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Articles from 2018 In October

How Rothbury Farms labels its award-winning croutons

How Rothbury Farms labels its award-winning croutons
Earning ChefsBest awards and adding the consumer-trusted medallion to its croutons packaging has helped Rothbury Farms increase sales and get into new retailers.

In this era of clean labels and simple package design, why does Rothbury Farms work so hard to include the ChefsBest award medallion on its croutons packaging? The bottom line (literally) is because it boosts sales by helping the brand win the consumer’s trust.

Research also backs up that claim. Two-thirds (67%) of consumers said they are more likely to purchase a ChefsBest award-winning product than one without the ChefsBest medallion on-pack, according to a 2015 study by uSamp (renamed Instantly Inc. and now part of Survey Sampling Intl./SSI).

Not familiar with the competition? The ChefsBest medallion appears on millions of packages nationally. And in early 2018, ChefsBest conducted its 500th evaluation, a major milestone. It is used by big brands you’d recognize: Welch’s, Tetley, Goya, Vitafusion, SlimFast and Kellogg’s. In fact, just this summer, Kellogg’s Eggo Nutri-Grain Frozen Waffles earned the ChefsBest Best Taste Award in the Whole Wheat/Multigrain Frozen Waffles category.

ChefsBest awards cannot be bought; they must be earned. And Rothbury Farms Croutons have been ChefsBest award winners since 2004. Rothbury Farms brand manager Christina Lehtinen explains more about the program and its benefits.

What is the ChefsBest competition?

Lehtinen: ChefsBest uses a rigorous sensory evaluation process, known as SAQA(r) (Sensory Attribute Quality Analysis), and a panel of executive-level chefs trained as Master Tasters to identify award-winning food and beverage products.

As part of ChefsBest’s proprietary process that determines qualification for a ChefsBest medallion, Certified Master Tasters blindly evaluate products against a quality definition. The Master Tasters identify and measure the sensory experience across the five modalities of appearance, aroma, taste, flavor and texture, and determine the impact of each attribute on the overall quality. At the end of the evaluation, the data from the Master Tasters is analyzed and award qualification is determined.

Why participate in the ChefsBest sensory evaluation process?

Lehtinen: The ChefsBest team has built a trusted reputation for identifying high-quality products through the ChefsBest Excellence Award and Best Taste Award. Their independent executive-level chefs award products for their taste and quality.

Our Rothbury Farms Croutons have been award winners since 2004. We use the ChefsBest award medallion in our sales material and on our packaging. The award gives our Rothbury Farms Croutons an advantage over products without the award. The award lets potential customers know our product has gone through ChefsBest’s rigorous sensory testing process and that it was identified as the top product in a competitive set or as an excellent quality product when there is no competitive set to test against in the market. This is an easy and effective way to build confidence in our product.

It would be costly and difficult to substantiate legal claims conducted by consumer research. The ChefsBest award gives us a cost-effective way to achieve a similar goal.

What’s the value of promoting the Excellence Award and Best Taste Awards on food labels, especially in today’s environment where “clean” and simple labels are the trend?

Lehtinen: ChefsBest is an independent, unbiased organization. They have built a trusted relationship with customers who look for products with their award on it across all product lines in the grocery store.

The food market is extremely competitive, the majority of manufacturers respond to trends to meet customer demands, including the “clean” and “simple” label trends. Rothbury Farms Croutons already strives to keep a clean label and some of our competitors do too. So the ChefsBest award gives us an additional reason to stand out; as a proven high-quality product. When a potential customer is making a decision to purchase our product or another, we want to be the award-winning product to tip the scales in our favor.

And once the ChefsBest award is won, no other product can license the award until the next evaluation period, which helps maintain the value and integrity of the award.

The ChefsBest award increases our sales volume and helps us get into new retailers. It is a way to differentiate ourselves from the competition, and a great way to introduce ourselves to new customers. We have consistently used the ChefsBest Award on our packaging and our internal and external marketing materials.

Displaying the ChefsBest "Best Taste" Award medallion on Rothbury Farms Croutons has helped the brand gain market share.

How do you measure the effectiveness of promoting the award(s) on the packaging?

Lehtinen: It is difficult to measure any specific marketing tactic. We look at the award as additional support and validation that our Rothbury Farms Croutons are a premium product and a step above the competition. Customers have a choice in our category and the ChefsBest award is another way for us to differentiate ourselves. We know our market share has grown since adding the award to the package and we have seen the advantage of having the award when meeting with new retailers.

