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Autumn flaunts food and beverage packaging developments

Autumn flaunts food and beverage packaging developments

Looking for sustainable packaging options or ideas for foods and beverages? Good news! A lot has been happening in this area lately—from the introduction of a recyclable aluminum cup designed to replace disposable plastic to a blueprint from Dasani on how to improve its eco footprint.

Each month, we review what topics are resonating with our global packaging community. Often a pattern will emerge, as it did when we looked back at this year’s early fall lineup. Our top reads all focused on foods and beverages, with a healthy side dish of sustainability.

Based on page views, here are the five best-read articles from September 2019 on

5. Beverage brands bank on rPET for packaging sustainability

In an exclusive interview, Joe Franses, vp, sustainability for Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), discloses details about the company’s landmark program in packaging sustainability. Starting in early 2020, the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler will sell Honest teas, Glacéau Smartwater and Chaudfontaine bottled water brands in bottles made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). This change will eliminate the need for 9,000 tonnes/9,920 tons of virgin plastic yearly across Western Europe.

Franses says, “By the end of 2020 every Honest, Glacéau Smartwater or Chaudfontaine bottle will be sold in 100% rPET bottles.”

NEXT: An oldie but a goodie…if you worry about BPA

4. Most food cans no longer use BPA in their linings

This article from February 2018 makes it on another “top articles of the month” list for 2019—for the eighth time this year!—proving that interest in health and safety continues. Do you know what chemicals of concern might migrate from your packaging material into your product? You should.

NEXT: A packaging machinery revolution!

3. 10 new machines answer food packaging demands

In a preview of what attendees could see at Pack Expo Las Vegas 2019 (Sept. 23-25; Las Vegas), we filtered through pre-show press announcements to present these 10 new systems that tout hygienic designs, robotics and improved inspection for the food industry. Even though the show is over, you don’t have to miss learning about these automation standouts.

1. JDD Rotary Pouch Machine from Triangle Package Machinery

2. Peregrine robotic cartoning system from JLS

3. Revolution flow wrapper with Robotic Loading System from Campbell Wrapper

4. Halopack trays produced on the SKR machine from Proseal

5. lightline Flowpacker from Schubert

6. New Contura S600 leak detection technology from Inficon

7. P300 portion pack machine from IMA/Hassia

8. 4Sight automatic print inspection solution from AutoCoding / SICK

9. New SmartPacker TwinTube vertical packaging machine from GEA

10. Eagle Pack 240 HC X-ray machine from Eagle Product Inspection

NEXT: 5 ways Dasani is improving packaging sustainability


2. Dasani’s next 5 steps to greater packaging sustainability

This article moved up from the #5 best-read article in August to #2 in September.

In an exclusive interview with Sneha Shah, group director, packaging innovation, Coca-Cola North America, we learn about how leading water brand Dansani will help the company reach its goal of packaging containing 50% recycled material by 2030 as part of a circular economy initiative.

1. Meet the HybridBottle—the next generation of the PlantBottle—which is made of up to 50% plant-based renewable (PlantBottle) and recycled PET (rPET) with the balance virgin PET. Previously, the material mix was 30% renewable and 70% virgin PET.

2. Aluminum cans enter the packaging mix in three ways with the introduction of new 12- and 16-ounce aluminum cans and new 16-ounce aluminum bottles.

3. Dasani embraces weight loss, gram by gram. It will continue to lightweight packages across its package portfolio. Part of that effort involves expanding the use of Plasmax coating technology, which provides excellent shelf life and allows designers to reduce overall bottle weight.

4. Dasani is adding How2Recycle labels to all packages, starting this fall, to help educate and encourage consumers to recycle the packages after use.

5. The brand started to deploy 100 Dasani PureFill water dispensers across the country beginning in fall 2019. Featuring a smaller footprint than the successful Coca-Cola Freestyle platform, this version of PureFill is a compact countertop unit that reduces the amount of prepackaged bottled water, while making it more convenient for consumers to enjoy the brand.

NEXT: A recyclable cup that keeps beverages cool


1. Ball Corp. presents the plastic-replacing aluminum cup

Because of the nearly frantic need to distance themselves from plastic packaging, brand owners are desperately seeking alternatives. So, when we served up this new offering, it caused a feeding frenzy.

On August 27, Ball Corp. revealed a number of pilot projects with major entertainment venues and concessionaires in the U.S. to replace plastic drinking cups with 20-oz aluminum cups that are lightweight, durable and cool to the touch—offering consumers an enhanced beverage drinking experience on top of the ability to recycle the metal vessel more easily than a plastic cup.

Our readers aren’t the only ones showing high interest in this development. Ball’s research shows that 67% of U.S. consumers say they will visit a venue more often if they use aluminum cups instead of plastic cups.

Perhaps “Play ball!” will hold a different meaning at the park next year.


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.

Medical Packaging

How to determine a valid sample size for testing your medical device package

How to determine a valid sample size for testing your medical device package
Most medical device packaging developers often struggle to figure out how many samples to test. Here are some guidelines.

“How many packaging samples should I test?” For many medical device packaging professionals, this is a common question without an easy answer. Packaging test methods rarely contain sample size guidance, so it is left to the individual manufacturer to determine and justify an appropriate sample size.

Sample size justifications should be based on statistically valid rational and risk assessments. Unfortunately, there is no “magic number” that is right for every situation. For this article, we will use a commonly accepted approach to determine a sample size and discuss some special considerations to remember when doing sample size justifications.

