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Food packaging safety: Risk identification, prioritization and response

Food packaging safety: Risk identification, prioritization and response

This month’s column underscores the fact that identifying, analyzing, and understanding the risks associated with producing safely packaged foods is a daunting task.  It’s best to approach this task with the assumption that what you don’t know or don’t control will eventually hurt customers, your company and you!

Last month’s column, 3 examples of aligning food safety risk and packaging safety, provided examples of food packaging safety risks and explained why stakeholders and end users are driven to maintain supply chain safety . This month we begin to focus on risk identification and prioritization.  Identifying, analyzing, and understanding risk can be a daunting task.  I suggest beginning with the basics: Assume that what you don’t know and/or don’t control will eventually hurt you!  Let’s continue our checklist:

Risk assessment, priority and control #1A: Incoming materials evaluation list  

Whether you purchase raw materials, intermediate goods, or finished ready-to-ship products, the professionals in charge of regulatory affairs and food safety need to have a full understanding of and confidence that every item coming in the door of the facility and/or passing through external and contract facilities, is suitable for its intended purpose and safe for consumer use, as defined by law and best industry practices.  

The best way to begin with this task is to create a process map for each facility and then list items that flow inside that facility, which may include equipment and supplies, vehicles, raw materials, intermediate materials, chemicals, lubricants, ingredients and people.

Technically speaking, every item has a risk of being contaminated, unsuitable or causing same. It is up to the risk assessor to identify each item and assess the type of risk (e.g. chemical, physical, biological, or all of the above), the extent of the risk (mild, moderate or serious risk to human safety) and the likelihood of occurrence if not controlled (low, medium or high). Each item on the list should be grouped by category, where used, stored, handled and processed. Once the list is complete, the risk assessor(s) can then determine what they know (and don’t know) and control (or not) regarding each item.

The principles for application of this process are very similar no matter the phase of the business you support: whether you are a manufacturer, shipper or end user of equipment, the principles apply. Some key questions may include, determining whether materials are compliant with food regulations, customer’s specifications and procurement contract stipulations, and identifying and mitigating risks. The equipment design, materials, packaging, lubricants, protective materials and related all need to be assessed as the equipment is fabricated, acceptance tested, shipped, received, intaken, sanitized, installed and tested in or near food or food materials production facilities.

Once a satisfactory form is created to perform the “end-to-end” risk analysis of each item, it will become more of a checklist formality and less of an interpretive exercise.

In Part 2 of this column that will be available next week, we’ll assess Risk Assessment, Priority and Control for Incoming Materials Risk Mitigation and for Incoming Materials Documentation and Testing.


Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, six as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer with Kraft. In his current position as Senior Food Packaging Safety Consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at or 410-484-9133. The website is

Rotary tables designed for pharmaceutical applications

Rotary tables designed for pharmaceutical applications

 Two 48" diameter 11 gauge Stainless Steel Rotary Tables were recently installed for a pharmaceutical application. Built by Multi-Conveyor, the tables easily adapt to varying sizes and shape products that demonstrate the versatility of these systems.

For this project, the table will accumulate bottles from 1 to 4 inches square by 2 to 7 inches in height.  The motors were specified to accommodate 250 pounds of pharmaceutical bottles on the accumulator at one time, while running from 2-5 revolutions per minute.

The rotary accumulation table has one DC motor controller which is run on standard 110 volt, single phase electrical output, which can be used in most any area of the production floor without special wiring.  

The customer requested stationary floor supports vs. a portable system, which is common for a rotary design, along with standard guide rails.

Click here to see the video.

One of the earliest designs for accumulation or unscrambling is the rotary table.  Both configurations can handle multiple container sizes and materials. The rotary design is flexible and effective.  Typical table diameters are 30, 36, 42 and 48 inches. Top discs are stainless steel with machined backer plates for trueness.

Rotary accumulators are usually supplied with an enclosed cabinet and variable speed controls, using either DC or VFD controllers. Infeed and discharge conveyors are recommended to be designed with a close interface for smooth transfers.  A smooth edge bowl top is available for hand packing applications.

About Multi-Conveyor

Multi-Conveyor specializing in standard and custom conveyor solutions for the packaged food, dairy, pharmaceutical, chemical, industrial, automotive and material handling industries. Customers include integrators, OEMs and end-users. 

What will the plant of the future look like?

What will the plant of the future look like?
Food and beverage packaging plants face more complexity, making it that much more critical to work towards efficiency.