How long do you promote the award(s) on a package?

Lehtinen: The ChefsBest award is substantiated for three years. This means you get a good value out of a single license and can keep the award on your packaging during this time. The length of the license makes it easy to manage packaging inventory.


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

Frosch cleaning products upgrade to a fully recyclable pouch

Frosch cleaning products upgrade to a fully recyclable pouch
Mono-material spouted pouch for German cleaning products has detachable graphics panels to facilitate recycling.

Werner & Mertz, a German company that specializes in home-care products, has partnered with Mondi Group to create the ultimate in consumer-friendly sustainable packaging: The companies have developed a 100% recyclable pouch decorated with detachable film panels.

The package, which is a stand-up pouch with a die-cut handle, will roll out commercially in 2019 for Werner & Mertz’s Frosch-brand cleaning products. The pouch is made from a polyethylene mono-material, and the no-spill spout and cap are also polyethylene.

Brand and product information are flexographically printed on low-density polyethylene (LDPE) panels that are sealed to the pouch in a proprietary process. No adhesive is used, assuring recyclability of all parts of the package. To prepare for recycling, consumers peel the front and back film panels off the empty pouch. The film and pouch may then be directed to the appropriate recycling stream. This video shows how the panels detach.

Mondi will convert and ship the finished, decorated pouches to Werner & Mertz for filling. The Frosch pouches will range in volume from 0.5 to 3.0 liters.

Werner & Mertz and Mondi worked with European recycling-services providers EPEA Switzerland, Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland and Institut cyclos-HTP to develop the pouch. Thomas Kahl, regional manager Dach at Mondi Consumer Goods Packaging, provides further details about the new package.

How do you make sure the printed film panels don’t detach from the pouch during distribution?

Kahl: The perforation is designed so that someone must intentionally remove the panels—this requires more force than the stresses shipping and stocking typically produce.

Will this package be available as a stock item from Mondi? If so, when?

Kahl: Werner & Mertz have an exclusive agreement that the packaging can only be used for household cleaners and soaps sold under the Frosch label. But Mondi plans on rolling out the packaging for unrelated applications in 2019.

What type of package does the Frosch pouch replace?

Kahl: It will replace both rigid and non-recyclable flexible packaging.

What Frosch products will be filled into the new pouch?

Kahl: In addition to laundry detergent, Frosch will use the packaging for other detergents, fabric softeners and refill packs, as well as private-label products.

Are there instructions on the Frosch pouch regarding removing the panels prior to recycling?

Kahl: The packaging will feature simple, easy-to-follow solutions for consumers to follow—and our research shows that we can expect significant in-home adoption of the separation process. But through our work with EPEA Switzerland, Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland and Institut cyclos-HTP, we also made sure that sorting facilities can easily handle post-consumer separation of pouch and panels.


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

MinnPack spotlights emerging packaging trends and tech

MinnPack spotlights emerging packaging trends and tech
MinnPack 2018 attendees have a lot of educational sessions to learn from.

When MinnPack—the state’s only packaging expo in 2018—hits the Minneapolis Convention Center on Halloween morning, the show will highlight a range of tricks and treats, including packaging technologies, techniques and timely issues impacting the industry.

Packaging is constantly evolving across all industries, especially when it comes to distribution, industrial automation, packaging design and sustainability” says Hayley Haggarty, event director for event producer UBM (parent company of Packaging Digest). “It’s an exciting time to be able to showcase all of the latest packaging technologies, materials and manufacturing solutions at MinnPack.”

The two-day event—taking place Oct. 31 and Nov. 1—will feature a supplier showcase, introducing attendees to a range of solutions in the areas of labeling, automation, food packaging, design and other fields. MinnPack is co-located with five other events: MD&M Minneapolis (the medical event); ATX Minneapolis (the automation event); Design & Manufacturing; ESC (embedded systems conference); and Plastec Minneapolis. More than 5,000 attendees are expected to wind their way through the diverse design and technology exhibits from approximately 500 companies.

MinnPack visitors also will have a chance to hear from more than 60 experts speaking at the event, and will be able to choose from more than 30 hours of educational programming—a lot of it free.

