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Food Safety

Packaging Solutions That Prevent Food Waste

PTR Graph of Packaging Solutions Impact and Availability Vs. Food Waste

I was recently asked, “Will hemp-based packaging prevent food waste?”

This question illustrates the confused intermixing of packaging waste and food waste and the packaging industry’s need to come to grips with their potentially powerful role in achieving a more sustainable food system. 

It also highlights the need for the packaging industry to focus on food waste prevention, not just reduction. 

Highest on the EPA impact hierarchy of food waste, prevention mitigates much more environmental damage than food waste diversion. 

Prevention is also where packaging is uniquely the best equipped to move the dial.

Food waste has hovered at about 30% for at least 50 years. But what has changed is a meaningful and quantifiable link between packaging and food. This is in the form of the United Nations Strategic Development Goals (UNSDGs) Target 12, which ultimately applies a favorite basic tenet of Girl Scout Law: “Use resources wisely.”

In response to UNSGD Target 12 (see graphic) and the Paris climate agreement, most major food brands and retailers are actively pursuing food waste prevention targets. While many packaging suppliers inherently enable food waste prevention with high barrier packaging, more enterprise is needed. This involves interfaces between brand operations, the value chain, and packaging suppliers, such as the solutions found in the featured Graph below. Many readers will see the technologies your companies employ. This is wonderful! 

Packaging Technology and ResearchGraph of Packaging Solutions Viability and Availability Vs. Food Waste

However, some packaging companies do not have food waste prevention targets; this is a misaligned omission, indicative of a hardworking industry very busy with more sustainable packaging, heavy competition, and other issues than to rise to the occasion. The featured graph shows the impact of preventing food waste versus technical readiness of packaging solutions. Packaging suppliers can align with these solutions to focus on food waste prevention, aligned with brand needs, and, as the Girl Scouts also pledge, “Make the world a better place.”

Less waste, more profit.

For the food industry, less food waste often means more profit, a major economic driving force. Reducing food waste during manufacturing increases efficiency while creating coproducts increases revenue; for example, whey protein isolates are a byproduct of cheese,

Likewise, reducing unsalable products at retail essentially ensures that more food that is shipped, stored, and stocked, is sold to consumers. A reduction in the ~40% of food waste at retail and restaurants will save retailer labor, energy, and money. It also will free up business acumen for retail and restaurant innovation.   

For the packaging industry, there is potential to reach beyond the focus of more sustainable packaging and help achieve a more sustainable food system and connect more meaningfully with consumers. Indeed, more sustainable packaging has a role to play, but perspective is essential — packaging generates about 80% less the Greenhouse Gas than food waste. The relative GHG impact varies by category (DOI: 10.1126/science.aaq0216). We can waste less food and less packaging by preventing food waste.

Consumer-meaningful packaging.

Clearly, a much better approach is to research, develop, and use packaging solutions such as those noted in the Graph more widely and wisely. In the packaging industry, making connections to retailers, restaurants, and consumers are absolutely essential. This link can readily be made with packaging to reduce the ~45% of food waste after consumers have purchased food. When consumers discard food with its packaging, we have both food and packaging waste. The environmental impact of growing, harvesting, manufacturing, packaging, distributing, selling, and buying packaging food and then throwing it away is high. While we have the technology to separate food from packaging to compost the food and dispose of the packaging properly, this still does not prevent food waste. Campaigns such as SaveFood have made an impact on consumers. Also, by engaging brand owners with consumer-meaningful packaging solutions, such as those noted in the Graph, the packaging industry can help achieve a more sustainable food system. 

Yes, it is true that if we in the food and packaging industries decrease food waste after the consumer has purchased it, that will decrease food and packaging sales; it follows that consumers will not need to replace as much spoiled packaged food. 

But along with this decline, we have the opportunity to regain consumer trust in the packaged food industry — and we have the social responsibility to do so. 

So, while employing hemp and other bio-derived packaging materials will decrease the use of fossil-derived packaging, it will not help achieve a more sustainable food system if the growth, conversion, and use of hemp drains more resources than current packaging, or if the hemp-based package does not protect the food enough and results in higher food waste.

It appears there’s always long answers to seemingly simple questions.

Claire Sand, Owner, Packaging Technology and Research, and Adjunct Professor





Plastics Waste: Do You Change the Product, the Process, or the People?

Photo by Lucien Wanda from Pexels pexels-lucien-wanda-2827735-featured.jpg

What if shrimp shells could be used to make eco-friendly plastics? At Nile University in Egypt, scientists are doing just that. According to a recent report, “Chitosan is the key component from the shrimp shells used to create eco-plastic. After being dissolved and dried, the plastic can be used to make anything, including packaging. The material also has antibacterial properties. Estimates today suggest Egypt imports around 3,500 tonnes of shrimp annually, which produces about 1,000 tonnes of shells as waste. Making a sustainable product from this waste is a step forward in green packaging and in the circular economy.”

