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Articles from 2015 In October

3 auger filler improvements save time, ease cleaning

New auger filling innovations help enable fast changeovers (to reduce downtime), easy cleaning (to ensure food safety) and product savings (to improve profitability). This trio of improvements from Spee-Dee Packaging Machinery was seen at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2015.

1. Split hopper: Getting inside the hopper of an auger filler to switch out the screw or make sure it is properly cleaned has been difficult at best in days past. Now, a new split-hopper design gives you easy access to critical areas. Not only is it easier to reach these areas for cleaning, but you can now see them to visually confirm that they are, indeed, clean—something that was nearly impossible to do before.

Timm Johnson, Spee-Dee’s vp sales and marketing, demonstrates in the video above just how quick and easy it is to open the two-piece hopper.

Made of FDA-compliant, food-grade molded urethane, the split hopper is lightweight—about one-third the weight of the company’s previous stainless steel hopper. This makes it easier to handle and install. The urethane can be molded in any color to complement or match brand colors of existing or new equipment (such as form-fill-sealers).

A safety interlock switch prevents the system from running when the hopper is opened. Additionally, the hopper can open to the left or right, depending on what’s best for your specific operation and packaging line layout.

Silicone gaskets are chemically attached to the top and bottom of the hopper to provide secure sealing and easy wipe-down cleaning.

2. Quick disconnect on the screw: A sliding key acts like a quick-disconnect seen on many hardware tools such as drills. This tool-less feature lets you easily remove the auger for better cleaning or to change the screw for another product set-up.

3. Vacuum tooling: You might think drips or stringing between auger revolutions is just something you have to put up with in powder filling. But now you can stop the mess and the product giveaway to help improve your operation’s profitability.

With this vacuum tooling, which is engaged automatically at the end of the filling cycle, product flow is cut off cleanly.

It works this way: A central funnel fits inside an outer vacuum funnel. This dual-funnel system has a sintered mesh stainless steel multi-layer screen in the central funnel at the bottom of the auger. Vacuum is activated through this screen, which densifies the product and stops its flow.

Watch a video clip of the vacuum tooling in action here.


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.


13 spook-tacular candy packages for Halloween

13 spook-tacular candy packages for Halloween
Happy Halloween!

Clever graphics on stand-up pouches—along with traditional characters and color schemes—are helping to sell Halloween candy to a most-receptive audience. Americans are expected to spend a whopping $2.6 billion (with a B!) on candy for this year’s holiday, according to the National Confectioners Assn.

A recent visit to a local Walmart superstore unearthed a bevy of bags and boxes—adorned with witches, zombies and monsters, oh my!—that are a real treat for the gremlins ringing doorbells on Saturday.

Among the notable Halloween candy packaging trends I see:

• The majority of secondary packages are flexible bags or pouches—with more stand-up pouches than I ever remember seeing before (gotta love that vertical display!). There were only a couple cartons and other rigid packages in an entire aisle of offerings. (As you may know, flexible packaging can be difficult to photograph sometimes. My apologies if the images aren’t the best.)

• A lot of clear windows show the inner beauty of the primary packs, many of which have matching or complementary graphics.

• Faces looking at you make you look at them. Eyes, in particular, draw consumers’ attention to many of these products.

• Traditional orange and black colors are prevalent—making these packages fade a bit in a sea of sameness.

• A handful of products created “fall” graphics rather than Halloween-specific images, perhaps to help extend the selling period past Oct. 31.

• All of the Halloween candy in the aisle at this Walmart store was shipped in retail-ready displays (see below). This makes the shelves easy to stock and presents an organized look, but the edges and bottoms of the cases hid a bit too much of the bags, pouches and cartons—taking away from their shelf impact. Also, removing the package wasn’t always easy.

Take a look…if you dare…

First up…

Mouths to feed

Betty Crocker fruit snacks (see image above) use a traditional jack-o-lantern smile to show the special Spooky Shapes of the candies. The paperboard carton screams “Halloween” (literally, through the main text, as well as with the images). Do we really need the tag line “Great for Trick-or-Treating and Halloween parties!”? Graphics are designed for horizontal or vertical display in stores (see below).

Are you like me and like to buy variety packs for Halloween? The open mouths of these monsters show what delicious candy is inside from The Hershey Co., along with the brand logos plastered on the top of the pouch. From ghosts to witches and (not shown) mummies, the fun characters engage well on these flat-bottom stand-up pouches. It’s hard to tell from these examples, but it looks like the color scheme of the outer pouch reflects some of the colors of the inner snack packs.


