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Medical Packaging

Rotary thermoformer saves floor space in medical cleanrooms

Rotary thermoformer saves floor space in medical cleanrooms

The rotary design of the SP-32-20 Thermoformer from Shawpak, a division of Riverside Medical Packaging Co., enables medical packagers and others to significantly reduce their thermoforming footprint and boost automation efficiencies.

The thermoformer can be used to form, fill and seal rigid and flexible blisters and to produce flat, four-side seal sachets and three-side seal premade pouches.

Featuring a compact vertical carousel instead of a linear design, the machine is both space- and energy-efficient. In cleanroom applications, the thermoformer’s footprint is less than 1.5 cubic meters, versus 4 to 12 linear meters for a conventional thermoformer.

Designed without clip chains, the machine eliminates trim, which translates into reduced materials waste. It features fast, simple changeover and can accommodate multiple web widths on a single machine.

The thermoformer features a flat, open surface that can be accessed from multiple sides for ease of loading, either manually, automatically or semi-automatically. In addition, the thermoformer costs 30% to 40% less than conventional machines, according to the manufacturer.

See the Shawpak SP-32-20 rotary thermoformer in person at WestPack 2020 (Feb. 11-13; Anaheim, CA) in Shawpak Booth 4929.


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Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?
After three years since our first poll, are you more open to the idea of voice assistants on the packaging line?

While not quite controversial, the results of our first poll on the viability of using voice-assistants to help monitor or control packaging machines or a packaging line were surprising.

Our 2017 survey results showed that 70% of potential users at brand owner companies were open to it. But only 50% of packaging machinery manufacturers saw promise in voice assistants for their machines or for packaging lines.

I first thought of the idea of using this technology in packaging production applications three years ago and talked with several packaging machinery manufacturers while I was at interpack 2017 to get their take, which was mixed.

As we’re coming up on another triennial interpack show, I wanted to re-poll the packaging community to see what, if any, shifts in acceptance have happened over the last several years. Has my idea taken hold??

Please take this short poll to let us know what you now think of this technology.

Create your own user feedback survey


WestPack-2020  WestPack 2020: Ideas. Education. New Partners. Feb. 11-13

5 packaging design trends on the way out in 2018

5 packaging design trends on the way out in 2018

Say ba-bye to overly masculine packaging graphics, tiny type and boring colors. As 2017 winds down, new emerging trends are showing these dated designs the door.

It’s a great time to be in the packaging industry. Small consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands have easier access to retail, making it possible for them to compete toe-to-toe with industry giants. This is great news for anyone thinking of starting a brand, and it’s great news for packaging designers.

If you ask us, packaging design is one of the most interesting and dynamic categories in our industry. It’s everywhere you look, and it’s always changing to meet the wants and needs of consumers. As the bar is raised within the industry, though, certain packaging design trends start to fade.

To help us gain better insight into these trends, we spoke with one of our top packaging designers here at 99designs, Martis Lupus, to see the top five packaging design trends on their way out in 2018—and learn more about what’s emerging in their place

Here’s what we found…

1. Over-cluttered designs (in favor of simplicity):

Over-cluttered design is becoming a thing of the past, especially as we start to see a broader adoption of minimalism across design categories. In the coming years, we expect to see even the most classic “old school” CPG brands update their packaging to adopt a more modern, minimalistic style. As more consumers have come expect product packaging to convey the necessary information instantly, brands have started to adapt. As a result, only the most relevant information about the product plays a dominant role in the packaging composition, with a more careful use of white space and colors.

Minimalist packaging by 99designs designer O I O O I I O I for Zenji Matcha.

Stripped down to the essentials via Soylent.

NEXT: Nix small type


Did you know? Our parent company UBM owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

2. Small typography (in favor of bigger and bolder):

For similar reasons, we’re also seeing a more limited use of small typography.  As consumer attention spans shrink, it’s becoming more important than ever for designers and brands to relay their messaging as clearly and as quickly as possible, especially in packaging.

In the coming years, we expect to see more brands take this to the extreme by using bold fonts and fewer words to get their message across loud and clear—and stand out on shelves.

A bold branding approach via Eboost.

NEXT: Don’t get too familiar


Did you know? Our parent company UBM owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

3. Familiar packaging (in favor of experimental):

Recreating the familiar has been a strong trend in packaging design for some time now, but as more experimental styles flood the scene, it seems to be taking a back seat. In it’s place, we’re seeing designers take bigger creative risks with innovative and whimsical packaging solutions, testing the limits like never before and pushing packing design into new territories. 

Who knows what “familiar design” will stand for in the years to come.

Re-imagined packaging via Team Wunderbar!

NEXT: Stop wasting packaging


Did you know? Our parent company UBM owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

4. Wasteful packaging material (in favor of sustainability):

As consumers become more conscientious about the environmental impact of their purchases, more and more brands are opting for packaging and packing material with a much smaller ecological footprint. The cheapest and most accessible materials, like plastics, are being replaced by biodegradable materials, like paper, hemp, starch and cellulose, and more easily upcycled materials like bamboo and glass.

We salute the progress being made in the research of sustainable packaging material that brings to life products like algae-based gel for packaging water or milk protein-based biodegradable film (yes, you can eat it).

Eco-friendly packaging design by 99designs designer Martis Lupus.

