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Articles from 2017 In October

Take our Packaging Innovation Tour in Minneapolis

Take our Packaging Innovation Tour in Minneapolis
Image courtesy Bosch Rexroth Corp.

Looking for new testing or conveying solutions? Case sealing or thermoforming innovations? Join us November 8 in Minneapolis for our Packaging Innovation Tour.

At MinnPack/MD&M Minneapolis 2017 we’ll walk through the show floor to meet innovators in medical packaging, case sealing, package conveying, and testing. To get a spot on the tour, please meet me at Booth #1953 where you'll be given a headset and tour map. Be advised that you should arrive at least 5 minutes before the tour starts.

You will see demonstrations from the following companies:

  • Bosch Rexroth Corp., Booth #847
  • Box Latch Products, Booth #843
  • Placon, Booth #1119
  • PTI – Packaging Technologies & Inspection, Booth #1313

Click through below for previews of each technology. We hope to see you November 8!

Package Conveying from Bosch Rexroth Corp. (shown above)

Bosch Rexroth will be showcasing VarioFlow plus, a flexible, modular plastic chain conveyor system used for moving high-volume packaged goods and other consumer goods, such as packaged foods, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare products. It can be used to move products horizontally, vertically, on incline or decline, overhead, sub-floor, around obstacles, and over long distances, the company reports. Workpiece pallets can be used to convey products in applications where positioning or higher precision is needed. Bosch Rexroth also reports that VarioFlow plus is quiet, flexible, energy efficient, and easy to assemble. It ships fast, too, and is now part of Rexroth's award-winning GoTo focused delivery program.

Please visit Booth #847 to learn more.

NEXT: Case Sealing from Box Latch Products

Case Sealing from Box Latch Products

Box Latch Products will share its reusable device that allows companies to re-use corrugated shipping boxes. The reusable devices are suitable for closing and reopening corrugated boxes. Box Latches not only reduce box costs because they promote box reuse, they also reduce or eliminate the cost of tape, the company reports on its Web site. The devices can also eliminate human injuries from the use of knives or box cutters to open the boxes as well as damage to the contents inside the box.

Such box re-use and tape reduction (or elimination) can help companies reduce cost as well as impact sustainability programs. “Research has shown that 90% of corrugated boxes are used once and 30% are not recycled at all,” reports the company. “Instead, they end up in landfills. Products that encourage box reuse definitely are a part of the responsible business movement.” The company is certified by B Labs.

Jack Wilson, inventor, cofounder, and COO, tells PMP News that Box Latches can be used:

  • In the manufacturing supply chain, both downstream and upstream.
  • To close inventory boxes to prevent contaminations and for ease of re-entry.
  • In distribution and fulfillment centers...pick and pack.
  • For moving and storage.
  • Any time companies desire to rapidly close and re-open boxes, such as blood banks.

When asked about tamper evidence or opening tracking, Wilson explains that “we are in the final stages of R&D of our new Box Latch Small. One of the considerations over the past two years and 15 different 3-D-printed models was to address a simple way to provide tamper evidence. Mission accomplished. We are in the process of filing a patent and anticipate rolling out our new Box Latch Small in the first quarter of next year.”

The latches are also recyclable as #7 plastic. Black latches are manufactured from recycled ABS plastic, while colored latches are made from virgin material needed for a consisting color match. Wilson says that ABS has “out-performed several other materials tested for function and durability and thus the reason we are using it. They still work after being run over by a fork lift truck.” 

Be sure to visit Booth #843 to see a demonstration and receive a sample of two Box Latches.

NEXT: Thermoforming Innovations from Placon 

Thermoforming Innovations from Placon 

Placon, a provider of custom thermoformed packaging solutions for medical devices, will be sharing its innovative designs including BargerVPAK (shown above), BargerGard (shown below), and its award-winning NorthStar packaging design. Placon will also highlight its new Design Center of Excellence, located in Madison, WI. The new space can help customers bring products to market faster by increasing collaboration between the customer and design engineers. The Design Center contains state-of-the-art technology, digital media, interactive touch screens, 3-D printers, innovation space, and showcase areas.

Please visit Booth #1119 to see these designs and more.  