The conference schedule includes an array of content covering today’s hot topics. For example, see the evolution of user interfaces in industrial controls on Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., when Charles Lord, president of Blue Ridge Advanced Design, will present case studies on Human-Machine Interface (HMI) in the Industrial Internet of Things. Additionally, the Packaging’s Role in Food Safety panel on Thursday afternoon—with representatives from CRB, Cargill, Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and Ultra Green Packaging—is set to tackle increasing consumer awareness of food safety, and the challenges and opportunities savvy shoppers present to food and beverage packaging professionals. Both sessions will be presented in Engineering HQ, Booth 232. Click here to view all educational programs.

Register now to attend MinnPack 2018.

Jenni Spinner

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


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

5 factors affecting sustainable packaging moving forward

5 factors affecting sustainable packaging moving forward
Increasing eco concerns will boost future demand for sustainable packaging. Photo credit: By faithie -

As the regulatory policies are strict and rigid, Riverford Organic Farms near Northallerton in England has come up with a solution that will help users compost packaging. The single-use compostable plastic created by Riverford will be available by the end of 2020. People who are unable to compost at home can return the packaging with their reusable veg box to the company. Sustainable initiatives like these will help grow the environmentally friendly packaging market, as well as will keep the environment safe and clean.

Globally, the demand for eco-friendly products and packaging materials is increasing, partly to reduce the harmful toxicants in the environment. The continuous emission of harmful and toxic gasses through industries and from various other sources continues to have an effect on global warming, which supports the cause of sustainable packaging.

Various government and non-government organizations are working to reduce toxic waste emissions and pollution in the form of landfills. Thus, there is a high demand for packaging that is environmentally friendly and biodegradable. Moreover, various governments across the globe are framing stringent policies that will also boost the demand for sustainable packaging. And numerous companies are taking initiatives to use eco-friendly packaging, including participating in Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) programs.

Furthermore, rising demand for packaged food products and personal care products packaging have affected the growth of packaging industry and sustainability.

In the report on Green Packaging Market published by Transparency Market Research, statistics indicate the market is expected to increase at 6.20% of CAGR during the forecast period from 2015 to 2021. The value of the market is anticipated to reach up to US$203.1 billion by the end of 2021. Leading players in the market are also analyzed, including Rexam, Amcor, Be Green Packaging, DuPont, Evergreen Packaging, DS Smith, Mondi, Nampak and Sealed Air.

Here are five factors affecting sustainable packaging today:

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

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

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

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

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

Moiz Adenwala is assistant manager at Transparency Market Research, a market intelligence company providing global business information reports and services. The company’s blend of quantitative forecasting and trends analysis—using rigorous primary and secondary research techniques—provides forward-looking insight for thousands of decision makers in a range of markets and regions.



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

5 questions to ask your contract packager

5 questions to ask your contract packager
Medical device manufacturers should get answers to these critical questions before hiring a contract packager. Photo credit: By StockPhotoPro -

If you’re a small or large medical device company, outsourcing product packaging to a contract packager may be a necessity. Before hiring one, though, knowing the right questions to ask is critical to ensure high product quality, regulatory compliance and market competitiveness.

Here are a handful of questions you should ask before inking a deal.

1. What packaging equipment do you have?

Can the contract packager handle the package you’ve selected for your medical device? Two common types of sealing equipment for sterile packaging are tray sealers and pouch sealers. Both sealers come in a variety of configurations: table-top or floor models, manually programmed and even fully automated.

Choosing between these configurations is dependent on your volumes and budget. For higher volumes, it may make sense to buy a floor model, which can handle such capacity, or possibly even a fully automated machine.

Be forewarned that equipment lead time could be significant if they require customization. Pouch sealers typically do not need to be customized. On the other hand, tray sealers have custom tool dies that are dependent on the footprint of the company’s tray. Tray sealer manufacturers will not start developing the tool die, which can take six weeks to produce, until they receive the tray. Lead times associated with a custom tray and tray sealer tooling can add up, affecting a company’s timeline for product launch.

2. Does your facility have a trackable labeling system?

Recording and tracking inventory is essential in medical devices. Having materials resource planning (MRP) software is an essential regulatory requirement. This goes hand-in-hand with the labeling system. A facility must have a capable MRP system along with labeling capabilities to ensure that every aspect of the product is trackable to the source and date of manufacturing and packaging.

ISO 15223-1 and 21 CFR Part 801 provide more information on the labeling requirements for medical devices.

3. Can your facility store product?

It would be advantageous to choose a contract packager that has the ability to store and ship product. Although you may want to control the bulk of the distribution, at some point, space at your facility may run out.

