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Articles from 2017 In November

Fitness brand reformulates packaging from scratch

Fitness brand reformulates packaging from scratch
Skratch Labs has redesigned its graphics and kicked the packaging’s functionality into higher gear.

Skratch Lab's redesign of its entire product portfolio with new digitally-printed, highly functional packaging creates a more pleasing shopping and user experience for fitness enthusiasts.

Starting from scratch is SOP for Skratch Labs when it comes to just about everything. After all, that’s how Dr. Allen Lim originated the functional food and beverage mixes on which he founded the company. A coach for professional cyclists, Lim started formulating custom hydration drink mixes and food that would allow cyclists to hydrate, fuel and build their bodies to perform their best.

Now Skratch Labs has redesigned its graphics and kicked the packaging’s functionality into higher gear for multiserve stand-up pouches, single-serve bags, bar wraps and stick packs. Jeff Donaldson, vp marketing, responds to Packaging Digest’s questions.

What prompted the redesign?

Donaldson: Skratch Labs is always looking for ways to be at its best, and after five years in business the company redesigned and renamed its entire line of products to create an easier and more enjoyable shopping experience for its consumers. The research for the new packaging began in late 2016 and the packaging was 10 months in development.

The new product packaging includes the following unique features to enhance the consumer experience:

  • Enhanced zippers for increased moisture barrier;
  • Easy-tear, single-serve packaging;
  • Contrasting soft touch treatment with metallic patterns;
  • Pixel pattern created from pictures of active athletes;
  • Bold color treatments and imagery to enhance the flavor identifiers.

The Skratch Labs brand architecture is organized to help consumers easily understand how to care for themselves and hydrate, fuel and/or build their bodies. Products are named with the function first, making it easier for shoppers to pick products based on their hydration, energy and recovery needs. Skratch Labs also created two separate lines; one for Sport when people are active with exercise and one for Anytime when people are active throughout their day.

What product lines and how many stockkeeping units were involved?

Donaldson: New packaging design included 35 SKUs such as Skratch Labs Sport Hydration Drink Mix, Anytime Hydration Drink Mix, Sport Energy Chews and Sport Recovery Drink Mix. Anytime Energy Bars were in development during the same period and were launched as a new product at the same time. Along with the packaging and naming changes, two products were reformulated to increase their effectiveness including Sport Hydration Drink Mix and Sport Recovery Drink Mix.

Who's your core consumer?

Donaldson: Skratch Labs products are sold in run, bike and outdoor retailers around the world as well as on our website and To find Skratch Labs products visit

The company creates products for people who push themselves from the everyday fitness enthusiast to the professional athlete. Many people live a high performance lifestyle and that includes more than just sports. Skratch Labs’ core audience are people who strive to be better. The company mission is to help people on that journey. That was the reason for creating two lines of products; one for when people are active in exercise and one for any time of day.

It appears the design went from a pixelated image scheme that implies “science” to product-ingredient and flavor-centered cues…what wasn’t working in the Before and how was that improved with the After?

Donaldson: The original packaging was designed to highlight the science of the product, i.e., the “Labs” in Skratch Labs, while still touching on the real fruit used as an ingredient. The original imagery included pixelated patterns of fruit. The updated packaging design was part of an overall brand refresh to get the “nature and science” working more closely together. Based on feedback from consumers, we realized that the individual packages weren’t working together to tell a whole story or follow a consistent structure. There was an opportunity to make the shopping experience simpler and to explain how all the products worked together.

The new packaging not only follows a consistent structure of naming hierarchy, design cues such as colors and fruit, but links all the product categories together with icons such as the “fuel gauge.” This gauge is a simple way for consumers to understand what each product does and at what level (hydration, energy, recovery).

Why was it important to add and enhance these functional features on the packaging?

Donaldson: Knowing how busy this audience is in their lives, the goal was to make the processing of information and understanding of the product as simple and as easy as possible. We also wanted to make the design as refreshing and inspiring as we could. We made improvements based on consumer feedback such as improving the “grippiness” of the zipper, making the product name more visible and visual differentiation between products with similar flavors.