NEXT: Variety show

Variety show

Wrigley/Mars dresses this Skittles and Starbursts variety pack in orange and black, with subtle silhouettes of ghosts, bats and other shapes—including the initial “S” from each brand. A black belt cinches the waist and calls attention to the total count, which is front and center. The lower half of the horizontal pillow pack is clear to show the inner snack packs.

Nestle’s variety pack combines orange punch Spooky Nerds, skulls and bones SweeTarts, and carmel apple Laffy Taffy candies. The green background nicely creates a trick-or-treating scene with bats and costumed kids (seen better in the close-up shot). Again, a clear window lets the inner branded packs show through.


NEXT: Monsters and mayhem

Monsters and mayhem

Not sure if this Zombie food from Skybar is supposed to feed Zombies to keep them from eating you or if these are parts of Zombies for you to eat! A clear section of this Doyen-style stand-up pouch lets you see the packs inside. Holding 14 ounces of candies gives this pack a strong vertical presence on shelf. A call-out in the upper right lets consumers know these body parts are Made in the U.S.A. And a clever scar graphic in the upper left show where to unzip (open) the bag, along with the instructions to “Tear here to devour brains.”

Frankford Body Parts graphics on this flat-bottom stand-up pouch tap into the Frankenstein-piece-it-together monster with a large clear section on the front panel that shows off the inner packs—also with plenty of clear areas so you can see their “5 Different Gruesome Gummies” inside. Who knew body parts were so appetizing…eewww.

Snack-size Twizzlers Twists lay-flat bag keeps its red brand color and simply uses a Frankenstein-esque monster as the main graphic. A clear window in the lower right corner lets you see the inner packs. An official-looking medallion in the prime upper left corner identifies Universal Studios as the “Home of the Original Monsters.” Is that a strong selling point to parents buying Halloween candy?

Nabisco’s Spooky Edition of Fun Snacks Mix brings together five different popular baked snacks into one 30-count carton. Showing the regular product packages taps into the equity of these well-known brands. The vampire graphics show how non-traditional color schemes—purple and yellow, in this case—can work well and help make the product stand out amid all the other orange and black.


NEXT: Fall-centered graphics

Fall-centered graphics

York’s special pumpkin-shaped peppermint patties are packaged in a stand-up pouch decorated with falling leaves and an orange color scheme, extending the life of this particular package beyond just the Halloween holiday. Instead of a window to show the inner packs, they are printed on the outer graphics.

Graphics for Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers in a stand-up pouch go the fall harvest route, with a field in silhouette, complete with pumpkins and a scarecrow. The brand’s signature Goldfish character even dons a scarecrow hat. One of the pumpkins looks like it has been carved open to hold the inner snack bags, which also have Halloween-related graphics, including a black background and orange color scheme. Colorful fall leaves frame the top, left and bottom.

The pillow pack of Hershey’s Miniatures uses golden and russet colors often seen in fall foliage. I do like how the colors are repeated in the word “miniatures.” However, a cartoony bird and squirrel are a bit of a childish disconnect to an otherwise more grown up design.


NEXT: Tradition! Tradition.

Tradition! Tradition.

PEZ Candy & Dispenser hopes traditional Halloween connections—an orange color scheme and the usual cast of characters (witches, black cats, vampires and pumpkins)—are enough to attract sales this holiday. One more-modern boost is the glow-in-the-dark material for the dispenser, which gives extra novelty to the product. The reddish-purple PEZ brand color on the candy packs stands out, but garishly so. I think they missed an opportunity to complement this special product with an orange or black wrap for the candy to go all out for Halloween.


Great minds think alike…Remember the Wrigley/Mars variety pack with Skittles and Starburts (on p.2)? This Reese’s Boo! bag follows a similar design layout, with a black band in the center and clear window below. Bats and spiders (in the shape of a half-eaten Reese’s cup, no less) provide a scary Halloween setting. Again, the individual packs mirror the graphics of the outer bag and reinforce the uniqueness of the product itself: an orange-colored cup imprinted with the word “Boo!”


What designs resonate with you and why? Here’s what made it into my cart:


Passionate about packaging design? Learn about the latest developments in packaging innovation at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.

Smart label secures Fresh & Easy seafood safety

Smart label secures Fresh & Easy seafood safety
Consumer-readable seafood label indicates the species-specific effects of cumulative temperature over time on packaged product quality and safety.

Retailer chain Fresh & Easy’s branded seafood packaging carries a Fresh Meter time-temperature-indicator (TTI) label that, activated inline during packaging, provides assurance of high-quality, safe foods from store to home.

In recognizing October as National Seafood Month, it’s appropriate to celebrate it Packaging Digest style by highlighting a smart packaging-driven development that also encompasses the crucial topic of food safety.