Then there’s the work of Swedish giant IKEA. This company is in the process of swapping out plastic packaging for fungus. An innovation from US firm Ecovative Design, the fungus-based material is biodegradable and easy to recycle, enabling IKEA to make good on its goal to reduce plastic and meet customer demands for sustainable solutions.

At Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute, students worked with researchers to come up with new ways to solve the “how to replace plastic” dilemma. Their efforts were inspired, if not always implementable. “Focusing on the long-lived detritus that typically accompanies take-out meals, students baked 3D-printed straws made of sugar and agar — a gelatinous substance derived from seaweed. They hand-shaped bowls from mycelium, the threadlike roots of mushrooms. One team designed sheets of black plastic that folded into take-out containers … and could be returned to a collection point, sanitized, and reused ad infinitum by a consortium of take-out chains.”

Most of the above innovations are still in the theory stage; researchers pulling materials from nature to reimagine a future that is less damaging to the environment. Although the efforts are laudable, we still have a way to go before plastic becomes a thing of the past.


Replacing plastic is not an easy fix.

In 2019, National Geographic had this to say, “Plastic is quite good at what it does, which makes replacing it so devilishly difficult.” One example is a legacy juice brand that switched from plastic bottles to pouches. “Today the pouch is ubiquitous, holding everything from tuna to tomato paste, pet food to pickles.” 

Brands value pouches for a number of reasons. They offer weight savings of more than 78% compared to other packaging materials. Less weight translates to a lower carbon footprint throughout the supply chain. But brands that use pouches quickly discover that one sustainability benefit can easily be replaced by a different sustainability problem. Pouches, it turns out, are kryptonite to recycling companies, because they can’t separate the material’s heterogenous layers.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexelspexels-anna-shvets-4167558-web.jpg

In this same National Geographic report, authors offer a cautionary note: “Shrink a cucumber in polyethylene and its shelf life stretches from 3 days to 14. The wrap, however, may last more than a century.”

If the sheer versatility of plastic makes it difficult to envision an economy without it, our recent pandemic has only increased its usage. 


How has COVID-19 changed the conversation?

Major trend spotter McKinsey & Co. had this to say, “It seems likely that concerns about hygiene and food safety in the context of the COVID pandemic might become a higher priority while the sustainability performance of different packaging substrates could become a lower priority. Because of the pandemic, there is a new appreciation by consumers and industries of the hygiene advantages plastic packaging can offer that seems to be outweighing concerns about recyclability and plastic-waste leakage into the environment.”

Photo by Catherine Sheila from Pexelspexels-catherine-sheila-2409022-web.jpg

How big a role does plastic play in the big picture? 

The question is whether or not we should eliminate plastic … maybe, maybe not. Do we have a plastic problem, a recycling problem, or a people problem? I believe the answer is “yes” to all three. I believe that the recycling system may be the biggest part of the problem, but, when fixed, it will have significant impact on the material supply chain and drastically change consumer habits.


How to get consumers to change their behavior around recycling? Make ’em an offer they can’t refuse.

For those in the Boomer generation, many will say that buying music was a costly habit when they were kids. You’d have to spend $20 for an album just to get one song you liked. Along came iTunes, followed by streaming platforms. Now everybody has self-selected playlists and systems like Alexa that will play songs on demand. 

Digital technology is making all things possible. Can it change the way we recycle?


Technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), can enable smarter sorting.

TOMRA is a leading global consortium of like-minded thinkers and innovators all focused on one thing — how to provide technology-led solutions that enable the circular economy with ground-breaking collection and sorting systems designed to improve waste recovery and minimize the impact on the environment.

In one of TOMRA’s ebooks, Harnessing the Potential of AI, the authors note, “The combination of massive amounts of data and significantly improved computer capabilities opens the opportunity for solving complex sorting problems. Deep learning, a powerful component of AI is a class of machine-learning algorithms that analyze multiple layers to progressively isolate high-level features from raw input.”

In other words, with deep learning, recycled products can be sorted faster than ever before. By combining the power of deep learning and advanced cameras and infrared sensors, solutions to sorting challenges are being found where none existed before.

This is just one area of rapid advancement in the works as we look at the future of plastic. But no matter how sophisticated we get with recycling technology, there still remains the question — will people change their behavior?


Can humans change their nature?

Full transparency: My firm, FORCEpkg, is in the business of branding and packaging design. It’s our job to create the most sustainable and cost-effective packaging solutions for the brands we serve. Plastic is one of the instruments in our toolbox. Brands have a lot to consider, such as product protection, child resistance, ability to communicate with the consumer, and recyclability. In that area, plastic has made strides — but human nature hasn’t really kept up. 