If you do store product, always make sure that the contract packager’s facility has an appropriate MRP system to track inventory.

4. What class cleanroom does your facility have?

For any medical device, it is important to minimize the level of biological contamination, or bioburden, during the manufacturing and packaging process. Most medical devices are manufactured in a cleanroom. The class of cleanroom necessary is dependent on the bioburden level allowed by the chosen sterilization method. For example, a biologic that is sensitive to gamma sterilization, thereby needing a low sterilization dose, should be packaged in a cleanroom that allows a low amount of particles.

Cleanroom classes range from ISO Class 1 to Class 9, with ISO Class 1 being the cleanest, allowing the least amount of particles. ISO Class 7 and 8 are sufficient for most products, however, this must be assessed by appropriate bioburden testing of the product. For more information on cleanroom classifications, refer to ISO 14644-1.

5. Do you have sterilization capabilities?

In most cases, other than autoclaving, contract packagers do not have sterilization capabilities, so you must keep in mind that sending the packages to a sterilizer will impact the timeline and costs. While there are some facilities that have steam sterilization capabilities (ethylene oxide or hydrogen peroxide), most do not; even a smaller percentage have gamma or ebeam sterilization.

Sterilization must be taken into account when calculating inventory shipping costs and lead times. Typically, most companies outsource sterilization to companies like Steris or Sterigenics, which have processing facilities across the U.S.

Getting the answers to these questions will set your company on the right path toward engaging the appropriate contract packager.

Neil Thompson

Neil Thompson is business development manager of Steriliant LLC, a one-stop shop for medical device companies’ packaging needs. Started by experienced medical device engineers and project managers, Steriliant provides packaging design, material and equipment procurement, protocol and report writing, and contract manufacturing sourcing.


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

Packaging refresh a natural for Perdue chicken products

Packaging refresh a natural for Perdue chicken products
Poultry giant Perdue refreshed packaging graphics for its poultry products, better reflecting its animal-care efforts and all-natural approach.

After years of touting its animal-care improvement efforts and all-natural products, Perdue sought refreshed packaging designs that reflected its refreshing approach to poultry production.

The brand owner connected with Enlisted Design, an Oakland, CA-based design firm, in July 2016 to reenergize its poultry packaging at retail. Beau Oyler, principal and creative director, Enlisted Design, says their goal at the outset was to create a look for the containers that better told the story of Perdue’s work in stepping up animal-care standards, highlighted their all-natural products, and connected with both current consumers and younger shoppers.

“Perdue is a brand leader in animal care, and just like their forward-thinking initiatives, they wanted the new design to go beyond what’s easy, comfortable or expected of typical mass CPG [consumer packaged goods] brands,” says Oyler. “They sought a modern look, remarkably unique from competitors that clearly communicates their progressive efforts.”

After Perdue engaged the team, Enlisted Design spent more than two years conducting brand, consumer and competitive research. The process started with collaboration between Enlisted and Perdue to pinpoint key messaging goals. Then, they conducted qualitative and quantitative consumer testing to inform the redesign. They created numerous packaging iterations, harnessing consumer feedback to help refine the design.

The updated designs, which hit retail September 2018 (starting with markets on the east coast and in the Midwest), feature whimsical illustrations, bright colors, and typography that combines bold letters and minimalist treatment.

“We created an entirely new visual language that celebrates the brand’s best practices: chickens raised in America on family farms; all-natural, no animal by-products; and no antibiotics ever,” says Oyler. “The new design radiates a sunshiny-fresh vibe—repositioning Perdue as more modern, approachable and natural.”

The bright colors and bold visuals of Perdue’s updated poultry packaging are intended to better engage and communicate product benefits to shoppers.

Details on Perdue’s new poultry trays and film wraps include images with a hand-drawn feel, storybook-like farm scenes and wood-grain textures created to impart a rustic, natural feel. Oyler says the simple, straight-forward approach helps consumers more easily identify products on the shelf, and it more clearly communicates the products’ benefits to shoppers.

While the updated packaging has only been in front of shoppers for several weeks, the brand owner is optimistic about its potential success.

“Our new package design for fresh chicken contemporizes our brand for a new generation while telling the Perdue story and values through bright and unique visuals and illustrations,” says Eric Christianson, chief marketing officer, Perdue. “We’re very proud of this evolution for the brand and continuing to effectively reach a new audience.”

