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Articles from 2019 In January

Inventive hinged bottle reduces product waste

Inventive hinged bottle reduces product waste
Hinged bottle design allows consumers access to remove every ounce of product for a wide range of products and container sizes.

Newly patented packaging design for personal care, food and other bottled and tubed products allows consumers to use more and waste less.

Inventions can originate in a number of places ranging from universities to garages and, in the case of brothers Sebastian and Rashon Velmont, a shower.

“My co-inventor Rashon hopped out of the shower with a partially emptied conditioner bottle in his hand and shouted my name,” recalls Sebastian. “He held the bottle up to my face and said ‘we need to invent a bottle design that allows you to reach every last drop of this conditioner’ and I replied, ‘I’ll start working on it.’ I created a prototype that day and filed a provisional patent the following week, and five years later, without legal assistance, our self-executed utility patent No. US20180334296A1 was granted on January 15, 2019, for Dispensing container with interior access. Packaging Digest has been our key resource throughout this patent process.”

Key points about the invention:

  • The Utility Patent allows consumers 100% access of a bottled consumer product for lotion, shampoo, cosmetics, etc., once the content can no longer be dispensed when it reaches the bottom of the bottle or when it's stuck along its interior walls.
  • The Utility Patent consists of top and bottom bottle halves connected by a hinge along with locking features and a seal, which for the first time ever allows consumers to fully access the interior walls of a consumer bottle with ease and then close and lock it to preserve the remaining content without having to cut the bottle open.

“The patent provides frustration-free packaging for consumers, sustainable packaging for the environment and distinctive packaging that can set brands apart from competitors,” says Velmont. “It is applicable for condiments, toothpaste, car oil, paint, glue and more.”

He responds to more questions in this Q&A.

What makes it better than current alternatives?

Velmont: We are providing a solution to a common consumer problem in a familiar way. Consumers may cut open their lotion bottles at the center to get the last drop. However, we’ve provided a bottle design that allows the consumer bottle to now be opened from its center and closed, locked, and sealed to reach and preserve any remaining content once it reaches the bottom of the bottle or if its stuck along the interior bottle walls.

What polymers or materials could be used to manufacture the bottle?

Velmont: Our Utility Patent was created for standard polymer consumers lotion, conditioner and condiment bottles, but our patent claims allows our Utility Patent features to be appropriate to any dispensing container material. That can be a glass lotion bottle, stainless-steel water bottle, paper shampoo bottle; our patent claims applies to all forms of rigid materials.

What are appropriate bottles sizes?

Velmont: From a $120 one-ounce bottle of La Mer Foundation to a club store-size 4-L condiment bottle, our proprietary claims can be applied to all variations of bottle sizes and designs along with squeeze tubes because every last drop counts, especially with high-end cosmetics.

Our proprietary claims applies to all shapes and sizes of dispensing containers as there is no specific size or dimension that requires our functionality more than another.

What’s the status and what’s the next step?

Velmont: Our Utility Patent was approved and now we are hitting the ground running. Our overall goal is to license our proprietary claims to FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) companies to make this a new industry standard.

It was astounding for us to learn that, combined, African Americans and Hispanics make up less than 2% of patent holders in the U.S. along with women who hold only 12%. As African Americans we wanted to find a way to inspire more innovation among people of color, so we are currently seeking out College Engineering Departments to work with us to develop our prototypes. A prototype that can prove to Consumer Packaged Goods Companies that investing into our design can be cost effective, makes packaging frustration-free for consumers, provides a sustainable solution for effective recycling and can make their brands packaging stand out amongst others.

A portion of our future licensing royalties will go towards their engineering program to inspire more innovation, especially among women and people of color.

What’s the takeaway for our audience of packaging professionals?

Velmont: Our innovation is not only for getting every last drop of content out of your lotion, conditioner, condiment, glue, and paint bottles, it can also be used to improve your cleaning experience with water and baby bottles with its ability to be opened from the center by the means of our proprietary hinge. You could place your water and baby bottle in the dishwasher for a more thorough cleaning. Furthermore, our proprietary claims can be applied to squeeze tubes as well.

Beyond U.S. approval, we have also been granted International Rights to file it in more than 150 countries.

For further information, contact the co-inventor at [email protected]


In addition to leading suppliers showing the latest solutions in labeling, automation, food packaging, package design and more—WestPack 2019 (Feb. 5-7; Anaheim, CA) gives you access to the industry's leading educational offerings with the 3D Printing and Smart Manufacturing Innovations Summits, the MD&M Medtech Conference and free industry education at the Expo. Register to attend today!


Consumers hunger for better food allergen labeling

Consumers hunger for better food allergen labeling
Survey found 82% of consumers support new regulations to improve allergen information on food labels.

A new study from consultancy Spoon Guru found lack of clarity and information for food allergens on food products and packaging was a serious problem—and it offers solutions in this exclusive interview.

It’s said that two-thirds of the world’s population intentionally excludes certain foodstuffs from their diet due to health concerns or choices, which means the food industry is under mounting pressure to meet growing consumer demand for tailored food choices. A new study commissioned by Spoon Guru to look into the related struggles for this nearer to home stateside found that U.S. consumers who have food allergies, intolerances or lifestyle diets yielded some troubling results. One of those surprises among the 2,000 consumers surveyed was that 33% of Americans have accidentally purchased on a weekly basis food that does not align to their dietary requirements do so; and some 49% of them said that was due to poor labelling information.

Other findings:

  • The data found Americans aged between 25 and 44 who have some form of exclusion diet struggle the most when shopping for foods at supermarkets or online;
  • The worst affected were Vegans, with 45% saying they suffer the most from vague or non-existent ingredients labeling when trying to find the right food;
  • In analyzing how female consumers fair versus males, the data revealed that a third (34%) of men made errors when there was no product labels whereas only a quarter of females (25%) made the same mistake;
  • 82% of those surveyed support new regulations concerning better food labeling.

“With an increase of U.S. consumers adopting exclusion diets, whether due to an allergy or intolerance or simply just a lifestyle choice, there is a clear need to make food discovery much more inclusive,” said Markus Stripf, CEO and co-founder of Spoon Guru. “The study found there is overwhelming support (86%) for the idea that retailers should go above and beyond the current regulations to improve ingredient clarity, and the general feeling among U.S. consumers is for on-trade and off-trade retailers to take more accountability where food labeling is concerned.”

