Food Safety

5 Ways Active Packaging Has Staying Power

PTR PTR Active Packaging Graphic

With the healthy-lifestyle-inspired decline in food preservatives along with lengthened supply chains, active packaging is working harder to keep food fresh and safe for consumers.

But before we dive in, a little terminology lesson is in order because active packaging and intelligent packaging are often confused. The difference is that active packaging acts, whereas intelligent packaging communicates (to consumers and others throughout the value chain).

Active packaging can stall oxidation, control ripening, and stop microbial growth as well as moisture loss or gain more effectively than traditional packaging. We usually associate active packaging with vacuum or gas flushing with a modified atmosphere within a high barrier package. This is a type of active packaging and is one of five categories to keep in mind. 

1. Active packaging stalls oxidation.

Products with unsaturated fats such as nuts, potato chips, beer, and beef jerky can oxidize in the presence of oxygen. Residual oxygen in the product or package headspace can be absorbed using Iron or Vitamin C embedded within sachets or added from master-batches to polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), and PET films and rigid containers.

Jack Links, Wild West, and Cattleman’s Cut branded beef jerky use oxygen scavengers to reduce oxidation and mold growth. Carlsberg extends beer-life by 15% using oxygen-absorbing liners in FreshCap closures. Active packaging Antioxidants, BHT and BHT and a-tocopherols, migrate into the package headspace to inhibit oxidation.  Another Active Packaging technology is BreatheWay, which vents the putrid smell of oxidation by-products.

2. Active packaging controls produce ripening.

Ethylene scavengers extend the shelf life of produce by slowing the ripening process. 1-methlcyclopropene (1-MCP) blocks ethylene receptors, and slow ripening is a common wash used for fruits and vegetables. Using this compound within active packaging helps control ripening during distribution. 

FruitBrite active packaging by Hazel Technologies releases 1-MCP to diffuse ethylene blockers within the headspace of Packaging during distribution.  And corrugated linerboard infused with 1-MCP allows for more seamless and consistent produce distribution without sachets. Other ethylene scavenging active packaging technologies exist.

3. Active packaging stops pathogen and mold growth.

Naturally derived active packaging can inhibit the growth of mold and pathogens. Nano-sized zinc is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the FDA and is effective against pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, and Escherichia coli. It can be incorporated into the paperboard and plastic-based layers in direct contact with food. The protein Nisin is another effective active packaging coating against Listeria, Bacillus cereus, and Staphylococcus aureus. Essential Oils of Oregano and Grapefruit Seed Extract inhibit E.coli and Listeria. These and other essential oils are either added as a food contact layer or used in place of plasticizers to inhibit microbial growth. Short carbon chain length oils such as Caprylic, Capric, and Lauric are used in many active packaging applications, including the Apeel technology, inhibit mold growth on fruits and vegetables.

4. Active packaging regulates moisture.

For some food such as drink mixes and spices, moisture needs to be maintained at a low level, and for other foods such as raisins, moisture needs to remain higher. Moisture-regulating active packaging keeps moisture at the level needed. This includes films embedded with silica gel desiccants, activated clay, minerals, and superabsorbent polymers to ensure the package headspace remains dry. Active packaging to maintain moisture in dried fruits includes edible coatings and hydrogels.

5. The new reason: Active packaging delivers agility.

As active packaging enters the mainstream packaging to protect brand integrity and extend food shelf life, even more innovation and application are possible. This technology is increasingly refined. Active packaging technology is on the cusp of enabling personalization of food just-before-eating and manufacturing agility using packaging to deliver nutrients, flavors, odors, textures, and colors in response to environmental conditions, time, or consumer interaction.

Claire Sand, PhD, has 30+ years of experience in industry and academia. She's owner of Packaging Technology and Research and Gazelle Mobile Packaging and is an Adjunct Professor, CalPoly, Michigan State University, and the University of Minnesota. Her email is

Healthcare Packaging

New Pharmaceutical Packaging Test Method Earns USP Approval

Photo credit: – Pharmaceutical-blisters-AdobeStock_329546122-ftd.jpeg

The United States Pharmacopeia’s Packaging and Distribution Expert Committee recently revised General Chapter <671> Containers-Performance Testing (Ref 1) to add an alternate method for the determination of water-vapor transmission rate (WVTR) of single-unit and unit-dose container closure systems, such as blisters. This alternate method — using water instead of desiccant — was vetted by a leading packaging development laboratory through a rigorous comparison to the unchallenged desiccant method, the standard since the 1970s.