NEXT: Soften manly designs


Did you know? Our parent company UBM owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

5. Hyper-masculine packaging (in favor of feminine styles):

As more soothing pastels and soft edges move into the spotlight in 2018, packaging design is trending toward a more feminine overall aesthetic. As a result, we’re likely to see fewer hyper-stimulating, explosive design styles more closely associated with masculinity in the coming years.

Feminine packaging design by 99designs designer katerina k. for BitterFit.

We’re looking forward to seeing more innovation in packaging design and branding in 2018. Who knew packaging could be so exciting?


Did you know? Our parent company UBM owns these popular packaging events: WestPack, EastPack, PackEx Toronto and PackEx Montreal. Click the links to learn how you can connect in person with leading packaging technology partners, expand your professional network, hear experts analyze key packaging trends and gain a better understanding of today's critical issues.

4 design trends shaping the snack industry

4 design trends shaping the snack industry
A simple, minimalistic design can elevate a package in the eyes of the consumer.

Encompassing everything from traditional treats and indulgences like chips and cookies, to wellness products and meal replacement bars, the snack industry is enormous. Brands are responding to this demand by offering more products and snack choices than ever before.

With this in mind, snack package design is playing an increasingly important role in ensuring a product stands out against competitors, whether in-store or online. Like every good piece of design, snack packaging tells a story. It communicates what the product is, who it’s for and projects a value proposition to the consumer.

As brands face tougher competition from new players in the space, we’ve looked at how some of 2019’s hottest packaging design trends are influencing the world of snack packaging.  

1. Minimalism

Minimalism is the trend that keeps on giving, and for good reason. When it comes to compelling packaging design, less can definitely be more.

With many brands jumping on the wellness food bandwagon, transparency and honesty are highly valued by consumers, especially when it comes to production methods and ingredients. Therefore, it makes sense that minimalism is one of the hottest styles for this segment of the industry, as it projects an image of simplicity and wholesomeness that brands want to tap into.

Minimalistic designs strip away excess noise—and focus on the essential elements and substance of the product itself. With this design trend, colors and typography are the main focus, and paring back packaging to this stark simplicity is a real art. When the simple shapes, color and text successfully strike the right note with a target audience, the product is guaranteed to stand out and appeal to consumers.

Two examples of Minimalism—RX bars (credit: The McQuades) and Carrot stick (credit mousegraphics)—show how effective the design’s communication can be.


Take our short survey on snack packaging possibilities to help food packagers identify the best areas for growth. CLICK HERE NOW.


2. Atypical designs

It’s human nature to be drawn to striking visual design. And if you’re confident about the target audience you’re trying to reach, harnessing an element of surprise and fun in your packaging design can be hugely effective in ensuring your product stands out from the crowd. 

The aim of the game with this trend is to both grab people’s attention and be genuinely memorable. In 2019, expect to see brands embrace unconventional and unusual approaches to snack packaging design to communicate with their customers.

These packages catch the eye because of their atypical structural and graphic designs. (Raisin packaging: credit 99designs designer Chupavi. Milk packaging design: credit I-Media Creative Bureau)

3. Nude color palettes 

When it comes to color, nude can sound a little boring. But, in reality, this palette covers everything from peach, rosy or ochre undertones to creamy and chocolatey hues. As such, it’s a great choice for many snack brands, and we’re seeing more and more packaging designers embrace these neutral, earthy shades to ground their work.

This trend is playful, soft and appealing—and 2019 will bring an abundance of nude tones that are often accented with a pop of candy-colored pastel hues or unusual shapes to make them stand out. Additionally, clean white labels are a popular choice to ensure they don’t steal the spotlight from these unique color combinations and physical designs. 

Swedish chocolate company gains attention with muted neutral hues next to its competitors’ harsher deep colors. (credit: Pond Design)

4. The future is plastic-free

Last but not least, plastic-free packaging is the one trend we should all be embracing. As scientists make incredible advancements in renewable and compostable packaging materials, an increasing number of brands are looking to take care of the earth when it comes to their design choices and reducing waste. From mushroom-based foam cushioning to plastics formed from algae, alternative materials should one day lead to a much more sustainable packaging industry. 

A number of notable early adopters have jumped on this trend, from the fantastic From Peel to Peel project by Emma Sicher, which showcases an innovative eco-friendly packaging material made out of microbial cellulose, to the fun and family-friendly Sassafras Baking Kits. These kits are packaged in 100% recycled paperboard, and optimize the use of space to minimize waste. A fun detail in this packaging, which also brings in the atypical design trend referenced above, means that the exterior packaging can also be transformed into a fun animal mask for kids.  

As consumers become more aware and empowered in their choice between plastic and plastic-free packaging, in 2019 we expect to see many more brands looking to make responsible choices when it comes to choosing packaging materials. 

Examples of sustainable packaging material choices include wrapping made from cellulose (credit: From Peel to Peel) and Sassafras Baking Kits (credit:

From clever, new ways to embrace atypical design to toned-down nude coloring, and simple, clean minimalism, 2019 will be a year that designers push packaging trends to their extreme—and where anything and everything is possible.


You’ll find a generous amount of packaging options at PackEx Toronto 2019, June 4-6, from robotics to semi-automatic equipment and fresh ideas in containers and design. Plus join in free education at Centre Stage. For more information, visit PackEx Toronto.