NEXT: Nondestructive Testing from PTI – Packaging Technologies & Inspection

Nondestructive Testing from PTI – Packaging Technologies & Inspection

PTI – Packaging Technologies & Inspection will be demonstrating its VeriPac FLEX technology, which utilizes ASTM F2338, “Standard Test Method for Nondestructive Detection of Leaks in Packages by Vacuum Decay Method.” These non-destructive package inspection systems are designed for pouches and other flexible packages. The systems can test a wide range of flexible package formats with no changeover, including small-format sachets, stick packaging, and even large bulk size pouches and bags. They provide a “pass” or “fail” result with quantitative data that correlates to leak rate, PTI reports. Vacuum Decay Technology is listed in ISO 11607 and is USP<1207> compliant. PTI’s Vacuum Decay Technology can also be used for non-destructive leak testing of other pharmaceutical and medical packaging formats as well. 

Please visit Booth #1313 to see VeriPac in action.

MD&M Minneapolis, MinnPack, Plastec Minneapolis, and other co-located shows and conferences will take place November 8-9 in Minneapolis. Please click here to register. The Packaging Innovation Tour is free to all expo attendees. To attend the co-located conference program, please use discount code PACK for 20% off.

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Can you help overcome plastics recycling challenges?

Can you help overcome plastics recycling challenges?
Image by Belish/Shutterstock of three recycle bins in a hospital.

While studying hospital recycling programs, the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC) has observed that “some of the greatest challenges” involve sorting materials and transporting them from hospitals to recyclers. In addition, the amount of materials from a single hospital “did not represent sufficient commodity value necessary to attract the attention of recyclers,” HPRC found.

Could packaging engineers help hospitals and recyclers with such challenges? And are there other challenges that packaging engineers and other stakeholders face?

We’ll examine such topics in the upcoming panel discussion, “Overcoming the challenges of medical plastics recycling,” scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 8, at 4:15 PM on Center Stage at MD&M Minneapolis/Minnpack/Plastec Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The following panelists will join me:

  • Curtis Larsen, CPPL, Fellow  |  Package Engineering Consultant, Spartan Design Group LLC
  • Alison Bryant  |  Communications Director, Antea Group and Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council
  • Robert Render  |  Commercial Manager, Ravago Recycling Group
  • Travis Erickson  |  Principal Packaging Engineer, Medtronic, in the Restorative Therapies Group, supporting the Implantables R&D Division

Larsen would like to hear how packaging engineers could help hospitals and other stakeholders overcome recycling challenges. “There may be things we can do as packaging engineers,” he says. For instance, “What can we do to help end-users recycle packaging?”

Questions planned for discussion include:

  • What barriers are there to recycling, and how can they be overcome?
  • Are hospitals making purchasing decisions favoring supplies that can be recycled? 
  • Are there any examples today of successful sorting programs?
  • There’s been some discussion of chemical recycling versus mechanical recycling. Can you define these terms and describe the viability of each?
  • Are there any plastics or packaging formats that pose any particular concerns?
  • HPRC released its Design for Recyclability guidelines a few years ago—can you explain what these are and how they can be implemented?

We’d love to have you join us for the discussion, and we’d love to hear your pressing questions. Attendance to Center Stage is free to all expo attendees. Please join us at Center Stage at 4:15 PM on November 8.

And to attend the co-located conference program at MD&M Minneapolis/MinnPack/Plastec Minneapolis, please use discount code PACK for 20% off.

How to handle publicity for food packaging safety concerns

How to handle publicity for food packaging safety concerns
The sensible way to address food packaging safety disasters is to anticipate, evaluate and act with practical alternate strategies rather than with fear.

Food packaging safety expert Gary Kestenbaum offers considerations and suggestions for a corporate strategy to address negative publicity and public perception of your packaging.

Recent and not-so-recent articles have appeared in mainstream media regarding food packaging safety, targeting the use of fluorinated additives that present a confusing soup of chemical acronyms (PFOA, PFOS, PFAS, PFC and others) on food contact packaging with a focus on fast food.

Based on the tone of the articles and video news briefs, I suspect the media targeted fast-food applications rather than retail grocery items because media graphics and “teasers” of trendy, iconic well-known fast food brands generate instant viewer/reader attention.  

The stories were virtual clones of one another, typical of sensational stories linked to food and packaging safety along the lines of “Do you know what’s in your [blank]?” All led with close-up photos of a fast-food burger contained within a paper wrapper, sometimes accompanied by a paperboard container of fries. The rhetoric began with a general question of food packaging safety and then referenced fluorinated additives, followed by a brief description of the components, their application and broad usage. Sound bites, quotes and comments from health agencies, related organizations and consumer safety groups were added to create or maximize the atmosphere of concern, fear and worry.