Step 1

Usually, the first step in selecting an adequate sample size is to calculate risk. Risk is the, “combination of occurrence of harm and the severity of that harm that can occur due to failure (ISO 14971).” A common approach to calculating risk is known as a Risk Priority Number (RPN). The RPN is a calculation based on an assigned severity, occurrence and detection value. Each category is assigned a value ranging from 1 to 10. It is important to recognize that other ranges are also acceptable (that is, 1 to 5) to use when establishing the risk value.

Table 1: RPN categories and definitions

The product is evaluated and a number (1-10) is assigned for each category. These values are multiplied together to calculate the RPN. You can then categorize the RPN as Low, Medium or High Risk. The RPN is not a measurement of the manufacturer’s risk; rather, it is an assignment of risk priority.

For example, in a product that has a high Severity level (such as a failure could end with catastrophic injury), a rating of 10 can be issued, which is worst case. The same product may also have a high Detection rating (where a failure is difficult to spot) so a value of 8 is assigned. Finally, it is assumed that a failure is rare and does not occur often. Therefore, an Occurrence level of 4 is assigned. These values are then multiplied together for an RPN of 320, which is a Medium Risk priority. In this example a 95% Confidence / 95% Reliability level would be assigned (Table 2).

Table 2: Example of correlating Risk (RPN) to Confidence and Reliability. ISO 14971:2007 (R2016) directs us to establish these values using a 3 x 3 risk matrix. The values are examples using a range of 1-10. These would change if the range was 1-5 or 1-3.


The Confidence Interval is an expression of uncertainty about an unknown constant. Reliability is how many units will successfully meet the pass/fail criteria.

For example, a 90% reliability means that 90 out of 100 units will successfully meet all pass/fail criteria, and a 95% Confidence Interval, indicates that a manufacturer is 95% confident that they will have less than or equal to 10 true failures.

A Method 1 Non-parametric Binomial Reliability chart (Table 3) can be used to determine a minimum sample size based on Confidence/Reliability. Non-parametric binomial reliability demonstration tests are used widely for test methods that generate attribute or qualitative data.

Table 3: This is just one example of Non-parametric Binomial Reliability chart with zero (0) allowable failures. Many options and processes exist for determining this. Search the internet for binomial parametric distribution and then identify how many failures are acceptable.

In our hypothetical example of an RPN of 320 and a 95%/95% Confidence/Reliability level, we would select a sample size of 59 with zero allowable failures. When incorporating allowable test failures into the equation, the sample size required to achieve the same confidence and reliability intervals increases significantly.

Other considerations

Finally, there are a number of additional factors that can also affect sample size.

• Product cost and availability can be prohibitive to larger sample sizes. Facsimile product (similar in shape, materials and weight) may need to be used when product is expensive or not readily available.

• More complex products or products that do not have a long manufacturing history may be considered a higher risk for defects and may require larger sample sets. Some products have higher inherent risks to patients. As patient risk increases, so should sample sizes.

• The test methods chosen can also affect the sample size. Generally, qualitative methods should have a larger sample set than quantitative methods. Also, depending on the type of device and packaging components, different test methods may or may not be appropriate.

Selecting an appropriate sample size can be complex as there are many factors to consider, and no single approach will be appropriate 100% of the time. There are multiple approaches to determining risk, and risk assessment is usually not simple and straight forward. It is important to have qualified people who understand your device, how the device will be used, how to appropriately determine risk, which test methods would be suitable for your device and how to build a statistically valid sampling plan. A packaging expert and a statistician can be valuable partners in helping you select and justify your sampling plan.

8 global packaging trends and where they’re all heading

8 global packaging trends and where they’re all heading

First impressions count, and for many brands, this puts high importance on the product packaging. As with all forms of marketing, it shifts and changes due to customers’ tastes and global sentiments—such as the current appetite for sustainable packaging.

Here are eight key trends that brands should be taking note of right now.

1. Bold colors make an impact

Standing out on the shelf is not the only challenge brands face. They also have to stand out from the clutter on e-commerce websites. In response, we’re seeing bright shades of yellow, neon colors and metallic sheens being used on packaging.

Ignore this trend at your peril, say the experts. A study showed that consumers make a subconscious decision on a product within less than a minute of seeing it.  More than two-thirds said color was one of the main factors they look at when making a purchase. 

2. Creativity is key

Packaging is being reconsidered. Its role is not only to protect the product. It has a role as a canvas for creativity and design that will ignite interest in consumers. The focus on this is an attempt to catch the attention of younger shoppers in grocery stores who are more likely to be attracted to this packaging. 

3. Sustainable packaging is a priority

Consumers want environmentally friendly packaging, and this is one packaging trend that is here to stay. Most big brands are making efforts to switch to using recycled materials in their packaging, including Coca-Cola. It’s been shown that consumers are willing to pay more for products produced by brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainable practices.

4. Less is more

Minimalist packaging is defined as packaging that has only the necessary information on it. Research shows that consumers tend to trust brands less when the product packaging is filled with information. A more straightforward approach is shown to work with today’s shoppers to build trust and authenticity. 

5. The past makes a comeback

Vintage labeling may be the opposite of bold colors and contemporary packaging, but it is being shown to be equally popular with consumers. They are drawn to vintage packaging as it engages their cultural memories and easily resonates with them.

For older customers, it’s about nostalgia and seeing something that reminds them of their past and their childhoods. For emerging customers (the youth), it can evoke curiosity to explore the past. In these ways, vintage labeling can attract buyers of any age. It is indeed timeless.

