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Articles from 2019 In October

Partnership brings recyclable black plastic to light

Partnership brings recyclable black plastic to light
Henkel partnered with masterbatch supplier Ampacet to create black plastic that can be sorted at recycling facilities. Greiner Packaging has used the plastic (containing Ampacet’s REC-NIR Black masterbatch) to make bottles of Henkel’s Bref toilet cleaner.

Henkel and masterbatch producer Ampacet have joined forces to develop a recyclable black plastic. The carbon-free black plastic alternative enables containers to be recyclable more readily than previously possible in conventional recycling streams.

Traditionally, black plastic thwarts recycling technology because infrared (IR) cameras used to scan containers cannot sort the containers, so black packages don’t get sorted and end up in landfills instead. The REC-NIR Black masterbatch is designed to be near-infrared (NIR) transparent to allow scanning by NIR technology for automated sorting at recovery facilities. Colin Zenger, Henkel’s sustainable packaging head, laundry and homecare sector, says the material can be sorted with little or no modifications at facilities.

“If sorting is done by hand, there is no change with the new masterbatch,” he says. “But it helps the NIR scanner in automated sorting to see and detect the bottle correctly.”


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


To recycle containers made with the masterbatch, consumers must first remove the shrink label. Henkel has designed a zipper to incorporate in the labels of such packages. According to Zenger, the company is rolling out targeted information to educate consumers about how to remove the label before processing.

The REC-NIR Black material has made its retail debut in Bref toilet cleaning products, produced by Greiner Packaging. The cleaning products are sold in under various brands internationally. Michael Frick, global key account director, Greiner Packaging, says the material works in line with the company’s sustainability goals.

“We’re constantly working to improve product recyclability, so naturally we’re delighted to see innovations like this one,” Frick says.

Cyclos-HTP, a German organization that classifies, evaluates and certifies packaging recyclability, confirmed the effectiveness of the new black plastic in undecorated containers. Additionally, Henkel confirmed packaging using the material, after the perforated sleeve is removed, can easily be sorted and recycled.

“In Greiner Packaging, we’re pleased to have found a competent project partner we’ve been able to work with to implement this innovative packaging concept,” says Frick.

A member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (which promotes increased sustainability in various fields), Greiner Packaging has pledged to make 100% of its packaging 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.


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Beer artistry: 6 years of winning Pabst Art Cans

Beer artistry: 6 years of winning Pabst Art Cans

A showcase of Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can winners through 2019 coincides with the launch of the 2020 contest to celebrate the brand’s 175th year.

Launched in 2014, the Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can Contest has placed original art on more than 300 million 16-ounce cans and awarded more than $100,000 to emerging artists who also see their artistry credited on the cans. The 2020 Art Can Contest kicked off October 1 as 30 million cans featuring last year’s winners hit stores and bars across America.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has launched its annual Art Can Contest, in search of the brand’s next creative force, and showcases past winners through a unique augmented reality (AR) can experience. With the AR experience, anyone can view the 16-oz art can of Pabst Blue Ribbon designed by Kelly Ward on their smartphone to trigger a new in-app AR lens on their Facebook camera. Users will be able to swipe through five winning designs of previous Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can Contests.


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


The winner of the 2020 Art Can Contest will have their work featured on more than 30 million cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, as well as all related packaging in the Summer of 2020. The winner will also receive a $10,000 grand prize, and be interviewed by and have their work featured on 

The 2020 contest will be judged in partnership with Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine. For more than 25 years, Juxtapoz has supported and documented underground art, giving a platform to emerging artists and communities that have been overlooked by the mainstream and commercial art world. 

As the 2019 Octoberfest month winds down, we thought readers would enjoy this quick review of past and present winners. Click View Gallery button above.

Why the automotive industry needs sustainable packaging

Why the automotive industry needs sustainable packaging

The automotive industry has led technological transformations in the past. As international attention turns towards sustainability—with the threat of climate change pressing down on all nations, regardless of the politics behind the notion—the industry seems once again prepared to lead the charge towards change.

Waste tires and fossil fuel consumption weigh heavily on the industry. It is packaging, however, that has arisen in recent talks surrounding automotive sustainability. Packing continues to be an overlooked element that permeates the automotive industry’s supply chain. Now, different manufacturers have expressed interest in the pursuit of reusable packaging.