I run a design agency populated in large part by Millennials and am the parent to Millennial and Gen Z kids. I also teach packaging design at a college. So, I am a witness to recycling on a personal and a professional level. When I ask my packaging classes how much “recycled” and “recyclable” matter to them, I get a mixed response. Certainly, the number of those who say it does is increasing, but it’s nowhere near a majority. And when I observe their own behaviors in disposing their trash, let’s just say “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Photo by cottonbro from Pexelspexels-cottonbro-4107157-web.jpg

Research backs this up. A February 2020 piece in Forbes sited research that showed “when it actually comes to reducing or reversing our carbon footprints, evidence shows older age groups are way ahead of Millennials and Gen Z.” Some data points from that study conclude:

• Recycling: 84% Boomers vs. 54% Millennials and Gen Z
• Avoiding single use plastic items: 66% Boomers vs. 55% Millennials and Gen Z
• Only eating seasonal fruits and veggies: 47% vs. 33%


Convenience is a way of life for consumers.

The difficulty that many find when it comes to recycling plastic is that behavior has more to do with convenience than it does with conscience. Nobody wants to be the person responsible for the straw stuck up the nose of the sea turtle. But when it comes to everyday habits, it’s not the sea turtle most people are thinking about. 

A recent article in Ad Age focuses on brands that are thriving during the COVID-19 outbreak. Among those showcased are Lysol, Clorox, Purell, Scotch Brite and the iconic Campbell’s soup. All have been on the receiving end of criticism from the environmental movement, but during the current pandemic, safety is winning out over other concerns.

On the flip side, we can’t discount those nation-size floating islands of plastic. Is it the plastic or human behavior that needs to change? In my opinion, we must find ways to address the human error and convenience components of our behavior. COVID-19 is forcing us to examine the new impacts we are having on the environment as we struggle with how to dispose of the massive amounts of personal protective equipment (PPE), masks, latex gloves, and disposable cleaning products.


Healthcare Packaging

Why Should Medical Packagers Consider X-Ray Sterilization?

Image courtesy of Avery Dennison Medical Avery Dennison Medical Ostomy

With evolving news headlines about COVID-19, the mention of supply-chain shortages in the medical industry brings to mind surgical masks, protective equipment, and virus test kits. Yet since this time last year, there also have been headlines about supply-chain risks of another kind—those related to temporary or permanent closures of ethylene oxide (EtO) sterilization facilities. Several large EtO sterilization facilities in the United States have shuttered or temporarily halted operations due to environmental concerns about potentially dangerous air emissions. As a result, the U.S. FDA has been monitoring supply-chain interruption risks for devices that would typically be sterilized at those facilities. At the same time, medical device manufacturers and their extended supply chains have been prompted to reconsider their sterilization methods. According to FDA, more than 20 billion devices sold in the United States annually are sterilized with EtO, or about 50% of devices requiring sterilization.1



Sterilization Basics

One of the last steps in the supply chain, sterilization usually takes place after a device has been manufactured and packaged, before it ships to a storage or end-use destination. The purpose of sterilization is to eliminate all living microorganisms on a device so that it is free from any contamination. By killing all microorganisms, sterilization helps prevent any potentially harmful ones from reproducing and spreading infection when the device is used on a patient or in a healthcare setting. Most device makers outsource the sterilization process to large contractors with specialized equipment and facilities.

This article focuses on sterilization methods, including EtO, gamma irradiation, and X-ray, that are viable for use on devices containing plastic films, papers, and nonwoven materials, including medical-grade pressure-sensitive adhesives. Such materials are commonly found in disposable medical products, wound care dressings, ostomy appliances, surgical drapes, wearables, and patient monitoring devices. Many polymer resin-based devices like these products cannot withstand hot-steam sterilization, a popular method without the risks of some other processes.


The Issues with EtO

EtO gas kills microorganisms on contact. EtO is classified as a human carcinogen by EPA. Facilities using this sterilization technique must meet stringent environmental standards to protect their workforces and surrounding communities.

A number of EtO operations closed in 2019 given concerns about emissions. Announcements were made that some plants would not reopen, whereas others would be building EtO emission reduction equipment or making emission-control enhancements. 2,3  Some operations reopened under an FDA Emergency Use Authorization or a pandemic-related emergency order. 4,5

Beyond the emissions risks, EtO sterilization poses additional challenges to device makers when they go to prove that their products have been successfully sterilized. They must not only provide evidence that EtO gas has killed all microorganisms, but they must also confirm there are no toxic EtO residual gasses trapped within the device and its packaging. A process called off-gassing is used to eliminate these residual gasses, but it still can be difficult to validate a successful EtO cycle for some products. Moreover, if there is an impermeable release liner protecting an adhesive material, there can be concerns about whether a device’s adhesive surface, the one that ultimately will touch the patient, has been effectively sterilized.

Image courtesy of Avery Dennison Medical.ADHC_SilverInciseDrapeRet4web.jpg

Medical devices such as ostomy appliances, wearables, wound care dressings and surgical drapes usually contain polymer-based materials, which can be damaged by some sterilization methods. These materials typically can tolerate X-ray irradiation, an alternative to ethylene oxide treatment.