6. Transparency means honesty

Transparent food packaging has emerged as a top packaging design trend. Consumers increasingly want to be able to see the actual product they’re buying. They want the freedom to gauge how fresh a product is by looking at it, rather than trusting the packaging or ingredients list to tell the story. It is all part of their desire to know the food’s journey from the farm to the store. We’re seeing glass jars becoming more popular, PET bottles and even transparent plastic “cans.”

7. Sell me an experience

Just look at YouTube to see how popular “unboxing” videos are. Consumers get a thrill when they open packaging to reveal their purchase, and this can be exploited by packaging companies in their designs.

It is particularly important for ecommerce brands that don’t have the opportunity to engage with customers in real-life stores. Packaging can help create a memorable brand experience for customers that will set them apart from their competitors. Creating a custom packaging experience can include materials that add to the unboxing experience.

Some of the options include:

• Wrapping product in tissue paper. It builds an extra layer of anticipation into the experience of unboxing.

• Sustainable fillers such as biodegradable bubble wrap that highlight a brand’s environmental commitments without reducing the experience.

• Stickers are versatile, inexpensive and can easily be branded.

• A personal note or special instructions add vcaualue. Handwritten messages alert customers to the fact that there are real people behind the brand.

• Colorful packaging tape can be used to complement your custom packing.

• A sample or gift can be added as a “thank you” or to introduce a customer to new products.

8. What’s your cause?

Cause marketing is a strategy that brands can use to promote their corporate social responsibility actions to promote their products. Socially connected consumers want more from brands than what they can offer materially. They want to know that the company they are investing in wants to better society, not merely increase profits. Whether they are social or environmental issues, packaging provides a platform for the communication of cause marketing.

The bottom line is that the world is emerging from our past throwaway culture, and brands need to adopt new packaging innovations and trends to meet their desires. It's time to embrace packaging as a need rather than simply adding to landfills.


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.

Inverted pouch trend upends food packaging: Chico Honey

Chico-Honey-Squeeze Glenroy-770x400.jpg
Inverted pouch launch brings no-mess convenience to the honey category.

A category-first application of the inverted pouch aims to have retail and ecommerce consumers abuzz about the no-mess convenience of Chico Honey’s new packaging.

Thriving packaging segments draw brand owners like blossoms draw bees.

For example, consider the inverted pouch. Starting in 2015 with Daisy brand sour cream, the topsy-turvy revision of the universally popular stand-up pouch continues to gain traction with brands across a widening swath of packaged foods from barbecue sauce to yogurt (see article links at the end).

The reason that the format has proven such a winner is that pouch inversion enhances convenience, reduces waste and can prolong the shelf life of sensitive products as the pack headspace is reduced in use. And it provides on-shelf distinction.

The latest category to embrace the functional benefits of this consumer-friendly format is honey, starting with the U.S. introduction of a 20-ounce inverted pouch from Chico Honey Co., Orland, CA, this summer.

This breakthrough in the category also marks the brand’s entry into flexible packaging.

“We wanted to bring a product design to market that was mess-free and user friendly,” explains Mike Watson, the company’s sales and brand manager. “Honey can be a sticky sweet treat, so having it mess-free makes life easier. We considered having the product packed in smaller sachet pouches until we fell in love with the idea of the StandCap pouch.”

StandCap premade inverted pouches are from supplier Glenroy

Ken Brunnbauer, Glenroy marketing manager, informs Packaging Digest that “this pouch was engineered with a reverse-printed, clear high-oxygen-barrier lamination. That allows for a viewing window to the product while providing the necessary protection to extend shelf life and maintain product integrity. Additional components in the lamination boost puncture-resistance and aid in squeeze performance.”

The pouch features the Sierra Closure from the AptarGroup that was developed specifically for this market. The twist-on/off hinged polypropylene dispensing closure provides the pouch with an easy-to-open flip-top closure that doubles as a wide base for inverted stability. It’s threaded to a tamper-evident, polyethylene pull-ring fitment sealed to the pouch that boasts Aptar’s SimpliSqueeze proprietary valve technology for optimal, clean-cut-off dispensing.

Packaging with universal benefits

According to Watson, the key benefits of the inverted pouch are…

  • There’s no need for utensils;
  • Almost 100% of the honey can be enjoyed by the consumer without wasting product;
  • The honey stays fresher longer.

The company also likes its universal appeal.

“The beauty of the StandCap Pouch design is that it allows us to market to every consumer age group and demographic,” he says. “It’s an easy-to-use application for children, parents and grandparents. Our honey container’s added convenience allows for quick grab-and-go access for a person on the move.”

The design of the 20-oz pouch mimics the company’s 30-oz and 25-oz glass jars that are printed with a floral pattern, Watson notes. The pouch graphics were created in-house by Chico Honey’s design and marketing team to showcase the floral design of the honeybees foraging source and call out the OHB “Olivarez Honey Bees Inc.” within the logo of Chico Honey Co. 

Chico Honey chose a black cap that corresponds to the brand-specific color that matches the clover or wildflower illustration printed on the pouches.

As with numerous brands’ launches over the years, plans quickly solidified at a Pack Expo like chilled honey.

“After an earlier discussion with Glenroy, we were invited to the Pack Expo Chicago in October 2018,” recalls Watson. “Our relationship between the companies blossomed from there, and Glenroy has been an amazing company to work with.”

The time from initial idea to having packaged product in-hand took eight months, according to Watson.

The pouched honey retails for $14.99 in two “pure and raw” varieties, California wildflower blend honey and clover honey. For comparison, the company’s previous glass-packed stock-keeping units (SKU) sizes with retail pricing are: 12-oz ($9.99), 16-oz ($14.99), 25-oz whisky style jar ($22.99) and 30-oz jar ($17.99).