Jenni Spinner

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


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

Kingsford ready-meal ribs packaging feeds convenience need

Kingsford ready-meal ribs packaging feeds convenience need
Replacing vacuum film with a vacuum-packed aluminum tray makes it easy for consumers to cook Kingsford ribs without a mess, while maintain same shelf life.

Before Carl Buddig & Co.’s CBQ subsidiary recently attained a multi-year contract to produce Kingsford-branded pre-cooked ribs and barbecue entrees, the existing packaging wasn’t exactly appetizing.

Back in 2016, the plastic film bag holding the ribs (then offered under the Tony Roma label) made the process of opening and handling the entrée messy. Rupari, the meat-packer-processor at the time, set out to find an updated design that helped minimize the mess involved in opening, cooking and eating the product, while maximizing the shelf life for their preservative-free recipes.

Rupari met with representatives from packaging supplier Advanta at the Intl. Dairy Deli Bakery Assn. show to work on an answer.

After putting their heads together, the partnership scrapped the plastic bag and decided on a foil-based configuration. While Advanta offers a range of standard aluminum trays, none were precisely right for the product; they developed distinctive 15-, 17- and 19-inch smooth-wall aluminum trays for the different products in the line, shaped to provide a custom fit for the size and shape of the entrees.

“The base of this tray was specially designed to be curved in shape,” says Miguel Campos, Advanta export sales manager. “This ensured the ribs were positioned steadily in the tray and ready for the vacuum seal.”

Advanta procured new packaging equipment to handle the products. The meat is deposited into the trays, which are then topped with a film layer and vacuum sealed. Quality testing on the production line insures no components contain pinholes or leaks. Product information is printed on the outer paperboard sleeve, which features bold graphics designed to entice hungry customers to buy.

The upgraded packaging enables consumers to take the product out of the refrigerator, remove the sleeve and film layer, and put the aluminum tray containing the product right in the oven or on the grill—no need to transfer into a secondary container. The new packaging launched in 2016, under the Tony Roma label. Carl Buddig acquired Rupari in June 2017 and continued packing under the original label. Then, in 2018, CBQ introduced the Kingsford brand, with the aluminum-tray packaging and a redesigned outer carton.

Charlie Ahern, Advanta general manager, says the aluminum-tray packaging launched in the Chicago market, then expanded to select grocery stores across America, with a $13.99 retail price tag. The aluminum-based packaging has landed positive customer feedback, thanks to improved convenience and reduced mess. Additionally, the shelf life for product in the new packaging stands at 145 days—nearly four months.

While the updated packaging design reportedly increased the per-unit container production cost, the investment has paid off—according to reports from Kingsford, the aluminum tray increased sales by 40% from 2015 to 2016, over the previous plastic-film Tony Roma packaging. By the time barbecue’s prime-time season started on Memorial Day 2018, the updated design under the Kingsford label was the third-biggest seller of its kind in the country.

Further, says Campos, the Kingsford packaging is getting noticed by other food firms interested in similar solutions for their products.

“What we have created is the first of its kind to market,” he says. “Other manufacturers have seen what we have produced and want the same shelf life potential for their own ready meals—which we are more than happy to get involved with.”

Jenni Spinner

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


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

How connected packaging can help big brands battle craft brands

How connected packaging can help big brands battle craft brands
Emerge victorious by getting a digital edge over your competitors. Photo credit: alice_photo -

Digital packaging tools and workflows can help “David” or “Goliath” brands speed up product launches and/or optimize processes across the entire packaging ecosystem by improving communication with internal departments, as well as with external partners.

Why are smaller artisanal brands (Davids) starting to outperform the Goliaths of the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) world? In a recent Financial Times article, Bain & Co. states that Goliath FMCG companies experienced 7.7% growth from 2006 to 2011, but only 0.7% growth from 2012 to 2016. And according to a New Product Innovation Report, Nielsen states that, of more than 60,000 new stock-keeping units (SKUs) introduced in Europe in the last few years, just over half (55%) survived 26 weeks.

Craft brands are growing for a few good reasons: They have identified what resonates with their target consumer and established a strong sense of purpose behind their product. They’re innovative in creating new products and agile by quickly rolling out said products. Plus, many have an ecommerce presence. In fact, many of these brands’ grassroots marketing efforts started online. In short, today’s Davids have better slingshots.