No Method Is Perfect

While EtO environmental risks and related supply-chain interruptions are currently in the spotlight, it’s important to note that every sterilization method has pros and cons. The hot-steam sterilization process poses low safety risks, but its high temperatures and moisture levels are too intense for most plastic and paper materials.

Another sterilization method, gamma irradiation, can be used on polymeric materials, but it is harsher than EtO treatment. The ionizing radiation can degrade the materials, sometimes causing them to become yellow and brittle. The gamma irradiation process also consumes the radioactive material cobalt-60, which is in short supply globally and highly regulated and poses environmental and health risks if not managed properly.


X-ray Sterilization: Another Option

Given short-term and long-term concerns with both EtO and gamma irradiation methods, X-ray sterilization, also known as X-ray irradiation processing, has emerged as an alternative method. It is gentler on polymeric materials than gamma irradiation, and it does not have the emission dangers of EtO.

“The commercial use of X-ray irradiation began around 20 years ago. However, due to the low power output of the accelerators used, the technology was generally overlooked as a viable sterilization method,” according to STERIS Applied Sterilization Technologies, which provides a variety of contract sterilization services, including X-ray. “Now, with the introduction of high power, high energy accelerators, we are able to offer X-ray irradiation technology at a commercial level equivalent to traditional sterilization methods.”6

With the latest X-ray technology, sterilization contractors can achieve better penetration than they could with gamma irradiation with less impact to product materials, according to STERIS. One reason is that there is a shorter exposure time required to kill microorganisms. High-energy X-rays can be used to irradiate large packages and pallet loads of medical devices, STERIS reports.7

While there are no air emissions or residual waste products from this sterilization method, there are some barriers to entry for X-ray irradiation processing. Contractors looking to use this method will need to make significant capital investment in a high-power electron accelerator, conveyor systems, and other equipment. As a radiation-based sterilization method, X-ray irradiation also requires biologic shields to protect workers from damaging rays. There is a very small possibility that X-ray radiation could induce radioactivity in medical products, but this risk can be mitigated by careful control of energy levels.8



Medical device sterilization methods will continue to evolve as the industry develops new standards and solutions that are economical, environmentally sustainable, safe, and effective. In fact, FDA has launched innovation challenges to encourage the development of new and improved sterilization methods.

During material selection, product development, manufacturing, or any point in the product lifecycle, it’s important to have a proactive dialogue about sterilization with all suppliers. Advanced medical material suppliers should be prepared to discuss how different sterilization methods affect their products. Some may be able to supply laboratory test data to show how materials across their product range maintain properties and performance after treatment with X-ray irradiation.

With close collaboration, partners across the medical supply chain can ensure materials used today and developed for future devices are compatible with next-generation sterilization methods.



  1. “Statement on concerns with medical device availability due to certain sterilization facility closures,” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Oct. 25, 2019.
  2. Ethylene Oxide Sterilization Facility Updates, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Jan. 28, 2020.
  3. Ethylene Oxide (EtO) Safety at BD, including “BD Statement on Agreement with State of Georgia to Maintain Availability for Patients,” Oct. 28, 2019.
  4. “Medical device sterilizers ask to use EtO to boost hospital mask supply; activists call for FDA to block it,” Cook County Record, April 17, 2020.
  5. Latest on Sterigenics plant situation. Cobb County, Ga., government website, April 8, 2020.
  6. X-ray Irradiation Processing, STERIS Applied Sterilization Technologies website, accessed March 11, 2020.
  7. “X-ray Radiation Processing,” STERIS Applied Sterilization Technologies presentation, February 2019.
  8. A Comparison of Gamma, E-beam, X-ray and Ethylene Oxide Technologies for the Industrial Sterilization of Medical Devices and Healthcare Products,” International Irradiation Association and Gamma Industry Processing Alliance white paper, Aug. 31, 2017.

World’s First Carbon-Negative Deodorant Packaging Debuts

Each & Every Each & Every Lavender Lemon deodorant feature
The black 100% plant-based sugarcane tubes are infrared readable for sorting during recycling.

After months of testing, Each & Every brand natural deodorant became the first deodorant brand to use carbon negative material for packaging with the launch of 100% plant-based sugarcane tubes. Each & Every first launched the sugarcane packaging on the brand’s signature Lavender & Lemon scent in April 2020. On September 29th the brand announced that the packaging will be used across its entire scent range of gender-neutral, vegan, and cruelty-free beauty and body-care products made of clean, simple ingredients, and 100% natural essential oils.

Products include deodorants, rollerball fragrances, and shampoo bars.

Keys to the new packaging…

  • Sugarcane, which is a 100% renewable resource, absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, removing it from the atmosphere.
  • During manufacturing, the sugar juice from the sugarcane is fermented, distilled, and dehydrated to convert it to a packaging material.
  • The packaging is net carbon negative and earth positive — said to be the only carbon negative packaging material in the market.
  • The sugarcane packaging is currently recyclable only through the brand's worry-free recycling program since recycling is not consistently collected across municipalities.However, the black packaging has a special colorant that can be sorted for recycling at facilities equipped with infrared scanners.
  • Also, Each & Every sends all shipments in 100% home or commercially compostable envelopes made from corn biopolymers as sustainable alternative to plastic mailer envelopes.

