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Improved vacuum skin packaging targets food in trays

Improved vacuum skin packaging targets food in trays
A “Darfresh on Tray” package on display in the Sealed Air Cryovac Food Packaging booth at Pack Expo 2014 last week.

Darfresh vacuum skin packaging has been refreshed by Sealed Air Cryovac Food Packaging with “Darfresh on Tray” packaging. Although Darfresh technology has been around for many years, this new and improved version launched at Pack Expo eliminates film scrap, is done at higher rates, provides a more even, tighter vacuum fit—and has applications in the U.S.

The Darfresh on Tray system is said to deliver enhanced operational efficiency and sustainability for processors while expanding merchandising and waste reduction capabilities for retailers in the case-ready arena. The packaging offers literal transparency using clear film and clear, preformed trays that offer easy opening.

Unlike the former Darfresh system that required cutting of excess film around the flange, each package is sealed using only the necessary amount of film, reducing film waste costs and improving efficiency. This process results in a compact package is produced with 40% less material than what other available tray-skin offerings require, Sealed Air claims.

The packaging is done in a strategic alliance using Harpak-ULMA’s Mondini Trave tray-sealing technology. Mondini’s vp Jim Ryan calls the system a “high-cycle process of 8.5 cycles/min,” which is about twice that of the previous generation Darfresh system (for an example of that, see this case study for Fieldale Farms, a Georgia-based poultry processor, from two years ago; there is also this report on FPA winners from 2003 that includes a Darfresh application by Smithfield Foods, Smithfield, VA). Output is in the range of up to 80-85 trays per minute, depending on the tray-sealing machinery.

The trays are design with access for vacuum packaging in each of the four tray corners that are subsequently covered by the draping skin film during packaging and then sealed. This method also yields more evenly evacuated packaging compared with the single vacuum port evacuation that characterized the previous generation Darfresh technology.

“Our Mondini Platform Technology allows for different formats to be run on the same tray-sealing system, including Darfresh on Tray, MAP packaging and protruding or super-protruding skin packaging," says Ryan.

There are four sizes of trays available now, 9 or 11 inches by 7 inches and 8 or 12 inches by 10 inches, with additional sizes to follow. They can be provided in various depths to accommodate a range of foods and netweights.

Launched in Europe in 2013, the system is expected to be commercial in January 2015 following testing by the first user in the U.S., Beaver Street Fisheries, Jacksonville, FL, for frozen lobster tails.

“As processors and retailers face added pressure to reduce costs, state-of-the-art packaging can serve as a differentiator that delivers value in a crowded meat case,” says Sean Brady, marketing director, ready meals for Sealed Air North America Food Care Division.

For more information, visit Sealed Air Cryovac Food Packaging.

Game-changing packaging innovations at Bemis

1.Micvac Refrigerated Ready Meal technology brings benefits to processors and packagers as well as to consumers in a sealed, self-venting tray that whistles when it’s ready. The packaging combines a CPET tray and film that uses a special venting patch that permits the packaged meal to be microwave pasteurized by the processor; subsequently, that same patch acts as a vent for home microwave reheating by consumers. Bemis reports a 30 days’ refrigerated shelf life for the meals.

Augmented Reality and 3D printing for packaging development, paper-like film coatings and a microwave-pasteurized refrigerated meal with a valve that whistles when the meal is ready and more were on display at Bemis’ Pack Expo booth.

If you like one-stop shopping for value-added, processor and consumer-driven convenience, Bemis Co.’s Pack Expo booth that housed “Game Changer” developments was as good a display of packaging innovation as any at Pack Expo. We present in visual form a virtual tour of innovative packaging found in the Bemis Co. booth in this Slideshow Gallery:

1. Something to whistle about: Micvac Refrigerated Ready Meal technology.

2. 3D printing assists package development.

3. Augmented Reality for consumer studies.

4. BallPark’s Beef Franks use paper-like film coating that ties directly into the tactile packaging trend we’ve been reporting lately (see Getting a feel for multi-sensory packaging).

Child-resistant, senior friendly dose format debuts

Child-resistant, senior friendly dose format debuts

Colbert Packaging Corporation, a manufacturer of folding cartons, rigid paper boxes and paperboard specialty products, today announced the availability of MedLock EZ, its latest invention in patient compliance packaging solutions. MedLock EZ is a child-resistant, senior-friendly and sustainable unit dose alternative to amber prescription vials.

“While patient nonadherence continues to plague the industry, and is often the primary driver behind a switch from nondescript pharmacy vials to branded unit dose packages, the packaging alternatives must do more than just promote adherence,” says Glenn Grosskopf, vice president of product development for Colbert Packaging. “MedLock EZ is a compact, all-in-one package that provides security and sustainability – and promotes patient adherence.”