Packaging Digest’s sought Stripf’s insights and advice regarding the survey findings.

Let’s start with an overview of what Spoon Guru is about.

Stripf: Established in 2015, Spoon Guru is a London-based technology start-up that developed a unique food search and discovery engine to cater for individuals with multiple or complex search requirements: the Spoon Guru TAGS platform. It enables food businesses to deliver a highly personalized experience tailored to each consumer, based on their distinct and unique dietary needs—increasing the choice of foods available, while minimizing the effort to find them. It does this by combining Artificial intelligence, machine learning and nutritional domain expertise, enabling large and unstructured data sets to be easily searched and accurately filtered to deliver relevant choices.

For example, in the United Kingdom, we provide Tesco, the UK’s largest supermarket, with Artificial Intelligence software that helps consumers shopping online find products right for them.

While Spoon Guru is focused on packaged foods and fresh produce, for this study the firm also asked consumers about dining experiences related to their dietary restrictions.

How is it that legal requirements have not addressed this—what causes the gap in awareness and information that’s at the core of the problem?

Stripf: By law, packaged foods need to disclose if any of eight major allergens are included in the product that include milk, egg, fish, crustacean shell fish, tree nuts, wheat, peanuts and soybeans. However, these eight allergens only cover a small amount of food allergies and if you are on a lifestyle or health-specific diet they won't help you much. Also, eating out poses even bigger challenges as it is even harder for consumers to identify suitable dishes on restaurant menus and waiter error, for example, can cause people to eat foods that are not compatible with their diets.

What were the sources of the errors?

Stripf: These consumers said it happened because:

Human Error i.e., a waiter's fault 52%;

Human error i.e., their own fault 38%;

No labeling at all 29%;

Poor ingredients labeling 37%;

I don't know or I can't remember 5%;

Other 2%.

How do brands address the dilemma of adding more information to tight on-package real-estate?

Stripf: That's a real problem. By working with retailers, digital-shelf edge technology could be used to display additional information for consumers who need to find out more about all the ingredients and a product's suitability. Another solution would be Quick Response (QR) codes that redirect consumers to a resource that contains additional information.

Lastly, what are best practices that brands can use to proactively address this problem?

Stripf: The survey indicated that 76% of U.S. consumers believe technology will play a key role in improving food ingredient transparency. I would suggest is that companies leverage digital technologies so people can check whether products conform to their requirements; for example, using QR codes as mentioned. Other suggestions:

  • Standardize the language to make it easier for people to quickly ascertain whether something is suitable;
  • Potentially reformulate to extend your reach (vegetarian products for example could be made vegan);
  • Drive awareness—if you by the nature of the product you have produced Vegan, gluten-free, nut-free products, etc., let the market know about it;
  • Work with allergy organizations like FARE and FAACT to understand the biggest hurdles allergy sufferers face and be proactive about making it easier and safer for them.

For more information visit Spoon Guru

New packaging experiences await you at WestPack 2019

New packaging experiences await you at WestPack 2019

Experience packaging through a unique blend of personal activities and educational nuggets at The Packaging Experience, a new display brought to you by Packaging Digest.

Attendees at WestPack 2019 (Feb. 5-7; Anaheim, CA) will be able to visit The Packaging Experience in Booth 5497 from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday and from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Thursday. Click the event link to pre-register and attend for free.

Once there, pick your experience or enjoy all four:

1. Virtual Reality Experience

Learn how integrating eye tracking into immersive virtual reality (VR) transforms behavioral research and opens up new possibilities in market and shopper research. Come try the Tobii Pro VR Experience and see firsthand the power of attention data. Test package design and product placement without having to physically produce materials or walk into a store. These tools and insights help brands analyze the key influencers of behavior and decision-making.

Bring your colleagues, too. Your VR experience will be projected so they’ll be able to see what draws your attention in the virtual retail environment.

Tobii Pro will also demonstrate Tobii Pro Glasses 2, which enable collection of data in real-world environments for live view or post-analysis—in the home, in stores, while driving, working, training or shopping.

2. The Psychology of Branding

Learn about the psychology behind branding, labeling and package design, and how it impacts consumer perception. Test your own loyalty and biases in this interactive (and tasty!) experience. How will you fare in these five blind taste tests? Will your brand loyalty be tested once familiar packaging is stripped away?

3. Evolution of a Package
See the evolution of Heinz ketchup packaging through the years. Look at how packaging and consumer trends impact the look and feel of a product’s packaging.

4. 12 Trendy Packs

This inspirational showcase of innovative and boundary-pushing packages—selected by discerning Packaging Digest editors—reflect top consumer trends. Take in this array of novel designs and get the creative juices flowing for your next breakthrough packaging concept.

Other exciting new experiences at WestPack 2019 that are light on “packaging” but heavy in “fun” include:

• Escape Room—Solve a series of puzzles and beat the clock for fun and bragging rights in this exciting medtech-themed Escape Room (located inside a large ambulance on the show floor). Designed for beginners and escape room enthusiasts alike, this expedited Escape Room experience is completed in small groups and lasts just 15 to 20 minutes. Rally your team or meet new people and unlock your puzzle-solving potential. Head down to Hall E to participate.

• Super Soaker Target Practice—Ready. Aim. Soak! Come have a blast at the Super Soaker shooting range in honor of our esteemed 2019 Golden Mousetraps Lifetime Achievement Award Winner recipient Dr. Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super Soaker. Experience the evolution of the popular toy firsthand as you try out a variety of Super Soaker models from different eras. Test your aim and learn more about this summertime staple outside the main entrance.

• 3D Printing takes flight—Come see this educational and conversation piece over in the 3DP Zone, where you can learn about breakthroughs and progress in the aerospace industry enabled by 3D printing.