Increasing complexity will drive plant upgrades. Here are five key areas to invest in now so you’ll be prepared later.

At a time when business leaders are screaming for simplicity, with a recent Forbes headline calling for Chief Simplicity Officers, one of the most significant byproducts of progress in the food and beverage industry is complexity.

In fact, our industry will continue to face complexity for the foreseeable future. In a fast-paced competitive landscape, companies must endeavor to keep up with increasing demands from consumers, retailers and regulators while continuing to differentiate their products and keep costs down.

For many, managing that complexity will require improving their plant’s ability to juggle a dizzying number of product formulations and innovations—and to do so in a way that is efficient, smart and safe. This means their operations must save water, energy and human capital while delivering outstanding quality at maximum productivity. In addition, their products must be traceable for food safety. And whether it’s all at once or in phases, creating this “plant of the future” is a project that calls for planning now—a point that manufacturers seem to be taking to heart.

Multiple drivers

Consumer demands for increased variety, at their most basic level, mean running smaller batches of multiple formulations, sizes and even packaging types—endeavors that often decrease plant efficiency and increase waste.

Product protection is taking on new proportions as well. With the lightning speed that news travels these days—by word of mouth or social media—brands and their manufacturing partners must do their utmost to prevent contaminants from entering the food supply. Equally important is quickly understanding and isolating any problems that do occur. For manufacturers, being accountable requires increased traceability capabilities.

But product protection goes beyond food safety. It also means preserving the fresh properties of sometimes delicate natural ingredients in foods and beverages.

As awareness and concern rises about depletion of our planet’s resources and our industry’s impact on climate change, it is not enough to manufacture products faster, cheaper and with higher quality. All the impacts of food, from efficient production of plants through every aspect of their processing and packaging, must be optimized to consume the least amount of resources (that is, energy and water), create the least possible waste and reduce carbon footprints.    

So what are some of the target areas to focus on as producers seek to optimize their plants and make hard choices about current and future priorities?

Five key areas are enhanced information systems, safety/traceability, efficiency, flexibility and a smaller-but-smarter workforce.

1. Information systems

Knowledge really is power today, and the capabilities of newer plant information systems are truly impressive. Minutes of lost production time add up quickly in lost revenue, so having computer systems that can predict a production bottleneck or warn when a machine part may be nearing the end of its lifetime pay for themselves relatively quickly.

Looking beyond today’s cutting edge and even further in the future, Luis Shimabukuro, Tetra Pak’s sales automation manager for Central and South America, sees cloud computing as a game changer. It enables wireless connectivity throughout food and beverage plants and encourages a cleaner environment with far fewer cables and electrical wires.

This technology will enhance an automation solution already on the market called Tetra PlantMaster, a holistic automation solution that controls a plant from ingredient sourcing to consumer. These wireless and cloud computing enhancements will “make it possible for plant managers to reside in the city nearer customers and consumers and still be in complete control of facilities in remote rural places,” adds Anna Paula Herrstrom, coordinator of engineering and automation at Tetra Pak Central and South America. (Currently, Tetra PlantMaster is offered in four implementation stages so that companies can phase it in gradually, spacing out the costs and training requirements.)

2. Safety and traceability

In the near future, food and beverage plants will face even more stringent federal safety and traceability rules. Maximized information can minimize losses and be the difference between internally recalling a pallet that hasn’t gone out and having to publicly pull back a week’s production. Cutting edge equipment and automation systems, such as the Tetra PlantMaster, offers the ability to trace a raw ingredient from the field or farm where it was originated, through delivery, the production process, onto the trucks leaving the warehouse and onto the final destination on shelves and consumers’ homes. In this age of social media, a recall can do lasting damage to a brand with devastating speed.

3. Efficiency

It’s not surprising that newer machines run faster, but the gains in recent years may have plant owners crunching the numbers and struggling to keep production lines current. Five years ago, lines were processing 5,000 to 6,000 aseptic cartons an hour. Now they can do up to 24,000, with the next milestone in sight: 40,000 units per hour. These newer machines use less water and energy, saving money and creating a lower carbon footprint as additional benefits.  

In fact, speed is key. Upgrading old, slower running lines, with newer high-speed lines can be used to reduce operational cost yet maintain throughput. Alternately, new lines can increase throughput using the same plant square footage, since two high-speed lines will generally fit in the same space as three older lines. But adding more packaging capacity becomes a moot point if the upfront processing capacity—notably mixing and blending—can’t be sped up accordingly. Efficiency has become so key that professional consulting services exist to help manufacturers optimize their plants with respect to production, costs and environmental impact.