Cannabis Packaging

5 top trends in cannabis branding and packaging

5 top trends in cannabis branding and packaging
Modern, sophisticated packaging designs help market cannabis products.

Marijuana is now legal in half of U.S. states, with more expected to follow, and this has led to a rapidly growing industry selling the product—whether for recreational or medical use. We have noticed the rise in cannabis-related businesses on the 99designs platform, where we’ve seen a 55% increase in design projects being created for these new brands in the past two years.

Whether or not cannabis is legal in your state, it’s not illegal for packaging design firms to work for cannabis customer. That said, if you are a designer, you may still want to consider if this is an area that you want to focus on going forward, if it fits with your own values and if it could be controversial with other clients.

If you do decide to work with cannabis companies, you’ll need to embrace an up-to-date interpretation and steer clear of the old clichés that can have more negative connotations. As in any logo and marketing design, you’ll also want to consider your target audience.

Here are five trends to look out for in cannabis branding and packaging:

Page 1. Leafy imagery

Page 2. Green in color and in ethos

Page 3. A focus on health

Page 4. Minimalism

Page 5. Playing with stereotypes

1. Leafy imagery

The pointy leaf may be a cliché but it’s also an instantly recognizable icon; it’s the fastest way to make a product identifiable in store.

While many brands continue to use the cannabis leaf in their logos and packaging designs, they are usually doing so with a twist. Logos may use a modern, stylized version of the leaf, they may use other colors or they may combine it with other elements to modernize the design while still playing on this familiar theme.

This stylized logo by 99designs designer KisaDesign brings the classic leaf image bang up to date.

Who doesn’t get “The Munchies”? Hipster foot festival logo design by 99designs designer Iva Tan.

This logo hints at the traditional green leaf while combining a gray-blue cross that adds a more corporate and medical touch. Design by 99designs designer ludibes.

NEXT: Green in color and in ethos


Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Hub at EastPack 2018. This free educational program will have more than 16 hours of can’t-miss presentations and demonstrations. Register to attend today!

A vintage look for this “botanicals” brand in a design by 99designs designer pswizzard.

2. Green in color and in ethos

There’s a general movement in society towards considering the impact we’re having on the environment, and cannabis users tend to particularly appreciate the product’s natural roots. Hopping on the “raw” and “organic” trend makes cannabis products especially up to date.

Muted greens and browns are used to indicate how natural these products are while the language used reflects this as well. We’re also seeing logos and designs that suggest an established heritage that gives the brand a certain distinction in the industry.

Although hemp and cannabis can be used interchangeably, strictly speaking, hemp comes from a plant that contains only trace amounts of the chemical compound THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive part of cannabis. This body lotion is 100% organic in a design by 99designs designer Martis Lupus.

This logo design by markomavric uses elements of the classic green leaf while emphasizing the “raw” and “organic” attributes.

NEXT: A focus on health


Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Hub at EastPack 2018. This free educational program will have more than 16 hours of can’t-miss presentations and demonstrations. Register to attend today!

This tropical pain reliever is “nature’s original” and “a trusted family formula,” combining a natural green with a red medical cross in a packaging design by 99designs designer green in blue.

3. A focus on health

With medical marijuana currently being more commonly accepted than recreational marijuana, there is a particularly large business opportunity here. Brands are tapping into the medicinal properties of their products and using medical or pharmaceutical symbols and colors to add legitimacy to their business and appeal to this segment of the market.

Look for the familiar medical cross shape and packaging that makes only the smallest hint at the origin of the product inside, as well as new formats including creams and tinctures.

This hemp-based cooling balm is labeled as “sport medicine” in a design by 99designs designer hollyM.

These brownies, bars and cookies are “for medical use only.” Designed by 99designs designer forEM.

NEXT: Minimalism


Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Hub at EastPack 2018. This free educational program will have more than 16 hours of can’t-miss presentations and demonstrations. Register to attend today!

This minimalist packaging in black and white is a far cry from the psychedelic designs of the past. Design by 99designs designer lasko.

4. Minimalism

Taking a minimalist approach to branding can give a business a more stylish and contemporary look. Clean and simple designs still fit well with the theme of relaxation and meditation but bring the brand into the new era.

These designs can look very different from the colorful designs we’re used to but, for that reason, they can also appeal to a new type of consumer. Stylish black-and-white designs can be particularly appropriate for the new high-end, high-quality products that are emerging.

This brand’s logo and packaging is “convenient and discreet.” Web design by 99designs designer Adam Bagus.

This stylish logo by 99designs designer Strobok keeps things simple.

NEXT: Playing with stereotypes


Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Hub at EastPack 2018. This free educational program will have more than 16 hours of can’t-miss presentations and demonstrations. Register to attend today!


Taking the high road (bu-dum) with this craft cannabis brand logo design by 99designs designer DIX LIX MIX.

5. Playing with stereotypes

Finally, yes, we did say at the start that you should steer clear of those stereotypes—but there is a trend in cannabis branding that involves a clever play on words or hinting at that counterculture of old. Where recreational cannabis is legal, brands can afford to be a bit more playful and make explicit references to the recreational use of the product. A bit of creativity and fun will help a brand to stand out from the growing competition.

“The only thing that bakes at room temperature” says this meditating bear in a logo design by 99designs designer deb·o·nair.