Because of the metallic moisture barrier we weren’t able to have a clear window for consumers to see the product. Instead we utilized that metallic to show through parts of the design. The packaging includes layers of laminate to create the combination of matte soft touch, gloss and metallic highlights.

The goal with the design was to have multiple levels of communication and visual stimulation as a consumer walked by the package on the shelf. First is the large functional benefit of the product and brand name. The metallic highlights and gloss color blocks catch the light and grab attention. The next level was designed for a consumer standing closer to the package to read the product type and flavor. The matte soft touch was intended to encourage people to pick up the package and turn it over to read the information on the back.


Did the SRP or the product net weight change?

Donaldson: The only product with a change to the SRP was the Anytime Hydration Drink Mix in which the number of servings was reduced based on consumer feedback and the price point followed accordingly.

What companies can be credited for the design and the packaging?

Donaldson: The overall brand style was designed by Zach Lee, founder of Zach Lee Designs in Boulder, CO. Zach is not only a designer, but is a cyclist and lives the lifestyle of the core audience. Zach has designed packaging for multiple brands in the food and outdoor industries so Skratch Labs was lucky to have him as part of the team.

Skratch Labs’ marketing and operations teams led the coordination of all design and production utilizing outside experts to ensure timelines and FDA requirements were met.

We work with multiple packaging manufacturers because of the variety of SKUs, but the bulk of the packaging was manufactured by ePac, a company that offers digital printing and laminating. This was a new relationship for Skratch Labs and one that resulted in expectations being exceeded.

Why did you change to ePac?

Donaldson: The biggest reason for the switch was the ability to print digitally and avoid the cost of film on 35 SKUs while having the ability to use multiple textures with the designs.

What’s not apparent about the design that’s worth pointing out?

Donaldson: Two big shifts for the brand included the naming hierarchy, an intentional structure to not only make the product name clear, but the usage and variations equally easy to understand. The products have a 4-part naming structure; Category, Function, Product and Flavor. These four categories allow for all current and future products to be clearly organized and understandable. We also included simple-to-read instructions on how and when to use the products.

We wanted to bring real life into the design so we used photos of fruit and of our sponsored athletes. The images were turned to patterns of pixels to add texture and life to the design.

Lastly, tell us more about the company's origin and name.

Donaldson: Dr. Allen Lim spent years coaching professional cyclists and making hydration drink mixes and food for them because they were getting sick from the sports nutrition available to them at the time.  He created natural, nutritious energy food and hydration drink mixes from scratch based on what athletes’ bodies lost when they pushed themselves hard. Soon, his friends, family and other athletes began asking for the products. He found that the products solved the same problems for everyday athletes as well. At that point he retired from the pro cycling tour and moved back to Boulder, CO, to start the company. The company name comes from two areas: Dr. Lim’s belief that food is always better when it’s made from scratch and his journey of starting over from scratch when he left the pro cycling tour.


Have a thirst for packaging information and ideas? You’ll find that and a whole lot more in Anaheim, CA, February 6-8, 2018, at WestPack co-located with PLASTEC West. For more information, visit WestPack.


Introduction to GS1 Barcodes

An introduction to the GS1 barcode and explanation of why and how it is used.

Specifying the Optimum Case Identification System - Print & Apply, Inkjet Marking & Laser Coding

A comparison of various case identification solutions and the flexibility of each option.

UDI - Guide to Label & Marking Compliance

Patient safety with regards to the identification of medical devices, protection from counterfeit devices, and the ability to recall devices quickly and accurately has led to the development of the Unique Device Identification (UDI) system. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) created the Unique Device Identification (UDI) system to adequately identify devices from production through distribution and throughout the product's lifecycle and is recognized around the world

Thinking Outside of the Box

Reduce, Reuse or Recycle - The sustainability of print on demand boxes vs. preprinted cases

Double-duty laser codes and scores simultaneously

In a marriage of convenience and simplicity, the new HDP laser from ID Technology is able to score film and mark a permanent code in one pass. See it at Pack Expo 2014 in Booth N-5406.