More traditional learning

It’s not all just fun and games at WestPack, though. In addition to these playful activities, the Anaheim event offers these more traditional packaging-related learning opportunities:

A Hot Trend in Packaging

Tue., Feb. 5 | 11:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon | Center Stage Booth 100

Critical considerations for successful development, validation and product lifecycle in medical packaging: A perspective from 40 years of dedicated industry support

Tue., Feb. 5 | 11:45 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. | Room 212AB | Lunch & Learn

The Future of Healthcare Product Sterilization - The Perspective of a Contract Service Provider

Tue., Feb. 5 | 12:30 - 1:15 p.m. | Tech Theater Booth 637

How Nestlé Is Innovating Its Way to 100% Recyclable or Reusable Packaging

Tue., Feb. 5 | 1:00 - 1:55 p.m. | Center Stage Booth 100

Clean Packaging—The Next Step in Consumer Transparency

Tue., Feb. 5 | 3:00 - 3:30 p.m. | Center Stage Booth 100

Nelson Labs Workshop: Medical Device Validation – Biocompatibility Testing, Cleaning, Sterilization and Packaging

Wed., Feb. 6 | 8:30 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. | Room 210C | Workshop

Panel: Packaging for eCommerce's Toughest Challenges

Wed., Feb. 6 | 1:00 - 1:55 p.m. | Center Stage Booth 100

Product Showcase: Vision Components GmbH's VC Nano 3D-Z

Wed., Feb. 6 | 1:30 - 2:00 p.m. | Booth 768

Radiation Sterilization: A Discussion on New Options, Testing Packaging, and Failures

Wed., Feb. 6 | 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. | Room 210C

Package Validations: A Look at Current and Future State Testing

Wed., Feb. 6 | 2:30 - 3:30 p.m. | Room 210C

Panel: Sustainable Packaging—What Really Matters to Consumers?

Thur., Feb. 7 | 11:00 - 11:55 a.m. | Center Stage Booth 10

Shana Leonard, vp, Content & Strategy, Advanced Manufacturing Group, UBM Americas, contributed content to this article.

Medical packaging suppliers merge, expand global offerings

Medical packaging suppliers merge, expand global offerings
The new PAXXUS offers innovative medical packaging materials and solutions, like the easy-peel Propapeel STM steam-sterilizable flexible packaging that doesn’t stick to products and creates pouches that are free of fiber-tear.

Flexible packaging innovator Rollprint Packaging Products, in business since 1933, has merged with Alliantz Flexible Packaging in Singapore and EuroFoil Teo in Ireland. PAXXUS—the combined company’s new global identity—is now positioned as a leading international supplier of flexible packaging for the healthcare market.

The strictly regulated medical market, while highly attentive to change, welcomes improvements and innovations in packaging materials. So what do medical device manufacturers need to know about the new PAXXUS? Packaging Digest asks the PAXXUS team about the merger, the company’s structure and new capabilities, growth plans and more.

From left to right: Ciaran Foley, managing director, PAXXUS Europe; Noel Foley, director, PAXXUS Europe; Dwane Hahn, chief strategy officer, vp of sales and marketing; Dhuanne Dodrill, chief executive officer (CEO); Doug Dodrill, chief technology officer; Eddy Chan, managing director, PAXXUS Asia; and Xinyi Chan, business development manager, PAXXUS Asia.

PAXXUS is derived from the Latin word for peace, pax, meaning the company strives to provide customers peace of mind. How did you come up with the name PAXXUS? Why is peace of mind so important to manufacturers of medical devices, pharmaceuticals and life sciences products?

PAXXUS team: Selecting a company name when serving the global market was challenging. We looked for one that would be seen positively across the many cultures and languages with which we work. Turning to Latin, we found the word ‘pax’, meaning peace. Because our products impact all of “us,” we decided PAXXUS was a fitting name.

In line with our mission to improve quality of life through engineered flexible materials, we embrace the view that our product is more than just a package. PAXXUS touches more than two billion patient lives across the globe every year. Positive outcomes for these patients depend upon the reliable supply and consistent quality of our materials. The materials that we produce ensures the sterility and efficacy of the end product, aids in its identification and allows effective delivery into the sterile field or to the end-user. Our goal is to provide peace of mind, not only to our customers, but ultimately to the patients that, together, we serve.

Who owns PAXXUS?

PAXXUS team: PAXXUS is still a closely-held private company owned entirely by the three original families: the Dodrills, Chans and Foleys. Most decisions are made at the local level with only significant decisions (such as large capital expenditures) made at the Board level. The Board is comprised of members of the three families, with Dhuanne Dodrill holding the position of chairman.


One of the benefits of PAXXUS remaining privately owned is the company can invest for the long term and keep a singular focus on innovation in healthcare packaging for the ultimate benefit of customers. Are there other advantages?

PAXXUS team: Packaging innovation and adoption in healthcare is widely regarded as a slow process due to the complex regulatory requirements. Challenges in proving shelf-life claims and extensive validation protocols frequently require project plans that take upwards of three years. A crucial benefit of PAXXUS remaining a closely-held private company is that we can invest for the long term and keep a singular focus on innovation in healthcare packaging for the benefit of customers. Ultimately, this allows for long-term partnerships to form, which allow for the collaboration required for innovation to mature and move to commercial success.

As family owned, closely-held companies, Rollprint, Alliantz, and EuroFoil were each nimble and responsive. As we merged, we’ve purposely structured PAXXUS so that we have an efficient decision-making process. With the original three families still in control and no outside investors, we’ve maintained our independent and entrepreneurial spirit.

Rollprint and Alliantz have been sister companies for 15 years, supporting and complementing each other. And Rollprint has been working with EuroFoil Teo for the last four years. What are the added capabilities of the now-merged trio?

PAXXUS team: Globally, we have a wealth of knowledge and experience—from technology, to systems, to engineering, to market insight. It’s been exciting and rewarding to see how the strengths of the different locations have complemented each other and have strengthened PAXXUS.

Together, PAXXUS has the capabilities, across multiple locations, to manufacture the range of flexible packaging materials needed to supply the healthcare industry. We manufacture base films; we create multi-layer composites via blown film extrusion, adhesive lamination, solution coating and extrusion lamination/coating; we convert pre-formed pouches and bags; and we print all of these materials.

How does being vertically integrated benefit customers?

PAXXUS team: PAXXUS is one of the few companies focused on the life sciences sector that can manufacture its own materials. Our clients are not limited to choosing from a catalog of “stock products.” Beginning with the resin and base component selection, we are able to design our structures to meet a customers’ particular needs and requirements while optimizing cost effectiveness.

However, for small-volume applications, we do stock a standard array of our most popular technologies. By being primary in the manufacturing and not relying solely on outside vendors, our customers benefit from improved quality, pricing and delivery.