Fresh & Easy, based in Torrance, CA, is a retail grocery chain in the western U.S. that operates 97 stores in the Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix areas. It has recently boosted the food safety of its packaged seafood in a consumer-friendly way: All of its stores sell seafood labeled with a “Fresh Meter” time-temperature indicator from Bizerba USA to ensure the delivery of safe products on shelf and into consumers’ homes.

“Fresh and Easy has always carried a great assortment of fresh and previously frozen, responsibly sourced seafood from the best fishmongers,” says Matthew Lovell, brand development, Fresh & Easy. “Our seafood vendors worked hand in hand with us to develop the Fresh Meter as they also see it as a great way to communicate freshness and quality to our customers.  The application of the Fresh Meter has been automated as well (vs. the old TTI) saving time in production.”

Two processors, Santa Monica Seafood and Pacific American Fish Co. (PAFCO), provide the retail chain with the packaged Fresh Meter-labeled fish. PAFCO’s website even includes this web page that explains the use of modified-atmosphere packaging and the Fresh Meter indicator.

The Fresh Meter is only as accurate as that of the research on the product side to determine the quality shelf life of the different species and products in the program. Fresh & Easy’s research was conducted by its own food safety scientists and at Bizerba’s laboratory in Germany that together was coordinated with the two seafood vendors.

“They worked through extensive validation to ensure the Fresh Meter met the FDA Seafood HACCP regulations for modified atmosphere packaged fish and customer acceptance of the label design,” says Lovell. “This partnership led to a new, novel printing process for the label and opened the possibilities of new fresh foods utilizing the Fresh Meter.”

The 4-foot-wide seafood display at a Fresh & Easy store that features the Fresh Meter-labeled products.

How it works: Activated inline

Fresh Meter is a branded application of Bizerba’s “OnVu” technology that uses “intelligent” temperature-sensitive ink to print the dynamic indicator. The specialty ink comprises the bulls-eye on the Fresh Meter label that’s surrounded by an outer ring printed in regular ink that serves as the standard. The preprinted labels are provided to the processing and packaging plant and are activated inline after tray sealing. That’s done by a specialized, microwave-oven sized activator/labeler near the end of the processor’s packaging line that activates the Smart Meter using ultraviolet light. When activated, the Fresh Meter indicator’s dynamic inner circle turns bright blue and immediately begins sensing the temperature of the products over time. Consumers can compare that dynamic center circle to the surrounding static-color ring; the latter is printed blue to gray to know when the seafood is fresh (blue) and when it is not (gray).

Bizerba reports that the custom system can apply the Fresh Meter at rates to 120 labels per minute. The implementation of the automatic inline activation and application of the Fresh Meter label was made in June.

The entire process begins with the quality of the fresh seafood.

“Our vendors select sustainably sourced, excellent quality seafood,” says Lovell. “The seafood makes it from their highly skilled fish cutters tables to our stores in about 48 hours.  This is faster and fresher than you will find at any grocery fish counter.  We use modified atmosphere packaging, which keeps the fish fresher, longer.  Our quality and value for seafood is excellent.”

Education also plays a key role in the program’s success.

Next: More details including education

Two-pronged education programs

Lovell points out that their program addresses two groups, store employees and customers for these reasons:

  • We need store employees to use the Fresh Meter to manage the freshness of the products for sale. 
  • We need customers to use the fresh meter to select the freshest fish and ensure the quality and safety until they use it.  The Fresh Meter lets the customer know, even in their home fridge if the product is fresh and safe. 

“We have not added extra signage in store at this time as we’re trying a slow roll out of the technology to gauge consumer acceptance through sales and direct feedback,” Lovell says. “We also designed the Fresh Meter to be simple enough to use without added marketing or education. The philosophy is that the customer has to ‘get it’ by looking at it once.”

Lovell says the FreshMeter technology fills a crucial gap in the safety of packaged seafood.

“No one in the market is offering a solution for customers to know the freshness at the time of purchase through the time they take it home, store it, and consume it,” he says. “Traditional fish-cutting counters in stores have no way of demonstrating how fresh the fish is and consumers don’t know if they’ve handled the fish safely.  Who knows how long it’s been in the hot car?  Who knows if it’s still fresh in their fridge at home?  Now they can.”

Easy & Fresh is also exploring other ways to use the Fresh Meter.

“In our fresh, ready-to-eat food and produce processing (value added) facilities, we’re exploring ways to apply Fresh Meter technology to demonstrate the value of the Fresh & Easy brand,” says Lovell. “Delivering ‘fresh’ to our customers is our core value and the Fresh Meter is our innovative, industry-leading solution.”