For more information, read the full article at Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News.

The push for a circular recycling market

The push for a circular recycling market

We value recycling in our society because it finds secondary use for materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill. The biggest drawback to this from a material perspective is that the recycled products almost always diminish in quality each time they are processed (or  “downcycled”). Steel, aluminum and glass may be endlessly recyclable, but the virgin plastic in a water bottle is not. This limits the potential for reuse across a wide variety of waste streams, pre and post-consumer packaging included, to the point that the ultimate end-of-life destination is still usually the landfill or incinerator. This is a far cry from what many in the field of sustainability would say is the most ideal reuse model: a circular economy.

It’s a challenging model to implement in today’s recycling infrastructure—designing packaging and other raw materials so they may repopulate the manufacturing process over and over again, effectively eliminating the generation of waste. For us at TerraCycle, this is the ultimate solution we should be challenging ourselves to reach, and one that we think is possible to achieve pending some important incremental shifts in present recycling systems. How do we start?

First, we need to work to make recycling itself a more viable method of waste disposal. The rate of recycling in the U.S. is 35%, a relatively low recovery rate that is likely due, in part, to the wide gap in sustainability policies that vary greatly between states; some have mandatory curbside recycling, some no curbside programs at all, and others offer voluntary programs on a municipality-by-municipality basis. It’s the difference between a state like Oklahoma (it’s capitol, Oklahoma City, even has one of the lowest rates in the nation), and an eco-policy trendsetter like California. If we want to increase the potential for a circular economic market, average rates across the country (which could help determine our capacity to collect potential recyclables) should be much higher.

One way is through improved regulation, either at the state of federal level. Environmentally progressive California may be more exception than rule as of now, but the state still shows how powerfully effective state policies can be. The California Bottle Bill, the San Francisco Mandatory Recycling and Composting Ordinance, and many other alliances between state, local municipality, and private sector actors all contribute to California’s extremely high recycling rate. These policies can absolutely work, but only if states and their constituents can be convinced to shift their policy priorities accordingly.

Without better regulation, there are still alternatives that can incentivize recycling and strengthen existing (or build nonexistent) recycling programs. The Closed Loop Fund is a CPG company-sponsored fund that plans to invest $100 million USD, in the form of zero-interest loans, into municipal recycling and sustainability programs across the country. Injecting funds directly into regions where they are needed can help make recycling an accessible option where there are otherwise no alternatives.

TerraCycle programs, as alternatives to conventional recycling systems, break through the common economic barriers that prevent materials from being recycled in the traditional market. By developing recycling solutions for waste like cigarette butts, candy wrappers, chip bags and coffee capsules, we essentially show how it’s possible to create new markets for recyclables by incentivizing the collection of previously unrecyclable waste. While collecting and processing these nontraditional recyclables is still dependent on TerraCycle’s own operational capabilities, it nonetheless places us that much closer to developing long-term, practical, economically viable recycling mechanisms.

If we increase the scope of recyclability, we increase our capacity to collect materials that could theoretically be reintegrated into a manufacturer’s supply line. TerraCycle employs this model in two of our partnerships: one with 3M through the Scotch Tape Brigade, and the other with Sanford Brands, sponsor of the Writing Instruments Brigade. Through these programs, tape dispenser waste and writing instruments are collected and repurposed, ultimately going back to either 3M or Sanford where the recycled materials are reintegrated into the manufacturing process. In both instances, a small-scale circular market prevents waste from going to landfills, and lowers manufacturing costs.

A truly circular market for waste might sound utopian, but we have the tools and measures at our disposal to help make it possible. With improved and standardized regulation, a higher focus on making recycling more accessible across municipalities, and recycling solutions that are facilitated in-part by major CPG companies and manufacturers themselves, waste streams that were once useless outputs destined for a landfill may instead start becoming valued raw materials.

Just for fun: 4 days of selfies at #packexpo

Me & John Johnston, ex Doboy prez & sweetheart. Love you!

New products and educational sessions are the top two draws for attending a trade show. But one can’t discount the people aspect of a face-to-face event. Having been a packaging-media journalist since 1982, I know quite a few people in the industry and love reconnecting with them. Here are just a few of my many packaging friends I saw at the 2014 Pack Expo International show (Nov. 2-5; McCormick Place, Chicago).

How many of these people do you know? I’d be happy to make any introductions!


Depuis 2001, LM Manutentions est votre partenaire de confiance pour tous vos besoins en systèmes de manutention. Vous avez un projet qui requiert un convoyeur à rouleaux, à courroie, en acier, en aluminium, sanitaire ou autre, notre équipe d'expert est là pour vous.

Automated wrapper upgrade boosts output more than 60%

Automated wrapper upgrade boosts output more than 60%
Yourbarfactory's new flow wrapper mates seamlessly with processing operation.