The science of this gravimetric method is not complex — but should not be over-simplified. The alternate method uses the same science based upon the vapor pressure differences created by controlled humidity across a permeable film, such as that of a blister cavity. Relative humidity (RH) and vapor pressure are used to express the environmental chamber conditions and the headspace inside the test containers (blisters).

WVTR can be measured in terms of desiccant weight gain — or water weight loss — for a container closure system held in an environment with constant temperature and RH. Test containers filled with water provide a constant vapor-pressure difference across test container walls, offering improvements in WVTR testing compared to desiccant-filled containers where the vapor pressure inside may neither start nor remain at 0% RH.

Also, use of water-filled containers mitigates many of the challenges inherent in the preparation and handling of desiccant and desiccant-filled containers.


Vapor pressure difference.

In the traditional desiccant method, the difference in relative humidity (RH) or vapor pressure starts at 75% by loading the blister cavities of samples with desiccant, thus creating an RH near 0%, and storing the samples in an environmental chamber maintained at 75% (see Figure 1 below).

Chart supplied by Dwain L. SparksDesiccant-vs-Water-Method-chart-web.jpg

Figure 1: Vapor pressure comparison between desiccant and water test methods.

Conversely, the same but constant 75% difference in vapor pressure is created by loading the blister cavities of samples with water and storing the samples in an environmental chamber maintained at 25%. In both methods, the vapor pressure difference results in the migration (transmission) of water vapor across the film at a constant rate after steady state is achieved. This results in measurable weight change of the sample. For desiccant-filled blisters, weight gain occurs; for water-filled blisters, weight loss occurs.

With high-barrier blisters, equivalent results have been achieved with both methods over the USP prescribed study period of 29 to 35 days. However, due to the rapid exhaustion of desiccant capacity of low-barrier blisters, the USP desiccant method prescribes a single weight determination after storage for seven days. This line-through-the-origin (initial sample weight) does not allow one to determine a meaningful slope: the permeation rate.

Multiple weight determinations for low-barrier blisters are possible for the water method — because an adequate loading of water is possible, which maintains a constant vapor pressure difference longer than seven days. This allows for an adequate number of sample weights for a meaningful linear regression analysis. It has been demonstrated that the prescribed desiccant method for low-barrier blisters conducted at 25°C vs. 45°C reduces the permeation rate and desiccant exhaustion, thereby providing for more than one measurement and a linear regression analysis.

Use of desiccants can be problematic, however, because an inadequate amount of desiccant or incompletely dried desiccant may result in variability of the vapor-pressure differences between the inside and outside of the container during the study. This potential variability of the vapor-pressure difference can both bias and increase variability in WVTR determinations.


Reliability of results.

According to the traditional WVTR methods described in chapter <671> Containers-Performance Testing, test containers are to be filled with sufficient anhydrous desiccant to maintain an inside RH close to 0% during the study. Desiccant-filled test containers are held in an environmental chamber, and weight determinations are made over time.

Under constant environmental conditions, plastic [such as polyethylene (PE), polypropylene (PP), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), polyethylene terephthalate gly (PETG), and polychlorotrifluoroethylene (PCTFE)] container walls reach a steady state of water concentration after a preconditioning period. The inside RH remains constant during testing if adequate anhydrous desiccant is present. The weight gain of the desiccant is determined at this steady-state condition and is translated into a permeation rate for the test container closure system.

To obtain reliable WVTR determinations, the vapor pressure difference must remain constant inside and outside the test container throughout the study. Results from desiccant-filled test containers do not account for potential variability introduced if the internal RH of test containers neither starts at 0%, nor remains at 0% during the study.