Company CEO Lauren Lovelady offers the following additional information in this exclusive Q&A interview.

What sparked the idea for sugarcane packaging?

Lovelady: Sustainability is incredibly important to us and we are constantly looking for ways to reduce our footprint. Our former package was petroleum-based plastic and we have always been working toward more sustainable options. Before we even launched the brand, we wanted to launch with sustainable packaging but because we use 100% natural essential oils and no synthetic fragrance, none of the sustainable package options we tried were compatible with our formula. The essential oils would break down the package materials. We ultimately decided to launch in plastic so that consumers would have access to our incredible formula; we decided that we would keep working on sustainable packaging in parallel.

Last year, we found a package that was made from post-consumer recycled material and we launched it for a limited time. This was a slightly more sustainable option, but consumers told us that while they appreciated the effort, they didn’t see it as sustainable enough. We value the feedback of our incredible community and feel so fortunate to be able to have a two-way dialogue because this conversation led us to decide to look for other new materials instead of investing in a solution that they didn’t feel was sufficient. We have spent the last year looking for new materials and when we found the sugarcane packaging we became cautiously optimistic.

We spent a considerable amount of time understanding the supply chain to ensure it met our sustainability expectations and then we spent a few months compatibility testing. We then reached out to our community to get their thoughts and when they all came back with the thumbs up, we knew we were on to something.  We launched this package on our Lavender & Lemon scent in April and it sold out quickly, so we decided to bring it back across all of our scents.

Each & EveryEach & Every Lavender Lemon 720pix

Would you care to credit your packaging suppliers?

Lovelady: Not presently, though we hope to soon!

What are the typical choices for this packaging?

Lovelady: The most widely available and cost-effective choices for packaging are petroleum-based plastics. Our ideal package not only needs to be sustainable, but it also needs to be functional, protect the product, and be compatible with our formula.  Many of the options we tested would check a few boxes, but not all. But there has been a lot of innovation in this space and more options than ever before. At the same time, we are seeing consumer demand for this increase, which will create more demand for sustainable packaging in the industry and make more options available.

Is this sustainable packaging more costly than traditional packaging?

Lovelady: Yes, because this material is not industry standard and not as widely available as petroleum-based plastics, it is more expensive.  We are not increasing our price to account for this difference and will instead invest in it as a step toward a more sustainable future. 

How packaging-savvy was your team before this project and how savvy is the team now?

Lovelady: It has been a journey, and we are still learning! There's so much information out there, however, yet so little that is commonly known — so we are very much still on this journey. We are consulting with experts in waste, recycling, packaging, and manufacturing and are continuing to test options that we hope maybe even more sustainable. We see this as a step forward, but not necessarily our final destination, and we want to continue to raise the bar as we get more information.

We are savvier than when we started, but still educating ourselves.

Each & EveryEach & Every Compostable Mailer

All product shipments use 100% compostable envelopes made from corn biopolymers.


How many products will be in this new sugarcane packaging and what are the products’ pricing?

Lovelady: The packaging will be available for all our scents in the 2.5-ounce full size are $15 ($12.75 with subscription) and 0.5-ounce minis are available $20 four-pack or a total of 24 products total. 

What’s important for our audience of packaging and plastic professionals to know?

Lovelady: We are excited to bring a more sustainable package to market for our deodorants, and we see this as a positive step forward for a more sustainable future. We are impressed with the innovation in this space and are always looking to learn more, so we encourage consumers and experts alike to reach out and share their knowledge!

For more information, visit the Each & Every website.

Beer Packaging

Octoberfest of Socially Notable Beer Packaging

Twitter Beer Kegs Combo
A sampling of interesting beer packaging includes a combo snacks/keg and a minikeg's return.

Octoberfest 2020 is different from all the others that have gone before because it’s not being celebrated globally by scores of people gathering together to drink a lot of beer.

However, we still wanted to recognize this special occasion of autumn and beer while doing so safely and socially in a quick-reading way. That’s why we tapped Twitter for an Octoberfest of Packaging Tweets that caught our attention and are worthy of yours.

Let’s jump right into this selection of the innovative and the interesting with this unexpected, yet perfect pairing.

And a real mini-kegger from Watneys makes a comeback:

Colorful, augmented reality labels:






A can bottom that’s a hoot.

And then there's a brew with a Star Wars angle...


Packaging Design

Leveraging Psychology to Design Refill Packages That Inspire Loyalty

Created by Smart Design Psychology_Refills_PD_Smart_Design-featured.jpg
Packaging for liquid refills should take the user's experience into account, as well as sustainability.

Another day, another depleted spray bottle reluctantly tossed into the recycling bin. 