This packaging would ideally last multiple trips while providing consistent protection to the parts that car manufacturers are in constant need of. The realities of this sustainable practice, however, are more complicated than they may initially seem.

Take, make, dispose

The industrialized creation process currently operates on the philosophy of “take, make, dispose.” Plants take in the materials they need to create a product. Once those materials have been used to their full ability, the plant disposes of the waste through landfills and alternative means. At this point, a mere 14% of the plastic used by the automotive industry is recycled, while 40% finds its way to landfills. Plastic, unlike a number of other materials, does not degrade quickly. In fact, the plastic that is currently being sent to landfills around the world is predicted to finally degrade after a thousand years.

Plastic’s impact on the environment is insurmountably significant. At the present moment, there is an island of plastic waste larger than France floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. That plastic not only compromises the ecosystems of millions of sea-dwelling creatures, but it actively kills them when they come into contact with it. Sea turtles, for example, who would normally filter sea water out of their stomachs, are now choking on the plastic they take in while searching for food.

The industry’s ambitions

Correcting the vast amount of plastic waste that the automotive industry currently produces will take time. However, a number of manufacturers are aware of rising concerns surrounding the subject. In turn, those manufacturers are moving to reduce their plastic waste output.

Indorama Ventures, for example, has recently partnered with Loop Industries with sustainable plastic in mind. The two corporations intend to collaborate on the production of sustainable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) resin and polyester fibers. It’s possible that the partnership could produce samples of their product within the first few months of 2020. [10-30-19 UPDATE: According to Loop Industries, “We expect the joint facility to be commissioned by the end of calendar year 2020.”]

This partnership is only one example of the sustainable efforts being made by international automotive manufacturers. A number of such corporations have declared their intentions to rely entirely on recycled plastic within the next few years.

Packaging limitations

It remains to be seen, however, if those goals are attainable. At this moment, a number of obstacles stand in the way of future plastic sustainability.

Collection of used plastic, in particular, remains a challenge for those parties interested in recycling it responsibly. The process of recycling plastic—even of getting it into the proper hands—is exceptionally complicated, as the recycling process requires several more steps than disposal via landfill. UPS and GreenBiz, in fact, declared that the operational costs of plastic collection alone may deter parties from investing in the idea.


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It seems that actively recycling plastics and creating sustainable alternatives to the materials would require a significant reworking of public recycling awareness. Not only that, but the corporations that have declared their intentions to forgo unsustainable plastics would have to make public investments in the practice for it to take off. While it seems, then, that the automotive industry is headed in this direction, it remains to be seen whether or not the practice will stick.

Developmental progress

That said, the automotive industry is not alone in its goal of adopting recyclable plastics. The UK Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy is invested in the reputational benefits that the creation of recyclable plastic could bring. The department has proposed smart labeling as a solution to the problem of plastic collection. With appropriate labels and a connection to a database oriented to the Internet of Things (IoT), plastics could find their way to the appropriate recycling facility with little change to the way human employees do their jobs.

Perhaps this means that a future of smart labels is coming to the automotive industry. As it stands, the desire to operate more sustainably is there. Now, the industry only needs the means and the commitment to make recyclable packaging a reality.

Beer Packaging

Beer artistry: 6 years of winning Pabst Art Cans: Gallery

The first Pabst Art winner from 2014, Josh Holland is credited via on-can printing for a design that shows a wild side. “The Art Can Contest allows us to literally turn our biggest platform into a blank canvas for an emerging artist,” says Andrew Heard, brand manager of art at Pabst Blue Ribbon. “We put original art in the hands of millions every year and allow our customers to experience incredible art wherever they are enjoying a Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

A showcase of Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can winners through 2019 coincides with the launch of the 2020 contest to celebrate the brand’s 175th year.

Launched in 2014, the Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can Contest has placed original art on more than 300 million 16-ounce cans and awarded more than $100,000 to emerging artists who also see their artistry credited on the cans. The 2020 Art Can Contest kicked off October 1 as 30 million cans featuring last year’s winners hit stores and bars across America.