These “Vibe Out gummies” are fun and friendly, and “legal in 50 states.” Packaging design by 99designs designer LanaD.

While these five branding and packaging styles have dominated the early stages of the cannabis industry, more states legalize the drug every election cycle. And more sellers will lead to more diverse branding and more packaging design experimentation.  


Production efficiencies, ecommerce challenges, sustainability trends, new bioplastic technologies and more are among the topics on the agenda at the new Packaging Hub at EastPack 2018. This free educational program will have more than 16 hours of can’t-miss presentations and demonstrations. Register to attend today!

6 food and beverage packaging trends that will dominate 2020

6 food and beverage packaging trends that will dominate 2020

Like any good design, consumer packaging tells a story. It communicates what a product is, who it’s for, and helps to communicate a brand’s value proposition. But in the highly competitive—and increasingly saturated—food and beverage product landscape, where countless new offerings hit shelves each week, just standing out among the crowd is tougher than ever.

In recent years, this cut-throat competition has prompted F&B brands to experiment with many innovative approaches to packaging design, both aesthetically and functionally, and 2020 will pick up right where 2019 left off.

Here are a few of the hottest trends our designers expect will dominate food and beverage packaging in the year ahead.

Beak Pick jam by Backbone Branding.

1. Metamorphoses

As the name implies, metamorphoses is where one design element goes through a transformation into another, creating an optical illusion that adds visual interest and draws consumers in to view the more intricate details of the packaging.

Already picking up steam throughout 2019, we predict brands will increasingly embrace this artistic, avant garde trend in packaging as a way to make a statement and stand apart from the competition.

Seedlip distilled non-alcoholic spirits.


Pukka Tea packaging.  

2. Maximalism and rich, heavily detailed packaging

With many economic experts predicting a global slowdown on the horizon, we expect (and are already seeing on our platform) more consumers seeking a sense of opulence, luxury and extravagance in their products. That’s why maximalism in packaging design is poised to be all the rage in the upcoming year. What’s emerging is more luxurious, more attention-grabbing, intense, richer colors, full of details.

Dandelion Chocolates advent calendar.



Sour Kush candies by 99designs designer Terry Bogard.

3. Retro-futurism

Retro-futurism sounds like an oxymoron. However, actually, the combination of design elements evoking nostalgia (retro) and positive anticipation (futurism) can actually work very well together.

In 2020, we expect to see packaging designers using the current gradient trend as a jumping-off point for creating packaging that pairs both futuristic and retro design elements to create remarkable designs that will appeal to a variety of consumers.


Plastic-free cellulose packaging designed by Emma Sicher.

4. Ecologically-aware packaging

With most agreeing that we’re diving into a full-blown climate crisis, marketers are increasingly driven to seek out more ecological, plastic-free packaging alternatives to current packaging materials.

In the year ahead, expect brands to start exploring the use of more eco-friendly materials in their packaging, moving towards packaging that’s easily recyclable, minimizing the amount of materials necessary for their packaging design or even forgoing packaging altogether.



Beetroot juice packaging design by freedom+n on 99designs.

5. Transparent packaging

Using transparent packaging that shows off a product’s color is already popular within the beauty and skincare sector, and in 2020, we expect to see a surge of this trend in food and beverage packaging as well. Layering design elements of transparent materials and using the drink or food product’s color as a design feature allows designers to add contrast and make those elements pop once the brand’s product is poured into it.

This trend is a win-win: It allows brands to take a more minimal approach to the design process, but also places the product itself front and center of the customer experience without compromising on visual impact.


Drinks packaging design for La Luna Brewing company by Obacht on 99designs.

6. Neatly structured layouts

This packaging trend is focused on how a brand’s selected typography is used within the broader design.

Text, which is typically comprised of a variety of unique and interesting font combinations, is separated by clear lines that divide the space into neat and balanced spaces, making for easy readability and a sense of structure that appeals to consumers and allows designers to take a more minimalistic approach to the rest of the design.

Plant-based packaging pairs perfectly with frozen dessert

Plant-based packaging pairs perfectly with frozen dessert
Coconut Bliss's rebranding was about adding a whole lot of color and sustainability to its pint-cup packaging.

Coconut Bliss’s redesigned, sustainable paperboard-cup packaging is a category-first material protected by a biopolymer made from sugarcane husks.

Family-owned Coconut Bliss of Eugene, OR, artfully and sustainably redesigned the packaging from the inside out for all its cupped frozen desserts.

On the printed exterior, the products' rich taste is the focus of the graphics design, depicted through illustrations of each flavor’s tasting notes to showcase the high-quality ingredients.

“Since 2005, Coconut Bliss has been committed to using certified organic and ethically-sourced ingredients of the highest quality,” says Kim Gibson Clark, president and CEO of Coconut Bliss. “For our first brand refresh, the goal was to push ourselves to create a cohesive new design reflecting the passion, purpose and taste of Coconut Bliss that has delighted our dedicated fans for years. I am happy to say that we have accomplished our goal.”

The new-look graphics are paired with a first-of-its-kind eco-friendly pint packaging as part of Coconut Bliss’ commitment to sustainability that makes it the first frozen dessert or ice cream brand to use plant-based bio resin polyethylene pint-cup packaging. Made of 97% bio-based resources, the material is Evergreen Packaging’s Sentinel Renewable Ice Cream Board extruded with Braskem’s “I’m green” brand polyethylene made from sugarcane that's an environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based PE resin.