The domino effect

This style of reporting had me recalling similar experiences with the safety of food additives being called into question in the 1970s, when chemicals used in the process of food starch modification came under industry scrutiny. The minute that customers ultra-sensitive to negative consumable product publicity—baby food manufacturers, as a prime example—were connected to the use of starch products utilizing these “named” process chemicals, they instantly ceased use and returned all the bagged starch inventory to the supplier. The domino effect was amazing, even before the advent of the internet. Suddenly, the entire custom food starch industry came under pressure to replace said modifying agent with effective alternatives capable of passing an objective, consumer-friendly safety test. “Effectiveness” in the food industry is in the eye of the purchaser, and as you know, a supplier cannot just show up at the customer’s door one day with an untested replacement and begin taking orders.

Factored into the equation is also the importance of any scrutinized component or processing aid linked with the ability of the user to stay in production. In the case of the baby food manufacturer, they switched to native (unmodified) starch and lived with the impacts to end-product texture.

Another well-known example involves an ingredient that consumer health watchdogs love to target: food grade azo dyes, also known as F,D&C or certified colors, used in numerous products. These additives appear on consumer and scientific watch lists, and media health risk-related blitzes reoccur periodically.  When that happens, manufacturers and users alike sweat out the criticism and negative press. Some heavy users of food azo dyes visit and revisit alternative colorant options in the event certified colorants become restricted by regulation. Business plans may not be perfect, but they are developed and updated in ways that allow manufacturers to switch products, processes or components and, thus, stay in production in the event of regulatory action.

So, too, has the packaging industry been affected by callouts of fluorocarbons and phenolic compounds, bisphenol-A (BPA) most notably.  Following a recall or market withdrawal, products, compounds and brands can be at risk, typically for the short term.

Food risk vs. food packaging risk

Where comestible additives typically differ from food-contact packaging additives is in actual harm and risk perception. In my experience, consumers tend to pay closer attention to news of possibly contaminated food more so than news of potentially contaminated packaging. Aside from broken glass and similar harmful packaging fragment-related defects, they perceive comestibles as having higher safety-risk potentials than do the product packaging. Microbiologically-based events—salmonella, listeria monocytogenes, E. coli, etc.—represent tangible, instant harm risk to consumers and call for immediate and definitive action within the supply chain. Typically, food packaging additive-related events are not treated with the same level of action and fear because they fail to represent unquestioned toxicity or immediate, clear risk.  Opponents charge that they may represent health risks over time, based on frequency of use, intake, body mass of the typical user and breadth of availability in the industry.

Most packaging chemical component negative press is limited.  Manufacturers and users know that they must react responsibly to consumer backlash and regulatory scrutiny. Manufacturers may hastily assemble task forces to quickly develop internal strategies to identify targeted at-risk items and replace them as soon as possible with credible, effective alternatives. Often, that replacement schedule is derailed, halted or discontinued because the publicity diminishes and then, in time, ceases.  

Specific to fluorinated additives and their uses in fast-food primary packaging, articles academically posed the question “why not just use something more basic with which everyone is familiar?” for example, waxed paper. One simplistic, but accurate response is that the wax for coating paper may be sourced from paraffin or microcrystalline wax. Both are hydrocarbons associated with well-documented articles describing the effects of frequent contact and non-contact exposure to hydrocarbons and other volatile organic compounds. 

Classic example: Reverse decision U.S. vs. Canada

When debating the wisdom or value of switching to alternative food or packaging additives, consider a classic example of action-for-action’s sake, i.e., the debate on the safety of the sweetener sodium saccharine (allowed to remain in use in the United States as an artificial sweetener) vs. the alternative, sodium cyclamate. Pressured to act to uphold the intent of the language in 1958 amendments to the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (also known as the “Delaney Clause”), FDA chose to remove cyclamate from the list of approved food additives. Canada’s regulators looked at the same data, interpreted it, then applied an opposite approach, banning sodium saccharine and allowing the use of sodium cyclamate.

The point is, today’s alternative “savior” may become tomorrow’s villain. Allowable ingredient options in the United States may be considered violative in other countries. The sensible way to address these food packaging additive safety “grenades” is to anticipate, evaluate and act with practical alternate strategies rather than with fear.