Pabst Blue Ribbon has launched its annual Art Can Contest, in search of the brand’s next creative force, and showcases past winners contest through a unique augmented reality (AR) can experience.

With the AR experience, anyone can view the 16-oz art can of Pabst Blue Ribbon designed by Kelly Ward on their smartphone to trigger a new in-app AR lens on their Facebook camera. Users will be able to swipe through five winning designs of previous Pabst Blue Ribbon Art Can Contests.

The winner of the 2020 Art Can Contest will have their work featured on more than 30 million cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon, as well as all related packaging in the Summer of 2020. The winner will also receive a $10,000 grand prize, and be interviewed by and have their work featured on 

The 2020 contest will be judged in partnership with Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine. For more than 25 years, Juxtapoz has supported and documented underground art, giving a platform to emerging artists and communities that have been overlooked by the mainstream and commercial art world. 

As the 2019 Octoberfest month winds down, we thought readers would enjoy this quick review of past and present winners.

Why sustainably-minded brands use augmented reality

Why sustainably-minded brands use augmented reality
Brands like Nestlé that enable on-package AR can leverage the sustainability aspect as well.

Savvy brands like Nestlé are leveraging the sustainable packaging benefits that AR technology offers along with potent consumer engagement.

We now live in an age where consumers are holding businesses to a higher standard of environmental consciousness. An Accenture survey concluded that 62% of Americans want companies to take a stand on issues like sustainability. The good news is that more brands are beginning to listen. “Brand purpose” is the topic du jour in most leadership meetings looking to meet the demands of their consumers around sustainability, environmental impact and social responsibility. It’s not just consumers but the investment community too who are taking a good look at a company’s sustainability credentials as a benchmark of shareholder and stakeholder value. To an extent, we have the digital age to thank for that. A brand’s image may have been built over decades, but its reputation can be tarnished in a matter of minutes by users holding them to account for their actions or, in this case, inaction.

Against this context, Burger King decided to remove all plastic toys from their Junior Meals for kids. It’s a win every time a larger corporation takes a significant step toward changing its business model to reduce its environmental impact. While this is indeed highly commendable, it’s also a savvy move for the business—it draws positive goodwill towards the brand in taking a stance on an issue that matters to people and doesn't mean the end of driving sales and brand engagement through marketing promotion.

It’s also an opportunity to get creative with their existing assets (their packaging) and connect with consumers on that device that has become the evolutionary appendage we seemingly can’t live without, our smartphones. It also takes out an incredibly costly and organizationally intensive manufacturing, inventory management and distribution headache for the giveaways. Literally everyone wins here.

There’s another important and concurrent narrative at play. Specifically, there are three events that have shifted the way businesses and brands are approaching their mobile strategy in general:

  • The focus from hardware manufacturers on the camera as the key battleground for differentiation between their products which has also led to new software developments through augmented reality.
  • The introduction of mobile WebAR removes the requirement for a native app download to access augmented reality capabilities. Instead, you can access it through any devices connected to the web. The global market of WebAR-compatible devices is approaching 3 billion, compared to just over 1 billion for ARKit and half that for ARCore-compatible devices. That means that WebAR as a distribution method has the ability to reach nearly twice as many smartphones as AR deployed in a native app.
  • The resurgence of QR codes now that they are both GS1 compliant and readable directly from the camera on iOS devices and an increasing number of high-end Android devices.

...and that’s before the introduction of 5G in 2020, which will make the speed and power of devices and use of the camera and AR greater still.


One of the biggest questions and opportunities for brands and businesses has become “what’s your camera strategy and how can you leverage it to drive sales and deeper connections with your end users through more relevant experiences and better data?”

This has huge implications for retailers and consumer-packaged goods brands as it effectively gives them a totally new way to think about their retail estate and packaging. Both can transcend passive print into an always-on media and digital discovery channel serving up contextually relevant information at two key moments of assistance: pre-purchase and at point of consumption.

The potential to build a new owned and direct media channel with your most valuable audience is enormous--it’s a golden opportunity to gather data on their usage patterns like never before and in a General Data Protection Regulation-supportive, permissive manner of course! All without a media fee payable to a third party.