For the past few months — ever since our home has officially doubled as our office, gym, and kid’s classroom — we have become more intimately (and uncomfortably) in-tune with the amount of waste we produce. And we’re not alone: The rise in waste nationwide has been a problem for sanitation workers, while nearly half of consumers say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them more concerned about the environment.

At Smart Design, we’ve worked with a lot of consumer packaged goods (CPG) partners over the years who, like their customers, would like to create less waste. Unfortunately, many current solutions don’t take the user experience into account. This is essential because without a positive user experience, consumers are less likely to adopt new behaviors and change what they purchase.

Take liquid refills, for example. Buying a large bottle that you can use to refill your hand soap several times saves plastic and keeps pump mechanisms out of the trash, as well as being more space efficient. However, these large bottles are often heavy and bulky, and refilling a soap bottle through a small neck is downright messy.

So what can we do about it? We’ve learned that concentrating the formula is a good start, but to really make your customers consider this a sustainable solution, you need to consider the complete user experience.


The subtle power of perception.

How does a consumer subconsciously determine whether a product’s packaging is appropriate or excessive? A solution’s perception — particularly for liquid CPG products like cleaning spray refills or single-serve drink pods — can vary based on the weight that individuals place on a number of values: cost, materials, convenience, the type of product, experience, market legacy, branding, and (most importantly) what they are familiar with. Analyzing and weaving together the results of all these variables can produce widely differentiated outcomes.

For established brands such as Gatorade and Cif, a concentrated pod strategy has allowed them to cut down significantly on their packaging, creating new, more sustainable offerings. With nowhere to go but up in the eyes of consumers, there is ample opportunity for well-known businesses such as these to leverage a deeper intent, refreshing their industry image through design. By focusing on redesigning familiar products, these companies have improved the perception of their offering and created a reason for customers to be loyal to their brand rather than straying off to seek sustainable alternatives.   

For brands that are new to the market and are using sustainability as a differentiator, however, the lens through which consumers view the useful life of their products is different. With no prior stake in the ground — and no legacy or recognition to build upon — shoppers are more skeptical of the tradeoff between sustainable packaging and convenience, simply because it’s the only offering from that brand they’ve ever known.

When Smart Design was developing PepsiCo’s Drinkfinity — a system featuring pods that crack open to release a naturally flavored concentrate into a water-filled reusable bottle — we designed and tested two overarching architecture options, both of which used the same pod. In one version, the pod was cracked into the bottle, emptied and immediately discarded. In version two, the pod was cracked into the bottle, remained inside the bottle throughout consumption, and was discarded after the drink had been consumed.

We found that consumers — looking through the lens of a brand and product new to the market — perceived version one to be much more wasteful, as they were only “using the pod for a few seconds.” Version two was seen as being more sustainable. In both systems the pod was ultimately discarded — but having the pod as part of the system for a longer period of time had increased its perceived value to the user.


Charlie Paradise - Smart Design-quote.jpg

Designing a useful future.

Not only is sustainable refill packaging good for the environment, it’s good for business. Just last year, 37% of consumers surveyed for Toluna’s annual sustainability report said they were already actively seeking out environmentally friendly products and willing to pay up to 5% more for them. To ensure that customers feel like they are getting the best of both worlds from your products — convenience and packaging they feel good about — merely making them smaller won’t be enough. It takes an innovative approach toward sustainability, a best-in-class user experience mindset, and detailed psychological consumer research to create a solution that shoppers will truly love and embrace. 

Packaging Design

Crayola Packaging Draws Kids' Interest to New Sanitizers

C+A Global Crayola Bottles Feature FTR image

Familiarity can breed comfort as much as anything for those of all ages and particularly children. That’s why C+A Global, an authorized licensee of Crayola, is introducing a new collection of hand sanitizers in fun packaging designed with traditional Crayola colors.

The designers did their homework: The products are packaged in colorful 2-ounce squeeze bottles that mimic the iconic Crayola crayon and brand design.

Developed as a creative way to encourage cleanliness, the hand sanitizers are available in four bottle colors with food-color-tinted sanitizer in "razmatazz" red, "forest green," "blue bell," or "goldenrod" yellow.

The squeeze bottles are molded of high-density polyethylene (HDPE), recycling code #2 and decorated with labels printed by Labels, Tags & Inserts. Bottles are available in 4- and 8-count multipacks.

C+A GlobalCrayola Bottles 720pix

Crayola carton is next.

Over the next several weeks the product line will expand with 0.6-ounce single-use gel packets in an upright, 100-count dispensing carton. The carton, which is supplied by Tri State Packaging, is cleverly designed as a large Crayon box.

Also, 8- and 16-ounce pump bottles are expected to launch in the same timeframe.

This variety of options will offer supportive solutions for school communities, teachers, and families in their return to school.


"In partnering with the iconic Crayola brand, we hope to promote and encourage hand hygiene while delighting users with our new line of product," says Chaim Pikarski, CEO of C+A Global. "As we head into the fall and parents equip themselves and their families for cold and flu season, we hope to help promote healthy behaviors through safe and effective hand sanitization."