The 30-watt CO2 laser uses a 4.7 micron beam, which the company says is half the size of other systems on the market. David Holliday, director of product market at ID Technology, explains it’s like a fine-point pen tip versus a crayon. This allows the laser to be fitted with a wide-angle lens so it can code/score a large area. With the appropriate lens, the area could be 1 meter square.

The video shows the laser in action inside the Inever BY300 stick pack machine as the film is coming off the roll (Inever is a sister company of ID Technology, both Pro Mach businesses). We also see the code on the stick pack, and see how easy the scoring makes it to open.

How can we stop plastic packaging pollution in our oceans?

How can we stop plastic packaging pollution in our oceans?
Our Facebook fans have ideas on how we can reduce plastic waste.

Despite all the good it does, plastic packaging has taken a beating in the general media for its perceived anti-environment impression. One of the most controversial topics today is how much plastic garbage is in our oceans. By 2050, the World Economic Forum projects that, by weight, there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. But Packaging Digest’s Facebook fans have some ideas on how to fix that.

At the end of August 2017, Packaging Digest posted on its Facebook page: “Up to 129M tons of annual plastic usage is disposed of by landfill or incineration & 20M tons of plastic ends up in the ocean. How do we reduce the demand for plastic? Learn more in the Packaging Digest eNewsletter!”

The passionate response from our Facebook fans demonstrates how contentious the issue of plastic waste is for consumers. About 2,600 people have clicked “Like” and more than 2,300 have shared the post as of Nov. 27.

Quite aware of plastic’s negative environmental image, members of the plastics industry and packaging professionals continue to work to improve it. Earlier this year, sustainable packaging thought-leader Chandler Slavin offered some intriguing possibilities on “How to change plastic’s ‘waste’ reputation.” She cited The New Plastics Economy—Rethinking the future of plastics report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. This global initiative, which looks to eliminate plastic waste through innovation and collaboration, is underway…but will likely be a slow process.

Do this, not that

A lot of people think we produce way too much single-use plastic packaging now, though. So what should we do about it? Advice from the 320+ Facebook comments includes:

• Recycle it, even into other items like outdoor furniture or clothes

• Use hemp instead

• Ban/tax plastic packaging

• Go back to glass / paper packaging

• Replace fossil-fuel materials with biodegradable plastics

• Don’t buy/boycott plastic packaging

• Tell companies to stop making plastic

• Filter your water and use reusable containers

• Increase deposits on plastic packaging

Not all the suggestions our fans posted are practical (or, at times, polite). But some make great points. For example…


Quite a few people mention hemp as a replacement material. Lea Neilson McMullen explains, “Growing hemp can replace all the plastic and it’s not hard to grow. It doesn’t get folks high, it makes a very fine, strong fiber. It would employ lots of folks…. It doesn’t pollute.”

Julie Couch Gould offers, “Canned water. Like Budweiser provided for flood victims.”

Dave Juergens saw this paper bottle from Seventh Generation and says, “Yes, composting ‘bottle,’ screw lid and cap recyclable. Here’s a start…”

Photo courtesy of Dave Juergens


Once the plastic packaging has fulfilled its original purpose, what else can we do with it? Our Facebook fans get pretty creative.

According to Sue Potts Schnaidt, “We need to get the word out how recycling products can be used to make other products. There [have] to be ways towns [can] make money if they recycle.”

Ciedie Aech agrees, “Maybe rather than focusing mostly upon the endless production of plastic, we should push for new ways to make the use of old plastic lucrative: so much plastic already exists and will never biodegrade, but it might be strategically collected and used for other purposes.”

Jen Eilers makes “…musical instruments out of things whenever possible. Plastic juice bottles + bottle caps = rhythm shakers.”

“Build public benches, tables, playground turf with all the plastic! LIKE SEATTLE!” says Marsha McGiboney Bradley.

Sharon Gibson says, “We can use it to make plastic floes or bergs for the northern animals to rest on and hunt from. Make use of our waste products for a change.”