There are a number of big multinational brands already leading the charge in connected packaging with the likes of Kellogg’s, Nestlé, Unilever, Pez and Puma.

Next: More than delivering surprise and delight

Connected Packaging and AR are being used not only for spatial storytelling both to surprise and delight users, but also crucially inform and instruct when it comes to imparting information about a brand’s purpose, provenance and sustainability.

What we’re seeing is that these use cases are dramatically increasing the level of active brand engagement and click-through rates versus other media. And the data captured is helping brands take other important decisions about their new product development, marketing and media strategies.

The science supports it, too. The neuroscience of AR speaks to delivering higher levels of attention (almost double) and all-important memory recall (75% higher) versus other channels. 

AR-enabled packaging, with its infinite scalability and eco-friendly implementation, can achieve both the reduction in environmental impact while maintaining brand impact and user engagement. Grab a smartphone and turn packaging into a digital discovery channel, increasing transparency about product provenance and ingredients and creating meaningful moments of assistance for all the family, all while driving purchase intent, loyalty and repeat sales.


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Nestlé’s cereal division serves as an example of a business adapting to a changing market as well as adopting new brand engagement methods using AR. The old marketing idiom of cereal promotions was all about including toys and FGWP’s (Free Gift With Purchase) in the boxes. Nestlé realized they could achieve the same effect through digital rewards using AR whilst reducing their environmental footprint and overall costs. This was most recently brought to life in their AR campaign on-pack across 30+ markets centered on the new Lion King movie, coinciding with its release. Engagement was simple: customers scanned the back of the pack to enjoy three different educational puzzles and mini activities and unlocked video clips from the forthcoming movie.


In truth, there’s nothing new here, but the real shift is in taking existing tried-and-tested marketing models and making them relevant for the digital age. The fantastic by-product of this move is a simple way to decrease a brand’s environmental impact, increase engagement and interactivity while reducing cost and getting better metrics on campaign performance.

Brands are waking up to the potential available to them right on their packaging, which is their greatest owned media opportunity and data resource. A thoughtful AR campaign can turn mundane, wasteful packaging into a launchpad for an educational, entertaining, and rewarding experience whilst reducing waste. Give the most staunch environmentalist customer a look at the behind-the-scenes process of creating your product, make a meaningful connection with a customer so that they want to continue to engage with your product through a rewards program, or create a game that children can enjoy through a smartphone instead of creating more plastic bound for landfill. AR makes all of this possible using only some creativity and thoughtfulness.

The tech bit is easy. Congratulations to Burger King for doing the right thing for the planet, their customers and their business. Building out a connected pack camera strategy for the business in the new age of spatial storytelling is the next step.

Sparkling wine’s packaging leverages the power of darkness

Sparkling wine’s packaging leverages the power of darkness
Winery uses unique light-blocking package to better preserve aroma and taste.

Recognizing light’s damaging effect on the aromas in sparkling wine, Slovenia’s Radgonske Gorice winery is producing its new Untouched by Light sparkling wine in the dark—and using light-proof beverage packaging to protect the product from light during distribution. The package is a black glass bottle inside a black vacuum-sealed foil bag.

Light, including fluorescent lighting, has been shown to reduce citrus aromas in sparkling wine and create a light-struck aroma characterized by notes of cooked cabbage, rubber or wet dog. To eliminate all light from production of Untouched by Light wine, Radgonske Gorice starts by harvesting Chardonnay grapes at night, when the moon is new (the darkest nights).

The wine is also produced in darkness and then filled into 99.8% black bottles and aged in total darkness in cellars built within the caves of Radgona, Slovenia. When the sparkling wine has aged sufficiently, up to three years, Radgonske Gorice vacuum-seals each bottle in a black foil bag.

To keep lighting requirements minimal, workers wear night-vision glasses while harvesting the grapes, rotating bottles in the cellars and vacuum-sealing the bottles.

The first bottles of Untouched by Light wine will ship in spring 2020, and the winery currently is taking pre-orders. Klavdija Topolovec Špur, enologist at Radgonske Gorice, answers some questions from Packaging Digest about the wine’s packaging and production.

Klavdija Topolovec Špur stands by the packaging decisions, despite criticism from skeptics.

How did Radgonske Gorice come up with the idea for the packaging?