“As a USDA Certified Organic and Non-GMO Project Verified company, Coconut Bliss is always looking for ways to limit its environmental footprint,” Clark explains. “That’s why, in conjunction with our ambitious rebrand, we are so excited to introduce this cutting-edge packaging that performs like traditional ice cream packaging, without the same environmental concerns. Plus, we love the fact that our plant-based ice cream is now served in plant-based packaging.”

The time was ripe for the changes, Darcey Howard, director of marketing, tells Packaging Digest.

“The rebrand was a long time coming, 10 years in fact. The hand-packed, small-batch vegan ice cream grew to an internationally distributed contender in the dairy-free space, yet the packaging stayed the same as the category exploded around us. Our old packaging was muted and dated and was entirely lost on shelf, an impact that we felt. What consumers will immediately notice with the new packaging is color—lots and lots of color, with complimenting white space.”

The changeover was in the works for a little over a year, Howard adds, and discloses more details in this Q&A.

What were the design goals?

Howard: The sustainable packaging itself was an internal project spearheaded by our Sustainability Director, Kate Campbell. The major design goals for the new look included:

  • Expressing the plant-based and organic nature of the product;
  • Creating design elements that can be used independently or together;
  • Communicating the flavor cues found in our ice cream;
  • Displaying the super-premium quality of the product;
  • Incorporating plant elements found in the ingredients;
  • Significant shelf pop.

The design was handled by Revolution Design Group

What sparked the idea to use a bioplastic-based coating in the first place?

Howard: All of Coconut Bliss’ ingredients are sustainably sourced and certified organic, which is part of our DNA and will never change. Occasionally we’d get customers that asked how it is that we’d make such a beautiful, sustainable product but then package it in what was “sustainable garbage.”

Unfortunately, there were no options on the market for anything other than petroleum-based, resin-lined ice cream cup packaging. We worked with Stanpac, who then worked with Evergreen and Braskem to source and create a bio-polymer resin made from sugarcane husks. We've worked directly with Stanpac as our supplier for the past five or six years, which sought out Evergreen as a partner for this.It's our first time using Evergreen packaging.

What are the lids' material?

Howard: The cups are made of recycled paperboard and come to us from Stanpac, including the premade, preprinted lid.

Is the new bio-based container called out on the label? Is the container marked for recycling?

Howard: The packaging carries the Evergreen logo to identify that it is sustainable. The significance of that will likely be lost on most consumers, but for the ones that care or are curious we have information accessible on our website. All of our customer service team is training as part of the process.  The greater significance is in our ability to close the loop on our mission and commitment to the environment.

Why is the timing ripe for this sustainable material and how is it better than what you used before?

Howard: Anything is better than petroleum-based products. It’s exciting to be the first ice cream brand in the market to have this more sustainable packaging, but that wasn’t entirely the goal. The goal is to get as many other brands to convert to this, making a bigger eco-impact and ultimately making the cost of producing lower.

Was there a challenge to switching to the new packaging?

Howard: We’ve seen absolutely no difference in the performance of the bio-polymer, so from that perspective it’s been seamless. 

However, it was a challenge to source, it took a long time to produce and it comes a slightly higher cost.  Stanpac is giving us a price break on it in hopes that we’ll be able to help the word out there and bring more brands in. 

What are your expectations for more bio-based plastics in food packaging?

Howard: We can keep coming up with ways to recycle or teach people about the impacts of plastics, but until brands start demanding alternatives and make it part of their mission, like we did, there won’t be financial motivation for manufacturers to develop alternatives. It starts with straws and plastic shopping bag bans, then goes to clamshells and shrink wrap. 

The more brands that make this transition to bio-polymer resin for ice-cream cups, the more we all win.

Medical Packaging

SPMC webinar explores medical packaging integrity

SPMC webinar explores medical packaging integrity
Package integrity failures are not a function of time. As a package progresses through its lifecycle, it encounters several forces (such as sealing, flex-crack, abrasion, puncture and moisture) that challenge package integrity.

In-depth knowledge of pack-testing standards and packaging materials is essential when developing packaging for medical devices, kits and other products that require sterilization.

“SPMC Learning Tools: A Guide to Gels and Sterile Barrier Integrity Measures,” a webinar sponsored by the Sterilization Packaging Manufacturers Council (SPMC), offers packaging engineers a close look at polymeric gels (film imperfections) and package integrity testing for medical applications.

This Packaging Digest webinar, which captures the information in two SPMC white papersPackage Integrity Testing and Polymeric Gels in Flexible Medical Device Packaging—was broadcast live in September 2019 by Informa Markets and will be available online until Sept. 11, 2020. Click here to register for the one-hour, view-on-demand webinar.

In the webinar, speaker Henk Blom, vp of research and technology at Paxxus, defines a gel as “a visible dome-shaped imperfection in the film matrix due to the embedding of an incompatible material” (per “Polyethylene Gels: A Primer” by N. Aubee, R. Saetre and T. Tikuisis, TAPPI 2006).

Blom describes three varieties of gels—unmelt/mixing gels, cross-linked and oxidized gels, and cross-contamination gels—with attention to common causes of each type and how to identify the various gels.