USP General Chapter <1671> (Ref 2) states: “Desiccant methods are designed to maintain the internal RH below 10% throughout the study.” However, this internal RH range (0% to 10%) translates to variability in the internal RH; hence, variability in the results. In contrast, a test container filled with water will maintain a constant RH (100%) from the beginning to the end of the WVTR study, thereby reducing potential variability in the results, notwithstanding an inaccurate WVTR determination may be the final outcome.

To address the challenges involved in the use of desiccant-filled test containers, one can use the water-filled container method as an alternative approach for the determination of WVTR of container closure systems for solid oral drug products. Desiccant-filled test containers stored in a 40°C/75% RH chamber achieve a vapor-pressure difference of 65% to 75% if the internal RH created by the desiccant ranges from 0% to 10%. On the other hand, water-filled test containers stored in an environmental chamber at 40°C/25% RH achieve and maintain a constant vapor pressure difference of 75%.


Benefits of the water method.

In practice, multiple benefits can be realized by implementing WVTR testing using water as the test medium for blister samples.

With water, the variability of the fill amount does not result in variability of internal RH, and no interaction with container walls of common packaging materials (PE, PVC, PP, and PETG) has been observed. The stability of the internal RH afforded by water allows holding the samples or reusing them at a later time, or in multiple studies (such as different storage conditions using the same samples). Additional measurements or extensions of studies are possible without concern over depleting the water.

The uncertainty of having adequate desiccant which will maintain an inside RH near 0% (in a 75% RH chamber) is eliminated by creating a constant inside RH of 100% with water (in a 25% RH chamber).


Easier sample preparation.

Typically, those involved with preparing samples for WVTR testing will be skeptical of filling blisters with water. But filling with desiccant is not without challenges, including maintaining an adequate, dry supply; physical damage to foil lidding caused by the desiccant; the need for an oven to dry the desiccant (for example molecular sieves) up to 250°C; and potential exposure of the desiccant to moisture during filling and handling before testing. These challenges are eliminated with the water-filled container method.

This includes elimination of special handling requirements to protect desiccant-filled blister samples from excessive exposure to moisture before testing.

Dwain L Sparks-quote2-web.jpg

Also, samples filled with aqueous dye can be used for leak testing before or after WVTR testing. Use of dye enhances visual detection of gross leaks during the study.

Sample preparation techniques are simple for filling blisters with water. The best practice for delivering water into the cavities on the packaging line was developed using a manual syringe filled with water, allowing delivery of a few drops of water to each cavity without causing sealing problems. The surface tension of the water prevents spillage and splashing during line vibrations.

One to 10 drops of water are adequate for all blister types at 40°C/25% RH. For determining the WVTR of multiple-unit container closure systems, a 10% fill volume of water will create and maintain 100% RH during one or multiple studies.


Closing argument.

Water-filled test containers stored in an environmental chamber at 40°C/25% relative humidity (RH) maintain constant vapor pressure differences of 75%. Desiccant-filled test containers stored in an environmental chamber at 40°C/75% RH may not maintain constant vapor pressure differences of 75%. To maintain constant vapor pressure differences of 75% throughout the study, the water activity (aw) of the desiccant must remain very close to zero. The advantages of using water in place of desiccant are numerous. Make the change today.


One additional note: The advantages of using water in place of desiccant were not as significant for multiple-unit container closure systems as for single-unit blister container closure systems, with the most significant advantage being the elimination of desiccant (such as factors associated with increased cost and time). An alternate method for liquid-filled container closure systems developed in a business partner’s test lab has been submitted to the USP Expert Committee. USP’s Principle Scientific Liaison, Desmond Hunt, Ph.D., responded, stating the proposal is slated for consideration as an addition to USP <671> during the 2020-2025 Committee cycle.

For comments, collaboration, and questions, please contact Dwain L. Sparks, via email at



United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary (USP 43-NF 38). Rockville, MD: United States Pharmacopeial Convention; 2020 Accessed October 11, 2020 (subscription required).

United States Pharmacopeia and National Formulary (USP 43-NF 38). Rockville, MD: United States Pharmacopeial Convention; 2020 Accessed October 11, 2020 (subscription required).

*Note: Published changes to USP General Chapters <671> and <1671> become effective December 1, 2020.