Špur: We approached Bruketa&Žinić&Grey creative agency wanting a new label design for our sparkling wine. During the process of their research, they came across Ann Noble’s “Sensory Study of the Effect of Fluorescent Light on a Sparkling Wine and Its Base Wine” in the American Journal of Enology and Viticulture. This was an insight that led them to the idea of a completely new sparkling wine, Untouched by Light. We liked their idea and decided to make it happen.

Why is the Untouched by Light bottle 99.8% black rather than 100% black?

Špur: Due to impurities in the glass.

Is there a coating or shrink sleeve on the bottle that helps make it impenetrable to light?

Špur: The glass bottle is put inside a vacuum bag, which completely protects it from the light.

We are discussing additional protection of the glass bottle while it is still in the cave [prior to vacuum-sealing].

How is the wine packaged and where?

Špur: We are packaging the wine in Gornja Radgona in Slovenia. We will use the same equipment [that we use for our other wines].

Is the vacuum-sealing process also conducted in total darkness?

Špur: There is minimum lighting for this part, because great precision is needed. And since the glass bottle is already black, and with probable additional protection, it is not possible for the light to penetrate.

Did you need to invest in new packaging equipment for this second layer of packaging?

Špur: No.


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Is there any risk of the bottle breaking during vacuum-sealing?

Špur: No…only if we are clumsy.

How do you ensure employee safety as they work in the dark?

Špur: We will have minimum lighting during the vacuuming process. We probably won’t be needing night-vision glasses for the next harvest, as well.

Why not?

Špur: It turned out they are not necessary because visibility is good enough on clear-sky nights.

Where will Untouched by Light sparkling wine be sold?

Špur: The wine will be available to anyone in the world who orders it online, and we also plan to distribute it via the same channels as our other brands, focusing on the United Kingdom and United States.

How much will it cost, per bottle?

Špur: The price will be €100.

How have consumers reacted to the Untouched by Light concept?

Špur: There is more interest than we had expected. Of course, there are always skeptics saying this is only a marketing stunt, but we strongly stand behind the concept and the reasons for it. Our experience, as well as research, show this idea is justified.

Got cannabis packaging questions? Get answers here

As the use of cannabis becomes fully legal in an increasing number of states, consumers are clamoring for new cannabis-centric products, such as edibles, infused beverages, medical devices, health and beauty products, and more. Cannabis manufacturers need experienced packaging partners to produce containers for their items; and packaging professionals looking to enter the market must familiarize themselves with products, regulations and other factors.

The new Cannabis Packaging Summit offers an opportunity for cannabis manufacturers and packaging producers to come together, learn about production and design trends and challenges, and discuss mutually beneficial partnerships.

Scheduled in conjunction with WestPack 2020 (Feb. 11-13; Anaheim, CA), the Cannabis Packaging Summit is the first event of its kind in North America. The day-and-a-half summit on Feb. 11-12 at the Anaheim Convention Center will showcase opportunities for packaging companies to capitalize on the booming American cannabis market.

The agenda includes speakers representing varying legislative, regulatory, educational, technology and industry perspectives. Attendees will also have access to networking sessions and tabletop exhibits on both days.

Sessions over the course of the summit will address a range of concerns, from maintaining product safety to navigating confusing, complicated legal and regulatory concerns. Some highlights are:

Tues., Feb. 11:

10:45-11:15 a.m.: Issues for Packagers: How Packaging Can Help Maintain Health and Safety

2-2:30 p.m.: Legal Issues Around Cannabis as a Food Additive

2:30-3 p.m.: Cannabis Producers, Packaging and the Law

Wed., Feb. 12:

8:50-9:10 a.m.: Packaging of Cannabis: What Barrier?

11:45 a.m.-12:25 p.m.: Panel Discussion: What Does the Cannabis Industry Want from Packaging?

See the full agenda here.