"We are delighted to uphold children's healthful living whether in the home or in the classroom," says Warren Schorr, vice president of business development and global licensing at Crayola. "Our collaboration with C+A Global brings colorful options to bolster hand sanitation and provide supportive solutions for parents, teachers, and children."

The new Crayola collection of hand sanitizers is made in the US. The launch builds on C+A Global's work increasing output to meet unprecedented demand. Since March, the company has produced hundreds of thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer from its facility in North Carolina. The company also plans to work with nonprofit partners and school districts to donate hand sanitizer where it is most needed.

Consumers can now purchase Crayola licensed hand sanitizers on Amazon and The 4-pack retails for $14.99 and the 8-pack for $25.

Packaging and COVID-19: Ongoing News, Insights, Advice

Packaging and COVID-19: Ongoing News, Insights, Advice
Photo credit: Romolo Tavani –

3-30-2021: COVID-19 and Plastic Packaging Procurement: One Year Later

3-30-2021: Confectionery Packaging in the Time of Pandemic: A Snapshot

3-15-2021: Merck Helps Produce J&J’s COVID-19 Vaccine and More News

3-11-2021: Medical Device Supply-Chain Operations and Pandemic Pitfalls: Strengthening the Chain

3-11-2021: Manufacturing Predictions for the Next Decade

3-1-2021: Demand for Medical Kits and Trays to Soar and More News

2-13-2021: Sanofi to Help Fill and Pack the Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine and More News

2-10-2021: Packaging Possibilities: 3 Macro Trends to Learn and Leverage

2-8-2021: COVID-19 and Packaging Design: One Year Later

2-4-2021: Early 2021 Packaging Trend: Back to Business (Sort Of)

2-3-2021: Valentine’s Day Packaging Reflects New Trends Like COVID and Cannabis

2-1-2021: OSHA Updates Worker Safety Guidance on COVID

1-29-2021: COVID-19 and Food Packaging: One Year Later

1-22-2021: Vaccines Bestow Business Boost to Packaging

1-20-2021: What Did You Learn from Your COVID-19 Experience?

1-19-2021: US CEOs Rank Vaccine Distribution Second in Business Impact

12-23-2020: Delivery Device Breathes New Life into Existing Nasal Steroid Treatment

12-23-2020: Pandemic Jumpstarts 2021 Digital Transformation

12-23-2020: Mettler-Toledo Adds Augmented Reality Customer Support

12-23-2020: Applying 2020 Pandemic Learnings to Polystyrene

12-23-2020: All-Stars of 2020: The Top 10 Packaging Articles

12-23-2020: 2020 Healthcare Packaging Stories that Warmed Your Heart

12-22-2020: 12 Super Solutions for Packaging Automation in a Pandemic Year

12-22-2020: 10 Popular Pandemic Posts for Packaging Pros in 2020

11-24-2020: COVID-19 and the New Future of Packaging

11-6-2020: Manufacturing Challenges During a Pandemic

11-6-2020: 2020 Packaging Trends Explained in 60 Minutes

10-29-2020: Why Does Halloween Packaging Look Different This Year?

10-28-2020: Dual Packs Double Down on Innovation

10-26-2020: Omnichannel Retailing is Changing the Packaging Landscape

10-14-2020: Shopping for Packaging Machinery Soars

10-8-2020: Leveraging Psychology to Design Refill Packages That Inspire Loyalty

10-8-2020: Crayola Packaging Draws Kids' Interest to New Sanitizers

10-5-2020: Cobots vs. COVID-19 — Designed and Deployed a Solution in 2 Weeks

10-2-2020: 4 Benefits of Packaging Automation for Pharmacies Amid COVID-19

9-30-2020: Survey Reveals Consumers’ Attitudes About Food Packaging

9-29-2020: Pandemic Boosts Demand for Harvest Pack’s Eco-Friendly Packaging

9-25-2020: 3 Ways COVID-19 Will Change Packaging Design

9-17-2020: Who's Hiring Packaging Designers Today?

9-14-2020: 3 Robotics Predictions for the Remainder of 2020

8-19-2020: New Labeler Anticipates Mega-Production of COVID-19 Vaccine

8-12-2020: AI Helps Deliver the Food Label Clarity Consumers Want

8-11-2020: Rethinking Packaging as Consumers Shift to Ecommerce

8-11-2020: Tubes Distinguish Single-Serve Wine 

8-10-2020: US Manufacturers Slammed by the Pandemic

8-10-2020: The Hidden Risk of Single Sourcing Your Packaging

8-6-2020: Packaging Pros Devour a Diverse Diet of News During July 2020

8-4-2020: Tyson Foods to Boost COVID-19 Testing Under New Plan

8-3-2020: Ineos to Market Packaged Sanitizers to Medical, Consumer Markets Globally

7-29-2020: Cleaning Tips for Food Packaging Plants During COVID-19

7-29-2020: IoT Subscriptions for Manufacturers Grow Through the Pandemic

7-23-2020: Corona Beer Through the Pandemic: Tweets Tell the Tale

7-16-2020: What Companies are Hiring Packaging Engineers Today?