It’s not hard to see why increased plant efficiency is No. 1 on Tetra Pak’s eight trends that will dominate the food and beverage industry through 2020. 

4. Flexibility

An increasingly competitive food and beverage environment means that line flexibility may be as important as efficiency in some cases. That’s because it allows manufacturers to react quickly to maximize differentiation from competitor products, increase variety in a brand’s offerings and meet consumer demands, while at the same time avoiding costly reinvestment in capital equipment. Flexibility and capability were ranked as more important considerations than production capacity and efficiency for more than 56% of the IDC Manufacturing Insights survey respondents.

5. Smarter workforce

In part due to automation, the food manufacturing plants of the future will continue to operate with fewer but more technologically savvy workers. There will be fewer low-skilled, lower-paid jobs and more at the higher end for employees with advanced skills in information technology.

After several down years, during a time where investment seemed too risky, food and beverage manufacturers now run the risk of failing to act quickly enough. Plant improvements are necessary to grow, to stay in compliance and to do so in an energy efficient and otherwise sustainable way. So it is critical to make timely investments in infrastructure, employees and training to improve production capacity, efficiency, safety, flexibility and, ultimately, company longevity.

For those bold enough to act on the plans they’ve been laying, the time for the plant of the future is now.

Marcelo Ferrer, director of contract manufacturing, Tetra Pak Inc. U.S. & Canada, has been involved with aseptic processing and packaging for 20 years. He oversees a network of contract manufacturers that offers Tetra Pak’s services to food, beverage and dairy customers. Tetra Pak is a global food processing and packaging solutions company. Further insights are available at

The case of the cockeyed cap

The case of the cockeyed cap

Edgar was having a problem with his cap so I went to see.

It was a tall dispensing cap on a soft squeeze bottle. Because it was so tall, it sometimes tipped before being screwed down. When it did, it would crossthread.

"The caps are oriented upright and feed down a track to an escapement." Edgar explained, "A bottle is stopped under the escapement. The chuck spins down, gripping the cap, pushing it through the escapement and screwing it onto the bottle."

"Seems pretty well controlled." I commented

"Yeah", said Edgar, "it is. But still it crossthreads. Everything is perfectly aligned and I can't see the problem. I hope your eyes are better than mine."

I watched for a while and saw some crossthreading but could not see how it was happening. I figured the thing to do was to get some video.

I set up camera to get a close view of the cap placement and hit to record. After several crossthreads, I loaded the video in my laptop and examined it frame by frame. The problem was clear.

"Fiddlesticks on cocked caps, Edgar",

"Watch this. The chuck should capture the cap and push it through the escapement. The escapement is opening first, the cap falls free and the chuck doesn't catch up until it's on the bottle. Adjusting the timing of the escapement will make the problem disappear."

Sometimes we can't see what is in front of my eyes. Video is a valuable tool.

KC Boxbottom, packaging detective, is on the case to solve tough packaging puzzles. He is the alter-ego of John Henry, CPP. Known as the Changeover Wizard, Henry is the owner of, a consulting firm that helps companies find and fix the causes of inefficiencies in their packaging operations. He produces a free monthly newsletter called Lean Changeover, which contains articles and tips on changeover and related issues. Reach him at

3 form/fill/seal machines to help your product stand out

3 form/fill/seal machines to help your product stand out
The EZ-Stand provides the latest method for producing stand-up pouches by enabling traditional vertical form-fill-seal (VFFS) pouches to stand up. The technology pre-applies a bottom gusset to the film, which is then rolled up for later processing on a VFFS machine to create a stand-up pouch with only minor modifications to the sealing jaws. In addition, the company offers new advances to the wicketer product line with the 275W Servo Wicketer.

Looking for form/fill/seal packaging equipment that provides a wide variety of options that lowers your overall cost of ownership by increasing throughput and uptime? Here’s a sneak peak at some solutions you can find at Pack Expo next month, where you can find equipment to bag all kinds of products in a wide range of vertical packaging styles to help your product stand out.

One Direction launches makeup in keepsake tin

One Direction launches makeup in keepsake tin

If you have a teenage daughter, you may have heard of this English-Irish pop boy band based in London. You know, One Direction…

The widely-successful international band is crossing over from the stage to launching their full range of makeup inspired by the band’s legion of fans. The limited-edition keepsake tin design is fun, bold and slightly mischievous like the members of the band. The design showcases a gray scale brick wall pattern giving it an edgy look. Inside the tin casing, there are application tips for the consumer.