Meet subject matter experts (SMEs)

The presenters scheduled to lead the Cannabis Packaging Summit sessions and panels come from a range of agencies, law firms, manufacturers, universities and other organizations. Currently, scheduled speakers are from:

Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Anvisa)
California Cannabis Industry Assn.
Clemson University
Columbia’s National Food and Drug Surveillance Institute (Invima)
Health Canada
Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council
Keller & Heckman
Michigan State University
National Institutes of Health
National Native American Cannabis Assn.
Perritt Laboratories
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rutgers University
Simms Law

Registration is open for the inaugural Cannabis Packaging Summit; super-early-bird pricing is available until Nov. 8, 2019. To learn more or sign up, go to

How time-saving collaboration benefits packaging development

How time-saving collaboration benefits packaging development

The value of cross-departmental teamwork is well recognized by executives and employees across all business functions inside an organization. Employees who can reach outside their silos to find colleagues with complementary expertise learn more and gain skills faster; and organizations with more cross-silo collaboration achieve greater customer loyalty and higher profit margins, according to an article in Harvard Business Review

Consumer packaged goods and life-sciences companies recognize the value of collaboration across departments within their organizations, but here’s the problem: They struggle to make it happen. And the 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey by Gartner estimates that a lack of collaboration across marketing, functional and geographic lines costs businesses $11 million per year.

Specifically, in the packaging process, there is a real opportunity to bolster collaborative efforts. Effective teamwork can potentially mean less cycles of packaging reviews, equating to an increase in the product’s speed-to-market. But as it stands, copious amounts of work and communication is required across multiple departments and external suppliers.

Let’s review today’s current packaging development process:

In-house graphic designers ideate a graphical design, engineers mock a CAD rending of the design with the appropriate specs, while marketing finalizes copy and works alongside compliance to ensure the overall packaging and labeling meets regulations with the Food and Drug Administration. After that, a company will route the label and artwork to their external suppliers (agencies, printers, and converters) for package printing and manufacturing, and then marketing sends images and physical products to retailers for inclusion on ecommerce websites and the store shelf. This process continues like a merry-go-round, with a few periodic starts and stops by senior leadership as they provide their feedback and approvals. And if the communication is poor between parties, emails pile up, files get lost—the merry-go-round ride never ends.

What happens to a company’s packaging process if they collaborate more effectively across silos with enabling technologies?

After spending most of my career in IT and product development, I often refer to Metcalfe’s Law. It is a concept that explains the growth and value of the number of connections and value of electronic telecommunications devices. For example, one person owning a single iPhone is pretty useless; however, when there are two people with iPhones, one can communicate with another. And when there are millions of iPhones? The device finally holds some real value, and the communication spans across a network.

Let’s translate Metcalfe’s Law to product packaging: The key to the successful execution of the packaging process is collaboration through packaging management software. The more users across departments who use the workflow tool, the more powerful the software becomes. 

If each silo utilizes the automated workflow, it becomes easy to collaborate across silos, geographies and external partners, while still identifying areas of improvement and bottlenecks within the process. More importantly, the software becomes a vital resource for the organization’s success.

A better way

Imagine what collaboration could look like when using packaging management software:

Design Collaboration: A graphic designer can make a label change or update on package design in a workflow software, and each participant on the project can get notified of the change via email .

Packaging Engineer Collaboration: An engineer can reply with the latest packaging specs and notify the packaging manager that the structural CAD file is complete through the workflow.

Packaging Leader Collaboration: A packaging manager can view where the packaging development is at in the overall workflow—identifying critical bottlenecks—and implementing appropriate countermeasures to improve the process. Beyond process improvements and encouraging cross-silo collaboration, a packaging manager can grant external partners access to their projects, encouraging transparent communication beyond the business to agencies, converters and printers.

Marketing Collaboration: A marketer can upload all their assets to the organization’s digital asset management (DAM) program and easily pull the most recent version of romance copy or the latest glamour shot and insert that imagery or content into the packaging management software workflow, alerting the packaging manager that new imagery has been created and needs to be shared when creating the printed promotional materials.

Executive Collaboration: An executive can quickly approve the final product packaging submitted by the packaging leader and marketing departments through software that alerts them that their approvals are required.

Ecommerce Collaboration: Using a workflow, an ecommerce manager can be alerted on final 3D product images and leverage a DAM to pull the most recent product images and messaging for inclusion on all promotional assets, both online and in-store—creating cohesion across channels.