A backstory and more details from Bizerba

Pedro Garza, Bizerba USA’s regional sales manager, industrial product manager, label technologies, says the company’s Smart label technology had been in development since 2008, but it wasn’t ready for the U.S. marketplace until 2014 “after going through various design iterations and improvements.  We had to go back to the drawing board a few times to make sure that the label would resonate with the end consumer.  It’s all about the shoppers’ experience to quickly understand what the label does and how it functions, all at a quick glance. I think we have achieved that.”

Bizerba has experience with the OnVu Smart Label in Europe.

“We have had some success in launching the label on pork products as well as fresh cut produce,” says Garza. “We are in projects and discussions with U.S. based brands for convenience and ready-to-eat foods which we think present a great opportunity for the Fresh Meter since these particular category of foods are consumed without ever being cooked. For these foods, maintaining freshness via the cold chain is of the utmost importance.  Santa Monica Seafood has been a valued partner of ours. They are very well respected and have an impressive list of customers that trust them to supply fresh and safe seafood.  For us, the application at SMS provides a solid reference for other perishable categories to model.  If we can ensure the freshness of seafood, we can ensure the freshness of a whole suite of other perishables to the end consumer.”

He says the success with Fresh & Easy proves the technology can be adapted for other products and for products with differing shelf lives.

“One of the reasons we have achieved success with the OnVu FreshMeter is because of the inherent ability for the technology to be tailor fit to the shelf life of the product that it is going on,” he explains. “Without being disruptive to the production process, we can easily tune the label to match the shelf life of the various products that are being packed. We do this by our proprietary UV light activation process.  In terms of the label design, we worked closely with the Fresh & Easy brand development team to choose a design that would meet the technical requirements for the Seafood HACCP code, but would also resonate well with the end customer.”

Note: as this article was finalized we learned that the chain was closing stores and considering bankruptcy, according to an article in the LA Times.

Smart packaging will be presented in a case study, New Developments in Smart Technologies and Intelligent Labeling, during SouthPack in Orlando, FL, on Thursday Nov. 19.

You’ll find more on Smart Packaging at


Passionate about packaging? Learn about the latest developments in packaging innovation at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.


3 ways to connect with consumers using socially and emotionally engaging brand packaging

3 ways to connect with consumers using socially and emotionally engaging brand packaging
In a successful social media campaign, Doritos created a special product and packaging to raise awareness and support for the young LGBT community.

How can you create packaging that engages consumers emotionally, especially through social media? S.W.I.M. (Savvy Women in Marketing) founder Ann Hoeger and I hosted an Influencer Salon in early October with some of Chicago’s top executives in branding and packaging to discuss their ideas on engaging consumers through virtual touch and sight. During this curated discussion we covered innovative ideas and emerging trends, along with sharing and learning from a peer group of experienced and talented senior industry executives.

Here are three takeaways from the “Brand Packaging that is Socially and Emotionally Engaging” Influencer Salon:

1. Cause marketing with customized product and digital packaging

The first example we discussed was the Doritos campaign entitled #BOLDANDBETTER. This recent campaign was a partnership in support of the non-profit It Gets Better Project. The organization’s mission is to communicate to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth around the world that acceptance in the world gets better, and to create and inspire the changes needed to make it better for them.

The integrated campaign was an innovative example of cause marketing that resonated across social media and demonstrated that social good is important to consumers. The campaign also highlighted a few trends:

Ecommerce: The campaign, which launched on social media and shipped bags direct to consumers after they made a donation, was a clever way for Doritos to test ecommerce waters. This unique, limited-time offering for a $10 donation did not disrupt the company’s in-store business. The Doritos chips were in a custom color mix of purple, blue, green, original Doritos color yellow and red, and were packaged in a custom white bag with a bold rainbow (see photo above).

Digital Printing: The differentiating design of the packaging was discussed as a potentially high performer on the retail shelf, too, (if offered in stores) as the striking white and bold rainbow graphics could potentially make an impact on shelf. This packaging was also a powerful example of the advancements and new marketing opportunities that digital printing provides consumer product marketers.

Cause Marketing: This integrated campaign was an impressive example of cause marketing that resonated across social media and ultimately drove brand sales by selling out in about two days.

NEXT: Packaging that impacts subscription services

2. Packaging that impacts subscription services

Another point of discussion was the role of packaging to engage customer experience for subscription services. Brands either take advantage or miss the opportunities to use packaging to enhance the total customer experience.

One example of a brand taking full advantage of the customer experience is This service delivers monthly razors and shaving related products. With a smart and selective use of packaging, expressions of the brand are delivered at key consumer touch points: delivery into the home, bathroom-specific packaging and the entertaining bathroom minutes in a humorous tone that keeps customers engaged with the products beyond the day of delivery.

