the consumer is holding the container, letting the laws of physics work in the pump’s favour.

For as long as any part of the tube is in contact with the liquid, and whichever way the container is inverted, a constant spray will be maintained until the very last drop. Not only is it more practical, but it also saves significantly on waste, and for aerosols the use of compressed air means no harmful gases are released.

According to the inventor, with ‘Anyway’, a product manufacturer can choose the porosity and add characteristics to the tube depending on the nature and viscosity of the contents. The system can handle lotions, gels and foams. It is suitable for most household cleaning products and liquids and a vast majority of beauty products.

In theory the ‘Anyway’ tube will work even with viscous liquids such as sun creams and oils as long as the properties of the liquid and flow rates are understood. It is also a viable alternative - and considerably less expensive - than the ‘bag on valve’ technology manufacturers currently use.

More costly? Michael Pritchard disagrees, pointing out that his invention will reduce costs, particularly with aerosol cans.
90330-how-to-pour-2.jpgThe milk container market, one of the most important and traditional of all the food and beverage packaging segments is ripe for sustainable developments and design novelties. From the glass milk bottle to the existing plastic or cardboard containers over more than 60 years little changed in that market. Up till recently.
Last year UK’s Food and Farming Minister, Lord Rooker, called for the dairy industry to become more sustainable, targeting 50% reduction of plastics used ……. continue reading the article: “Milk in a Pouch - Innovative and Sustainable“.

Brazil’s small-scale business model for recycling post-consumer Tetra Paks

91217-fsc_forrest_2col.jpgThe time between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is typically a period when people look back and forward and decide what they will do differently in the year to come. Well, let me give you something to contemplate, read this article, invite some friends for a nice diner or b-b-q and discuss with them this topic. Organize the community and get it started.

In a never ending process many a ‘green’ website maintains the discussion alive whether Tetra Pak containers are recyclable or not or whether Tetra Pak’s claim to be sustainable is correct. The ‘simpletons’ even want to ban Tetra Pak from the packaging world. Ignorance reigns supreme. I will be the last one to claim that Tetra Paks aren’t a problem in the recycling process and unfortunately mainly end-up on landfills (to stay there for hundreds of years). But it has to be said that it’s not all Tetra Pak’s fault.

Before I continue I have to state, that I am a believer in source-responsibility. In other words in my opinion the manufacturer of packaging material is responsible for it’s product up till the end (post-consumer situation). The recycling and recovering of post-consumer packaging material can’t be left to the public authorities, as they always find an excuse not to implement a collecting and recycling system and in the most positive situation are very happy to dumb it on a landfill.
Ok, there always are exceptions, but sadly enough too few.

91217-tetra.jpgLet’s first discuss the primary question. Can Tetra Paks be recycled? The answer is a simple, but firm: Yes, they can. It might not be a perfect ‘cradle-to-cradle’ life-cycle, but the ‘grave’ in ‘cradle-to-grave’ can be delayed quite some time, so that we, in several occasions, can speak of a ‘cradle-to-reincarnation’ cycle.

Worldwide there are some hundred paper mills which recycle post-consumer beverage cartons, recovering the paper part of the cartons. They vary in terms of size and type of production. The paper mill that recycles the most cartons is the German Papierfabrik Niederauer Muhle, recycling about 100,000 tonnes of cartons every year - the equivalent of 500 million beverage cartons. Unfortunately most of the pe/alu residue of the beverage carton continues to be dumped on landfills.

Other champions in beverage carton recycling are Corenso Varkaus in Finland, and Stora Enso Barcelona, in Spain. The most sophisticated recycling plant for Tetra Paks is Piracicaba in Brazil, which comes very close to the ‘cradle-to-cradle’ principal. The joint-venture between Alcoa Aluminio, Tetra Pak, Klabin and TSL Ambiental, uses groundbreaking plasma technology, which enables the total separation of aluminium and plastic components from the cartons. This innovative process constitutes a significant enhancement to the common recycling process for carton packaging, which separates paper, but keeps plastic and aluminium together. The plasma process provides another option for recycling, allowing for the return of all three components of the cartons to the productive chain as raw material. However these three recycled components are not used in new Tetra Paks so that it’s not a perfect closed loop or cradle-to-cradle recycling.

The main problem with all these large scale and sophisticated recycling plants is the availability of post-consumer Tetra Paks, which requires the implementation of large-scale selective collecting systems. Only in some highly developed and well-organized countries and areas these systems exist. As a consequence the larger part of the roughly 140 billion Tetra Paks (equivalent to 70 billion litre packs) used worldwide is dumped as common household waste and ends-up on landfills, adding nothing to the economy and just wasting prime-materials.

91217-topics_010401_02_e.jpgIf I strictly interpret my statement, written above, that packaging material companies should be held responsible for the post-consumer residues of their marketed products, one can claim that it is Tetra Pak’s fault that so many beverage packs end-up as waste, polluting the planet disproportionately and frustrating its claim to be environmentally friendly and sustainable. The certification of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) doesn’t have any value in relation to the lack of properly handling the post-consumer situation.