The three companies that merged are strategically located in the U.S. (near Chicago), Ireland (the Silicon Valley of the European healthcare industry) and Singapore (the hub of southeast Asia). How will this global footprint benefit small local customers as well as multinationals?

PAXXUS team: Regional customers will have expanded access to the full range of technology and products we offer, global technical support, potentially shorter lead times and a local point of contact. Multinational accounts benefit from improved business continuity, multiple sources of supply allowing for reduced lead times, and the plants can have local support worldwide.

What are some key differences in market trends in the different regions (U.S., Europe and Asia) and how will the new company be better positioned to address these trends?

PAXXUS team: When it comes to sustainability, the regions are at different places in their journey, with Europe leading the charge. PAXXUS offers excellent recyclable/recycle-ready single-stream materials with various sealant and barrier technology options.

Across all regions we see a desire for short, high-mix print runs to accommodate the language and identification requirements of different countries. For example, we have a large account that manufactures in Ireland that is already benefiting from the merger. By moving the printing and laser-scoring of their many stock-keeping units (SKUs) from the U.S. to Ireland, they’ve seen a significant reduction in lead time. This allows them to more quickly react to changes in demand and to substantially reduce their inventory.

Additionally, we are seeing much more interest in new sterilization technologies (such as alternatives to ethylene oxide or EO) that may be more cost effective and offer logistical advantages. Regardless of which sterilization method is preferred, PAXXUS can provide solutions.

The company is investing U.S.$15 million across all locations. What are you using that money for specifically and why that?

PAXXUS team: The investments we are making will help us accomplish three things:

1. Expand our offerings and support;

2. Add manufacturing redundancies; and

3. Increase capacity.

The seven-layer blown film line we are installing in Singapore will allow us to provide nylon-based thermoformable form-fill-seal materials for applications that require improved puncture resistance.

The laser-scribing equipment we just commissioned enhances tear and opening properties but also opens up the possibility of additional innovations in healthcare packaging.

The laminating equipment we are adding to our Ireland operation provides manufacturing redundancy, as well as local supply for our European customers.

We are expanding technical centers with added testing capabilities and local support for our offerings.

To support our growth, we are also adding additional manufacturing capacity.

What are the combined-company’s growth plans? Will the company remain solely focused on flexible healthcare packaging solutions?

PAXXUS team: Combining the strengths of the three original companies, PAXXUS is able to serve the range of healthcare packaging needs—from the most complex, highly-engineered solutions to less-demanding applications.

Even while others are deemphasizing healthcare packaging, we believe that focusing on healthcare makes sense for the new entity and that strong growth will continue for many years to come. As we continue our mission to serve the broader healthcare market, PAXXUS will look to add manufacturing with state-of-the-art assets closer to customers.

The objective for growth is really straight forward: Provide value by making advanced flexible solutions readily available in a cost-effective manner with simplified logistics.

Can you give an example of how the new company structure has been a seamless change for customers?

PAXXUS team: As we want this transition to be seamless for customers, we are managing every detail of the process through the eyes of our customer. We have been able to take a step back and deliberately employ and standardize on the best practices from each location. Our primary goal as a global organization is to provide the expected reliable, agile service—now exceedingly accessible around the world.

How is the process of harmonizing the three different systems going?

PAXXUS team: Historically, all three of the original entities served the highly regulated healthcare industry and have partnered in serving shared customers. We have found that we are already highly harmonized, making the transition simple and painless.

How will the company develop new products differently moving forward to take advantage of its added capabilities?

PAXXUS team: There are several opportunities and development tools that are enhanced by the combined operations.

One of the most critical of these is the ability to better design and control the point of differentiation for our products. We optimize the economies of scale by producing the base materials and multilayer precursors in the optimized facility; ultimately achieving a reduction in lead time and transportation costs. All while customizing and finishing the product in the location closest to the end user.

Second, the combined experience and capabilities of technical experts around the world are being consolidated into one shared knowledge database. Best-in-class statistical design techniques are being expanded to all sites so that the product development process is both efficient and data driven. Expertise in the unique product and regulatory requirements for each region have now been brought together under the PAXXUS umbrella.

New developments are now evaluated with a worldwide lens. Candidate materials are identified and sourced in the context of global supply to ensure that business continuity is assured after the design has been completed, validated and released for production.

Any new product launches scheduled for WestPack 2019?

PAXXUS team: We’re excited to introduce our forming webs that have been engineered to pair with uncoated 40L Tyvek. This year, we are also going to use WestPack as an opportunity to showcase our existing innovations that are hyper-relevant to current packaging trends. Primarily, we are highlighting StreamOne, our recycle-ready lidding.

Additionally, we would like to continue to spread the word about PAXXUS’ global expansion and our standing commitment to improving the quality of life through engineered flexible materials.

Self-learning X-ray unit optimizes product inspection

Self-learning X-ray unit optimizes product inspection

The new X34 inspection system helps brands prevent costly recalls due to product defects by finding contaminants as small as 0.4 millimeters. And, unlike traditional X-ray systems, as it is being trained to inspect new packaged product by passing the package through the system several times, the X34 decides what combination of voltage and amperage to use to optimize the inspection.

The machine’s automated product set-up dramatically decreases the chance of human error, eases operator training and greatly reduces the number of false rejects.

This single-lane system matches its power and contrast levels to the task at hand, ensuring proper inspection performance while saving on energy. It can “see” metal, glass, high-density plastic, mineral stone and calcified bone fragments across a range of packaged foods and pharmaceuticals.

Regarding sanitation, its standard washdown rating is IP65, but it can be upgraded to IP69. And, for quality assurance and control, the optional ProdX advanced data management tool stores images of detected contaminants and connects to external traceability and regulatory compliance systems.

See the new X34 in person at WestPack 2019 (Feb. 5-7; Anaheim, CA) in the Mettler Toledo Booth 5124.

Are trade tariffs a major risk to packaging materials pricing?

Are trade tariffs a major risk to packaging materials pricing?
Photo credit: 1599685sv -

How much do you know about factors that affect packaging prices? Gary Kestenbaum gives a perspective from the customer’s view, in light of recent government tariffs.

The current trade atmosphere is leaving suppliers and customers uneasy as to where prices of goods are heading. In the world of packaging, we are obviously concerned about tariffs on metals because they are obvious components of packaging and packaging machinery. One has to wonder, though, what the next raw material is that will be added to the list of incoming or outgoing tariffs in this global game of “trade chicken.”