Users of food packaging well-position themselves when they build for the future based on knowledge, background, awareness, risk potential and alternatives. Here are 5 key guidelines:

  • Know what components are in your packaging.
  • Understand valid health risks and regulatory implications of components contacting or migrating into the food inside the package.
  • Quantify and qualify the risk potential for migratory and sensory impacts.
  • Align with suppliers who share your knowledge and concern, capable of testing safer and effective alternatives.
  • Plan to test and evaluate practical alternatives which can be quickly integrated.

Finally, develop a practical, cross-functional decision tree describing how the organization will react if components, additives, ingredients or processes come under scrutiny.  Some organizations choose to stay the course and weather the storm.  Others conclude that targeted replacement projects must be initiated and integrated to protect the integrity of the business. Whatever the objective, make sure that your organization has one which protects consumer health and safety, as well as corporate reputation, in that order.

Gary Kestenbaum has 40+ years’ experience in the food and packaging industries including 6 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



Explore packaging, plastics and more in Minneapolis November 8-9 during the 15th anniversary of MinnPack that’s co-located with 5 other exhibitions including PLASTEC. For more information, visit MinnPack.


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What ecommerce packaging is going to look like in 2018

What ecommerce packaging is going to look like in 2018

Ecommerce is taking up more of the retail market with every passing year. So if brands wish to see their businesses flourish, low standards of packaging design cannot factor into the equation.

Packaging may seem like an afterthought to some, but 58% of the 2,000 respondents surveyed for Sealed Air said that if they received a damaged or broken product from an online store, they would consider purchasing from a competitor or simply refuse to purchase from the same retailer in the future. So, as demand for online shopping increases, so does the need for superior packaging solutions.

Here are five up-and-coming ecommerce packaging trends to look out for in the year ahead. 

credit: wikimediacommons

1. Frustration-free CPEX (Customer Packaging Experience)

Packaging must be able to perform its basic function and should be optimized to house products safely and securely. Since Amazon represents the pinnacle of ecommerce, it comes as no surprise that its internal packaging protocols are also worthy of note.

Taking careful consideration for customers’ experiences of their packaging, in an interview with Packaging Digest, Amazon's senior manager of worldwide packaging, Brent Nelson, explained that Amazon’s Certification Guidelines state the need for sellers to optimize their packaging to suit ecommerce:

“Packaging designed for brick-and-mortar retail is in many cases not optimal for online fulfillment. Packaging designed to stand out on a retail shelf is often oversized, with expensive ‘romance’ design aesthetics, redundant features to prevent theft, and not capable of surviving the journey to the customer.”

Take a look at some of the tips over at Amazon’s frustration-free packaging homepage for more advice.

NEXT: Unique design features

credit: unsplash

2. Unique design features

Unique packaging designs elevate a brand in the eyes of the consumer. These can be functional or purely decorative; the effect is to make the process of receiving a parcel more exciting for the customer.

For instance, adding augmented reality (AR) features to packaging creates a highly immersive user experience (UX) for customers, which can, in turn, make a brand more memorable. For products with a short lifespan in particular, AR packaging connects brands and customers on a deeper level.

Absolut Vodka, for example, teamed up with app makers Shazam to create a wealth of creative content, supplying smartphone customers with exclusive drink recipes and social media content. This increased brand advocacy by bringing in an element of audience participation.

NEXT: Big Data design optimization

credit: pixabay

3. Big Data design optimization

Optimizing packaging infrastructure with ecommerce storage in mind could help with organization and efficiency in large fulfillment warehouses.

For example, the addition of bar codes or RFID tags helps speed up the process of picking and packing from shelves. From a design perspective, too, altering color schemes to visually sort products by “type,” or including written descriptions of the package’s contents on multiple sides of the box, can help items to be identified and stored more conveniently.

Packaging analytics data can also be gathered to increase efficiency at all stages of packaging development, from design to fulfillment. Analyzing unit measurements on a large scale can help pinpoint inefficiencies in the manufacturing process, as well as audience feedback signals, flagging the fact that they may be experiencing wrap rage upon receiving your products in the mail, for example.

NEXT: Personalized packaging

4. Personalized packaging

Good packaging should raise levels of customer satisfaction, enhancing the buying experience and bridging the gap between online and traditional retail shopping. Luxury brands have been providing premium packaging options for decades, but thanks to personalization software developments in the last few years, this experience can be integrated in an affordable way for businesses of all sizes and types.