A sustainable mindset, naturally

As with most brands, sustainability was top-of-mind, though for Chico Honey earth-friendly mindfulness has long come naturally to the company: The third-generation beekeepers have been in business for more than 50 years and maintain operations in California, Montana and Hawaii.

“We are one of the largest queen bee producers and the only provider of the authorized Saskatraz Queen in the United States,” says Watson. “By providing healthy queens, we help beekeepers repopulate their hives and fight against the decline in honeybees.

“As third-generation beekeepers, we know that the best honey comes from happy, healthy bees. Because honeybees provide one-third of all the food we eat, we understand the importance of our environment and helping in any way we can. With the StandCap Pouch, we bring to market a more environmentally friendly package, with an easy-to-use application that provides such a beneficial product as pure raw honey.”

Watson cites those all-important sustainability benefits of the packaging that have been previously published elsewhere for a similar conversion (see Uncle Dougie’s squeeze pouches flex strong sustainability numbers, published May 2019 by PlasticsToday) in comparing the pouch to the glass bottle it replaces:

  • 65% less fossil fuel consumption.
  • 77.8% less greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 80.6% less water usage.

Asked about the sticky challenge of the product’s viscosity at room temperature, Watson says that the Aptar closure has “worked well.”  For packaging production, the honey is warmed prior to filling as a simple solution to make it flow better.

“Honey needs to be warmed to allow for filling of packaging,” Watson explains, “but we also insure that the temperature will not exceed the recommend heat to keep our honey from becoming processed and losing all that is good with the product.”

Watson originally viewed the pouch as a line extension that “could possibly take the place of a current SKU that is in a smaller-ounce container. This allows us to offer more honey to consumers in an amazing package at the same cost.”

A month later Chico Honey managers were convinced that the new format was a clear-cut winner.

“We have already decided to move forward to discontinuing that line and replace it with the pouch,” Watson tells Packaging Digest.

The pouches are available at and at the company headquarters’ “The Hive Kitchen + Bar” restaurant in Orland, CA. They can also be found in retail stores and boutiques in California including Save Mart/Lucky stores at this time.

For further information, visit AptarGroup's inverted pouch page and visit Glenroy.

Read the other features in the Inverted pouches upend food packaging series…

Sempac published April 2019;

Uncle Dougie’s and Glenroy published March 2019;

ProAmpac published January 2019;

Chobani published December 2018.

For more pouch packaging features, see


Coca-Cola continues its sustainable packaging push in Europe

Coca-Cola continues its sustainable packaging push in Europe
Switching from difficult-to-recycle film (left) to more-easily-recycled paperboard for multipacks is part of Coca-Cola's Sustainability Action Plan.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) has announced that it’s switching the carriers on its multipacks from shrink wrap to paperboard to reduce packaging waste. CCEP estimates this change in its beverage packaging will remove about 4,000 metric tons of single-use plastic per year from its current supply chain.

Flexible packaging materials used for shrink wrap are typically challenging to recycle. In contrast, CCEP’s paperboard multipack carriers will be made from recyclable, sustainably sourced paperboard. The material will be certified via either the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

The change of secondary packaging material aligns with Coca-Cola’s Action on Packaging Sustainability Action Plan, which focuses on making all of the company’s packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. CCEP plans to eventually make not only its primary packaging, but also its secondary packaging, as sustainable as possible.

Coca-Cola’s Action on Packaging plan includes sourcing recycled packaging materials, with a specific commitment to obtain at least 50% of the plastic for its polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles from recycled plastic. The company reports that in 2018, 98% of its packaging in Western Europe was recyclable, and that about 28% of the plastic it used for packaging was recycled material.

CCEP is also collaborating with technology partners such as Loop Industries to transform low-value plastic waste into high-quality PET resin.

Packaging Digest recently reported on CCEP’s plan to sell the Honest tea, Glacéau Smartwater and Chaudfontaine brands in bottles made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) starting in 2020. Our reportage includes a Q&A with Joe Franses, vp, sustainability, at CCEP.

CCEP is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, based on revenue. It serves more than 300 million consumers in a region spanning Andorra, Belgium, continental France, Germany, Great Britain, Iceland, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.


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.


4 nifty packaging robots doing amazing things

4 nifty packaging robots doing amazing things
Robots, cobots, mobots and extraordinary vision...oh, my!

Packaging robotics advocate and changeover wizard John Henry didn’t see everything he wanted to see at the recent Pack Expo Las Vegas 2019 show. But he witnessed these noteworthy developments you should know about.

I used to be able to walk the entire Pack Expo show in its earlier days. Then, as the event grew, I would walk a lot of it and worry about what I was missing. Now I just see as much as I can because it is no longer possible to see everything.

I did get to see a lot of really nifty stuff though. I saw some new technologies, new uses of old technologies and upgraded technologies. Here are four that stand out:

1. One of the more interesting technologies helping to advance robotics in packaging is machine vision or camera systems. These used to cost tens of thousands of dollars and didn’t do a lot. Now they cost as little as tens of dollars and can do virtually everything.

Perhaps the most impressive camera system I saw was coupled with a picking robot at Fanuc Robotics.

3D cameras have been able to sense part height and position for a few years now. This one sensed height, position, orientation. More impressively, it could detect an angled surface as shown in the photo (above/below). Most impressively, it did it with a dazzle pattern carton on a dazzle pattern belt—while in motion. I could just barely see the cartons, but the camera never missed.