In addition, Blom provides an update on “ASTM D7310-11 Standard Guide for Defect Detection and Rating of Plastic Films Using Optical Sensors,” which is under review by a multidisciplinary group comprising resin suppliers, extrusion equipment suppliers, optical equipment companies and others. The proposed revision to the standard is available from ASTM (WK67177).

Bill Cassidy, product development manager at Amcor, provides further education on gels. He explores package integrity concerns, including gels in the context of weld seals, peelable seals, form-fill-seal and surface printing.

The webinar segues to package integrity testing, with Chetan Joshi, process engineer at Technipaq, addressing package integrity versus seal strength. Joshi notes that theses are two distinct package attributes, and that a package with acceptable seal strength may still fail integrity testing if it has a seal channel or a pinhole in its material.

Joshi also highlights the necessity of maintaining sterility of the device in the package until the point of use and the role of package integrity in assuring patient safety. He explains how porous and nonporous materials prevent microbial contamination: Porous microbial barriers create a “tortuous path” that allows air to enter the package but filters microbes, and nonporous microbial barriers block air that may carry microbes into the package.

The final portion of the webinar, presented by Ryan Killing, new product engineer at PPC Flexible Packaging,provides a guide to package integrity test methods, including dye, bubble emission (submersion), visual, vacuum decay and trace gas testing.

This portion of the webinar provides tables with descriptions and key points about a range of ASTM methods for testing seal integrity and whole package integrity. A Text Method Selection matrix depicts which test methods are appropriate for porous material, nonporous material, rigid trays, flexible packaging, clear material and opaque material.

At the conclusion of the live webinar, the speakers fielded questions from attendees. This Q&A, edited for clarity and brevity, is presented below.

Do gels create a high risk of contamination in an automated system of transport on conveyors, lifts, packaging and transportation?

Cassidy: No, they do not increase risk of contamination. The gels are completely embedded in the polyolefin film, so there’d be no increased risk. In fact, if you were to take your fingernail and try to remove it, you’d find that the gel is completely embedded in the film.

How do porous packages block microbes?

Joshi: Porous packaging materials act as filters for microbes. There are three mechanisms by which filtration occurs. These are: interception, inertial impaction and diffusion. You can read up more on these three mechanisms in the SPMC white paper [Package Integrity Testing], which is on the SPMC website now.

Do gels continue to form after a film is wound into a roll and put in storage?

Cassidy: The answer to that question also is no. As a result of the extrusion process, the amount of gels and the gel size produced as the result of that process is basically final. Regardless of how long you keep the roll in storage or pouches in storage, temperature and humidity are completely independent. So no, the gel size and frequencies will remain the same over time.

Do resin pellets have gels, or does that only happen when extruded into a thin film?

Blom: That’s a very good question. Resin pellets themselves can have gels in them, so this would obviously happen at the resin manufacturer level, and you could create additional gels during the extrusion process. So if the resin came with gels, and your resin extrusion process wasn’t optimized, you could in fact create more gels. But very often, the resins are clean from gels, and most often they are created during the extrusion process, although not exclusively.

How do I get more information on these tests without having to buy each standard?

Blom: That’s a great question, as well. You saw a partial list of test methods, as Ryan was going through some of those. There are more. The easiest way to get all of them is to become a member of ASTM and to join Committee F02. As part of your membership in ASTM, you get free access to one of the standards books, and the standard book that you would be looking for is ASTM Volume 15.10.That book has all of the test methods that ASTM F02 has oversight for and monitors and keeps current.

How does folding Tyvek cause failures in integrity testing?

Killing: Bending or folding of Tyvek can cause separation of the fibers. The microbial barrier is still there, but the pressure from the bubble test will easily allow the air to escape and represent a hole. It’s not because there’s an integrity breach, but the fibers themselves have separated, so the fluid or the air can escape. So it’s beneficial, as much as possible, to not stress the Tyvek.

Where is ASTM F1140?

Joshi: ASTM F1140 is the test method for burst strength testing, and again that is a seal strength test method. So the burst strength method does not assess package integrity. It is similar to peel strength testing. Peel strength testing gives an idea of strength in that sample or in a localized area. Burst strength testing gives us an idea of seal strength around the package, but it does not assess integrity failures, like seal channels or pinholes.

Does the white paper also provide guidance on selection of appropriate seal strength tests?

Blom: The white papers that we created do not address that question specifically. There is an ASTM task group that is addressing that question right now. It was generated around the question of where did the one-pound minimum peel strength come from? Geoff Pavey, from Oliver-Tolas, and a large group of others in the industry are dealing with that right now.


The sustainable packaging landscape: A decade in review

The sustainable packaging landscape: A decade in review

This year marks the end of an incredibly eventful decade on so many levels. Thought-leader Nina Goodrich breaks down the sustainability advancements and challenges packaging professionals have experienced in the last decade, year by year.

The world of sustainable packaging has definitely changed over the last 10 years. Here’s how.


In the early part of the decade, attention was focused on the general business case for sustainability. Reports began to surface indicating that companies that embraced sustainability efforts performed better in the long term than those companies that did not adequately acknowledge sustainability efforts, and only those companies that fully committed to sustainability reaped the benefits, as evidenced in the MIT report Sustainability’s Next Frontier.

However, the concept of “sustainability” was still fairly limited in its scope. And while corporate sustainability goals existed, they were typically centered around energy, water, transportation, and waste, with very few companies having specific goals for sustainable packaging. 