The subject brings to mind some meaningful experiences I’ve had that changes my understanding of pricing.

As a member of product research and development (R&D) at a “Mega Food Conglomerate” (MFC), it was not the cost of business goods and services that kept me up at night—trials, experiments, logistics, commercialization and vendor support were the object of my focus.

It got worse when I moved into packaging. I needed CAD [computer-aided design] samples, dielines, pre-production samples, trial support and, oh, I needed them instantly. After all, I was the client, working for a customer that purchased many millions of dollars’ worth of packaging. The factors that went into pricing for goods and support were invisible to me. I just needed “the Cadillac” of support to make my customers, the internal marketing and business managers, happy!

My mentors in packaging R&D just gave me contact information for the vendor tech support reps and told me to call if I needed anything. Simple enough process, unless you are the vendor tech support reps.

My first packaging introduction to the “$100,000 Pyramid” category “Things That Affect Costs” occurred after an explosion at the Phillips petroleum plant significantly affected sourcing of high-impact polystyrene (HIPS) K-resin. Users scrambled to replace this high-quality resin and were forced to pay more for lesser alternatives, if they were even available. I quickly learned how the costs of polymer resins were linked to the price of oil, which obviously varied year to year, and how bauxite mining and supply issues affected aluminum packaging. Offshore steel pricing could fluctuate with volatility of the Dollar and Euro. Mergers and acquisitions played a role as well, which segues to one of my favorite anecdotes on packaging raw material costs.

Early in my packaging career, I failed to consider paper-based packaging cost volatility the same way I looked at plastics and metals until my life-altering encounter with one particular tech service rep for a major corrugated company.

During my initial training period, my packaging development mentor advised me that when I needed corrugated samples, trial support, documents and such, just place a call to the salesperson at the Giant Corrugated Company (GCC), ask for support and, like magic, it will be provided.

Thus, on one particular day, I called the tech rep and requested a laundry list of support details and timing. The rep cut me off halfway through the call, obviously put off by the self-serving naiveté of my multiple requests. When I asked what the issue was, she gave me a lesson I’d never forget.

She told me the following: The procurement manager of the Mega Food Conglomerateassigned to the Giant Corrugated Companyaccount writes a contract that guarantees GCC the exclusive right to make zillions of corrugated items at plant locations as listed. The contract ends up including a huge percentage of MFC’s corrugated needs in specific regions of the country. In exchange for the guaranteed business for however long the length of the contract, GCC agrees to provide corrugated to MFC under razor thin margins. GCC agrees, figuring that they can generate profits on the back end by using excess production capacity at the affected plants to convert corrugated for smaller customers who can’t benefit from said contracts.

Nice concept, except when MFC books 101% of GCC’s production capability. Goodbye excess capacity, goodbye profits.

To make it worse, MFCR&D reps (me, for example) call up GCC tech service with a lengthy list of demands, unaware that tech service runs on a shoestring budget, paid for by the invisible profits not being generated by the contract.

After the lecture, I was flabbergasted. I’d never heard this before. I quickly called my favorite sales rep from the Now Defunct Corrugated Company and related the story to him, waiting for him to tell me how preposterous this fairy tale was. He quietly listened and replied, very calmly, “Yeah, that sounds right.” With dropped jaw, my perspective changed in a flash.

I was well armed with that wisdom as I embarked on a productivity initiative to replace litho-laminated secondary package cartons with an alternative composed of paperboard. As was explained to me, the values plugged into the spreadsheet given to me suggested that pricing for the paperboard alternative looked favorable. As the project stretched on, pricing for the paperboard raw material rose exponentially.

Soon, a multi-million dollar promise of savings was swept away like dirt from a floor, and soon, the numbers for the “cost-reduction” had morphed into a cost increase.

I protested colorfully to the vendor business manager, asking him how this could have gone so wrong. I had been looking at the business portion of the project two-dimensionally rather than three-dimensionally. If I had scheduled a meaningful confab with my procurement rep, I would have learned that the converter of the current litho-laminated cartons, the Cheap Litho Lam Carton Corporationhad been making cartons at cost simply for the honor of doing business with MFC and, wouldn’t you know it, the Cheap Litho Lam Carton Corporation was being purchased by the Big Private For-Profit Group that informed us that, as of the end of the current contract year, they’d be increasing pricing on those litho-lam cartons so that the new owner could actually make a profit! How much of an increase? About 50%!

Whoops! All of a sudden, the paperboard alternative carton reduction-to-increase was, again, a reduction! As Yogi Berra never said, “It’s not over, because, well, it’s apparently never over!” Business circumstances are always changing or not transparent enough for tech folks to fully understand.

Another critical factor to consider, recycled board and specialty board costs are based on market conditions as well. If users of solid unbleached sulfate or other variations of virgin board desire to move to clay-coated newsback or another recycled product, the market may be affected.

So too do changes and complexity in the recycling industry affect cost. Visit a paper recycling plant and take a look with your own eyes at the complexity of converting used paper into clay coated board. Then consider the shrinking raw materials supply chain as print media moves to electronic, turning formerly semi-worthless waste paper into a valuable commodity.

A final thought to consider: Multiple suppliers of paper, aluminum and resins have confirmed to me that, in the real world of supply chain economics, suppliers and converters do not simply pass along cost increases to customers as they occur. Continuous, contract customers typically enjoy relatively fixed costs throughout the contract term.

To a degree, suppliers absorb some material upcharges and adjust costs over time so as not to drive the customer and market into free-fall. Within reason, many suppliers are willing to take calculated risks that increases are cyclical, and that adjustment over time will allow them to recoup some of the lost profits.

The takeaway should be that, while risks of tariffs and trade wars may certainly affect packaging-related goods and services, many other factors consistently impact the same. Customers are best-positioned for successful collaboration with suppliers and vendors when they are aware of the dynamics that influence costs and pricing in each sector and relationship.

Gary Kestenbaum is an independent food packaging consultant with 45 years of experience in the food industry as a food ingredient technician with National Starch, a food product developer with General and Kraft Foods, a senior package developer with Kraft Foods and a senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group. He can be contacted at [email protected].


PackEx Montréal 2018 offers everything from design to manufacturing—concept to market—with valuable free presentations available throughout the event at Center Stage. See more suppliers, products, and networking opportunities to help you take your projects, company, and career to all-new heights. REGISTER NOW!