Dorlinda Chong says, “We should be grinding up that plastic and using it as a substitute for sand in asphalt and roadway cement. Sand is a vanishing resource, and plastic is ubiquitous and lasts thousands of years.”

StarGazer Antoinette already knew that: “India is recycling plastics in roadways/asphalt.”

Arlene Speegle Murrell says, “My friend crochets plastic bags into purses & sells them. She is 97 years old.” This is similar to how TerraCycle upcycles used packaging. Perhaps her friend could get a job there.

Lisa McCullough says, “I’ve heard they can turn plastic back into fuel.”

Bonnie Howard also heard that, saying, “Plastic makes a GREAT FUEL for our vehicles and inspires a cleanup at the same time.”

And Dianne Crain agrees, “Burn our trash for energy, as Sweden does.”

Joanne Siket Karaczun offers, “Several years ago I remember reading about an Australian company that took this plastic trash and compressed it into wall boards for building purposes. I wonder whatever happened to that idea!! They were looking for MORE of this stuff.”

Lori Myren-Manbeck says, “My company, inclusivi-tee, makes our beautiful artist-designed t-shirts using shirts made from 100% recycled plastic and refurbished cotton, getting bottles out of landfills and off beaches.”


Ethel L. Anderson encourages us to “Go back to returnable bottles!”

James Monahan thinks “We need to go back to paper and clean glass!”

Martie Smith recalls, “We drank out of public drinking fountains. At 74, I know that I didn't suffer any ill effects.”


Sheryl Helaney urges us to “Rethink how disposable bottles are made, and ban the ones we have except in emergencies. Also hire people to clean up the mess, and put heavy fines on improper disposal!”

James Sweeney says, “Tax it to pay for recycling and clean up.”

Monicia Banks says, “Plant based, biodegradable plastic. Make it law!”

Marilyn Shoffit says, “Stop buying it and they will stop making it.”

Diana McCaul agrees, “Stop buying it. Seriously. Consumers drive the market.”

And Joyce Duarte implores, “Please consider the packaging when you shop.”

Other suggestions:

Some ideas just couldn’t be categorized. Henry Smith keeps his advice simple: “Reduce, re-use and recycle, your kids and your grand-kids and your future generations will thank you.”

Toni Erb says, “Garbage is a serious problem. We must change packaging & make a product like plastic meant to be temporary.”

Realistically, Kay McDonnell says, “It’s impossible to do without plastics. Just saying, look around.”

Probably the most bizarre comment of them all though channels Jonathan Swift’s satire A Modest Proposal: “Give it a flavor like cats and feed it to a neighbor’s dog,” says Wayne Bruce Allbin.

Click here to see the post and all the comments. We invite you to join the conversation to help educate, explain and, perhaps, empathize.

10 steps to successfully changing a packaging material

There’s a good chance that as a packaging professional in the medical device or pharmaceutical industry, you’ll be faced with the chance—or the challenge—to change a validated material. Is your team prepared?

The best way to manage change, whether forced or voluntary, is to expect it, and manage it, according to the new SmartGuide from PMP News, “10 steps to successfully changing a packaging material.” Packaging experts from medical device and pharmaceutical companies share their perspectives on how to prepare for change.

As Dwane Hahn, Vice President of Sales for Rollprint Packaging Products Inc., explains, “Best-in-class packaging engineers ‘not only understand
the importance of deep insight into change management, they feel comfortable presenting the business case’ of a change. It’s all about demonstrable risk assessment and the impact to an organization’s bottom line.”

To help you feel comfortable with your next packaging change, whether driven externally or internally, we spoke with Hahn and other medical packaging experts for their strategies for success.

To learn more, please download the SmartGuide, 10 steps to successfully changing a packaging material, today!

Thin polymer film covers multipack cans hygienically

Thin polymer film covers multipack cans hygienically
WaveSafe gives consumers’ peace of mind that canned beverages have remained safe and hygienic from the factory to their hands.

WaveSafe is the first flexible film carrier that brings full-coverage hygiene protection to can multipacks while maximizing package visibility.