Aware that there is few hope that local or national authorities arrange for a functional large-scale selective waste-collecting system and, in general, lack all creativity other than writing restricting laws and regulations, the Development Department of Tetra Pak in Brazil set to work.
Of course they had the “Law of the Stimulating Backwardness” to their advantage, as there are few people in well-organized developed countries who think small and simple in terms of business opportunities. That’s quite different with emerging countries as Brazil, which due to its immense size and despite it’s recent economic and hi-tech development, is in many areas stuck with one foot in the 21st century and with the other somewhere in the 1950s.

As a result of the axiom: “Successful recycling shouldn’t be limited to huge quantities - small operations, or communities with access to fewer beverage cartons can successfully recycle too”, they developed a small-scale technology for the manufacturing of the so-baptized “green roof shingles”. It premises the valorisation of the small-scale recycling chain in a way to generate employment and income, while it intends to prevent tons of plastic and aluminium to end up on landfills.

91217-tetra-pak-telhas.jpgThe technology is as simple as effective. We all know, that Tetra Pak cartons consists of 75% paper, 20% polyethylene and 5% aluminium. With that in mind post-consumer beverage cartons are thrown into a hydropulper (just a large-scale kitchen mixer), while water is added, no chemicals are used. The material is run in batches of about 30 minutes during which time the rotating action and water separates the fibre from the polyethylene and aluminium. The fibre that has been separated is pumped to a dewatering machine to drain out excess water. The fibre is then ready to be sold to a paper mill.

Still sticking to each other, the polyethylene and aluminium, left in the hydropulper falls into a separate cage where it is shredded and laid out in the open to dry. Once it is dry, the polyethylene-aluminium shreds are layered in a tray which is then placed into a hot press. The layers are heat pressed at 180°C (356°F) forming a flat board of 2m x 1m (7 mm thick). When this board comes out of the hot press it is soft and can be cold-press moulded into corrugated roof shingles.

Presently there are in Brazil some eleven small companies producing corrugated roof shingles from recycled Tetra Paks.
Ecofuturo in Paraná is one of them, working in three shifts with nine employees. Interestingly, although thought to be a perfect solution for low-income housing, the farmers in Paraná prefer these roof shingles because they have a huge advantage over corrugated asbestos or aluminium roof shingles. The ‘Tetra Pak’ roof shingles do not transfer noise when it rains, avoiding disturbance and even heart attacks under the chickens or other animals the farmers raise. Furthermore the green shingles are superbly waterproof, inflammable, unbreakable, have a heat transfer 30% lower than shingles made from asbestos cement, are some 50% lighter saving on the construction, and finally 30% cheaper than the existing alternatives.

91217-tetra-pak-south-africa-commissioned-a-small.jpgEach ‘green’ shingle (2 x 1 metre, 7 mm thick) produced is derived from 1,540 beverage cartons. To produce 1,000 green shingles per month, a factory consumes roughly 10 tonnes of post-consumer beverage cartons. To give you an idea about the potential market. Santa Cruz, a neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro with some 200,000 middle and low income inhabitants, consumes according to the Association of Traders of Building Materials (ACOMAC), some 40 tonnes of the asbestos type shingles per month.

According to Fernando von Ziben, director of Environment of Tetra Pak Brasil, the technology for production of roof shingles is already being exported to countries such as Argentina, Paraguay, China, Colombia, Costa Rica and South Africa. In South Africa Tetra Pak went a step further and commissioned a small scale recycling plant, based in Germiston, Gauteng, to show communities how they can profit from the recycling potential of Tetra Paks in South Africa.

91217-atrevocampanhatetrapak.jpgDespite the success, Seidel Juliana Matos, an expert in environmental development of Tetra Pak Brasil, says the challenge now is to increase the collection of raw material. “It’s useless having companies or cooperatives able to produce these shingles without raw material. Communities have to be aware that the Tetra Pak packaging is worth money. The problem is that many don’t know that it can be recycled.”

But there are communities discovering this ‘gold mine’! Realizing not only that they help to save the planet, but also that they can finance their charity. One of the examples is the Paróquia de Santo Antônio (Parish of St. Anthony, in Bras de Pina, a 200.000 inhabitants suburb in Rio de Janeiro), which is collecting all kinds of Tetra Pak packages to be recycled and to be made into shingles, so they can finance the work in the orphanage for which they took responsibility. The community got the support of communication and design bureau Atrevo which designed the poster (see picture) as well as presentations in shopping malls in the region. Furthermore, they are motivating their parishioners to bring these post-consumer packages from their residences and their relatives to realize an ever increasing amount of revenue.

91217-cartonb_2col.jpgCommunity organizing, with two benefits: Go green and make money for charity. Something to think about for 2010.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And if you don’t support the word “Christmas”, may I wish you Happy Meaningful Holidays.
90614-samurai-vodka2.jpgThe end of the year is approaching which led me to review the contents of my blog “Best In Packaging“. Recapping on which articles generated the most interest amongst the readers, I compiled an overview of the ten most visited articles. Interestingly, an article giving an overview of design in vodka bottles with little or none technical details was the most read story, while I thought that there were more than sufficient packaging design blogs on the web. Fortunately for me, the vodka bottle article has been closely followed by articles with more technical content and innovation, as that’s exactly what I intended with my blog. Solely writing about design or simply showing some pictures is not what “Best In Packaging” is about. Packaging innovation with an accent on sustainability and recyclability is what this blog makes attractive. My steadily growing number of readers boosts my belief that I’m on the right track. … continue reading

A Touch of Class Enters the Boxed Wine Category

freshcase-150dpiresize.jpgIn the beverage alcohol market it is wine which is the primary growth driver, while at the same time the wine industry’s low margins and commodity market dynamics have made it the toughest sector of drinks for packaging innovation. Although the majority of wines is still bottled in glass, the larger format sector for wine, targeting the mainstream wine consumer, is dominated by the Bag-in-Box (BiB), worth some USD 500m in retail sales in the UK and over USD 1,5bn across the Scandinavian markets.