Packaging Experts on Tap for Epic Engineering Event

Photos supplied by the speakers VEW2020-Fireside-Keynotes-ftd.jpg
Industry stalwarts scheduled to speak include (clockwise from top left): Jane Chase, Patrick Farrey, Conor Carlin, and Amy Stewart.

As 2020 winds down — arguably one of the most difficult years in recent history — most people could use some inspiration to lift their spirits and set up a positive outlook for their careers leading into 2021.

The upcoming Virtual Engineering Week can help. From November 30 through December 4, Informa Markets – Engineering has a full lineup of best-in-class educational sessions, product sourcing prospects, and networking opportunities for the global design, engineering, and manufacturing communities. (Disclaimer: Informa Markets – Engineering is the division of global events and media leader Informa plc that oversees Packaging Digest.)

The agenda includes more than 100 sessions from top engineering and manufacturing thought-leaders — with topics ranging from 3D printing, smart manufacturing, packaging, materials and sustainability, and career development (see “What You Need to Know About Smart Factories, Sustainability, and More”).

“Today’s critical times are requiring manufacturing processes to not only operate smoothly but more quickly than ever before, putting pressure upon these industries to innovate at an unprecedented pace,” says Steve Everly, Virtual Engineering Week Group Event Director. “With the added challenge of not being able to meet in-person, we curated Virtual Engineering Week’s conference to feature ample networking and connection opportunities for attendees to engage with the brightest minds across manufacturing industries today.”

The expansive education lineup will kick off each day with a fireside chat and keynote presentation. “We’re especially proud of our keynote and fireside chat speaker lineup,” Everly says, “that will spotlight trends and new possibilities, and ultimately inspire much innovation.”

The full schedule of sessions for Virtual Engineering Week can be viewed here. Below you’ll find information about the packaging-related fireside chats and keynote sessions. You can learn more about the free week-long “epic” event and register to attend virtually here.


Wednesday, December 2

10:00 a.m. central time

Welcome & Fireside Chat: Jane Chase, CPP, Fellow, Executive Director, Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP)


10:15 a.m. central time

Keynote: Leading the Change in Medical Device Packaging

Speaker: Amy Stewart, Product Development Manager, Printpack Medical & IoPP Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee, Board Chairperson

Presented on behalf of the IoPP Medical Device Packaging Technical Committee (MDPTC).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that, on any given day, one in every 31 hospital patients has at least one healthcare-associated infection. It’s these odds that draw professionals to lead change — from medical device manufacturers, their packaging supply partners and package designers, and every individual who feels the gravity of packaging integrity to patient safety.


Thursday, December 3

10:00 a.m. central time

Welcome & Fireside Chat: Patrick Farrey, CEO, Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE)


10:15 a.m. central time

Keynote: Altering Decisions for Plastics Consumption in a Circular Economy

Speaker: Conor Carlin, Vice President, Sustainability, Society of Plastics Engineers

Attendees will hear about current opportunities to inform decisions in life-cycle assessments, designs for the environment, and application of specific regulatory changes.


Friday, December 4

10:00 a.m. central time

Welcome & Fireside Chat: What’s New for You in 2021? An Anaheim Update

Speaker: Hayley Haggarty, Group Event Director, Anaheim, Informa Markets – Engineering

WestPack — one of the largest trade shows and conferences for packaging technology in the US — will return to Anaheim, CA, August 10-12, 2021, at the Anaheim Convention Center. Find out what educational sessions, networking opportunities, and other can’t-miss experiences are planned.


Clear Shrink Films Approved for Store Drop-Off Recycling

Clysar Clysar EVO combo

High-performance polyolefin shrink films maker Clysar’s new EVO and EVOX recyclable shrink films are approved for the Store Drop-Off label by the How2Recycle program. The films allow brand packagers and retailers to meet critical package recyclability goals, fulfill retail labeling mandates, and address increased consumer demand for sustainable packaging.

Most shrink films are not recyclable under current protocols and can only be labeled on products as “not yet recyclable.”

The films are engineered to run on virtually all models and makes of appropriate packaging equipment.