The collections feature vibrant shades and premium formulas, all presented in uniquely collectible, limited-edition packaging, and inspired by the band's chart topping albums, "Midnight Memories," "Take Me Home" and "Up All Night."  Also, each of the items inside comes in a sleek black packaging. The only thing that isn’t in black packaging is the nail polish and lipgloss which come in clear packaging with black details.

The line will debut at Macy's, August 10th, as the band simultaneously kicks off the American leg of One Direction's "Where We Are" tour.  Products will be available in other premium retail venues in the U.S. and around the world shortly thereafter.

Make-Up by One Direction is designed and marketed by Markwins Intl., in concert with MCI Beauty Ltd.--a partnership between Markwins Intl., CBBeauty Ltd., and Eden Parfums.

3 form/fill/seal machines to help your product stand out

The EZ-Stand provides the latest method for producing stand-up pouches by enabling traditional vertical form-fill-seal (VFFS) pouches to stand up. The technology pre-applies a bottom gusset to the film, which is then rolled up for later processing on a VFFS machine to create a stand-up pouch with only minor modifications to the sealing jaws. In addition, the company offers new advances to the wicketer product line with the 275W Servo Wicketer.

This gallery offers a sneak peek on what attendees will be seeing in leading-edge form/fill/seal machines at Pack Expo International 2014 from November 2-5 at McCormick Place in Chicago presented by PMMI.

1. EZ-Stand from Hudson Sharp, Pack Expo Booth #S-2100

2. Linear filling machine from INDAG, Pack Expo Booth #E-7362

3. Phaser XP from Parsons-Eagle Packaging Systems, Pack Expo Booth #S-2001

Halloween-themed packaging sparks spending: Gallery

Following the success of last year’s newly designed Halloween cans from Jone's Soda, this year’s edition features two fun flavors that best represent this holiday. Both the Vampire Blood Orange and the Zombie Caramel Apple have been very popular with consumers, with enhanced graphics featured in this year’s edition that better showcase the bold and creative artwork that Jones Soda is known for. Matching colored tabs top off the look and make for a truly unique and visually eye-catching product.

It’s that time of year where summer is behind us and Thanksgiving steadily approaching which can only mean one thing—trick or treat!

This year’s Halloween season is poised to be bigger as the National Retail Federation predicts total Halloween sales will reach $7.4 billion this year as Americans gear up for the holiday. That number is up from $6.9 billion in 2013, when an estimated 158 million people participated in Halloween activities.

Of the total $7.4 billion that the National Retail Federation expects U.S. consumers to spend on Halloween celebrations in 2014, about one-third of that amount will be spent on candy.

Individual spending is expected to reach $77.52 this year, an increase from $75.03 last year.

To capitalize on this spending, there is a plethora of products being launched in Halloween-themed packaging to commemorate the ghoulish holiday.

And it’s not just an American tradition anymore as the Halloween phenomenon has jumped shipped across the pond.

New research from Mintel reveals that retail sales of Halloween products in the UK reached £230 million in 2013 and are expected to grow to around £240 million this year.

In addition, the UK food and drink sector seems to be tapping into the spooky season as the number of food and drink products launched with a mention of Halloween grew 263% between 2009 and 2013. Looking beyond the UK, it seems that the season’s excitement is also spreading, with the number of food and drink products launched globally referencing the event growing by 194% in the five year period to 2013.

Chris Brockman, research mgr., food & drink EMEA at Mintel, says:

“The profile of Halloween has started to climb in the UK in recent years and Britons are increasingly embracing this occasion. Situated between the end of summer and the run-up to Christmas, Halloween offers consumers a reason to celebrate during a relative lull in the calendar year. It appears that Halloween has evolved from being a largely child-focused holiday with a focus on trick-or-treating. Adults have now adopted it as a fully-fledged excuse to throw parties and dress up in ghoulish outfits.”

To capture this rapidly growing market, I’ve singled out several exciting packaging designs.

How 3D printing empowers packaging operations

How 3D printing empowers packaging operations
This porous tray mold made by CIDEAS allows manufacturers to create thermoformed trays for design verification and tweaking.

3D printers have been used for years to make packaging prototypes. But the new frontier for 3D printing is a bit more industrious, as packaging engineers figure out how to use it to help their manufacturing operations. This is one of the hottest areas in 3D printing, according to Mike Littrell, president of CIDEAS, a successful 3D printing and finishing firm. “3D printing won’t replace manufacturing 100%, but it can certainly aid it,” Littrell says.