More ‘packaging engineer’ quips: Gallery

Crumple film

The No.1 article of 2018 on was the entertaining slideshow of audience answers to the lead-in sentence “You know you’re a packaging engineer when…” In that piece, we invited additional comments and we received some great ones! Enjoy version 2.0, with 18 more insights into what it means to be part of the packaging club.

Didn’t get a chance to submit your description yet? No worries: You can still share it at

10 sustainable packaging surprises in 2018

10 sustainable packaging surprises in 2018
Photo credit: trahko –

While Amazon’s ecommerce packaging news spiked in the second half of 2018 and commanded a lot of attention, sustainable packaging maintained steady and consistent interest among the packaging community throughout the entire year. In fact, one of the best-read articles of the year was our review of the top sustainable packaging articles from 2017.

But a lot happened this year, too! Sustainability wonders in 2018 included innovative packaging designs, helpful tips, emerging trends, new technologies, effective production improvements and stimulating thought-leadership commentary.

You voted throughout the year with your clicks so we could present this countdown of the top 10 sustainable-packaging-related articles of 2018, based on page views at


10. Sustainable packaging innovators earn kudos

The Sustainable Packaging Coalition honors innovation and leadership in sustainable packaging with its SPC Innovator Awards. Winners and honorable mention recipients for 2018 were:

In the Packaging Innovation category, Coca-Cola North America earned the Packaging Innovation category award for its 89-oz Simply Orange juice bottle, which vastly improves its recyclability and presents a technical “first” in plastics manufacturing. And Earth-To-Go received an honorable mention for “expanding” polylactic acid (PLA) by up to 40% as a compostable replacement to the typical polystyrene packaging used in foodservice applications.

In the Breakthrough Process category, Envision and ViTA won for creating the OceanBound Plastic Bottle, which fights marine debris by diverting plastic bound for entering waterways and recycles it.

In the Outcome of a Partnership category, winners PepsiCo, Natureworks, Danimer Scientific, Omya, Berry Plastics and Johnson-Bryce worked together to develop, test market and then commercialize new bio-based compounds for flexible packaging for several of PepsiCo’s businesses, including Frito-Lay. And an honorable mention went to American Packaging Corp. for its supply chain collaboration to develop a stand-up clear barrier pouch with rigid fitment that is entirely recyclable through store drop-off.

Two deserving people won the Outstanding Person award: Ashley C. Hall, senior manager of sustainability, Walmart, and Victor Bell, president, Environmental Packaging Intl. (EPI).

NEXT: Eco plusses of corrugated packaging


9. 5 environmental advantages of corrugated packaging

Even when you already know something, a friendly reminder is still helpful. In this succinct article, Barry Tabor, managing director of box-making machinery manufacturer British Converting Solutions North America LLC, points out key environmental benefits of fiber-based kraft boxes:

1. Corrugated packaging contains recycled content and is recyclable.

2. Corrugated packaging is renewable.

3. Corrugated packaging is reusable.

4. Corrugated packaging helps to save energy.

5. Corrugated cases offer efficient protection for your products.

So, if you’re thinking about using corrugated packaging, here’s how it might help your business support responsible sourcing while also considering the environment.

NEXT: Future factors affecting sustainable packaging


8. 5 factors affecting sustainable packaging moving forward

While working on its Green Packaging Market report, Transparency Market Research noticed these influencing factors:

1. Increasing environmental concerns and effective regulatory policies implemented by governments will significantly boost demand for eco-friendly packaging in coming years.

2. Technological advancements in the production of green packaging materials that reduce harmful gases will fuel the market.

3. On the other hand, higher production costs associated with environmentally friendly packaging materials will affect profit margins. This factor may have a negative impact and hinder innovation in the sustainable packaging market in next few years.

4. In addition, limited awareness among people regarding types of sustainable packaging has limited its growth. However, concrete steps taken by governments to increase awareness and educate people about the positive effects of green packaging should make a difference.

5. According to the regional analysis, the U.S. is leading in sustainable packaging, with numerous companies operating in industrial and manufacturing sectors. Moreover, countries in the Asia Pacific region are also considered as offering lucrative options for the green packaging market.

NEXT: An exclusive interview with Kao’s CEO


7. Japan’s Kao Group makes sustainability look raku raku (‘so easy’)

In an exclusive interview with Michitaka Sawada, president and CEO of Kao Corp., he talks about the company’s sustainability philosophy, efforts and results, including its development of refill packs as well as the new Smart Holder that holds the refills, eliminates the need for a conventional product container and reduces the amount of packaging used.

NEXT: Startup beauty brands’ sustainability expectations


6. How packaging recyclability can shift sustainability expectations for startup beauty brands

One of the personal care and beauty category’s fastest growing influences on consumer purchasing behavior are claims for sustainability. TerraCycle founder/CEO Tom Szaky says, “With the right programs, startups, which often have deeply connected customer relationships, can play a special role in shifting expectations that could create a groundswell for change.”

What kind of sustainability programs? “By focusing on the recyclability [like the Lush pot above] and circularity of packaging, personal care startups can command a premium in the clean beauty market through cultivation of brand identity,” Szaky contends.

NEXT: Conagra’s awards

Conagra sustainability award winners

5. How Conagra rewards packaging line workers for cutting waste

Also in our year-end list of top packaging production articles, here’s another “awards” recognition article to celebrate sustainable ideas on the packaging line.

Conagra’s vp of sustainable development Gail Tavill shares details of three packaging-related winners of the company’s 2018 Sustainable Development Awards:

1. The Slim Jim operation in Troy, OH, eliminated more than 500 tons of film waste annually by modifying the cutting assembly on the stick pack machine, which also allowed for quicker and less expensive repairs and reduce unplanned stops.

2. The David Seeds operation in Waterloo, Iowa, saved 225,000 bags of seeds a year by purging seven bags instead of the previous 10 during start up before reaching the correct residual oxygen level during nitrogen flushing.

3. The operation in Milton, Pa., achieved a 2% yield improvement (projected at $350,000) while reducing 1,150 tons of wasted sauce per year by adjusting the filler. 