NEXT: Custom packaging--Minions!--that delivers an engaging experience

3. Custom packaging that delivers an engaging experience

One example of a recent custom packaging experience was the Minions boxes that were sent to customers. These striking yellow boxes stood out in the lobby of one influencer’s building and she could quickly identified which box to claim.

This marketing deal from Universal Pictures and Amazon was a hit and we discussed the multiple exposures of the Minions as boxes travelled and arrived at their destinations. This Minions box truly doubled as a billboard.

The campaign also included the Twitter hashtag #minionsboxes and images of boxes are being shared daily with photos of kids, dogs and adults overjoyed with their box covered in Minions characters. Added engagement with customers, movie fans and kids across social media, in living rooms and on delivery trucks was a success for all brands as the sharing still continues.

These are just a few of the trends and ideas discussed at the “Brand Packaging that is Socially and Emotionally Engaging” Influencer Salon.

If you are interested in S.W.I.M. (Savvy Women in Marketing), a Chicago-based networking community of more than 700 executive women marketers, or want to know more about Influncer Salons and future events, please contact me at [email protected] or Ann Hoeger at [email protected]. In addition to being the founder of S.W.I.M., Hoeger is a consumer strategist who works with advertising agencies and innovation firms, leveraging consumer insights to develop new products, big idea platforms and marketing communication plans.

Lisa Baer is an experienced brand strategist and senior marketer who has created innovative brands, reinvented and leveraged products into new channels and categories in the food, beverage and consumer packaged goods industries. Her specialization is new product and packaging innovation. She is a results-oriented executive who has worked with Fortune 500 companies building cross-functional innovation teams to capture, champion and execute growth strategies.



Passionate about packaging design? Learn about the latest developments in packaging innovation at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.


A clearer path to food safety compliance

A clearer path to food safety compliance
Everyone servicing the food industry should anticipate being targeted on some level for a qualitative food safety preparedness evaluation, says author Gary Kestenbaum.

A range of industry factors have led to the point that independent food safety audits are now a normal and necessary component within the food supply chain. Food safety packaging expert Gary Kestenbaum provides guidance.

Regardless of risk level or food contact status, businesses that provide non-comestible goods and services in support of the food industry including  packaging, equipment, utensils, storage,  transportation and related services  are likely to be required by customers to participate in food safety program awareness and prevention evaluation. Manufacturers and suppliers are best positioned to respond appropriately and calmly when food safety-related objectives are understood and anticipated in advance of partner requests for proof of action and compliance.   


Increasingly, businesses involved in every facet of the food industry are being required to provide proof of food safety, understanding, compliance and “suitability.”  Clients are likely to define adequate proof or evidence as compliance with thresholds and expectations that they have implemented as standards for their business or industry. Clients use various strategies and processes to develop and set supply chain partner food safety program  standards  and expectations. Recipients of such requirements should presume that the client  has invested significant money and resources (internal and external) into  development and implementation of its food safety program  prior to onboarding and implementation.

The term “suitability” may be objectively and subjectively defined by the client.  Clients are keenly interested in supply-chain partner product suitability, use suitability as per government and industry guidelines and regulations, manufacturing facility suitability, procurement process suitability and so forth. Presume that “suitability” relates to broad, important criteria defined by the client, the client’s advisors or an entity within the client’s supply chain.

A range of factors including the impacts of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), enhancement of FDA involvement, consumer awareness and related initiatives by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) or organizations with similar intent contribute to a global understanding that independent food safety audits and compliance verification are now a normal and necessary component within the food supply chain. This applies to comestibles and non-comestibles alike.

Depending upon many circumstances including risk level, business decisions, practicality and other relevant criteria, the client mandate for proof or evidence of program compliance and product/service suitability may or may not be negotiable. Regardless, understand the general client objective. The client is applying self-determined, focused criteria to assess the food safety and suitability risks and related control program status of its supply-chain partners.  Processes for performing assessments vary, but objectives align. Clients begin the supply chain integrity protection process by obtaining a functional overview and summary of supplier/vendor/service provider understanding, preparedness, practices, risk potential and related food safety control.

Balanced and cordial relationships between supply chain partners on the subject of food safety are best maintained via consistent in-person communication with key food safety or quality department stakeholders and champions from each organization. Those conversations will help all involved parties to more fully understand how and why client-defined compliance criteria were chosen.  In any event, everyone servicing the food industry should anticipate being targeted on some level for a qualitative food safety preparedness evaluation

Readers will be best equipped to respond to and prepare for food safety-related analyses when they understand the purpose, objectives and benefits of industry-standard evaluation methodologies.