In the Scandinavian markets penetration has risen to between 30 and 50% as wine consumers have become increasingly attracted to the convenience and price benefits of the larger BiB format. Wine in Bag-in-Box might not have the classy reputation of glass bottles, but it can be a great choice for a large number of reasons, which has led to the situation that in the past few years more wine consumers have started to look for more premium wine in the larger format.

Constellation Europe, a division of the largest wine producer in the world, launched the BiB packaging format specifically for premium quality wines, believing it can extend the market for larger formats by providing premium wine to consumers, who currently do not regularly purchase wine in BiB, i.e. the typically young professionals with high disposable income and an expressed interest in wine.

Constellation’s Hardys Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz 2007 and Chardonnay 2008 are now sold in stylish blue, grey and silver 2.25 litre FreshCase packs. The 2.25 litre bag-in-box container holds the equivalent of three bottles of wine while taking the shelf space of approximately one bottle. The square-sided packaging consists of four parts. The middle section is made of decorated composite paperboard, enclosed by top and bottom plastic ends. Inside the container is a one-piece bag-and-tap system that contains and dispenses the wine.

To enjoy the wine in the FreshCase , the consumer turns the canister on its side and depresses the unlocking mechanism on the underneath side of the bottom plastic end. Next, he pulls the tap forward until it clicks into place. The taps are easy to get out providing the consumer follows the instructions. Finally, he turns the canister to its side and pulls out the carry handle on the top plastic end. It adjusts into place on a countertop or the refrigerator as a stand that angles the entire package to help the last drops of (white) wine flow out through the dispenser. The red wine packaging can stand upright on the table top.
FreshCase is stylish enough to grace any kitchen or house bar.

No air gets into the FreshCase after a glass have been poured, so the wine stays fresh for up to 6 weeks after opening.

Compared to 3 glass bottles, a FreshCase has a lower carbon footprint as the pack is 70% lighter and takes up 30% less space, making a huge reduction in the energy needed to transport the wine. The components of the packaging are recyclable. To recycle FreshCase, the consumer separates the cardboard from the plastic by pulling the end caps off and removing the bag as shown in the picture.

The external component parts of Freshcase are supplied by 1st Packaging in Leighton Buzzard, a division of Postal Packaging Ltd., to Constellation Europe’s new manufacturing and distribution site Constellation Park, based in Avonmouth Bristol, where they are assembled.
Constellation’s in-house design team worked with London-based design agency Drink Works to develop the FreshCase pack.

Constellation sees the FreshCase as a significant innovation to move the category on, aiming squarely at high-end consumers who are knowledgeable about wine and prepared to spend a bit more. They are perceived as strongly ABC1, with 62% being between 18 and 34, representing about 24% of the wine drinkers.

Note: the recycle photo I took from Richard Mackney

90429-vinexport02_full.jpgWine always had the areola of belonging to people with a sophisticated life style, a little snobbish maybe. Certainly snobbish, when you read the lyrical descriptions of the so-called wine connoisseurs, putting you (the simpleton) off because you have little interest in the either critical or lyrical, fancy-full, high-flying words for the wine which flavour ….. continue reading the article: “Evolution of Wine in Bag-in-Box

Bio-based Plastics From Algae - An Old is New Again Story

On my blog Best In Packaging I wrote two posts titled: “The Potential of Bio-based Plastics” (part 1 and part 2) in which I reviewed a study regarding the potential of bio-based plastics. The study meanly concentrated on feed stock which need more or less large quantities of arable areas which could and should, in my opinion exclusively, be used for food and not for bio-fuels or bio-based plastics. At the same time the Amazon Rain Forest and the Cerrado Savannah are cut down to create space for planting soy with the final goal to extract bio-fuel. (Read my article: “The Cerrado Suffers Worse Than The Amazon“)


So my hope went up when some weeks ago California-based Cereplast announced the manufacturing of plastics from algae. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly and although of significant importance the press release didn’t get the attention in the (professional) media that it deserved. Why? I think algae are not glamorous and everybody thinks it’s a far away technology. A wishful thinking. But is it?
Let’s have a look at Cereplast’s press release first:

Cereplast, Inc., manufacturer of proprietary bio-based sustainable plastics, announced that it has been developing a breakthrough technology to transform algae into bio-plastics and intends to launch a new family of algae-based resins that will complement the company’s existing line of Compostables and Hybrid resins.

Cereplast algae-based resins could replace 50% or more of the petroleum content used in traditional plastic resins. Currently, Cereplast is using renewable material such as starches from corn, tapioca, wheat and potatoes.
Cereplast is still in the development phase, but believes that this breakthrough technology could result in a significant new line of business in the years to come.