At the time, limited life-cycle analysis (LCAs) were used to compare one material to another, debates ranged on whose LCA was better, and brands started to learn where their impacts existed in the value stream.

New learnings enlightened us about things like how washing our clothes in cold water can make a big difference (though we didn’t learn about the microfibers associated with washing our clothes until much later). We also learned that the environmental footprint of the package is usually much smaller than the product, so reducing the package to the point of reducing shelf life or increasing product damage was not a sustainable choice.

With a small core group of members, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition launched the How2Recycle* program in 2012, first in the U.S. and then in Canada. This standardized labeling system clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public. 


Moving on in the decade, we saw an increase in corporate sustainability goals and packaging sustainability goals, alongside an increased acknowledgement that recycling infrastructure adjustments were much needed.

The Closed Loop Fund was announced in 2014 to create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates. The Recycling Partnership was launched in early 2015 from the Curbside Value Partnership. Both of these initiatives were a response to a growing understanding that recycling is not free and does not pay for itself.

The U.S. has not kept pace with investing in recycling infrastructure. The topic of the evolving ton was discussed; newsprint disappeared and bottles got lighter. The lightweight plastic bottles meant more had to be collected to get the same amount of resin. The value of the materials entering a material recovery facility was changing; mixed paper and corrugated board became the volume value drivers for the facilities. Additionally, while February 2013 marked the launch of China’s Green Fence initiative, it would take a few years for its impacts to be felt in North America.

In 2015, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy project launched, and the Ocean Conservancy released its first report on plastic in the ocean in Science magazine in February followed by a report named Stemming the Tide in September. The report stated that five countries were responsible for most of the plastic in the ocean, with at least 80% of that waste entering the ocean from land-based sources rather than from ships or other ocean-based sources.

We also learned that rivers were a significant conduit for plastic to the ocean. Seizing upon these statistics, many in the U.S. pointed to Asia as the cause of the problem without stopping to think that the U.S. and other Western countries were still sending a huge amount of plastics with the resin ID codes of 3 to 7 to China. With China consuming so much of the world’s recyclables, there was little incentive to control contamination in the recycling stream, which would drastically change in the following years.


In 2016, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition released its Centralized Study on the Availability of Recycling to create support for the rapidly growing How2Recycle label. The study looked at the types of packaging accepted in American recycling programs and the accessibility of those programs.

It was clear from the report that only half of Americans had access to recycling that was equal in convenience to the access they had for trash, meaning many people had to pay extra for recycling services or use drop-off sites in their communities. The SPC and The Recycling Partnership started their collaborative project, Applying Systems Thinking to Recycling (ASTRX), to provide resources for building a stronger American recycling industry. 

In 2016, ReFed released its report A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, revealing that Americans waste 63 million tons of food a year and highlighting the water, cropland and fertilizer that wasted food consumes. Attention was brought to the fact that most food waste ends up in landfills where it creates methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and 85% of food waste occurs downstream in consumer-facing businesses and in our homes. 


2017 was a turning point for sustainable packaging as public attention to environmental issues continued to increase. Documentaries like Blue Planet II and National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic” campaign put more information about marine plastic pollution in the hands of consumers, and industry felt mounting pressure to create solutions. 

Meanwhile, China proposed a ban on post-consumer plastics, unsorted mixed paper and textiles. In mid-July 2017, China started to shut down many small, poorly run recycling factories without proper pollution controls. These new Chinese import regulations started to impact the U.S. in 2018: Commodity material prices fell as the major market disappeared, but the supply didn’t change. Communities still had the same amount of materials to sell, now with nowhere to turn. In a normal supply-and\-demand situation, the supply might adjust. But in this case, the supply was the same and prices crashed for many recyclables, both paper and plastic. 

The U.S. reacted and started to build capacity to process recyclables at home and Chinese companies started investing in the U.S. paper and plastics recycling. It is thought that investment in the capacity to recycle at home will eventually restore some of the value of recycled materials.

Many municipalities relied on revenue from the materials to help offset the cost of collection and sortation programs. This revenue disappeared. Two drivers—plastic in the ocean and China’s refusal to take the world’s recyclable materials—has significantly transformed the industry. Exports shifted to other countries, but several quickly became overwhelmed, and they, too, announced restrictions on importing recyclables.

In 2017, Walmart announced Project Gigaton, an ambitious project to remove a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain, with packaging being one of the six targeted pillars of the project. Walmart also released the first generation of a packaging playbook designed to help brands and suppliers navigate design-for-recycling considerations. Support for the How2Recycle label surged with endorsements from both Walmart and Target—retailers had become significant change agents for sustainable packaging.

The circular economy began to gain significant momentum as circularity became a goal for packaging.


2018 brought recognition that circularity would be easier for some materials than others. Corporate goals for recycled content started to exceed the available supply. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation started to gain traction with concepts around elimination of unnecessary plastic and the development of re-use models. They launched their Global Commitment in October 2018 with more than 290 signatories.

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation also created country-specific initiatives called Plastics Pacts—national networks of stakeholders working on a circular economy for plastics. The first Plastics Pact launched in the UK, with French and Chilean Plastics Pacts following. Many communities started to take action against plastics as some plastics were banned and there were bans on banning bans. 