Better yet, every collaborator involved in the go-to-market strategy, regardless of job function or department understands the packaging project status and workflow, removing finger-pointing and confusion if and when a project is delayed. Visibility across silos enables all individuals in the value chain to understand how their role impacts the overall process, and each individual can offer suggestions for improvement.

Successful collaboration combines people, technology and a packaging workflow platform, enabling your teams to get their jobs done efficiently and your package out the door on-deadline. More importantly, it allows your team to work across silos throughout the entire go-to-market strategy using a single source of truth.

Want your teams to collaborate? Get them the right tools, encourage user adoption across silos and watch the power of the network improve your packaging process.

New packing system optimizes ecommerce shipping

As ecommerce sales rise, many brands find they need to better automate their in-house fulfillment and shipping processes. Luckily, packaging machinery manufacturers are stepping up with creative solutions.

At the 2019 Pack Expo Las Vegas show, Signode Industrial Group LLC demonstrated a new packing system specifically for ecommerce. Two machines synched into one system to showcase the company’s vast offerings for “optimized and customized transit packaging solutions,” according to a brochure. The same literature presents 15 different products for ecommerce across the company’s many brands. Now unified under one global organization, these well-known and respected brands encompass products for pack, bundle, unitize, warehouse and transport functions.

The semi-automatic duo-machine system shown in the booth gives companies a sustainable option that helps optimize the size of the case and minimizes the amount of packing materials needed to protect the shipment.

The 30-second video above shows a carton being bundled onto a flat piece of corrugate with an H. Bohl orbital stretch wrapper. The film wraps around the product as many times as programmed and holds together with simple friction so there is no adhesive or tape needed. Products can be placed on this carrier “tray” in various configurations prior to wrapping. This is critical because most online orders are for multiple items.

The tray automatically moves out from the wrapper and is then manually packed into a waiting case by folding the tray into thirds to create a bottom and two sides. Many products can be well protected for shipping with this design without additional cushioning. But the tray could also be designed to fold different ways, including a Z-fold so the product is suspended in the center of the box instead of sitting on the bottom.

Once filled, the case is manually pushed into a Little David SP-304 case tape sealer.


MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) is where serious packaging professionals find technologies, education and connections needed to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing community. See solutions in labeling, food packaging, package design and beyond. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

Beer Packaging

Freaky Fridays in packaging: Beer-dispensing headgear

Freaky Fridays in packaging: Beer-dispensing headgear
Inventor Randall Flann models his fun and functional beverage dispensing headgear.

What can you wear on your head that dispenses beer and other beverages and looks exactly like a motorcycle or futbol or any of 150 different designs? Whatever it is, inventor Randall Flann likely has it covered.

Flann is a revved-up kind of Renaissance man, an art school graduate with a wild sense of humor and a brain that operates at a mile a minute.

All of these factors may or may not explain why being turned down for the role as comedic actor John Belushi in a bio-drama movie planned in the late ‘80s—the screenplay was written with Flann in mind—sparked him to research, create and file a patent for the “Substance Dispensing Headgear.” Flann refers to it as the RoFo BevDisHeadgear, which references his initials and “BevDis” for Beverage Dispensing. The first iteration that was illustrated in the patent filing below shows the RoFo Wooden Barrel Headgear; that’s wooden as in molded faux-wood plastic, specifically polyethylene or polypropylene. Although the initial design and our headline position it for beer, it’s suitable for any still or carbonated beverage that’s tepid or chilled; warm or hot liquid use is not recommended, according to Flann.

Packaging Digest felt the timing was ideal to report on and update the latest developments for this unique product, for which 20 years ago this Octoberfest month Flann received U.S. Patent # 5,966,743.

If you’ve seen anyone at a sporting event or elsewhere sucking a beverage from a straw-tube than runs from a can attached to a cap, you’ve seen someone else’s patent.

Flann’s invention takes that dispensing concept to a much higher artistic level with headgear dispensers molded into the shape of familiar objects. Imagine the impact that multiserve head-top containers that resemble soccer balls, baseballs, futbols, motorcycles, hockey pucks, cowboy hats and more could make at a social gathering. All told, Flann filed for 149 different designs with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

More than eye-popping point-of-use impact, the invention presents thoroughly engineered functionality along with keeping the fun factor top-of-mind; for example, for user comfort the headgear is equipped with 4-point adjustable harness suspension that’s standard in most construction and industrial hard hats. The adjustable harness design keeps the product balanced, stationary and comfortable while worn on the head.