I don’t expect to see many camouflage operations on a packaging line, but if the system could handle this, any other application will be easy as pie, even if the product is (literally) a piece of cake.

2. I’ve known that Epson builds great SCARA and other industrial robots. But its IntelliFlex Feeding System blew me away. The system fed keys out of a bin onto a vibrating tray. A camera identified which keys were right side up, the SCARA robot picked them, oriented them and placed them. When all keys were picked, the vibrator flipped over the remaining keys for picking. It did all this in less time than it took to read that sentence. It left my mind racing with possibilities.

This simple system could be a bottle orienter, filler, capper, labeler and …? An entire packaging line could be built around a series of these robots.

3. I have seen automated guidance vehicles (AGVs). I’ve seen cobots. I’ve even seen them combined by integrators. But I had not seen a single company solution until Omron.

Omron has combined both into a mobile robot that can go to the stockroom, pick some parts and materials and carry them back to the line. When finished, it goes to the nearest charger to juice up until needed again.

One question I have is what to call it? The base is a mobile robot or mobot. The arm is a collaborative robot or cobot. So is the system a comobot? Or perhaps a mocobot? We’ll be seeing more of them, we need a catchy name.

4. Blessings in a Backpack is a PMMI initiative to provide backpacks of food for children who might otherwise go hungry. A number of integrators set up work cells in the Robotics Zone to assemble the various components.

Universal Robots’ partner Allied Technology was bagging, casing and palletizing products for the backpacks. The whole cell was fascinating, but the bagger was ingenious. A UR cobot picked a premade bag, positioned it for loading then placed it in a sealer. A bagging machine without the bagger. This is how packaging machines should be built.

I didn’t see everything I wanted to, but I did see a lot and walked 15 miles doing it. I can’t wait to do it again next year in Chicago.


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.

Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

Plastic waste is becoming a more pressing concern for today’s consumers than it has ever been in the past. Research tells us that an average of eight million metric tons of plastic waste enters the ocean each year and that this plastic waste can impact the health of the oceans, marine life and maybe even human health.

The growing body of research on marine plastic pollution, along with news about upheaval in recycling export markets, has led to increased awareness among the public of the challenges at the end of life for plastics. Legislators in some jurisdictions have responded by proposing or passing bans on single-use plastics (the European Union, Canada and California) or bans on single-use plastic bags (seven U.S. states and many local governments). 

As customers hear about local recycling programs shutting down or bans on plastic in its various forms, their knowledge of the challenges of plastics pollution expands. According to a March 2019 survey by the Shelton Group, awareness of the issue of plastics in the ocean “is now on par with climate change.” On par with climate change. That is a stunning statement on the awareness of ocean plastic pollution!

Moreover, roughly a third of those the Shelton Group surveyed are taking various actions to reduce their use of plastic, such as bringing their own coffee mug to a coffee shop, bringing reusable bags to the grocery store or buying products packaged in something other than plastic.  

More and more individuals are trying to do their part, but what about packaging companies, brands and retailers? Some are offering plastic alternatives. Ball Corp. recently announced a plan to supply sports arenas and other entertainment venues with aluminum cups that can replace plastic cups. The aluminum cup was introduced at a Colorado University football game, as part of “the university’s goal of becoming plastic-free in its sports venues by 2020.”

In August, Hasbro announced it would phase out plastic from its packaging beginning in 2020. Hasbro’s chairman and CEO Brian Goldner says removing plastic from packaging is part of the company’s “decade-long journey to create a more sustainable future for our business and our world.” 

Creating a more sustainable future is a goal every company in the 21stcentury ought to work towards. Settling for the status quo is no way to solve a problem as monumental as eight million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean each year.

But turning away from plastic whole hog isn’t necessarily the best way forward for everyone either. 

Choosing a sustainable package is not just about paper versus plastic, or plastic versus aluminum. The grocery store check-out line question of plastic or paper is a relic of the past.

Instead, creating sustainable packaging involves considering questions of sourcing, efficiency, recovery, health and safety—all key pieces of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s definition of sustainable packaging. The SPC believes it is insufficient to call a package sustainable when it meets one of these criteria while failing the others.

For example, take a package that is sourced responsibly but that has negative impacts on human health, no outlet at the end of its life other than the landfill and uses more material than similar packages; this is not sustainable. It is sourced sustainably—which may be your goal, or it may be the most sustainable way to make that particular package. 

Let’s consider a plastic bottle of salad dressing. Is the fact that it’s made of plastic mean it’s destined to pollute the ocean? In the U.S., we are fortunate to have options for recycling plastic, as domestic markets for common plastics like polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethylene (HDPE) give those plastics a strong recovery option. A plastic bottle may also use a smaller mass of materials than a glass jar, and it would therefore be more resource efficient. Some plastic bottles are made with recycled content, which uses less energy than making containers using all virgin resin. 

A plastic bottle made of recycled content is an example of sustainable sourcing of plastic. Would it really be better to shift this particular package to aluminum or glass? Most likely not. In this case, plastic (and in particular recycled-content plastic) appears to be the most sustainable option available. 

But the story is not the same for every package. Some packages are better off in aluminum or glass. Sustainable packaging decisions are complex. No one right answer exists to most packaging questions.

To complicate matters further, sustainability itself is constantly in flux: new packaging formats are developed, old ones are made more efficient, consumer tastes change and more information about how to combat climate change comes to light. 