Typical techniques for assessing food safety and suitability status  

Expect clients, supply-chain partners or their representatives to communicate with you as they attempt to initiate their version of a food safety facility,  process and component assessment. The assessment may be performed directly by the client, or in many cases, delegated to an independent representative, firm or consultant.  Initial or otherwise, communications are intended to:

  • Inform the recipient of the client food safety target objectives;
  • Inform the recipient of client process, procedures and requirements;
  • Request specific information, activity and conformance by the recipient; and
  • Require the recipient to perform, schedule or submit to specified action or interaction.

The commonality of the above actions and objectives is that  it functions as a method to assemble, disclose and disseminate information specific to the targeted partner and, likely, one or more of its processes, personnel and facilities.

Technique 1:  Food safety assessment

Often times, the client or partner will initiate this process by asking for a food safety assessment. The initiator of this request may suggest that the recipient self-assess its  process, product and facility, or alternately, may ask that an assessment be prepared or provided by a specified person or entity.

One might compare a food safety assessment to the lengthy and comprehensive questionnaire a patient is required to complete in advance of an initial physician office visit and prior to a physical examination.

Consider that the client, partner or requestor is providing the recipient with a statement of objective, which, generally, is the necessity to control the safety, suitability and consistency of food –related materials, products and services.  In order to accomplish that objective, the recipient is asked to complete a self-assessment questionnaire and disclosure document.  Part of the process often includes a request to provide related first, second or third party disclosure documents and certifications intended to function as evidence of food safety understating, risk control and preparedness.

Most questionnaires will address type of certifications available and the certifying authorities, the extent of the food safety program and level in effect, the age of the facility and whether or not it has recently undergone a food safety audit, the extent to which the facility can verify the purity and suitability of its raw materials and many other relevant data, all of which will indicate just how prepared the facility is to meet client expectations. Be assured that if the questionnaire is not fully or adequately completed, or if requested ancillary documents are not provided, it acts as evidence that the supplier is not prepared or willing to meet client food safety expectations or requirements due to gaps in control and verification.

In Part 2 next week, we will explore and describe food and packaging safety audits and evaluations. 

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. 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 [email protected] or 410-484-9133. The website is


Passionate about packaging? Learn about the latest developments in packaging innovation at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.


Are seniors top of mind when you design your packages?

Are seniors top of mind when you design your packages?
If seniors can't read a package, they often don't buy the product.

When it comes to packaging that addresses their specific needs, especially around readability, seniors have friends and foes. Considering that people over the age of 60 will be the fastest-growing consumer group for the rest of this century, according to A.T. Kearney’s Global Maturing Consumer study, it’s surprising that pleasing this powerful buying group isn’t on every packaging designer’s To Do list.

In an online poll in September 2015, Packaging Digest asked packaging professionals “In general, do you consider the needs of seniors when designing your packages?” While the overall numbers seemed to be in line with what you might expect—39% of respondents Always or Usually consider seniors’ needs, 24% Sometimes do, 28% Seldom or Never do and only 9% said they Don’t Know—the results were interesting when broken down by markets segments.

On the up side, two thirds of respondents in the Personal Care/Cosmetics markets indicate they Always or Usually consider seniors’ needs, and the remaining third say they Sometimes do. All respondents from this market segment are aware and try to accommodate the packaging needs of the elderly—A+ for them!—because, as one Personal Care/Cosmetics person states, “If a senior can't read a label, they generally won't buy the item.”

Respondents in the prescription and over-the-counter Pharmaceutical market are also almost two-thirds positive, with 63% answering Always or Usually. Sometimes and Never/Don’t Know is equally split at 18% each.

Pharmaceutical respondents are well aware of the benefits of catering to the older population, as well as the risks. “They make up the majority of our customers,” says one participant. Another one writes, “They are a large part of the population with great buying power.”

In a more neutral position, our Food/Beverage industry respondents sit mostly in the Sometimes spot, with 58% choosing this option. The positive end of the spectrum is a weightier than the negative end, with 29% selecting Always or Usually and just 18% picking Seldom or Never.

But sometimes a designer’s options are limited by available packaging technology, as this participant explains: “Many times our designs incorporate graphic features for the elderly by default. That is, larger type fonts are used because the flexographic print process has some size restrictions. Those sizes are being reduced though because of the better presses.”

Other times, even if seniors regularly buy the product, designers are told to go in a different direction. “Really is a spec from marketing and the new wave is to attract millennials,” says a Beverage packaging professional. And this Food respondent says, “Most of the packaging we design for is targeting a younger demographic.”

On the down side, 50% of respondents in three markets—Medical Devices/Supplies, Household Products and Electronics—Seldom or Never consider the needs of the elderly when designing their packages.

Why not? The reasons range from lame to legitimate.