Frederic Scheer, Founder of Cereplast, believes that algae has the potential to become one of the most important “green” feedstocks for bio-fuels, as well as bio-plastics.

Clearly, his and my focus are on bio-plastics. Algae as biomass make sense as it helps close the loop on polluting gases and can be a significant renewable resource.

As we all know, the majority of plastics fall into the category of fossil plastics, which are non-energy products of the petroleum chemicals. Petroleum-based plastics are considered to be non-biodegradable, or at best only slowly biodegradable. This, coupled with the amount of plastics produced and ending up as litter or in landfills, is primarily responsible for the activity towards plastics that are biodegradable. Municipal solid waste contains 7% by weight and 17-25% by volume of plastics, largely from packing materials.

Replacement of petro-chemically based plastics by biologically derived plastics would reduce petroleum usage. Litter from such plastics would disappear into its surroundings to leave only normal biological residues. Unfortunately the industry is concentrating on using renewable material grown on arable lands that should be used for food.

The algal plastics and algal plastic precursors are made from filamentous green algae - pond scum, kelp, seaweed, and the like - a huge family of more than 30,000 organisms that photosynthesize sunlight but lack roots, shoots, and leaves — grows quickly, with some species nearly doubling in volume overnight. Almost half the body weight of some species are lipids, the scientific term for oil. There’s evidence that humans have used algae for millennia: Chinese texts from 5,000 BC mention it, Irish farmers once fed it to their cattle and think in terms of the wrapped sushi.

When researching this subject, you find that an acre of algae can possibly produce 100,000 gallons of fuel in a year — or maybe it’s 30,000 gallons or 4,000 gallons or 400 gallons. Yet even the lowest figure, scientists say, compares favourably with the 50 gallons for an acre of soybeans, canola’s about 160 gallons per acre per year, and palm’s about 600 gallons per acre per year. But some types of algae can produce at least 2,000 gallons of oil per acre per year. (Note: ratio acre : hectare = approx. 2½; a US gallon = 3.786 litres).

Growing algae artificially can be a challenge. Too much light or too little, too hot or too cold and algae stop producing. And the list goes on. Various companies have come up with ingenious solutions to these problems. Although algae live in water, land-based methods are used to grow algae. Two land-based methods used today are open ponds and closed bioreactors.

Open ponds are shallow channels filled with freshwater or seawater, depending on the kind of algae that’s grown. The water is circulated with paddle wheels to keep the algae suspended and the pond aerated. They are inexpensive to build and work well to grow algae, but have the inevitable problem of water evaporation. To prevent the ponds from drying out or becoming too salty, conditions that kill the algae, an endless supply of freshwater is needed to replenish the evaporating water.

When closed bioreactors are used to grow algae, water evaporation is no longer the biggest problem for algae’s mass-production. Bioreactors, enclosed hardware systems made of clear plastic or glass, present their own problems. They can be computer-controlled and monitored around the clock for a more bountiful supply of algae. However, storing water on land and controlling its temperature are the big problems, making them prohibitively expensive to build and operate. In addition, both systems require a lot of land.

Remarkable, and almost creating a perfect loop, is NASA’s plan for algae harvesting in the ocean. Large plastic bags filled with sewage would be placed in the ocean to grow algae. These bags have semi-permeable membranes that will provide home for algae to grow (using up sewage for this purpose) and will allow fresh water to flow out, thus not getting encumbered by evaporation and refill issues that plague closed bioreactors. Furthermore it does not compete with agriculture for land or freshwater.

The bag will be made of semi-permeable membranes that allow fresh water to flow out into the ocean, while retaining the algae and nutrients. The membranes are called “forward-osmosis membranes.” They are normal membranes that allow the water to run one way. With salt water on the outside and fresh water on the inside, the membrane prevents the salt from diluting the fresh water. It’s a natural process, where large amounts of fresh water flow into the sea.

Floating on the ocean’s surface, the inexpensive plastic bags will be collecting solar energy as the algae inside produce oxygen by photosynthesis. The algae will feed on the nutrients in the sewage, growing rich, fatty cells. Through osmosis, the bag will absorb carbon dioxide from the air, and release oxygen and fresh water. The temperature will be controlled by the heat capacity of the ocean, and the ocean’s waves will keep the system mixed and active.

When the process is completed, bio-fuels and bio-based plastics will be made and sewage will be processed. For the first time, harmful sewage will no longer be dumped into the ocean. The algae and nutrients will be contained and collected in a bag. Not only will oil be produced, but nutrients will no longer be lost to the sea. According to NASA, the system is fail proof. Even if the bag leaks, it won’t contaminate the local environment. The enclosed fresh water algae will die in the ocean.

With a bit of luck and some billions in research and development we might have algal-based plastics on a large scale in some 5 years, without using arable land.

The 12 Most Impressive Packaging Innovations in 2009


This is my last post of 2009 and I thought it interesting to give my readers an overview of the, in my opinion, most impressive innovations in packaging of this year. Enjoy it and have a delightful turn of the Year.

The Aluminium Bottle of the Year
A revolutionary lightweight aluminium bottle made for Eaux Vives mineral water in Canada won the Can of the Year Award for Exal Corporation at The Canmaker Summit held in Dubai (October 28-29).