As sustainable packaging leaders, we have an obligation to help the public understand that there is more to sustainability than shifting away from plastics entirely. Finding packaging that is recyclable is not the silver bullet; finding packaging that is resource efficient is not the silver bullet; eliminating all plastics is not the silver bullet.

Sustainability is a complicated, moving target, and our job is to find the multiple layers—the right mix of bans and other legislation, packaging substitutions, redesigned formats and communication with the public—that leads to a more sustainable future. 

New cleanroom enables sterile medical packaging capabilities

New cleanroom enables sterile medical packaging capabilities
A new Model 78.1 Premium Speedformer tray thermoformer in Dordan's new ISO Class 8 cleanroom produces precise and high-quality medical packages.

Companies that sell medical devices face far more stringent packaging requirements than the average consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand owner. To meet the needs of medical device manufacturers, family-owned Dordan Manufacturing Inc. has expanded its thermoforming plant in Woodstock, IL, to include a fully enclosed ISO Class 8 cleanroom.

Packaging Digest senior technical editor Rick Lingle toured the Woodstock facility and wrote about the new Dordan cleanroom in a recent article for our sister publication PlasticsToday. The following details about the initiative are excerpted from his PlasticsToday article.

Dordan, which is ISO 9001:2015 certified, initiated the cleanroom project to enhance its existing expertise in medical packaging. The company also designs, manufactures and distributes custom thermoformed packaging in the retail, electronics and automotive markets.

“We already have healthcare and non-cleanroom medical customers, so we are familiar with the design and quality needs of the industry,” explains Dordan marketing manager Chandler Slavin. [Disclosure: Chandler Slavin is a contributing writer to Packaging Digest.] “By constructing an onsite cleanroom, fully committing to the medical market is a natural progression for us. We have opportunities for cleanroom packaging with these existing customers and are excited to further support their packaging needs for sterile medical devices and kits.”

Dordan general manager Aric Slavin (Chandler’s brother) adds, “This new capability requires a significant investment in equipment, facility, training and talent, as well as the ancillary equipment necessary for validating the process and the part.”

The cleanroom is 50x63-ft, a 3,200-square-foot isolated room with hard-wall construction rather than “soft-style” plastic curtains. A cascading air flow in the cleanroom pushes air from the inside out. Air pressure is higher in the production area than in the gowning and material-handling spaces, where air pressure is higher than in the factory.

An air handler on the outside of the building brings in air, which is cleaned using highly efficient privacy preserving authentication (HEPPA) filters before being introduced into the cleanroom. The air circulates through the cleanroom and exits via the air return handling system.

Medical device packages produced in the new cleanroom go through critical testing and inspection.

The cleanroom, which required 18 months to build, was designed for manufacturing packaging for Food and Drug Administration Class I, II and III medical devices. During construction, the company concurrently developed new quality-control procedures and hired additional personnel.

Installed on the main factory floor in Woodstock are 11 Lyle thermoforming lines from Brown Machine. Several of these lines feature robotic devices that use suction cups to automatically remove the formed trays from the web; on other lines, trays are manually separated from the web.

(Left to right): Aric Slavin and Chandler Slavin welcomed senior technical editor Rick Lingle into the company's new cleanroom to see the thermoformer in operation.

But the thermoformer in the new cleanroom is a Kiefel Model 78.1 Premium Speedformer with Siemens controls. “We wanted a thermoformer that has a large market presence in the medical space,” says Aric, “and Kiefel is known as a medical thermoformer. Their machines are designed with the high precision and quality that’s needed.” The programmable logic controlled (PLC) Speedformer is more automated than Dordan’s other thermoforming equipment.

Dordan also helps with medical device package design and development.

“We are currently working with a handful of medical device manufacturers on the design and development of packaging that ensures the safety and effectiveness of their devices,” Chandler says. “These include startups, established companies bringing new products to market, existing customers that require cleanroom production and large medical players looking for new cost-competitive suppliers.”

Looking toward the future, Dordan made sure the size and layout of its cleanroom can accommodate the installation of a second thermoformer. “Many of our customers already operate in the healthcare space,” Chandler says, “and they are pleased that we are enhancing our offerings with an onsite cleanroom. We are expanding business with these customers, which has thus far been an easy transition.”


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Remedies for single-use plastic packaging

Remedies for single-use plastic packaging
RB has established a way to recover difficult-to-recycle packages in the healthcare and personal care markets.

Does cold and flu season inevitably generate packaging waste? Consumer brands can step up to treat people and planet, as TerraCycle and Loop CEO Tom Szaky enlightens us. A new example is the RB Health & Nutrition Recycling Program, a national network for health-and-wellness package recovery.

Cough, cold and flu season is right around the corner, and in a world of year-on-year population growth, over-the-counter (OTC) wellness is only expanding. Millions of people annually manage seasonal symptoms with health products available without a prescription, items available at most convenience retailers, supermarkets and pharmacy stores at affordable prices and easy-to-use configurations.

Packaging plays a huge role in this. Single-use plastics make pill jars, blister packs, syrup bottles, and throat and nose sprays easy to sell and buy—and we’ve also seen many prescription medicines move into the OTC space with user-friendly packaging.

Of course, with the lower value production materials bringing down costs to purchase, most of this lightweighted packaging is typically non-recyclable through public programs. 

In a world of increasing sustainability concerns (not to mention, the changes in ailment and allergy season due to climate), raising the bar on circularity for the cough, cold and flu industries now can create new value propositions in the face of environmental uncertainty. 

In sickness and in health: Consumer staples

OTC cough, cold and flu drugs are considered consumer staples (that is, things people need year-round)—which is a category expected to grow 8.5% to a $491 billion industry by 2024.