For example, packing slips, invoices and receipts can be auto-generated with customer personalization through use of apps, simulating a closer relationship between consumer and producer. You should also consider how packaging utility and branding contribute to the unboxing experience.

NEXT: Sustainable and/or reusable materials

credit: flickr

5. Sustainable and/or reusable materials

Consumer demand for environmentally friendly packaging is set to expand to any and all types of ecommerce products. Whether you explore recycled material options or redesign packages to fit your products as snugly and securely as possible, sustainable, slimlined packaging appeals to 86% of the 4,000 customers surveyed for Bridgestone Americas and Firestone Complete Auto Care.

Multipurpose, space-saving and reusable designs are another up-and-coming trend for ecommerce brands. Pizza Hut last year introduced DJ Pizza Box, a packaging design that doubles up as portable DJ decks, featuring a crossfader, volume and cue buttons (helped along with bluetooth connectivity).

When considering the (sometimes short) lifespan of a product, providing reusable packaging gives brands the opportunity to have their products showcased in a user’s home a long time after the product itself has been consumed.

There are many facets to building your ecommerce brand’s reputation and packaging plays an important role in maintaining high customer service standards. So we can expect to see lots of smart, sustainable, easy-on-the-eye packaging concepts being developed by online retailers in the years to come.

Victoria Greene is a brand marketing consultant and freelance writer. She has her own blog at VictoriaEcommerce where she likes to offer advice to companies looking to elevate their ecommerce brands.


Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

Concerned about risk in your sterile barrier system? Consider your adhesive coating

Concerned about risk in your sterile barrier system? Consider your adhesive coating
Xhale is a hot-melt adhesive (an Oliver exclusive).

Successful aseptic presentation of medical devices can be impacted by package design and material selection. Adhesive coatings can have an impact, reports Oliver Healthcare Packaging.

“Adhesives can mitigate the risk of substrates tearing and delaminating, which can inhibit the ability of the clinician to present the sterile device in an aseptic manner,” explains Kevin Zacharias, technical director for Oliver. “Tearing and delamination of substrates may also introduce particulate. Adhesive coatings can also be more forgiving in a sealing process, making up for tooling or equipment short comings and other issues. Lastly, adhesive coatings offer a controlled, smooth package opening experience for the clinician.”

Zacharias and Rick Brady, technology manager for Oliver Healthcare Packaging, speak about adhesives in the now on-demand Webcast, “Adhesive Tips & Tricks Every Medical Packaging Engineer Should Know.” 

Zacharias says that industry trends toward “clean packaging” could influence packaging engineers’ choice of packaging suppliers, materials, and adhesives. “There is an increased focus on clean packaging and low particulate in the industry, and a continued trend to low-risk packaging in general,” he explains. “When we say low-risk packaging, we mean high-performing adhesives that offer wide sealing windows with supportive data related to sterilization and stability.” More robust data packages are needed more than in the past, he says.

In addition, the industry “is also looking for excellent seal performance characteristics in relation to the rigors of sterilization and transportation with consistent performance within the validated sealing process window,” he adds. “A lot of focus is around demonstrating a robust sterile barrier system that maintains sterility to the point of use.”

Above: SealScience is a water-based adhesive. Image courtesy Oliver Healthcare Packaging.

In the webcast, Oliver addresses real-world customer challenges and how adhesive coatings were able to help.

Topics discussed include:

  • Formulation: How adhesive coatings used in sterile barrier packaging are formulated.
  • Substrates & applications: Understand the processes used to apply adhesives to substrates like DuPont Tyvek, medical-grade paper, films, and foils.
  • Risk mitigation: Where an issue is most likely to occur and how issues can be avoided.
  • Case studies: Learn about real-world issues related to adhesive coating technology and how those problems were solved.

Some common questions to be addressed include:

When is a water-based or a hot-melt adhesive best?

How do you mitigate any risk involved in sterilization and transportation?

Be sure to join us for “Adhesive Tips & Tricks Every Medical Packaging Engineer Should Know.

For more information on SealScience water-based adhesive or Xhale hot-melt adhesive, visit

Oliver Healthcare Packaging will also be exhibiting at MD&M Minneapolis in Booth #1819 November 8-9, 2017. 

This article has been updated to reflect the now on-demand status of the Webcast. 