2019 brought recognition from resin suppliers that recycled content would be a key future component to their business strategy. Resin companies began to purchase mechanical recyclers. Chemical recycling has been discussed as an opportunity for difficult-to-recycle polyolefins and flexible film. Corporations increased their voluntary commitments and large sums of money were pledged to new initiatives like Closed Loop Ocean (now called Circulate Capital) and The Alliance to End Plastic Waste.

The SPC published its Goals Database in January 2019, which catalogued and organized the sustainable packaging goals and commitments from nearly 100 brand owners and retailers.

The Design for Recycled Content Guide was also written by the SPC to provide brands and suppliers with a guide for incorporating recycled content in packaging.

In addition, the SPC debuted a new event, SPC Engage, to take a deep dive into corporate goals and enable action. Collective corporate voluntary commitments around reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging are rising. SPC Impact gathered more than 750 attendees in Seattle in April to discuss stepping up the pace in the packaging evolution to champion change.

Predictions for the 2020s

What is next? My hope is that we can harness our collective momentum and build a recovery system we are proud of—one that will provide collection for all materials, recover mechanically what we can and create additional pathways for harder to recycle materials that result in building blocks for new materials. These building blocks will be able to flow into a variety of industrial materials, with packaging being one of many options.

I hope we recognize how collectively investing in recycling is a model for additional challenges, such as microplastic pollution and food waste.

We need to stop pointing fingers and recognize the only way forward is collaborative action.

We need to remember that the biggest threat to humanity is climate change, and that we are capable of working together to preserve our oceans and our earth for generations to come.

*How2Recycle is a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, a membership-based group that brings together business, educational institutions, and government agencies to collectively broaden the understanding of packaging sustainability and develop meaningful improvements for packaging solutions.


What were the top packaging trends of 2019?

What were the top packaging trends of 2019?

Exploding SKUs, ecommerce, an American propensity for snacking and three other industry drivers enable brands to leverage the power of packaging design to their advantage. 

Knowing what trends are in vogue is essential for packaging professionals to understand the dynamics in their markets of interest—and where the best growth opportunities are. Which is why Packaging Digest has compiled a list of the six best-read trends posted since January 1. 

6. 8 global packaging trends and where they’re all heading 

First impressions count, and for many brands, this puts high importance on the product packaging. As with all forms of marketing, it shifts and changes due to customers’ tastes and global sentiments—such as the current appetite for sustainable packaging. 

Here are eight key trends that brands should be taking note of right now: 

1. Bold colors make an impact.

2. Creativity is key

3. Sustainable packaging is a priority

4. Less is more

5. The past makes a comeback

6. Transparency means honesty

7. Sell me an experience

 8. What’s your cause?

5. 10 tasting trends: See what’s ahead for snacks and sweets 

Financially, the candy and snack industry is in good health and so are a growing number of products.  Encouragement of more healthful snacking isn’t the only trend. At the NCA’s 2019 Sweets and Snacks Expo, attendees heard about notable market facts and trends: 

  1. Hot, hot, hot.
  2. Go with retro.
  3. Living single.
  4. Count on Keto.
  5. Rolling out redesigns
  6. Eating and activities
  7. Two-part harmony
  8. Premium experience
  9. Get the message?
  10. Sugar-free gets younger


4. 6 packaging reasons SKUs are exploding 

A survey of 250 consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies by L.E.K. Consulting found that 75% of brand owners say they’re going to spend significantly more on packaging—and one-third of them will increase spending by more than 10%. In fact, 90% of brand owners say packaging is critical to their brand’s success as they seek to adapt to an increasingly competitive landscape and rapidly changing consumer tastes. 

Jeff Cloetingh, managing director at L.E.K. and report coauthor, reports they were amazed by the reported magnitude of increasing trend in new stock-keeping units (SKUs). Cloetingh provides additional details in an exclusive Q&A including identifying the six reasons:  Convenience, premiumization, customization, healthy, green, and e-commerce.

Next: Snack, ecommerce and emerging trends  


3. 4 design trends shaping the snack industry 

Encompassing everything from traditional treats and indulgences like chips and cookies, to wellness products and meal replacement bars, the snack industry is enormous. Brands are responding to this demand by offering more products and snack choices than ever before and using packaging design to tell a story. 

Pamela Webber, chief operations officer at 99designs, discloses the details of these key market trends: 

Minimalism—the trend that keeps on giving, and for good reason. When it comes to compelling packaging design, less can definitely be more. 

Atypical designs—if you’re confident about the target audience you’re trying to reach, harnessing an element of surprise and fun in your packaging design can be hugely effective in ensuring your product stands out from the crowd.  

Nude color palettes—more and more packaging designers embrace neutral, earthy shades to ground their work. 

2. 3 challenges of ecommerce packaging (from an insider) 

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.  

1. 5 packaging trends emerging in 2019 

In the ever-changing packaging industry, new styles come and go; consumers’ needs and desires shift and evolve; and brands are always on the lookout for a way to get ahead in their respective markets. 

This will prove no less true in 2019, as evidenced by the various trends on the horizon for the packaging industry. Take a look at five predictable packaging movements and their drivers… 

1. Flexibility.  

2. Changes in ecommerce.  

3. Environmental awareness.  

4. Less is more.  

5. The power of nostalgia.