Due in large part to packaging technologies, manufacturers are able to deliver on the value propositions for everyday wellness, which (similar to food and beverage) include insurance of quality, ease of use and accessibility (both financial and geographic).

Packaging in this space must be tamper-resistant; convenient; easy to open and close by adults (but difficult for young children to get into); space-saving; not prone to breakage in transport, on shelves or in use; and inexpensive enough to not drive up the cost of the product.

In fact, many prescription medicines and medical-grade drug delivery devices (items such as pre-filled syringes, auto-injectors and nasal sprays) have crossed over from script-only into the OTC space thanks to single-use packaging.

A clogged system

But the current state of global recycling aside, most of the packaging techniques used in the OTC space are non-recyclable. Small sizes, colored plastic, multi-layer and compositional components (such as tamper-resistant seals, blister packs, sachets and aseptic pouches), and shrink wraps are not economical to recycle.

Costing money to collect and separate, recycling systems have not evolved to handle these items efficiently, and the materials have low value in the market. Nevertheless, the current track for single-use cough/cold/flu packaging is landfilling or incineration—and entirely loses out on their value as a material resource —and entirely loses out on their value as a material resource.

Nearly all the new, virgin plastic produced is made to be used just once, then thrown away. What if even a fraction of the 280 million metric tons produced annually were captured to be recycled, and suitable markets found for the material so that they flow smoothly within the system?

Business can keep the system well

Now and in the future, businesses and brands are in the strongest position to impact the supply chain. The bigger the business, the bigger the impact. RB, makers of popular consumer brands Mucinex, Enfamil and Airborne, are one of the latest conglomerates to work with TerraCycle on solving for these breaks in the materials economy through the Healthy You, Healthy Planet partnership. 

As part of its sustainability commitments to remove or reduce use of plastic packaging and invest in research into alternative materials, the corporation’s brand-sponsored, national recycling program with TerraCycle solves for difficult-to-recycle cough, cold, flu, sore throat and nasal care packaging, in addition to packaging for the following categories, from any brand:

• Vitamins, minerals and supplements 
• Sexual health and well-being 
• Infant formula and child nutrition 
• Personal care and foot care

From blister packs to baby formula tubes, even condom wrappers and personal care product tubes, the program accepts the many, varied types of packaging that deliver the products we use in everyday life. It also allows retail stores, colleges, gyms and other organizations to sign up as a public drop-off site and build up the recycling network. 

RB is also part of our new Loop platform, moving products from disposable packaging into the reusable, durable space. It is challenging for products in the health-and-wellness category to go refillable due to the issues of sterilization and reduced “toss-and-go” convenience upfront, the very reasons the category benefits from single-use packaging. But, as RB is proving, it can be done.

Healthy you, healthy planet

What is good for the body, delivered in single-use packaging with no recycling solution, isn't always good for the planet, but what’s good for the planet is almost always good for us. Remedies for single-use packaging include recycling, but the key will always be reduction.

Researching, developing, investing in and supporting better health care and personal wellness options is a much larger issue than the consumer goods industry, but they are related. The world will never not need products and services to keep us well, so it is imperative that the industry work to do better for the health and sustainability of its systems. 


Flexible Packaging

A flexible packaging sustainability tale

A flexible packaging sustainability tale
The supplier is accelerating development of recyclable and compostable flexible packaging like this award-winning pouch for Harney & Sons tea.

TC Transcontinental Packaging helps brands rewrite their flexible packaging story using recyclable and compostable materials.

Packaging professionals and many more millions of people outside this dynamic market know well the importance of sustainability in all walks of life.

From the viewpoint of a packaging editor, this eco-minded approach is frequently front and center for numerous press releases and, usually negatively, in mass media reporting. Sustainable materials and containers are now a staple of trade shows, which is where I became more familiar on multiple occasions with the impressive array of sustainably-aligned flexible packaging from TC Transcontinental Packaging, the Packaging Sector of TC Transcontinental.

That interest reached a tipping point when the company was recognized for an award-winning package launched in North America earlier this year for one of the first-in-market, 100% recyclable, multilayer barrier stand-up pouches in partnership with American tea company Harney & Sons for their loose-tea flexible plastic pouch. The innovation was in the spotlight at the 2019 Flexible Packaging Achievement (FPA) Awards of the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) where it won a Gold Award for Sustainability, a Gold Award for Packaging Excellence and the Silver Award for Technical Innovation.

I subsequently connected with the ideal contact at the company, Alex Hayden, senior vice president, R&D, innovation and sustainability, who enlightens us on the company’s commitment to sustainable flexible packaging.

First things first: How does the company define sustainable packaging?

Hayden: We define sustainable packaging as packaging presenting a lesser environmental footprint than that of alternative packaging solutions. It has been proven, through life cycle assessments (LCA), that flexible packaging uses less fossil fuels, offers an excellent product-packaging ratio, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and uses less water than other packaging formats. We also consider recyclable, compostable and reusable packaging formats and packaging made of post-consumer recycled content as sustainable.

We design our packaging for a wide range of end-product applications and seek to find the right balance between material composition and weight while ensuring an optimal product protection.

Being highly engaged in sustainable packaging development also means that we need to be part of the efforts made to tackle the challenge that flexible packaging presents, which is end-of-life management. Packaging composed of several polymers are currently more difficult to recycle. We are fully cognizant of this dilemma which is why our R&D Department dedicates substantial effort towards developing eco-responsible packaging solutions.