With the bottled water market increasingly commoditized the industry is constantly being challenged to improve its environmental profile. The 30cl C2C-bottle, under development for almost ten years, might be the answer. Compared to the impact-extruded aluminium bottles already on the market and produced in limited numbers, the C2C-bottle weighs more than 40% less, providing significant material savings.

C2C, which stands for Coil-to-Can, uses similar techniques as for making beverage cans starting with thin aluminium coil, and potentially offers production speeds in the region of 1,000 bottles per minute. Development costs in excess of USD 30 million have been spent by Exal on a pilot manufacturing line in Ohio with a capacity to make 120 million bottles a year.

Food Safety - Temperature Sensitive Labels Destroy Barcodes
Tempix Sweden launched a new temperature indicator that destroys barcodes on labels if the foodstuff or other temperature sensitive products are exposed to too high heat. Over the years many different types of temperature indicators have popped up that showed when a temperature sensitive product’s refrigerating chain was broken.

What is unique about the Tempix solution is that it is coupled to the barcode on the price tag. If the product has been exposed to too much heat the barcode is destroyed and becomes illegible for the scanner.

An identical development comes from Japan, where “To-Genkyo” introduced an expiration date label concept, called Fresh Label. To-Genkyo designed an innovative hourglass shaped label for packaged meat which uses a special ink that changes colour as ammonia is released inside the package. As the meat ages, it releases increasing amounts of the substance, obscuring the barcode at the bottom. When the barcode becomes completely covered, it can’t be scanned. Like an hourglass, the bottom half of the label “fills up” as the meat ages. Consumers can judge the product’s freshness at a glance.

The label consists of two layers, with the bottom half under the film detecting the ammonia emitted from the meat, thus reflecting its freshness in the style of a slow-mo hourglass.

More, read the full article: Food Safety - Temperature Sensitive Labels Destroy Barcodes

Short, Shorter, the Shortest
The development of a new, light weight thread finish for plastic single and multi-serve soft drink bottles (250 ml - 2 litre), is an international undertaking under the auspices of the International Society of Beverage Technologists (ISBT).

The result, the PCO 1881, creates thinner neck finishes and lighter-weight polyolefin closures, decreasing the amount of material used in pre-forms by 1.3 grams and in standard 28-mm closures by 0.5 grams. PCO 1881 has the added benefit of “green” engineering. Lightweighting a high-volume product like CSD bottles reduces the amount of post-consumer waste generated by the market-savings that on a global scale equate to hundreds of millions of pounds of resin per year.

However, a conversion - e.g. from PCO 1810 (5.1g / 21mm length) to PCO 1881 ISBT (3.8g / 17mm) - also means that bottling plants must be converted to be able to handle the new thread length. Here, up to € 250,000 in conversion costs are quickly incurred - money that can easily be saved using PCO 1881 med, an alternative developed by MHT - Mold & Hotrunner Technology AG.

The PCO 1881 med (also called ComPetCap) is 21 mm tall and only weighs 3.9g. This makes the new thread the lightweight alternative for owners of older bottling plants, as they can often only be converted to a shorter thread length at high cost.

More, read the full article: Short, Shorter, the Shortest

True Innovation from Process to Packaging
Preshafood of Australia uses a new high pressure processing system for its Preshafruit juice range, presented in unique triangular bottles. Preshafruit fruits juices are made by Donny Boy Fresh Food Company.

The HPP machine, from NC Hyperbaric of Spain, used by Donny Boy to create Preshafruit required the juice bottles to be triangular in order to fit the machines pressure vessel. This in itself created a unique approach to the packaging as no other juice bottle in the market features the wedge shape.

To cope with the enormous pressures of HPP, the pressure vessels are very small, in fact the diameter of the machine used to make Preshafruit is only 19cm. so that six of the Preshafruit triangle bottles forming a hexagon can fit inside the pressure vessel.

The triangular bottle allowed Design By Pidgeon to create three faces on the one bottle to express three different key messages and communicate the brand’s key story - 100% Australia - pressurised cold - just picked taste - and be especially effective when merchandised on supermarket shelves.

More, read the full article: True Innovation from Process to Packaging

From Doy-Pack to S-Pouch
Looking at the many introductions of ‘new’ products in stand-up pouches this packaging format has gained worldwide popularity. The basic Doyen design consists of two flat sheets sealed together along their sides, with a “W” fold running along the bottom. When the pouch is filled, the “W” opens and provides a base on which the pouch can stand.

The original Doyen design showed the top being sealed straight across, but subsequent modifications include fitments to allow the pouch to be re-closed after opening. That pouch design, including many variants, is the dominant style of the stand-up pouch.

The S-Pouch Company in Taiwan went a step further. They made a tube as body and sealing not one but two gussets (one at the bottom and one at the top with the spout) into the tube, the pouch not only looks as a bottle but stands more perfect and stabile and doesn’t tip over when half emptied as most of the tri-angular tapered stand-up pouches do.

This revolutionary design has more advantages as it can be filled, according to the designer, up to 90-97% of the pack size or in other words the same content offers a reduction in pouch size of up to 20%, resulting in 15-20% material reduction in comparison to the standard stand-up pouch.

Furthermore in the regular stand-up pouch only ‘canoe’ style fitments can be used, while the S-Pouch, with its double gussets allows for cylindrical fitments (even the new PCO 1881), avoiding the sealing problems which come with ‘canoe’ style fitments.