Custom private-label bar manufacturer increases packaging efficiencies to meet growing demand. The new line slashes product loss from as high as 7% down to 1% and requires two operators instead of the previous 10.

Its A-to-Z business model for private-label bar production has been so well received by clients that Yourbarfactory in Montreal, Canada, has enjoyed 30% growth from 2004 to 2014. To keep up with this rapid increase in demand, Yourbarfactory recently added more automation its packaging line. Prior to making the upgrade, Yourbarfactory’s processing and packaging lines were decoupled and bars were manually collected after they were formed. The products were then transferred to the packaging area to be manually fed into horizontal flow wrappers for packaging.

“The process was very labor intensive. Ten people were required to manually transfer the bars and feed four flow wrappers,” says Cedrick Boivin, technical director at Yourbarfactory. The maximum production rate was 400 products per minute (ppm), 100 ppm per flow wrapper. The end result was considerable waste and downtime. Losses of 5% to 7% were not uncommon and the changeover and cleaning time was considerable. “We knew we needed to achieve an average speed of 600 ppm to keep up with demand,” Boivin says. “We also wanted to redeploy our labor to more high-value operations.”

Boivin researched several options to upgrade his packaging line and received proposals from numerous packaging machinery companies. “We analyzed total cost of ownership from a range of flow wrapper suppliers and Bosch came out on top,” says Boivin. “We knew the solid reputation of its Doboy brand of wrappers and, during the selection process, we developed a good, trusting relationship with our local Bosch sales representative, Fred Farago. He recommended Bosch’s Pack 401 flow wrapper and feeding system, which showed clear advantages that would maximize our line efficiency. Our decision was easy.”

Streamlining bar-to-wrapper transfer

In early 2013, Yourbarfactory installed two Pack 401 horizontal flow wrappers with a Bosch Pack Feeder 4 infeed system. The company also added a product distribution system (PDS) using row removal stations to automatically transport the bars from the processing to the packaging lines.

“Adding the Bosch equipment has made our packaging line extremely efficient. It now requires only two operators, letting us redirect manpower to higher-skilled tasks,” says Boivin. “It also achieves the 650ppm rates we need with less than 1% loss for high-volume products.”

Additional features on the Pack 401 wrappers further increase efficiency and savings throughout the line. “When launching a new product, runs are usually less than 100,000 bars and our packaging speeds slow to around 150 ppm. For these small runs, the no product/no paper feature considerably reduces film waste, creating significant cost savings for a start-up customer,” notes Boivin.

Another key benefit is that the Pack 401’s automatic film splice eliminates downtime for film changes and the auto reject mechanism on the infeed prevents jams from occurring. “In the past, our flow wrappers were down for at least five minutes every hour. Now, any downtime is a rare occurrence,” says Boivin.

Cleaning time for the wrappers and feeders has also been reduced 50% with the system’s easy belt removal and overall hygienic design—critical features for preventing contamination in an environment where many different products are manufactured.

As one can imagine, packaging different bars every few days on the same line requires a high amount of flexibility.  “We need flexible machines so we can meet our customer’s demands,” says Boivin. The Pack 401 provides Yourbarfactory with the necessary versatility, featuring quick-change parts and touchscreen recipe selections that trigger automatic servo motor adjustments to quickly prepare the machine for the next product.

The automation process has been so successful for Yourbarfactory that Boivin sees additional upgrades in the future as the company continues to grow. In fact, Yourbarfactory is planning to move to a new location in 2016 to increase its production space.

Bosch Packaging Technology, 715-246-6511

Meet Baxter, which is unlike any robot you’ve seen

Meet Baxter, which is unlike any robot you’ve seen
Baxter the Collaborative Robot can multitask.

When I first met Baxter the Collaborative Robot it was loading red discs into corrugated cases. Baxter was so unlike any other robot I’ve seen that it stopped me in my tracks. I wasn’t the only one Baxter affected in that way during Pack Expo at booth E-9804 of Rethink Robotics.

In short, Baxter costs $25k, is easily trained and retrained and is redeployable. It looks humanoid in an approachable way, which is by intent because Baxter is engineered to work in close proximity to human workers.

Some of Baxter’s other unique features:

Requires no safety cage;

Has 7 axes of movement per arm;

Requires no programming and is said to be trainable by line workers in minutes.

Baxter also has a pretty good memory and is capable of recalling and then performing more than 100 tasks.

“Packaging is one of the absolute sweet spots for Baxter,” says Eric Foellmer, Rethink Robotics' manager product marketing and marketing communications.

The company has made 100 separate installs totaling 500 Baxter units in operation in the 18 months it has been available. Foellmer estimates that, conservatively, 30% or more of those involve packaging including for  pick-and-place operations for plastic parts.