But that’s not to say that big brands cannot prosper. According to Nielsen, 57% of consumers in developed markets say they prefer to buy new products from brands familiar to them. The opportunity for major FMCGs to grow is still there.

I was recently talking with a digital transformation leader who said his FMCG company had plenty of innovative new product development (NPD) ideas, but found that NPD projects sit in the queue for three months and then stay there for a number of reasons:

• The work done in the execution is not digitized—it’s very manual, so the process slows down.
• New product launch approvals cannot get sign-off from multiple departments.
• Companies run out of resources to execute the final product.
• Priorities get re-aligned halfway through the project.
• Too much time elapses and trend insights grow stale and irrelevant, so the project is dropped.

A process focused on high-quality inputs and connectivity, that still allows the flexibility needed to work in today’s ever-changing business context, is critical in cutting time out of new product launch plans. More digital tools are also needed to help teams execute new product development projects, specifically within packaging.

Goliath FMCGs need to break down functional silos and connect ecosystem partners to support product innovation. So let’s get connected. The packaging industry should use digital tools that allow it to connect…

…new products to ecommerce platforms;

…departments within a company;

…players in the packaging value chain;

…the entire technology ecosystem for packaging.

Connected packaging across ecommerce

Wouldn’t it be nice to have versions of packaging files saved in a digital asset management system and when changes are made, all files are updated simultaneously? Better yet, wouldn’t it be great to know that the files are easy to find when the online advertising component of the campaign launch begins, months after the packaging was finished?

Marketers still struggle to deliver products and campaigns at the speed of consumer’s expectations. In fact, consumers believe packaging changes should only take one day. The reality is that packaging changes typically take 198 days. Thankfully, there’s technology that increases speed-to-market through connectivity, enabling a better omni-channel consumer experience.

Connected packaging across departments

Wouldn’t it be nice for your design team to create a digital asset and know that marketing and packaging have access to it without having to send an email? Or what if packaging engineers received an alert via workflow software notifying them that a marketer changed a spec (perhaps by mistake)?

If all the departments that contribute to packaging connect their efforts and interactions about content, process, assets and revisions, they will see a decrease in lead times. It’s imperative to remove the burden of communication from the backs of over-stretched middle management and offload communication to technology through connected systems.

Connected packaging across the supply chain

What if your designers could create new packaging concepts using virtualization tools built with downstream packaging manufacturing processes in mind? Or if automated quality inspection software—such as automated proofreading, pre-flighting or print quality—was used in various stages up and down the value chain?

By connecting external agencies, packaging manufacturers, printers and converters to the same digital packaging tools and workflows, less time is wasted on hand-offs and quality checks within the value chain.

Connected packaging across the entire ecosystem

How about having the ability to update packaging copy and flowing that change through an automation tool to the packaging artwork and onto the packaging manufacturer? What if you could ramp up new product launches without adding headcount—internal or external?

Integrating digital asset management, print quality management, label and artwork management, and other packaging technologies simplifies the entire process. If all contributors use the same systems, and the systems are integrated, it allows for better two-way communication and transparency.

By connecting packaging in these ways, FMCG companies can increase speed-to-market, remove waste and increase efficiency. Not only do brands stand to be more profitable, but in the process, they establish a stronger connection with consumers.

Both large FMCGs and small craft players can benefit from connecting packaging processes and technologies. With that in mind, I think the battleground between David and Goliath just got a lot more interesting.

Esko president Udo Panenka has a passion for the business. With this passion—plus strategic foresight, drive and determination—Panenka has led the global Esko organization since 2015 as it brings customers’ packaging and related digital content to life through web-based packaging management tools, as well as with advanced design, prepress, flexo platemaking and finishing technologies.

Here, there, everywhere: Global differences in sustainable packaging

Here, there, everywhere: Global differences in sustainable packaging
The APP paper mill in Hainan, China, is the world's largest, creating high-quality paper packaging at high speeds.

After two trips to Asia, North American-based sustainability expert Bob Lilienfeld draws interesting conclusions about the cultural and socio-economic aspects of sustainability and packaging in different areas of the world.

In February 2018, I wrote for Packaging Digest about my Indonesia trip, visiting Asia Pulp & Paper’s offices in Jakarta and paper mill on Sumatra. I’ve just returned from a similar visit to China, touring APP’s offices in Shanghai, along with its mills near the city of Ningbo and on the island of Hainan. I was told that the latter mill is the largest in the world, capable of turning pulp into 10-meter-wide, 90 ton rolls of paper in 45 minutes (see photo above).