NEXT: P&G’s recycled No.5 with “near virgin” quality


4. P&G’s PureCycle cleans recycled PP to ‘near virgin’ quality

John Layman, Procter & Gamble’s R&D technology manager and founding inventor behind the PureCycle technology, explains the process of purifying recycled polypropylene, now licensed to PureCycle Technologies. The hope is to increase the amount of PP being recycled and reused in new packaging. In the past, the quality of rPP has been a deterrent because of too many contaminants.

Why does recycled PP need to be so clean, though? “Brand owners want to offer superior products and packaging is an important part of the consumer experience,” Layman replies.

The technology might be transferrable to other materials. But in the meantime, Layman says, “P&G has a long-term environmental vision to use 100% renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging. The rPP from PureCycle will help P&G make progress against this vision.”

NEXT: How can packaging help the sustainability of foods?


3. 4 sustainable truths impacting food packaging today

In 2018, food manufacturers focused on packaging technologies and trends that help reduce product and packaging waste, and that ensure safety while enhancing the brand message.

Jörg Sabo (above), marketing director for Europe’s leading plastic packaging manufacturer Greiner Packaging, walks us through four logical steps where sustainability is making a significant impact in food packaging:

1. The reduction of food waste is a priority.

2. Food safety must be taken seriously.

3. Sustainability will become part of the brand message.

4. Sustainability is an investment worth making in 2018.

NEXT: L’Oréal’s water-resistant(!) paper bottle


2. L’Oréal’s paper bottle: Easy on the earth but tough in showers

Most paper packaging falls apart when it gets wet. So when I saw the news about a paper bottle that didn’t, it caught my attention. Yours, too!, since this article made it to the No.2 spot on our list of top sustainable-packaging-related articles of the year.

The recycled, recyclable, compostable, paper-based pump bottle for personal-care products—designed for use in the shower—is the next-generation version of the original pouch-in-a-paper-shell concept from Ecologic Brands that was used by Seventh Generation detergent, circa 2011.

Upgrades to the package include:

• The external shell is still 100% paper-based and is recyclable and compostable. But the two halves of the shell are no longer glued together. Instead, a system of interlocking tabs binds the two halves mechanically, producing a stronger outer structure. And the shell is made using corrugated board recycled from a L’Oréal USA distribution center.

• The pressure-sensitive labels are paper “so they can be composted and recycled directly with the bottle,” says Jennifer Woodworth, assistant vp of operations at Seed Phytonutrients.

• And, rather than incorporating a film pouch like the earlier version, Seed Phytonutrients’ package uses a lightweight, thin-walled, blow-molded liner. This rigid monopolymer liner is made using 80% post-consumer recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and is recyclable.

Oh, and that water resistance? It’s achieved by mixing proprietary minerals with the paper fibers and by using heat and pressure to bind the fibers during production of the shells.

NEXT: Yep. No.1 is Amazon’s bold move in ecomm packaging

Amazon FFP logo

1. Amazon incentivizes brands to create Frustration-Free Packaging

Ecommerce has been criticized for its packaging wastefulness. Amazon is doing something bold to change that negative image. Its new Frustration-Free Packaging Vendor Incentive Program asks product manufacturers (Amazon’s vendors) to create packaging optimized for the ecomm channel and certified as Frustration-Free Packaging.

On Oct. 31, Amazon expanded the Vendor Incentive Program to five European countries. This will keep everyone involved busy for a while, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more movement from this leading online seller.

Brent Nelson, Amazon’s senior manager, packaging – sustainability, answered about two dozen questions about the new Frustration-Free Packaging Vendor Incentive Program in a free Packaging Digest webinar, which you can view on-demand by clicking here.

We’d love to hear what you think about the program. Take our short survey now, which most people complete in about three minutes. Access the survey here.

I wonder if this 2018 end-of-year list of top sustainable-packaging-related articles will enjoy as much high readership as our 2017 review. That one showed up in our monthly and yearly top lists a dozen times!


In addition to leading suppliers showing the latest solutions in labeling, automation, food packaging, package design and more—WestPack 2019 (Feb. 5-7; Anaheim, CA) gives you access to the industry's leading educational offerings with the 3D Printing and Smart Manufacturing Innovations Summits, the MD&M Medtech Conference and free industry education at the Expo. Register to attend today!

Ecommerce/Supply Chain

3 challenges of ecommerce packaging (from an insider)

3 challenges of ecommerce packaging (from an insider)
Right-sized shippers with inner graphics helps Dollar Shave Club show customers how much it cares about them and the environment.

The ecommerce channel is prime for promoting the circular economy, says Emmy Corman, package design engineer at Dollar Shave Club. And she’s got some ideas on how that can happen. But sustainability is just one of several challenges she sees for brands to up their ecommerce packaging game.

Corman says brands face at least three challenges when it comes to ecommerce packaging:

• To be less wasteful by using less materials or reusable packaging.

• To offer a new type of “shelf presence” with better graphics or branding; or to elevate the unboxing experience.

• To optimize returns via the small parcel shipping environment, which is a concern brick-and-mortar retailers don’t face.

Corman will participate in the panel discussion “Packaging for eCommerce’s Toughest Challenges” on Wed., Feb. 6, 1:00-1:55 p.m., at Center Stage (Booth 100) at WestPack 2019. Center Stage presentations are free to all attendees. Register now to attend. You can also view the full conference schedule.

Now, Corman explains how Dollar Shave Club engineers its packaging to address ecommerce supply chain challenges.

How can ecommerce packaging support the circular economy?

Corman: The take-and-dispose model is becoming less appealing to consumers. To a degree, recyclable packaging is already part of a circular packaging supply stream—as long as they are continuously recycled. Within the direct-to-consumer market, perhaps in the future, this type of system can be expanded so consumers can return their used containers for full ones with product.

How do packaging designers at Dollar Shave Club right-size their shippers and why is this so important? Can you give us a recent example? How does the strength of the corrugated board weigh in, especially as a potential cost saver?

Corman: It is very important to right size your product to the shipper. Not only does this prevent unnecessary voids that enable the product to move during transit, but it helps provide a neat unboxing experience. In our direct-to-consumer business, we always keep our shippers in mind. If a product doesn’t fit in our shipper, it is the same as creating a product that doesn’t fit on the store shelf.

While we were creating our Blueprint cologne we made sure that our 15-milliliter kits—some of which were sold as sets—would fit in our shipper efficiently. This meant balancing the size constraints of our shipper with the necessarily cushioning to keep our cologne intact.