Thin remains “in” when it comes to source-reduction options for packaging, a perennial trend melded with consumers' hygiene concerns for unopened beverage cans in the new WaveSafe carrier multipack. It’s promoted as a new way of unitizing canned multipacks using a clear film membrane portion positioned directly over the cans to provide hygiene and visibility with minimal use of material. Paired with the company’s WaveGrip carrier, WaveSafe offers an additional layer of recyclable and photodegradable polyethylene material that precisely covers the top of the cans. This provides protection from dust and debris, giving consumers’ peace of mind that the beverage has remained safe and hygienic from the factory to their hands.

“We are pleased to launch the first covered flexible carrier,” says Aaron McIvor, managing director, WaveGrip (Greenock, United Kingdom). “WaveSafe is lightweight and efficient to apply and is available in the complete range of WaveGrip Colors to create a new point of intrigue to consumers as well as boasting functional and environmental benefits.”

Previously, manufacturers looked to collation shrink film to ensure the can’s hygiene. WaveSafe delivers this with reduced materials and expense while leaving the primary packaging unobscured.  

WaveSafe is so thin that it is barely discernable in the above photo. Just how thin is it? While WaveGrip doesn't provide specifications, McIvor tells Packaging Digestthat the “PE collar is 10% lighter than comparative products and the additional layer of recyclable and photodegradable PE material covering the cans is substantially thinner. Compared to shrink and collate or rigid plastic collars the material saving is significant.”

The company claims it as the most efficient collation carrier available for application that is environmentally sustainable. WaveSafe also offers a point of difference to brand owners that stands out on shelf, and coordinates with a range of WaveGrip colors. 

Compatible with all WaveGrip applicators and supplied as a rollstock reel of material, WaveSafe is accessible for all beverage manufacturers, from smaller artisanal producers to high volume operators.

Have there been any customers?

According to McIvor, while the product has just been launched, “the company is working with a pipeline of customers with the integration of their applicators and these new innovative WaveSafe carriers.”

WaveSafe premiered at the Beverage Packaging Congress on October 24 in Brussels.

Launch of new applicator

The company also announced the introduction of a new automatic version of its entry-level G1 applicator that can create 4-, 6- or 8-cans multipacks for a full range of can heights at speeds of up to 100 cans per minute and is intended for lower-volume beverage producers such as craft brewers.  It includes an Allen Bradley PLC Control from Rockwell Automation and is backed by an experienced engineering support team who ensures seamless installation and integration into each canning line. The G1 carries a low point-of-entry cost of just $18,000 in a small 55-in. x 31.5-in. footprint and is compatible with all WaveGrip Carriers.


Explore packaging, plastics and more in Anaheim, CA, February 6-8, 2018, during WestPack that’s co-located with PLASTEC West. For more information, visit WestPack. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Cybersecurity: A warning for packaging operations

Cybersecurity: A warning for packaging operations
With cyberattacks becoming stealthier, more sophisticated, more targeted and more impactful, what can managers do to protect their operations and assets?

Hackers, ransomware and cyberattacks: What does it mean to a modern packaging production facility where connectivity is crucial? And what can be done?

Your production operations have been optimized with advanced servo-driven machinery, wireless communications, remote access for troubleshooting and other advanced automation resources and tools that deliver higher efficiency, lower downtime and ongoing cost savings.

What’s not to like? That would be the potential for opportunistic hackers and criminals to attack those systems with ransomware and other forms of cyberattacks. Seems there’s a dark cloud behind every silver lining and perhaps more so than ever for packagers and machinery builders in a highly connected, industrial internet of things (IIoT) environment.

Besides well-publicized cyberattacks attacks with names like WannaCry and Petya and others that have targeted countries and companies including Equifax and Target Stores, in 2017 cybercriminals struck consumer packaged goods brands including Mondelez Intl., which had  Q2 2017 revenue growth reduced by 3% due to a global cyberattack, and Merck, which was rocked by a ransomware attack in June.