Here are three ways packaging lines can use 3D printing to save time, materials and money:

1. For making/improving packaging machinery parts. There are several examples of this.

• If parts are no longer available on some of your older machines, consider making them yourself. Engineers can use 3D scanning to reverse engineer an obsolete part, create a CAD file and then make the part on a 3D printer.

• In most cases, 3D printed parts can be produced much faster than on a CNC (computer numerical control) machine.  Engineers can use 3D printing to quickly create a temporary part, fixture, jig or mold to keep the manufacturing line running while the permanent part or mold is machined. Although I say “temporary,” some of these bridge parts/tools are quite robust. At CIDEAS, they currently have custom-made ABS/M100 and polycarbonate parts aiding their own production operations—without failure—for more than 12 years.

• Because 3D printing can build complex parts without the same design constraints of an injection molded one, these parts can be creatively engineered to save material, which also saves costs. One example from CIDEAS is a closure chute made from ABS plastic for a capping machine. It was designed to be built with a sparse lattice of material internally, leaving the exterior surface of the part solid. It is still strong enough to withstand the rigors on the packaging line, yet saves a significant amount of material. Multiply this by the number of ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) parts on a packaging machine and you (or your machinery manufacturer) may realize substantial savings.

Making your own packaging machinery parts, molds, jigs, fixtures or other tools “on demand” also reduces your parts inventory and all those associated costs. And might just help you make a critical product launch date.

2. For accurate scale modeling. Virtual simulation only goes so far. Engineers can create to-scale models of packaging machines to more accurately gauge the spatial layout of a new packaging line/plant.

3. For package design verification and testing on the line. Creating a porous mold used for thermoforming, for example, allows packaging engineers to more quickly create various pack designs for testing to see how minute changes may improve the flow of the package on the filling line.

6 tips on how buying teams should work the show

6 tips on how buying teams should work the show

Whether your team is two or 12 people, make the most of your investment in Pack Expo by setting clear goals in advance.

The latest in packaging technologies will be on display at Pack Expo in November. Knowing that my colleagues and I at Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions have attended the show countless times over the years, buying teams often ask us for tips on how to efficiently and effectively cover the show floor. Here are recommendations we share with clients and friends to help them make the most of their investment in Pack Expo and ensure they gain several new ideas and insights.

1. Before arriving in Chicago, identify individuals/teams and their respective charters at the show. Will they seek out innovation, cost reduction opportunities, specialty topics such as the environment or regulations? All teams should have a clear understanding of their objectives for attending Pack Expo, as well as a roadmap to help them achieve their goals, complete with a list of vendors to visit, exhibitions to attend and technologies to review.

2. Develop a template to capture information. This could be an Excel spreadsheet, Word document or other proprietary tool. The only requirement is that it must be EASY to populate, sort, read and share. Consider the information you hope to gather and create fields accordingly. Include space for teams to record ideas, list potential applications of the technology and innovations they uncover, capture conversation notes from the show floor and identify follow-up action items.

3. Watch and listen. Ask questions, engage with others and meet new contacts. You never know where you will meet a new partner, discover a lead, learn about a new technology or uncover the latest trend. Don’t forget to ask the exhibitors what is new that they are not showing—this is how you get the latest information and insight!

4. Upload information, insights and findings from the show and share with colleagues (including those not attending Pack Expo who may have cost or benefit knowledge) each day. Invite their feedback and questions. Leverage their input to shape the next day's agenda, plan follow-up meetings and research.

5. Build in time to revisit booths and platforms and bring colleagues on return trips. Pack Expo is huge and there is a lot to see—so it can be tempting to schedule every second of every day. Don’t. Allow time to change course and adapt plans during the event based on others’ feedback. Return to booths and reevaluate innovations in a new light; drill down for more information. Broaden your perspective to uncover macro trends. What themes do you see emerging at the show that will influence the future of your business?

6. Don't forget measurement. Measure against short-term objectives at the show. Did teams visit all of their targets? Also develop simple measurements of ideas to platforms to projects to commercialization to demonstrate the show’s value and determine next year’s scope of involvement.

A little preparation goes a long way. Take the time to develop a strategy for your visit to Pack Expo and you’ll likely increase your ROI tremendously.

Good luck and I’ll see you in Chicago!


Michael "Mike" Richmond, vp at Packaging Technology Integrated Solutions, is a leader in providing strategic and operational expertise across the packaging value chain, to help you grow your business and position your brand with maximum impact for people, planet and profit.