Could ISO 10993 impact your packaging decisions?

Could ISO 10993 impact your packaging decisions?
Wei Zhang and Frank Bieganousky

Medical device packaging professionals are well acquainted with ISO 11607, Parts 1 and 2. But how about ISO 10993-18?

ISO 11607 has guided medical packaging development for about two decades. The standard “outlines the requirements for both packaging materials and the sterile barrier package system, including physical, barrier, chemical, biocompatibility, and toxicological attributes for materials as well as performance testing for the package system,” explains Wei Zhang, Ph.D., senior research scientist on AMRI’s Extractables & Leachables and Impurities (ELI) team.

Medical packaging engineers should also consider ISO 10993, particularly the upcoming revisions, Zhang believes. “The biological safety attributes of medical devices are regulated by the ISO 10993 series, which cover a broad scope of safety evaluations through a variety of means including in-vitro and in-vivo biological evaluations, chemical characterization, and risk assessments,” he tells PMP News. “Since packaging materials that contact a medical device can transfer chemical constituents to the device, followed by an indirect exposure to the patient or user, the potential for introduction of contaminants from packaging materials should be considered.”

Zhang and Frank Bieganousky, director, package and medical device testing, Whitehouse Labs, a division of AMRI, will be speaking in the November 9th MD&M Minneapolis 2017 presentation at Center Stage, “How to Prepare Your Medical Device Packaging for a Regulatory Submission.” Attendance is free to all expo visitors.

Zhang says that “the upcoming revisions to ISO 10993-18 provides the framework for chemical characterization to offer significant utility in biological evaluations and toxicological risk assessments. As a result, chemical characterization activity of the medical device packaging is able to address many regulatory questions.”

For instance, “the chemical characterization information, either collected through information gathering or generated by chemical analysis, can be used for many important applications such as to support overall biological safety evaluations and to assess allowable limits of potential hazardous leachable substances,” he explains.

Such studies include evaluating packaging materials for the risks from extractables and leachables (E&L). “When generating chemical characterization information, a well-designed E&L study program provides key information on leachable substances that may be delivered to the end-user through direct or indirect exposure,” Zhang says. “A comprehensive E&L study must take into consideration materials, extraction conditions, extraction solutions, appropriately derived analytical evaluation threshold (AET), and the use of an adequate set of analytical techniques to cover the scope of potentially concerning leachable compounds.” 

Zhang and Bieganousky will share some of the steps that should be taken when designing and carrying out a package qualification program, including a holistic determination of suitability, safety, and functionality, with focus on the evolving area of extractable/leachable testing.

Please join Zhang and Bieganousky at MD&M Minneapolis Center Stage November 9 at 11:15 am.

And to attend the co-located conference program at MD&M Minneapolis/MinnPack/Plastec Minneapolis, please use discount code PACK for 20% off.

Major initiative poised to accelerate MATS growth

Major initiative poised to accelerate MATS growth

Managed by prominent industry leaders, startup Solve for Food’s strategy relies on microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS) to revolutionize the packaged food market.

Developments continue to heat up in the fast-changing packaged foods market for a number of food preservation processes, not least of which is an escalation in microwave-assisted thermal sterilization (MATS). We’ve reported on the technology twice, both centered on the efforts of first adopter 915 Labs (see Food packaging identified for new MATS processing, published June 2015, and Cutting-edge news on MATS processing and packaging, published September 2017).

Now there’s big news from a new player that’s taking MATS in a complimentary new direction tapping the expertise of industry veterans who see not just the potential in the technology, but the efficient reality of its utility for higher-quality packaged foods. And its headquarters location is as intriguing as its management.

That is food processing innovation startup Solve For Food (SFF), based in Bentonville, AR, which announced last month that IV Ventures, LLC, agreed to be the initial investor of the first Food Innovation Center. SFF’s leadership team, comprised of consumer packaged goods industry veterans from Walmart, Sam’s Club and Procter & Gamble, announced last spring a goal to raise $13 million in capital to break ground on the startup’s first Food Innovation Center (FIC). The center will provide established food companies and startups with concept-to-consumption food production and innovation services using the revolutionary MATS food preservation technology.

 “We really believe in the Solve For Food mission and strategy to develop more nutritious packaged foods,” said Brandon Ivie, president of IV Ventures, LLC. “Their approach will revolutionize the way the industry produces, and the market consumes, packaged foods, and we share their passion for game-changing technology. The value they will provide to the industry is core to our own mission.”