7-9-2020: Packaging Professionals Fixate on Two Concerns

6-30-2020: Printable Thermochromic Ink Helps Ensure Safety of Pharma Products and Vaccines

6-23-2020: Protective Packaging in Ecommerce Moves Closer to Sustainability

6-23-2020: How Food and Beverage Packagers Can Navigate the New Normal

6-23-2020: New Molded Fiber Packaging Plant Serves Low-Volume Customers

6-10-2020: Packaging Community Consumes COVID-19 Coverage

6-10-2020: 3 Reusable Packaging Perspectives from Popular Brands

6-10-2020: Novelty Ice Cream Downsizes Packs, Upsizes Benefits

6-9-2020: Packaging Designs Speak to Immunity and Mood Management

6-9-2020: Hygienic Packaging Designs Calm Virus-Related Anxiety

6-9-2020: Medical and Food Packagers Warm Up to Smarter Heat Sealers

6-4-2020: Pouch Makes Gourmet ‘Real Chocolate on Tap’ Possible

6-1-2020: Smart Packaging Experts Talk Tech and Options

5-20-2020: 3 Packaging Lines Improved by IoT Data

5-20-2020: COVID-19: What Food Packagers Can Do to Ensure Safety

5-18-2020 COVID-19 Raises Consumers’ Packaged Food Concerns

5-18-2020: Should Brands Sanitize Packages to Reassure Consumers?

5-13-2020: 10 Popular Packaging Posts During the Height of COVID-19

5-12-2020: 6 Options for Remote Packaging Machine Servicing

5-5-2020: COVID-19 Brings Out American Ingenuity in Packaging

5-5-2020 COVID-19 Spurs Spike in Sustainable To-Go Food Packaging

4-28-2020: 4 Inevitable Packaging Changes After COVID-19

4-22-2020: COVID-19: Maintain Your Sustainable Packaging Focus

4-20-2020: COVID-19 ‘Disruption’ in Packaging Jobs Worsens

4-14-2020: Fast and Furious: Pharmaceutical Company Makes and Packs Hand Sanitizer

4-13-2020: COVID-19 Could Change Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Forever

4-1-2020: Packaging Peers Offer COVID-19 Advice

4-1-2020: Food Packagers Address Pandemic-Driven Risk to Supply Chains

3-27-2020: Packaging Community Responds to the COVID-19 Outbreak

3-26-2020: How Packaging Operations Can Use 6S in this Time of COVID-19

3-24-2020: Brands Refit Packaging for Hand Sanitizers

3-19-2020: How is the Coronavirus Affecting Your Packaging Job?

3-16-2020: 4 Ways Packaging Can Help During the Coronavirus Crisis

Packaging Design

Perceptive Packaging Designs Lift the User’s Experience

In the struggle for product sales in today’s COVID-19 depressed economy, companies need to leverage every advantage they can — including packaging designs that give products a clear point of differentiation. Want some inspiration? Here are a handful of examples that literally rose to the top last month.

The five best-read articles on in September 2020, based on page views and presented in reverse order, all celebrate unique packaging designs in appearance and/or in function.

Take a look…



How the Future of Packaging Automation Will Be Ruled by Robots

Photo supplied by John R. Henry Robotics-John-R-Henry-2015-featured.JPG
Packaging machinery ombudsman John R. Henry has some tips on using robotics in packaging operations.

Packaging machines are evolving and maybe even undergoing a revolution due to a new generation of robotics that overcome the tradeoff between high-speed production and the need for flexibility. A new wave of packaging machines is increasingly incorporating smarter sensors, machine vision, and software capabilities, as well as artificial intelligence and cloud-connected edge computing. Together, these new technologies are changing the packaging automation landscape in both their designs and applications.

For example, these new technologies will improve operations from high-speed upstream tasks to flexible end-of-line applications across a spectrum of uses. These range from bottle orienting, filling-and-capping, labeling, and cartoning to case erecting, palletizing, and the use of autonomous mobile robots in the warehouse. And these applications will be enabled by new designs; Instead of tacking-on robotic components to legacy machine designs, robots will be the starting point and centerpiece for new machines, according to John R. Henry, author, futurist, and “changeover wizard” behind the company

Henry shared his insights in a recent deep-dive webinar from Design News, a sister publication of Packaging Digest. Henry was joined by Ross Blumenthal, sales and marketing manager with Schneeberger, a leading name in linear technology; and Joe Campbell, head of marketing for Universal Robots USA, a leader in collaborative robots, or cobots. The free 1-hour webinar, “Automation and Robotics in Packaging,” is now available to view on-demand. Register here to watch this one-hour webinar.