Cybersecurity for packaging operations is a cautionary tale articulated by industry experts across two days during PMMI’s annual meeting held in early November in Richmond, VA, starting with a Day 1 keynote panel discussion entitled “Cybersecurity: Its impact on you and your customers.”

Moderator Brendan Rooney is the cyber practice leader with AHT Insurance, which offers customers an option to transfer cyberattack risk through the Ensconce Risk Management and Insurance Platform. Rooney pointed out that cybercriminals are opportunists. Unfortunately, among the vulnerabilities they target are industrial control systems, including those for supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) that are common in processing and packaging operations.

In one example of criminal opportunism, Jennifer Coughlin, a founding partner of Mullen Coughlin, a law firm “uniquely dedicated exclusively to representing organizations facing data privacy events, information security incidents, and the need to address these risks before a crisis hits,” cited the case of an 11-year old student who hacked into the high-school library simply using his library log-in. It also showed that cybercriminals come in all ages.

Hackers don’t have to look far afield for resources. Did you know about the Shodan database, the “world’s first search engine for Internet-connected devices?” Intended for research, business and personal use, the searchable online database houses a listing of 40,000 automated machine systems and is accessible by anyone, including hackers.

In a case study example, Spencer Cramer of ei3 Corp., which assists companies for the “the internet of things for manufacturing,” referenced a 2013 hack of the Rye Brook, NY, dam by an Iranian team that was kept secret by the FBI until 2016; fortunately the dam was not near capacity when the breach via cellular modem and programmable logic controller occurred. PLCs are, of course, a popular component of numerous production systems.

The FBI offers seven ways to protect your operations' industrial control systems against cyberattacks. Image: AHT Insurance.

Jason Rebholz, vp, Crypsis Group, noted that while brand owners realize the risks, it’s difficult for his firm to conduct a gap/prevention assessment on manufacturing operations because “once those lines are up and running, they don’t want to touch them.” Rebholz also offered these observations:

  • Cyberattacks are becoming stealthier, more sophisticated, more targeted and more impactful;
  • Prepare when you can, not when you have to;
  • Implement and augment security controls at all levels;
  • Events can be internal by disgruntled or ex-employees or external;
  • Trust, but verify.

It’s not only remote access situations that can pose problems. Cramer noted that conventional on-site visits by technicians who bring their own laptops into a facility can expose operations and company networks to malware and viruses.

Ransomware was the center of attention for a panel discussion moderated by AHT Insurance’s Brendan Rooney (L) along with participants Jason Rebholz of Crypsis Group and Jennifer Coughlin of Mullen Coughlin.

Beware ransomware

A more intimate setting provided the backdrop for a focused three-person panel discussion of ransomware, defined by moderator Rooney as “a type of malicious software that prevents or limits users from accessing their system, either by locking the system's screen or by locking the users' files unless a ransom is paid.” Files that are targeted include Word, Excel, PDFs and others.

Rebholz said Crypsis Group has responded to 300-400 plant-floor system hacks. “In the good-old days, one person could be impacted, until hackers realized the wider opportunities they had and cranked up the business model to encompass networks and organizations,” he said. “Ransomware now has a bigger impact, is weaponized and automated, and management is not going to be able to retrieve their data unless they pay up.”

A question was posed about any guarantees that, once paid, would the cybercriminals do what they said they’d do and decrypt the information?

Rebholz indicated that a standard part of the arrangement is that the hackers decryptify a small sample as proof. He rarely sees a ransomware transaction that isn’t successful once it is paid using Bitcoin.

“These are business people, albeit illegal business, and there’s honor among thieves,” he pointed out.

Rob Spiegel, chief editor on sister publication Design News, quoted these sobering words in an article posted earlier this month, Detecting the Cyber Enemy Within: “There are two kinds of companies: those that know they’ve been hacked and those that don’t know they’ve been hacked.”

For more on the topic from Packaging Digest, see Consider potential cybersecurity risks when developing smart devices


Explore packaging, plastics and more in Anaheim, CA, February 6-8, 2018, during WestPack that’s co-located with PLASTEC West. For more information, visit WestPack.