In terms of compostable films, we offer custom-designed solutions developed in collaboration with our customers. These solutions are made from 100% renewable resources. For example, we developed a new flexible peanut bag from certified compostable materials in order to support the green initiatives of arenas and stadiums in the United States that won a Gold award for Sustainability at the 2018 FPA Awards.

How would you characterize the current interest in sustainable packaging?

Hayden: When we first entered the packaging industry a few years ago, sustainable packaging was part of some of our discussions with customers, and usually came as a topic at the end of a meeting. Today, when meeting with our customers, independent of market or size, sustainable packaging solutions are top-of-mind and, more often than not, the very first topic of the meeting.

Brands are keenly aware of the growing global concern regarding the environment and have come to realize that consumers are looking for packaging options that are better for our planet. They are demanding sustainable products that are recyclable or compostable, as they wish to contribute to a better environment starting with what they consume and in reducing packaging waste. Consumers are also asking to understand how recycling works and how they can make a significant impact. There are definite opportunities to educate them on the topic.

In this context, many of our customers have already committed to sustainability targets of their own either through the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment or their Corporate Social Responsibility Plan. They are seeking to develop solutions with their partners and are more willing to test and commercialize those solutions faster. As such, we are definitely seeing a growing interest in sustainable packaging from our customers, as well as from all stakeholders involved in the supply chain, and beyond. We welcome the opportunity to collaborate with them and to continue supporting our customers along their own sustainability journey. Our R&D strategy is focused on a deep understanding of our customers’ needs and market trends. Working closely with our supply chain partners, we intend to accelerate the path towards a circular economy for plastic packaging.

Next: Challenges, options and best practices for brands


Packaging professionals can find pre-Halloween packaging treats in Minnesota during MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) in the form of solutions for food packaging, package design, shipping and more. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.




Les Aliments Jardi snacks are packed in 100% recyclable, multilayer barrier stand-up pouches that earned TC Transcontinental Packaging a 2019 PAC Canadian Leadership Award this summer.

What are the challenges in this market?

Hayden: The main challenge is that each market has its specificities, its set of applicable legislation and system regarding recycling infrastructures, etc. As such, there is an opportunity for harmonization in order to better support eco-design initiatives undertaken by manufacturers like us.

For example, the quality found in bales of outgoing materials from material recovery facilities is a challenge. If we want to create a market for these materials in order to have post-consumer plastic bought and reintroduced into the value chain, we need to ensure quality optimization from the get-go at sorting facilities. We are committed to acting together in a concerted manner with all stakeholders involved in order to rise to the packaging end-of-life challenges we are facing as an industry.

In order to support brands’ eco-design initiatives, it also must be fairly easy for consumers to recycle a package. Consumers need to know how and where to recycle. Recyclable film pouches are a good example: They can be recycled in almost any collection program that accepts plastic shopping bags. Most of the time, those collection systems are dedicated receptacles at retail stores.

What technological options drive this market?

Hayden: Technological options are acting as drivers in sustainable packaging. This is very much the case that came into play with our Harney & Sons pouch. For example, the importance of keeping a product fresh, especially when it’s a highly valuable item, such as tea, is key. In that case, a pouch with an ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) barrier was necessary for our customer. We were able to achieve this in collaboration with our suppliers. Harney & Sons connected with us because they knew we could support their mission of giving back to the environment that grows the tea of the world.

We knew that a multilayer, coextruded film was essential to preserve the delicate flavor of tea by protecting the product’s natural oils that give tea leaves a smooth flavor and finish.  We developed one of the first commercialized package for food that hits all notes: 100% recycle ready for in-store drop off, EVOH barrier for product preservation, seal strength, and durability. We know that EVOH delivers outstanding barrier to gases, organic vapors and moisture, preventing deterioration of the product and extending its shelf life; it plays a crucial role in food packaging.

However, the challenge with barrier films from a sustainability perspective is that it is not easily broken down and recycled, therefore hindering its reuse and contribution to positive environmental change. Dow’s Retain resin technology permitted the required barrier to be used and made multilayer film that was fully recyclable to achieve sustainability goals.

Our compostable peanut bag is another example of a collaboration that brought about science, technology and innovation and enabled us with our partners to create an industrially compostable film using certified compostable materials to support arenas and stadiums’ green initiatives and help sports teams, venues and leagues achieve the next level of landfill waste diversion.


What best practices can you share for brands desiring to move into packaging that’s more sustainable?

Hayden: We love to host ideation sessions with our customers and develop a true collaboration and partnership to drive innovation. These ideation sessions allow us to have open and candid conversations about the brand’s concerns and challenges. This interactive session is focused around the brand’s target consumer, new packaging ideas and product concepts. It allows us to find opportunities where sustainable packaging could resonate with the brand messaging as well as the consumers needs and expectations.

As best practice, we also recommend brands start small and implement quickly allowing us to assess the market and get consumers feedback. Meanwhile, it allows the brand to make that shift towards sustainable packaging, be agile and manage their image and perception in the market.  

Finally, what’s a misconception about sustainable packaging that you can dispel?

Hayden: That not all plastic packaging is created equal! There are many misconceptions about flexible packaging. That is why we believe in educating and informing our customers, and in turn their consumers as well. Flexible packaging tends to be an exceptionally material-efficient, lightweight and with relatively low life-cycle impacts including carbon footprint, which is highly advantageous. It also offers sustainability benefits throughout its entire life cycle that should be communicated.


Packaging professionals can find pre-Halloween packaging treats in Minnesota during MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) in the form of solutions for food packaging, package design, shipping and more. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.