More, read the full article: From Doy-Pack to S-Pouch

Electroluminescent Technology and its Eye-Catching Potential
Electroluminescent technology is based upon the use of conducting, insulating and luminescent inks, which are suitable for manufacturing printed electroluminescent films.

In a further advancement of this technology, all of the electronic components have been further miniaturized, encompassing the integration of the driver into the printed electroluminescent film. This facilitates its incorporation in product packaging.

Employing the latest process technologies, Karl Knauer succeeded in attaching an illuminated display across several sides of the packaging and even on curved surfaces on the basis of printed electronics. This display functions with the optical phenomenon of electroluminescence to shine in different colours and to depict logos, images and texts, allowing for multi-coloured light effects and animations, such as flashing and fading.

All parts of the packaging design can be “HiLighted” - the logos, images, parts of images and text. Moreover, this smart packaging can also be equipped with motion sensors activating the light effects at the P.O.S. when a consumer comes closer.

More, read the full article: Electroluminescent Technology and its Eye-Catching Potential

Easy Pour Container For Dangerous Liquids
This new redesigned barrier structured 20-litres jug for Chlorpyrifos 500 insecticide from A&C Packers Pty Ltd. of Australia, with built-in handles on two sides and a tamper-evident, mechanical closure is 30-percent more efficient for transport and storage.

Usually full containers are shipped two-layers-high on a pallet which represents 640 litres of product for the steel drums, in contrast to the new jug shape which allows twenty jugs per layer, two high, adding up to 800 litres in the same space. The new jug also is reusable with a 5-year life cycle and recyclable as the resin from the recycled containers can be used to make drainage pipes.

Standard HDPE containers require to be fluorinated. Fluorination is a chemical reaction that introduces fluorine into a compound. It prevents container panelling and distortion and reduces chemical permeation, weight loss, odour emission and flavour or fragrance loss.

To bypass the additional fluorination step, A&C Packers developed a proprietary six-layer extrusion/blow-moulded HDPE container with the necessary barrier made of DuPont’s Selar polyamide, an amorphous nylon resin that needs no fluorination.

Besides the special barrier construction, the container also offers a new 63-mm, Easy Pour “glug-free”, tamper-evident, wedge-seal neck design from Dorony Pty Ltd. An elegant solution to the glugging problem relying on the container design along with the position of the neck.

More, read the full article: Easy Pour Container For Dangerous Liquids

Dispensing caps
Baby Boomers, their Gen Y kids and all following generations are convinced that a daily dose of a functional beverage, energy or vitamin drink can keep them youthful.

However the potency and effectiveness of functional beverages rely on the way in which ingredients are delivered. Deterioration of vitamins, herbs and other healthful ingredients starts from the moment they hit water, in other words from the moment a packaging for a ready-to-drink energy drink is filled in the factory. Vitamin C, for example, loses 80% of its potency after only 30 days.

In 2009 various companies developed solutions for this problem. Among others the VIZcap, BeriCap’s Life Top, the Delo Vitamin Cap and the Cedevita cap, but the best in my opinion is the Activate-cap. Activate launched a line of functional beverages that features a custom-designed cap to keep vitamins and other healthful ingredients fresh until consumption.

The vitamin drink consists of a 16 oz PET bottle filled with water and capped by a custom-made dispensing closure that stores 3 gr of dry ingredient. When the consumer twists the upper cavity of the cap clockwise, an internal blade within the closure turns and pierces a plastic membrane separating the powdered formula from the water. By cutting the sealed membrane, the ingredients are released into the beverage, which is then ready for consumption.

More, read the full article: More Bottle Caps for Sensitive Vitamins and Innovative Dispensing Bottle Caps for Sensitive Vitamins

Decorating a Champagne Bottle
This year the bottle for the Taittinger Brut Millésimé 2000, a blend of 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, was decorated by the American painter Robert Rauschenberg, well-known for his “Combine” works that integrate the aspects of painting and sculpture.

The Rauschenberg Bottle, is encased in a moulded “shell” of DuPont Crastin PBT, and decorated using DuPont dye-sublimation technology - selected for its ability to accurately reproduce delicate artwork on complex shapes.

The artwork created by Rauschenberg uses a largely chromatic, but a very subtle palette of colours, with very light and “faded-looking” tones of mauve, brown and yellow, together with large areas of dark grey and black. 3D-sublimation printing was the most effective way of reproducing these very delicate colours on such a complex shape. 3D-sublimation printing requires a material for the shell that resists the temperatures incurred during the sublimation process.

Dye sublimation is a dye-transfer process. When the dyes are heated in this transfer process, they vaporize, and if they are in close proximity to a suitable substrate, such as a plastic or coating, the vapours penetrate the adjacent substrate by around 0.002 in. (0,005 mm) up to 0.25 in. (0,635 mm). The plastic substrate must be able to withstand temperatures of 280 to 375 ºF (138 to 190 ºC) necessary to vaporize the dye.

More, read the full article: Decorating a Champagne Bottle

Gaïa and Infinite Glass
The French glass manufacturer Saint-Gobain Desjonqueres SA created Infinite Glass, the 1st 100% recycled glass, from which sprouted the Gaia range of bottles and jars, designed by the design agency Extrême Paris and dedicated to the perfume and cosmetics market segment.