Offering excellent optics, clean, even shrink and strong seals, Clysar Evo All-Purpose Films are tailored for most retail packaging applications and run on most shrink-packaging equipment under a wide range of operating conditions.

Clysar Evox High-Speed, High-Strength Films are ideal for high-speed packaging applications requiring extra strength, protection and durability. The materials provide a high-performance solution for demanding products including heavy multipacks or irregular product or bundle shapes.

The Evo family of films were developed in collaboration with the Sustainable Packaging Coalition and verified by third-party testing to meet the requirements of the Association of Plastics Recyclers, ensuring they are safe and fully acceptable for Store Drop-Off recycling.

ClysarClysar EVO Image with H2R label

“These films are unique in our market, both from a recyclability standpoint as well as overall performance,” says Vicki Larson, president. “They also provide a wider operating window. Clysar has invested heavily over the past several years to support significant Evo film family growth for these recyclable solutions. Our patented manufacturing processes provide an operational and formulation flexibility that’s not widely available in this market.”

According to Larson, Evo is a drop-in replacement for a customer’s current shrink film while Evox has unique characteristics that offer end users the ability to improve uptime and overall package appearance.

The materials are on-trend with a consumer preference for sustainable packaging. During a presentation at last week’s Pack Expo Connects virtual tradeshow, Larson cited a study conducted by The Boston Group that about 66% of consumers said environmentally friendly, recyclable packaging is important and 74% said they would pay more for it.

These consumer trends parallel numerous broad-based sustainable packaging goals and programs underway or announced by end-user brands and customers.

Larson acknowledges that some consumer-packaged goods customers will shift business from the Clysar's current films to the Evo family solution, though that likelihood is outweighed by Evo films’ potential in an environmentally conscious market.

“We’re excited to see an incredibly high interest level,” she says of the initial reaction to the new products, adding that “we have applications of Evo and Evox in the market in both single-unit and multipack packages.”

The films are manufactured at the company's Clinton, IA, headquarters location.






New Products

Social Ecosystem Tops 2020 Plastic Packaging Innovations

Dow revealed the winners of the 2020 Packaging Innovation Awards recognizing breakthrough packaging achievements in design, technology, sustainability and user experience on November 11.

The competition’s highest honor, the Diamond Award, went to Henkel AG & Co KGaA’s Social Plastic Ecosystem in collaboration with Plastic Bank. To create a new line of sustainable cosmetic packaging, Henkel became the first global consumer goods company to partner with Plastic Bank when it conducted a pilot program that utilized recycled materials. Plastic Bank aims to stop plastic waste from entering the ocean and provide economic opportunities for people in extreme poverty. Since its launch in 2018, Henkel has produced and sold 15 million bottles made from recycled plastic across Western Europe.

The collaboration is backed by Henkel’s Beauty Care and Laundry & Home care businesses. In establishing an additional collection ecosystem in Egypt and adding more than 400 dedicated collection centers, Plastic Bank expects to reach an additional collection capacity of up to 5,000 tons annually, which corresponds as many as one billion bottles over the five-year period.

A video of the winning packaging is available.

HenkelDiamond Gold Social Plastic

“I am especially inspired by this year’s Packaging Innovation Awards winners because of the industry’s continued focus on innovation and sustainability, despite the difficult global conditions caused by the pandemic,” said Diego Donoso, business president for Dow Packaging & Specialty Plastics. “The entry and judging processes were fully virtual this year for the first time, and it still produced strong competition with rigorous judging to recognize the top innovations.”

Judges evaluated more than 175 entries from companies around the globe. Entries ranged from personal care and health and hygiene, to food and beverage and industrial innovations. In addition to the Diamond Award, the judges also selected three Diamond Finalists, six Gold Award Winners, five Silver Award Winners, two Honorable Mentions for Emerging Applications and one Honorable Mention for Advancements in Industrial Distribution systems.

“I’ve been a judge in the Packaging Innovation Awards for many years, and this one presented a unique challenge in the way it was structured,” said lead judge David Luttenberger, global packaging director for Mintel Group. “Despite the challenging circumstances, the participants delivered the same quality of innovations as in previous years.”

Packaging Design

3 Packs Weave Usefulness into Their Designs

New functional packages earned top awards from IoPP's AmeriStar competition.