Not all of our products are as fragile as glass cologne bottles, though. Our tube packaging is pretty robust, partially because tubes are fairly resistant to shock, we don’t have a high scuffing concern and because all of our tubes have induction seals. This means that we can save some of the overall shipping weight by using E-flute board instead of B-flute. Even though E-flute does not provide the same cushion as B-flute, we determined through testing that this wouldn’t hinder our product’s performance while in transit.

For ecommerce, the act of unboxing takes precedence over a primary package’s shelf presence. How should packaging designers use this to elevate the customer’s experience with the product and the brand?

Corman: I strongly believe that unboxing is the new shelf presence. Product presentation as the consumer opens the box is essential—it needs to look neat and convey that it has been packed with care. There are a few ways to achieve this, such as with paper or plastic trays, inserts for the product, wrapping product with tissue paper, placing the product in a bag or using unit cartons to help present the product in a premium way.

The unboxing experience is also a good chance to tie in some of the brand’s values, such as including post-consumer recycled content, ensuring that the paper is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified and staying mindful to the amount of packaging that is necessary.

One method to elevate your brand and to enhance the unboxing experience is by adding color to the corrugated package, whether it is printed on the inside or outside of the shipper. Other methods include adding company branded tape, postcards or other marketing collateral within your box.

Printed shippers elevate a brand's value to online consumers.

The typical printing on a kraft box doesn’t really say wow. What is Dollar Shave Club doing or investigating to improve the graphic pop of the shipping case? Or can/should that money be invested in other packaging functionality, like being easy to open?

Corman: There is balance between aesthetics and functionality that depends on each brand’s values. At Dollar Shave Club, we prioritize the product and package functionality, then aesthetics.

Recently, we redesigned our shippers to add further communication to our members on the package. In the initial design, there was some concern about seeing the print tolerances. Through communication with our printer, we were able to adjust the design to minimize our print tolerances and maintain our communication goals. We were able to do this by creating flowing graphics with no hard start/stop points. This created a more robust design that could provide consistent appearance during all points of production. Reducing the visible print tolerances helped us refine our shippers to ensure all the focus would be on our communication.

How can brands minimize the number of product returns from ecommerce customers?

Corman: Straight-forward naming, detailed descriptions and honest product reviews can help the consumer determine what products are right for them. At Dollar Shave Club, we have an award-winning customer support team that is very knowledgeable of all our products and is always happy to help assist the consumer.

How can the ecommerce channel best implement reusable packaging and why should it?

Corman:  Another way to think of reusable packaging is to think of it as re-fillable. If you sell a consumer a bottle of shampoo, you don’t necessarily have to ship them another bottle of shampoo. It can be more efficient to ship them a concentrate or shampoo in a refillable pouch. This will reduce shipping costs by saving weight and overall shipper size. The biggest challenge I foresee with this, is gaining the consumers’ confidence and support that the benefit to them and the environment offsets any inconvenience in receiving a product in a different format.

You interned at Amazon for three months before joining the Dollar Shave Club about three years ago. What was the main takeaway from your time with Amazon?

Corman: I was fortunate to intern at Amazon and, while I was there, I learned the importance of the warehouse team. I believe they are the foundation to the entire product experience. If they don’t store the products correctly or if they don’t pack them properly, there isn’t much an engineer can do. There is always the option to add more void fill, more cushioning and more support. However, this can lead to overpackaging. Overpackaging, by extension, is wasted cost. It is key to empower the warehouse team to realize that how they pack out the product can be the difference between a product arriving safely and a damaged, costly return.

I often learned about the package weakness by talking to my warehouse team. The staff on the floor had keen eyes for damage and I learned as much from them as I did from transit testing.

Interesting. Can you give us an example?

Corman: While I was at Amazon, my warehouse team showed me the importance of tape and the style of taping. They explained how some stock-keeping units (SKUs) can sit in the warehouse for months and the tape adhesive can lose strength—after a hot summer, for example.

They also showed me, for better or worse, how some tape styles are used as handles to maneuver the shipper. All of this information helps me as a package engineer create a shipper that is robust enough to survive the transit system, strong enough to retain strength while in the warehouse and designed in a way that is easy to move within warehouses.

New bottle filler gives a dose of customization

New bottle filler gives a dose of customization
Fogg Filler’s custom bottle filler enables users to hand-fill their own bottles of pharmaceuticals, spirits and other flowable liquids.

As many production runs continue to get smaller, some product manufacturers have been looking beyond expensive, fast changeover systems to semi-automatic or even manual solutions. And packaging machinery manufacturers are responding. Here’s one example: A new custom gravity filler enables users to hand-fill personalized bottles in a visitor center, tasting room or production setting.

Susan Lamar, media relations manager, Fogg Filler, says the manufacturer originally designed the custom filler for a distillery client, permitting customers to select and fill their own bottles of spirits.

“I can’t name customers, but I can say that the spirits industry has taken a liking to this model,” she says.

But, in addition to spirits, the product can handle a range of other flowable liquids, including pharmaceuticals. This machine could capitalize on the trend of manufacturing personalized pharmaceuticals in small lots or even a lot of one.

To use, a visitor (to a distillery tasting room, for example) pulls a handle on a filling station; a valve inserts into the chosen bottle and fills to a set height. Minimum bottle size is 50 milliLiter, and maximum is 5 L.

According to the manufacturer, the unit offers a range of configurations. For example, users can choose to have one product in the filling bowl, with four stations that each fill the same-size bottle. Another puts a single product in the bowl, with each of four stations filling a different bottle size. Additionally, the bowl can be split into four sections, accommodating multiple products and a different sized package for each station.

The machine is designed to be cleaned manually. However, says Lamar, the manufacturer’s line of fillers range from totally manual cleaning to nearly totally automated, depending on a customer’s requirements.

Jenni Spinner

Freelance writer and former Packaging Digest senior editor Jenni Spinner is a trade journalist with two decades of experience in the field. While she has covered numerous industries (including construction, engineering, building security, food production and public works), packaging remains her favorite.


In addition to leading suppliers showing the latest solutions in labeling, automation, food packaging, package design and more—WestPack 2019 (Feb. 5-7; Anaheim, CA) gives you access to the industry's leading educational offerings with the 3D Printing and Smart Manufacturing Innovations Summits, the MD&M Medtech Conference and free industry education at the Expo. Register to attend today!