Glass, endlessly recyclable, is known to be one of the most environmentally friendly materials. Although 100% recyclable, its composition is never 100% the result of recycling.

Cullet, a raw material used by glassmakers, coming from selected glass waste and reintroduced into the glassmaking process, can account for up to 95% of the raw materials used for glass manufacturing. On average, cullet makes up 53% of the raw materials used for packaging containers. In the perfume industry, glass is usually composed of 30% of in-house cullet (recycling of the production loss) and 70% of raw materials (silica sand, limestone and soda ash).

Using a higher level of cullet in the glass production enables lower (virgin) raw material extractions, lower carbon dioxide emissions as each metric ton of cullet used in the furnaces results in a CO2-reduction emitted into the atmosphere of around 500 kg and lower energy consumption, since collected glass melts at a lower temperature than natural raw materials.

More, read the full article: Gaïa and Infinite Glass

Milk in a Bag - Innovative and Sustainable
The milk container market is exemplary of sustainable developments and design options within one of the most important and traditional of all the food and beverage packaging segments.

From the glass milk bottle to the existing plastic or cardboard containers over more than 60 years little changed in that market. Up till recently.

Daylesford, an organic UK dairy producer managed to innovate both structure and materials, resulting in a sensational milk packaging, which I baptized bag-pack.

Made from calcium carbonate, the biodegradable, bag-like plastic pack is cut into a striking jug shape. It is innovative, stylish and sustainable.
This package is made up from a flexible multi-layered polymer film, called Calymer, consisting of 60% polyethylene and polypropylene and 40% calcium carbonate. According to the manufacturer, the package weighs just 14 grams, which is a 40-50% reduction on a conventional liquid food carton or bottle.

Although flexible material, the bag-pack stands up steadily, thanks to the flat-bottom design that does the job. The air-filled handle makes it easy to get a grip and the spout makes it easy to pour.

Calymer should not be confused with biodegradable plastics on the market as they follow a different life-cycle. According to Ecolean’s site, a disposed Calymer package can either be recycled as a traditional plastic or “recovered as energy by incineration.”

More, read the full article: Milk in a Bag - Innovative and Sustainable

Gibco Cell Culture Bottle Design
Invitrogen, a division of Life Technologies, received the prestigious AmeriStar Package Award from the Institute of Packaging Professionals for its new Gibco cell culture bottle.

Invitrogen launched the redesigned Gibco bottle to offer scientists improved ease of use, storage efficiency, easier identification, and reduced sample contamination for their cell culture experiments.

The new bottle is designed by global design consultancy IDEO and manufactured by Graham Packaging Plastics.

Radical design innovations included an angled neck which matches the natural angle of hand and wrist when pipetting and with the addition of a cap label allows the researchers to identify the correct media and concentration all the way to the back of a fridge, an oversized neck diameter which reduces chance of pipette touching the neck of the bottle and transferring contamination in addition to allowing faster pouring and easier supplement additions, flat sides to aid handling for small hands, a squat design which can fit up to 25% more bottles into a refrigerator and has increased the room for supplementation from 10% to more than 20%, larger and easier to read labels with more blank space on back of label to provide writing space where researchers can list supplements added to media, and clear bottle sides which allow researchers to look for precipitation and signs of bacterial contamination.

That were the best innovations in 2009. Let’s see what is coming up in 2010.

2010: Trends in Packaging

Some readers have asked me to write as a follow-up to my article: “The 12 Most Impressive Packaging Innovations in 2009“, an article about the trends in packaging innovation to be expected in 2010.91231-jean-paul-gaultier_300dpi.JPGI am not a crystal-glazer and who am I to pretend to be able to envision the future trends in packaging. In general I find articles about trends often only mirroring the wishful-thinking of the author or an enumeration of generalities.

Nevertheless it is a very interesting challenge, which I have been given some thought. As a result I decided to give it a chance. But before I write it, I should like to ask my readers to send me their input. What are my readers expecting to see in terms of (technological) packaging innovations in 2010. This includes all aspects of packaging (material composition, manufacturing, technical design and construction, printing techniques, sustainability and greenness, etc., etc.)

You can send your insight or expectations to:
amsteeman(at)xs4all(dot)nl or amsteeman(at)yahoo(dot)com(dot)br.

Whatever you send me, be specific (please no generalities in terms of: “packaging will go green”) and argue why you think it will be a trend in 2010. No problem if you take on a whole sector, like “Stand-up pouches will be replaced by …. blah, blah”). Include pictures, if available.

I have scheduled to write the article somewhere in the last week of this month. So, let’s set the final day for inputs at 22 Jan. 2010. Problems to write in English? Don’t have it. You can send your information in English, Dutch, German, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

reis-baltic-2008-dsc00232_bewerkt-1.jpgSetting this date, will not imply that I’m not interested in new packaging innovations thereafter. I’m always open and welcome any information regarding packaging innovations. However I never can guarantee that I shall or can use it.

Very anxious to see your input. Thanks in advance.

Anton Steeman

The Trigger to Success

Westland Horticulture, an industry leader in the development and production of high specification compost, plant food, lawn treatments, and control products sought to design an easy-to-use, convenient and stylish handheld sprayer for two new sizes of its revolutionary Resolva 24H Ready-to-Use weed control spray.