Foellmer says packaging supplier Genco is a “heavy user” of Baxter including one application where the robot removes sealed trays of product from a rotary heat sealer. In a video, a Genco project engineer called the deployment “a fantastic experience. Baxter is a workforce multiplier.”

Coinciding with Pack Expo, Rethink Robotics announced the availability of a new Robot Positioning System, which allows the robot to manage and adapt to dynamic (real-world) environments using its existing, embedded vision system. Examples include common plant-floor variations that can occur, such as tables being bumped, fixtures being moved and more. The robot is now able to recognize the original locations of the “Landmark” markers, and, when those locations change slightly, can mark the new locations and adjust its movements accordingly.

On top of all that, Baxter is made in the U.S.

Integrated robots pack pouches into cases at high speeds

With flexible packages continuing to penetrate into new product categories, efficient secondary packaging systems need to keep up—figuratively and literally.

The new HSP-400 robotic case packer from Delkor Systems rocks at 60 cases per minute, giving it the capacity to keep up with many of today’s high-speed stand-up pouch fillers.

One way the HSP-400 is able to reach these speeds is by integrating two vision-based delta robots to first orient and then pack pouches that are delivered layed down, even if they are skewed. By collating product as it is packed, the system removes the step and potential jamming operation of conventional collation.

Pouches can be packed into a variety of shelf-ready cases, including the popular Cabrio Case, which has seen exponential growth in 2014.

Can your carton play a video? This one can

Can your carton play a video? This one can

Want to engage consumers on a new multi-media level? A new carton design from Rondo-Pak not only can be printed with a digital watermark to connect smartphone-toting consumers to web-enabled content, it can play a high-definition video with sound—melding print and digital content for powerful point-of-purchase or point-of-use messaging.

Suitable for a variety of markets, such as pharmaceuticals and personal care products, the multi-media carton seamlessly integrates a thin, lightweight, high-definition video screen into a standard or custom carton. In a press release, the company touts, “Designed not only to gain consumers’ attention but also to hold it, Rondo-Pak’s multi-media cartons are seen as ideal solutions for product launches, patient education kits, physician training kits, clinical trials and sales demonstrations.”

The video can contain instructions for use, additional product information or answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). It can even provide this data in other languages.

The digital watermark can provide anti-counterfeiting for prescription pharmaceutical applications by acting as a supply chain authentication feature. Or it could be used to track patient adherence and compliance online. For personal care products, such as cosmetics, the watermark could provide application instructions or other user self-help tools.

Victor Dixon, president/COO of Rondo-Pak, gives Packaging Digest more details about this development:

What is the resolution of the video screen?

Dixon: We can provide a variety of different resolutions but current base video module is 480x272 pixels, which provides good, crisp video reproduction at this size.

What is the size of the screen?

Dixon: Actual dimensions are 120 x 108 x 9 millimeters (4.72 x 4.25 x 0.35 inches in width, height and thickness). This can be customized depending on each application.

What is the maximum length of a video?

Dixon: Currently, it has a 256 megabytes (MB) memory capacity for a maximum file size of 158 MB, which is about a 12-minute video. But it can go up to 2 gigabytes (GB) for up to 1.5 hours video length.

How many times can the video be played before running out of power?

Dixon: Battery life is about 80 to 90 minutes after the battery is fully charged.

Can the HD video screen and any other electronics be removed so the carton can be recycled?

Dixon: Yes, the carton can be designed to easily allow the removal of the electronics for disposal. All electronic parts are compliant with the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) directive, indicating they are free of lead, arsenic and other hazardous materials.

What is a web-enabled digital watermark?  

Dixon: It is a digital watermark that is embedded into the graphic image on the printed carton that enables a consumer to scan with a smartphone to connect directly to web-based digital collateral. It acts similar to a QR [quick response] code except that it doesn't take up real estate or detract from the brand or package graphics since it's imperceptibly embedded. It basically makes the package completely interactive.

What carton style(s) are these features available on?

Dixon: Most standard carton designs can accommodate these features if designed with the features in mind.

How much weight does the video screen add to the carton?

Dixon: The current base model video module weighs 3.0688 oz. But thinner, smaller and lighter weight versions can weigh as little as 1 to 1.5 oz.

Why keep this feature on the inside of the carton? Why not on the outside?

Dixon: We can configure the video screen to face inwards or outwards. It is a function of the design of the carton and the contents—and the message the brand owner wants to convey.

Can the video be paused? If so, how?

Dixon: It can be paused by pressing the stop/play button. There are also options for multiple different control configurations, including fast-forward (FF) and reverse (RR). The video screens can be made even more interactive by utilizing touchscreen technology.