Compared to other wearable dispensers, "this new generation RoFo BevDisHeadgear needs only to be filled once for prolonged multiple dispensing use,” Flann tells Packaging Digest.

There’s also a food safety angle beyond the food-quality polymers.  “It provides a way to ensure that a beverage is uncontaminated,” he adds. “It prevents others from tampering as may occur with opened beverages.”

Flann also points out the practical benefit of having a mobile dispenser at a social gathering. “It reduces trips to a server’s station or kitchen,” he says.

A small sampling of RoFo BevDisHeadgears molded of HDPE or LLDPE among the many dozens of designs that are possible.

These are some key specifications and facts for the beverage dispenser:

  • The container could be blowmolded in high-density polyethylene (HDPE) or rotationally molded of liner-low density polyethylene (LLDPE);
  • It measures approximately 10-in. in diameter and is nearly a foot high;
  • It holds the equivalent of 2L or about 68oz of liquid;
  • It weighs approximately 1½ pounds empty and 5 lb when full.

Two separate technical assessments conducted five years apart by the engineering department of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee concurred that when technical feasibility, economics and other considerations are factored in, rotational molding was the ideal choice of molding for this invention that represents a lower cost to entry.

Also crucial is the RoFo Motific Spigot at the front of the container designed and injection molded specific to the chosen theme as well. For example, a hockey-puck shaped dispenser uses a goal-net shaped spigot, another that looks like a hotdog on a bun offers a combo mustard-relish spigot.

The spigot’s self-venting design is crucial so that the spigot can used without a separate vent hole. It also allows the spigot's removal for filling and for post-use cleaning using mild dish soap and warm water before the next use.

Next: Markets, designs and what’s ahead


The target market is universal, notes Flann with tongue planted firmly in cheek. “The demographics for the product are extensive and cross all age groups and segments from ages 16 to 116. Users have discretionary disposable income; they are upbeat, creative, fun-loving imaginative and adventuresome. And they average 3.2 persons per household.”

While using it to dispense beer seems the logical choice given Flann’s Milwaukee hometown, it’s applicable for the entire range of beverages.

“Whether intended for children or adults, the dispenser can be used for water, lemonade, iced tea, chocolate drinks, fruit flavored and health drinks, soda and other cold nonalcohol beverages,” Flann explains. “The product is not a thermos, so containing a hot beverage is prohibited to prevent warping the molded product or harming a wearer’s head. Using common sense always prevails.”

I asked him to name the most complex design, which elicited an immediate response: the RoFo Motorcycle (shown above). It’s no wonder, like a mini model of the real thing it offers faux front suspension, clutch, speedometer, headlight, turn signal lights, rubber fork boots, spring forks, brake cable, brakes and balloon tire.

Which design is his favorite?

“Not to sound facetious, but it’s the one yet to be completed,” responds Flann deftly. “It’s the challenge of conceptualizing then fabricating a work of art to be functional that makes my next usable composition my personal favorite.”

Truth be told, Flann does have a specific next design in mind, and that’s another reason that he’s highly motivated and encouraged over the near-term, but more about that in a minute.

Flann learned after recent contacts with additional molders that because CAD methodologies and molding techniques have greatly advanced over the years since the early designs, he'd benefit from retooling, so he's made that a priority for 2020.

But what has truly reinvigorated him into a higher gear—and trust me, he’s quite energized under normal conditions—is that a facilitating agency that also arranges truck delivery for a high-end retailer is keenly interested in the product. It was conversations from this new relationship that sparked the idea for his next creation: An 18-wheeler RoFo BevDisHeadgear with a hood that opens for dispensing.

Flann believes this will solidify plans to bring his unique beverage dispensers to commercial reality for sale in 2020. When that happens, you could purchase your own RoFo BevDisHeadgear for $39.95.

For further information, contact Randy Flann via or by email at [email protected].

For more images, factoids and technical details, click here for a 10-slide presentation posted at sister publication PlasticsToday.