The handheld sprayer attaches to 3 and 5 litre packs to combine the convenience of trigger sprayer operation with a large-size pack for maximum coverage. For such packs, storage of the sprayer attachment is a challenge. Traditionally this has been in an open plastic “holster” integrally moulded at the rear of the pack or hung round the container neck. This can make the packs look cumbersome and unattractive and it also takes up valuable shelf space.

Westland came up with the concept, already practised for other applications by among others TricorBraun, whereby the trigger sprayer is stored in a cavity within the container itself. The original design was adjusted and re-engineered by RPC Design with careful consideration of the trigger location to ensure good material distribution and provide a secure fit.
The pack is blow moulded in HDPE at the Raunds and Rushden sites of RPC UK, while the wide flat face with inward curved ends appeared to be a technical challenge, met successfully by the sites’ moulding tech¬nicians. With the sprayer fixed to its trigger clips in the cavity, the finished pack is labelled, with the label partly covering the opening to provide additional security and ensure the trigger stays in place during transit and on-shelf.

There is a large labelling area for effective branding. The handle incorporates a series of finger grips for user-friendly and comfortable operation.
The containers have been launched across garden care and DIY outlets in the UK.

Is the above described packaging for poisonous liquid, as it contains glyphosate and diquat, Ampac Flexibles introduces for Patch Perfect, a lawn care products brand, a stand-up pouch with built-in dispenser for dry solids and granular products which allows the consumer to distribute not only seeds, fertilizers, and ice melt, but also (aggressive) chemicals, pesticides and weed controllers without having to reach into the package. The ShakerPak replaces the bulky rigid HDPE container with a flexible pouch. …. read the full article

Pick and Place Technology for Fragile Fresh Fruit

This blog only has seen posts about new packaging innovations in regard to packaging design, packaging construction, material use and packaging and printing technologies. However I don’t see a reason why I should restrict myself to those topics and not write about new packaging machinery innovations, particularly when one meets an interesting design for automatic handling of fragile fresh fruits.

In addition to that, the fresh fruit packaging in itself is not subject to spectacular innovations as it hasn’t seen any in years, still being the (corrugated) cardboard box tray as it was decades ago. Packaging companies might have modified the way the box tray is set up, but you can’t report of any significant innovation.
That said, it does mean that any innovation in efficiently packing of fresh and fragile fruit has to come from the machinery companies. Well, here is one of them.

In the country of the kiwi’s, Stroba Ltd, developed a Pick and Place Autopacker to pack Kiwi fruit, and tested it additionally with citrus, stone fruit and apples. New Zealand’s Stroba Ltd is a joint venture company between two New Zealand based companies: Satara Co-operative Group Ltd and Brookdale Industries Ltd. Stroba was initially established to pool the skills and experience necessary to develop an automated packing solution for Satara’s kiwifruit handling operations.

Multiple tray configurations are a must in today’s competitive produce market and the Autopacker has been specifically designed to pick and place a variety of fragile fruits into any tray configuration, gently, precisely and accurately placing the fruits in the exact centre of (what they call ‘down-under’) the plix cup, in other words in the centres of the deep-drawn parts of the tray, where the fruit should sit. The integrated flexibility of the Autopacker allows for on line instantaneous changes to various pack configurations, as it works out that it is just a case of reconfiguring the head spacings and programming to meet the required tray patterns for packing other types of fruit.

The clever and patented bit, (28 patents granted according to the manufacturer) is the design of the moving head. The fruits are singled and manipulated in rows on the, what Stroba calls the ‘singulator’, and presented to the head in a ’square’ pattern. The head picks the products up by vacuum generated by a special pump that only generates enough suction to hold the product, but not suck it to death. After picking up the fruit the head moves over to the tray, while the pattern of the suction cups are configured into the pattern that fits the tray, in other words each fruit is placed inside the deep-drawn cup of the tray. The head can be pre-programmed to suit a range of tray patterns. The number of options depends on the range of fruit sizes and the range of tray configurations, but “it is reasonably flexible within certain parameters”, the company says. After filling, the completed trays are available for quality control before being closed.

To pack the delicate fruit, the Kiwi fruit industry uses labour to place the fruit into deep drawn plastic trays, which are then stacked in the standard corrugated cardboard open fruit boxes. The output per labourer is about 80-90 pieces a minute. Although the Stroba Twin Head Pick and Place unit can pack at speeds up to 700 fruits a minute, the best results is at 14 trays a minute, or around 500 fruits a minute. A single head unit, which has been built to show at the Fruit Logistica in Berlin in February, packs at around 280 fruits a minute, with 36 fruits per tray.

According to the company, implementation of the Pick and Place unit in the Kiwi fruit industry showed a reduction of the direct labour cost per tray by more than half.

During the PMA show in the US from 2 - 5 October a video of the system will be shown in the booth of Ag-Pak.

Designed to protect each product as well as the environment, the new packages adopted by Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods Inc. and Earthbound Farm are almost as “green” as the products themselves. One claims that its living lettuce is “so beautiful, that it comes with a bodyguard,” i.e. a new, custom-designed scalloped clamshell for Artisan Lettuce, the other is completely different as the company decided to switch to 100% PCR PET. …. read the full article