The 20,000-square-foot center to be located in northwest Arkansas will feature product innovation kitchens and a MATS-30 commercial scale food production system capable of producing up to 10 million packages per year. Consumer packaged goods brands and food startups alike will have access to SFF’s concept-to-consumption strategy services to help companies develop and produce healthy, nutritious, clean label, shelf-stable packaged foods.

“We really haven’t seen much in the way of innovation in shelf stable food production and processing in 200 years,” said Solve For Food President and Chief Executive Officer, Greg Spragg. “By pairing our concept-to-consumption strategy services with access to MATS technology, we’re lowering the barrier to entry for the consumer packaged goods industry to make the leap to a better product for consumers.”  Spragg addressed Packaging Digest’s questions about the technology.


With the investment secured, what are the specific plans for the funds?

Spragg: In addition to the initial capital to construct our first Food Innovation Center, this investment will allow SFF to reach prospective clients and investors with our story through a concentrated marketing and public relations effort.

What is the expected staffing for the FIC?

Spragg: The center is expected to provide 25-30 high paying professional and skilled jobs, from food scientists, lab techs, technology experts, to culinary professionals, to systems operators. The center will be managed by an experienced food manufacturing professional.

What does Solve for Foods’ use of MATS allow it to do?

Spragg: SFF will not license MATS, but will acquire systems for use in its Food Innovation Centers. SFF uses patented technology to efficiently produce food that’s clean label, shelf stable and tastes better. Co-manufacturers like SFF will help companies adopt MATS by assisting them with product development and small-scale launches to rapidly iterate new food brands that appeal to consumers today. Once they have launched MATS-made products, companies will be able to continue co-manufacturing with SFF or to scale up production with their own MATS systems.

We’re familiar with 915 Labs…what are 915 Labs’ Mike Locatis’ duties as an SFF advisor?

Spragg: Mike has a wealth of experience in growth stage enterprises and an understanding of food insecurity, globally. As CEO of 915 Labs, he brings insight into system capabilities and avenues for growth. He is working to build an ecosystem for MATS around the world. Here in the U.S., there are many food companies looking for MATS co-manufacturing that are potential SFF clients.


What are the main differences between 915 Labs and Solve For Food?

Spragg: 915 Labs holds the exclusive, perpetual worldwide license for the MATS and MATS technologies, including for the MATS-30 production system capable of processing 30 packages per minute or up to 10 million packages per year.  The company manufactures and sells MATS systems and support services, including packaging solutions, to food companies around the world.

SFF is a purpose-built innovation services company that will purchase a MATS-30 from 915 Labs for its Center.  From foodpreneur to “big food” established brands, we will help brands go from concept to consumption with combined manufacturing and go-to-market services under one roof.  

Solve For Food will provide the following services to food companies:

• Recipe and product development;

• Co-manufacturing, including white and private labeling for existing food companies and food startups;

• Distribution of packaged foods to retail locations and through ecommerce fulfillment.

Other services include lab testing, FDA process authority, consumer sensory and market validation, go to and product placement services. We aim to be a full-service partner to the industry, helping brands get products from concept to consumption.


What packaging formats that will be used or tested?

Spragg: Custom packaging can also be developed, but current MATS capabilities are sealed plastic trays and pouches including a portfolio of 6 stock packages available including single-serve trays of 8.5oz to 13.9oz and a 10.5-oz pouch.

Additional package types will be available early next year, including 78.5-oz and 96-oz foodservice trays, spouted pouches and dual-ovenable packaging.

What is the fee arrangement?

Spragg: Fees will be menu driven and determined based on client needs. We have several interested parties ranging for domestic and global food producers to academia and food packaging companies.

What’s the idea of the regional centers, will they be “cookie cutter” facilities based on the Arkansas model?

Spragg: The SFF Food Production Center is designed to be a reproducible, data-driven, innovative food manufacturing facility. The SFF Food Production Center replaces industrial-age food factories with state-of-the-art systems that combine innovative food development, production and distribution capabilities at the same location.

The NWA facility becomes a Center of Excellence for recipe, formulation, product development and small-scale production of packaged foods for distribution and export for international consumer testing. This Center of Excellence can also host national food delegations and consortia activities and eventually, facilitate the transfer of knowledge and a template for replicating Solve for Food centers globally.

For more information, visit