“Never thought of it before,” says one poll participant in the Medical segment. Another Medical participant writes that a “large font can take away from aesthetically pleasing packaging design.” A third Medical-related poll taker admits, “Regulatory requirements can take priority and conflict with considerations for elderly consumers ease-of-use needs.”

A respondent in Household Products explains that there is “not enough space for larger print,” a point Packaging Digest explored in the article “Small packs that talk big come to the aid of seniors,” which focused specifically on the readability of packages, since this is a major point of contention with this age group.

Our exclusive poll explored the readability issue, too.

Unfortunately, older consumers will need to keep their bifocals or magnifying glass handy because the top pick, at 38%, is “Not addressing this issue.”

Say what?!

Again, a closer look market by market is revealing. Of our respondents, 75% of those in Household Products say they are not addressing this issue. Next down on the list, at 67%, are those in the Medical Devices/Supplies market, followed by participants in the Beverage business at 50%.

The only market where zero respondents said they were not addressing this issue is Electronics, which is somewhat surprising since the majority of buyers of laptops, smartphones and other tech devices are probably well shy of being eligible for an AARP membership. But the percentage of respondents saying they work in Electronics was pretty low at 9% (see “Respondents” chart at the end of the article).

For this question, people could select more than one choice, so the total exceeds 100%. The next highest option, at 34% is “Using less text, but larger.” As this Food respondent says, “Most graphic artists are young and have great eyesight. While they can read a 6-point font, most older people cannot. This could be anyone in their 30s, 40s or 50s.” This same participant points out that readability isn’t just about size. ”While the font size is an issue, there is also the issue of contrast—having too similar colors as a font and background that is just not readable.”

It’s a good point to make, that people over 60 aren’t the only ones straining to read text on a package. “We have some over 45s on our staff and they always say ‘I can't see it!’” says this Pharmaceutical packaging professional. This respondent in the Electronics field agrees, “There are many individuals who have visual impairments and I would like to think that we strive to serve everyone to the best of our ability.”

The good news is that solutions abound, including two more that were on our list of choices.

About a fifth (18%) selected “Using multi-ply labels for additional surfaces” and just 8% chose “Using a package that is larger than needed for the product.” That is just what this Electronics respondent admits: “Many times we package the product in a box or plastic container to provide more space for valuable information to be printed on.”

Making packages easier to read can be accomplished many ways, including a combination of solutions. This Pharmaceutical participant describes that they are “using a multi-panel label with multiple pages and large text.” Another Pharmaceutical survey taker writes in an option—often used now in this age of ubiquitous smartphones and internet access—that wasn’t in our list: “Product inserts and references to website directions as well.”

As many package developers know, packages that are easy for older consumers to handle and read often appeal just as well to other demographics. What’s good for them is good for others.

So, why should you keep seniors top of mind when creating your packaging? “Because we want everyone to be able to use our products,” says this Electronics packaging professional.



Passionate about packaging design? Learn about the latest developments in packaging innovation at SouthPack 2015, Nov. 18-19, in Orlando, FL.


Quick-change case taper also creates easy-open feature

With the new Folded-Edge Technology, this tape sealer automatically creates an easy-open feature so cases can be opened without a knife or other potentially dangerous cutting tool. As seen in the video above, which was shot at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2015, both horizontal edges of the tape are folded over to create mini flaps on both sides of the tape along the length of the case. Users can pull up on either of the flaps to rip off the tape and gain access to the inside without any damage to the contents. No special tape is needed and the seal remains secure throughout distribution.

Additionally, with the two-part PrimeLoc tape applicator—which can be retrofit onto existing case sealers—users can quickly and easily swap out tape heads on ShurSeal case sealers when the roll runs down and needs to be replaced. Changeover can be done in 10 seconds or less by simply replacing the tape head on the machine with a second one that has been pre-threaded with a new roll.

In the second part of the 1-minute video, Shurtape’s packaging market manager Bill DeWitt demonstrates how easy it is to swap out the tape heads.

The case of the slipping cap

The case of the slipping cap
KC Boxbottom solves a capping conundrum to prevent scuffs on closures.

Aly came into the office and showed me a bottle cap.

"It looks scuffed up," I told her.

"It is, and I don't understand why. It has been running fine for years and all of a sudden the chuck starts slipping. When it slips, it scuffs the cap."

I rode with her out to the plant and we were soon looking at the capper. "It's been running fine until recently?" I asked

"Yes. No problems at all."

"Something has changed, Aly. What?"

"No, KC, we've not changed anything. Same machine, same operators, same settings."

"Aly, when a machine is running well and starts having problems, there is always something that changed. Right now we need to figure out what it was. Have there been any supplier changes?"

She looked thoughtful. "Not that I know of but we can check with purchasing.”