While I was prepared to once again hear about the value of APP’s low-cost advantage through vertical integration and highly automated paperboard production, I was not prepared for the key piece of learning from the Chinese experience: Approaches to, and beliefs about, sustainability are fairly different in China than in Indonesia, and vastly different versus North America. The differences reflect the economic, social and environmental issues, and values, of each country’s cultures and communities.

Unlike Indonesia, which contains vast stretches of tropical rainforests and plantations, the economically accessible forests near China’s primary transportation and population centers have been largely depleted: Much of the pulp processed in APP’s China paper mills is trans-shipped from its Indonesian pulp mills, and woodchips used for pulp making are imported from other sources and locations. (I was told that the chips I saw offloaded via container ships at the Hainan mill were certified to be sustainably sourced in Vietnam.)

The small amount of available plantation land in China must therefore be carefully managed for sustainability. Here are two examples of APP’s approach to sustainable forestry:

To maximize economic efficiency and minimize the environmental impact of pulp production, APP practices coppicing, a method of woodland management that exploits the capacity of certain tree species (in this case acacia) to grow new shoots from stumps after cutting. The two or three strongest shoots are chosen, and the others trimmed off.

Note in the photo that all of the trees are actually two or three trees growing from a single stump. This practice at least doubles the yield per stump (and thus per hectare of land), which significantly enhances economics while reducing the need (or temptation) to increase plantation size.

From a social perspective, woodlands are shared with local farmers, who use them to provide food and shelter for themselves and their livestock—in this case, chickens! (I’m sure the poultry return the favor by helping to fertilize the trees.)

Here’s another example of a local approach to sustainability, and one that would not be considered as such here in the United States: When I asked APP personnel how much of their (and other producers’) paperboard and corrugated is being recycled, they proudly told me “100%.” Incredulous, I asked how that could be, and was told that in rural areas, it was collected and burned for fuel.

Even though this meant that individual families’ combined burning activities amounted to significant local air pollution, it was felt that this was a more sustainable strategy than chopping down even more trees for wood-fired heating and cooking. By the way, this practice was quite evident, as we saw multiple small fires burning in local fields and near homes when travelling between Shanghai and Ningbo, and throughout the rural areas of Hainan.

Even in big cities, much of the collection for recycling is handled by local entrepreneurs, rather than by government-funded collection programs. (In the photo, note the care in containing and protecting the recovered board, here on one of Shanghai’s privately owned and operated “collection trucks.”)

And, while we here in North America believe coal to be the fuel of last resort, APP was very proud of its coal-fired plants, which also powered local communities that might not otherwise have access to electricity. When I explained this difference in thinking to one of the plant managers, he said, “We constantly update these power stations to minimize greenhouse gas generation and pollution. And, we really don’t have other significant energy sources near many of our Chinese plants. It’s also the right thing to do for rural communities that would otherwise remain way behind in terms of living standards. Isn’t that a big part of sustainability?”

That’s a great question, and leads to the ultimate sustainability conundrum: Globally, what is it we’re all trying to accomplish via our various, and at times vastly different, approaches to waste prevention and remediation? Is it actually possible to enhance overall quality of life without creating massive environmental degradation in the air, on land and at sea?

Looked at from this perspective, packaging by itself isn’t that big of an environmental issue, is it? In fact, I’ll bet it’s primarily a symptom, and not the actual disease.  

The disease, if you will, is the multiplicative effect of consumption and population growth. I would argue that packaging may facilitate this growth, but it certainly is not responsible for it. Thus, if we’re not willing to admit to and tackle the negative impacts of our basic human desires, we do not have the collective will to truly solve the problems they are creating.

Of course the packaging industry has a role to play, and work to do, when it comes to providing economic, environmental and social sustainability. But, let’s be honest with ourselves and start reminding regulators, lawmakers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the media and the public that it’s a supporting role, not a starring one. Bans on straws, bags and cups here in North America are not going to mitigate climate change, reduce food waste or clean up the oceans.

True sustainability must transcend cultural and socio-economic differences, with specific broad scale goals set over specific time periods designed to mitigate specific problems. It will require significant behavior change from each of us here in North America, as well as from all of us around the world.


Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved with sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. He is currently editor and publisher of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a marketing and communications consultant and a professional photographer.


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