A few minutes later the purchasing manager was telling us that, yes, they had moved to a new cap supplier but the caps were exactly the same. Since it was the "same" cap, there had been no need to tell packaging about it.

Back on the line, we fitted old and new caps into a chuck.

"Fiddlesticks on 'same' caps," I exclaimed. "There's your problem. The serrations on the cap and chuck don't match any more. They don't lock together mechanically like they used to. Now all you have is friction and the cap slips.

"You need new chucks or old caps. That'll fix it. You know how you like to be 'in the groove'? So do your chucks."


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at MinnPack 2015, Nov. 4-5, in Minneapolis.


Full-color 3D printing simplifies the packaging decoration process

Full-color 3D printing simplifies the packaging decoration process
Samples of 3D printed items show how intricate the application of color during the printing process can be.

Most packaging prototypes created on 3D printers are decorated in a secondary process, usually by adding a label after the fact. But did you know that you can create full/multi-color prototypes or parts in one step?

The samples seen at the Northeast CNC Technologies booth at PhillyPack 2015 (see photo above) show how intricately color can be incorporated into packages or parts being created. The globe, for example, accurately depicts land, water and other geological features.

Northeast CNC Technologies is the Mid-Atlantic distributor for 3D Systems, a company that provides 3D digital design and fabrication solutions, including 3D printers, print materials and cloud-sourced custom parts.

Here’s how it works: 3D Systems’ ColorJet Printing (CJP) technology uses an inkjet-like printing head that adds liquid color over the bed of powder material in cross sections to create colored packages and parts.

Adding four CJP printing heads with blue (cyan), red (magenta), yellow and black (CMYK) gives you the full color gamut to reproduce nearly any printed package in one step, saving time, effort and cost by eliminating the secondary decorating step.


Passionate about 3D Printing? Learn about the latest developments at MinnPack 2015, Nov. 4-5, in Minneapolis.


When should packaging designers tap into the creativity of an outside artist?

When should packaging designers tap into the creativity of an outside artist?
Pepsi's consumer-generated design contest started with inspiration from Nicolas Formichetti, an Italian-Japanese fashion director and fashion editor.

Packaging design ideas don’t happen in a vacuum. Inspiration comes from all over. But how do you know when you need to go after it more aggressively? One way to up your game is to perhaps create “collectable magic” by working with an artist outside your arena.

Here’s why, courtesy of Michelle Greenwald, former vp at Disney and Pepsi, and marketing professor at Columbia Business School and at NYU’s Stern School of Business.

Michelle Greenwald

Greenwald is also author of the book “Catalyzing Innovation,” which specifically explores packaging design. In addition, she is the founder/CEO of Inventours, whose upcoming Immersive Innovation Program (Nov 2-6; Paris) will take c-suite execs to meet with a "who's who" of Parisian innovators, such as Charles Znaty, president of Pierre Hermé, about collaboration with artists on product and package design.

Why should packaging designers look to artists in various other domains for inspiration or collaboration?

Greenwald: Unique packaging tends to be for a limited time and encourages collectability. It tends to create an association of quality and creativity and attention to detail. They are more likely to be displayed and get noticed to stand out from the clutter.

The Nicolas Formichetti Pepsi package that kicked off Pepsi's consumer-generated design contest was fun, energized the brand, engaged consumers and created social media interest in a way that positively built on the brand's equity. Because the design was around the whole can and connected to the design of other cans, it encouraged people to spend more time with the package, and the brand.

How will companies know if collaboration with an outside artist is the right thing to do?

Greenwald: If the artist's work seems like a fit with the brand, if it enhances the quality perception rather than cheapening it, if it is more likely to get noticed on the shelf…then it’s the right thing to do.

What are the benefits of collaboration between a brand owner and an artist for each party? What are the benefits for consumers?

Greenwald: For an artist, through packaging collaborations, their work can reach a broader audience, it can make people happy, it can relate their work to everyday lives and they can earn money for it.

For the brand owner, it shows they are creative, can increase the likelihood of getting noticed, can increase the likelihood of being on display and shows they have a sense of whimsy, humor and taste (look at all the Google logo changes on their home page).

We’ve seen several successful examples of artists creating packaging designs for Coke, Kleenex, 7Up and others. What makes these designs work so well?

Greenwald: Their success could be for several reasons. For example, the series of Balsamic vinegar bottles from the Italian Balsamic vinegar brand Monari Federzoni made the brand more noticeable, more giftable, more "instagramable," more appealing to display, more fun for consumers to serve in their homes and more interesting in collecting all the artist versions, including Klimt, Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali and others.

Monari Federzoni designed its Balsamic vinegar bottles in the style of various artists, such as Klimt (left) and Dali.