The Institute of Packaging Professionals (IoPP) has announced the 2020 AmeriStar Package Award winners, and it’s an unusually fine lot.

The 15-judge panel considered package entries in 15 categories, with attention to aspects such as package performance, economics, and sustainability. The top three winners are:

Best of Show Award winner: Product Ventures and Gorilla Glue, for the Gorilla Super Glue Micro Precise package’s structural design

Design Excellence Award winner: PepsiCo, for the Mtn Dew AMP Game Fuel Re-Sealable Can

Sustainable Packaging Award winner: Graphic Packaging International, for the KeelClip Multi-Can Packaging System

Start the slideshow to see these winning packages and learn the stories behind their success.

Packaging Design

Ballwash Give A Sack Package Says Nuts to Cancer

Photo supplied by Ballsy Ballsy Ballwash Limited Edition Package1-ftd.jpg
Introduced in April 2020 during Testicular Cancer Awareness Month, Ballsy's limited-edition Ballwash designer label was so popular, the company is keeping it throughout 2020.

Each November, the Movember Foundation challenges men to grow a mustache in efforts to raise awareness for men’s health issues, including testicular cancer.

This year, the Ballsy men’s personal-care brand is supporting Movember with its 16-oz Ballwash Give A Sack limited-edition package. The packaging design features custom artwork and instructions that teach men how to examine themselves for testicular cancer. 

Ballsy is donating 25% of the profit from the limited-edition pack to the Movember Foundation, a global charity. Adam Hendle, Ballsy’s founder, answers questions from Packaging Digest about the limited-edition pack and its custom graphics.


Who designed the package graphics the Give a Sack limited-edition package? What is the story behind the light-hearted graphics?

Hendle: For this year’s Give a Sack label, we reached out to artist Craig “Wotto” Watkins. I’ve been a huge fan of his illustration style and work for years and thought he would be the perfect artist to bring this label to life.

The idea behind the label is to bring awareness and education to the issue of testicular cancer by creating an attention-grabbing design through fun illustrations. On the back of the bottle, Craig also illustrated the three key steps to checking yourself for testicular cancer. We truly hope that this fun label helps educate men about how to check for testicular cancer while also bringing a smile to the shower every day.


How does the packaging instruct men on checking for testicular cancer?

Hendle: The back of the label combines custom illustrations with step by-step directions on how guys can check themselves for testicular cancer while in the shower. We hope by having the steps to check yourself in the shower, more guys will take the time and remember to check themselves regularly.


How is the pump bottle decorated?

Hendle: The Give a Sack label is a waterproof, pressure-sensitive label.


During what period will the limited-edition pack be available for sale?

Hendle: Originally the Give A Sack Bottle was only going to be around for April 2020, which is Testicular Cancer Awareness Month; however, due to the popularity of it, we’ve decided to keep it year-round with the plan of working with a different artist each year to create a new label.


How many packages will be produced?

Hendle: As many as we can sell.


Where will they be available for sale?

Hendle: At


New Cobot for Heavy Lifting Features IP67 Rating

Systems specialize in handling “high mix, low-volume applications” from consumer goods and automotive to electronics and plastics.


You’ll learn a lot in just a few minutes about the new HC20XP Industrial Collaborative Robot from Yaskawa America, who says this is the first collaborative robot with a 20kg (44-lb) payload and IP67 rating throughout. Find out what makes this a capable, affordable, safe, and easy new entrant into the competitive robot wars. It features great high-res close-ups and some…gripping scenes for a range of applications.

Packaging Design

7 Key Principles for Inclusive Packaging Design

Photo credit: Andrey Popov – Inclusion-AdobeStock_362232434-ftd.jpeg

The need to embrace inclusion in all aspects of business — to ensure that products, services, marketing, and recruitment processes do not exclude people — has been an increasing priority recently. And this applies equally to design as in any other area of business strategy.

Indeed, it may seem counterintuitive but the interesting paradox in the design world, is that by developing something for a minority, the outcome is invariably better for the majority. A classic example is that of the Aga; this is an abiding piece of inclusive design. It was created for the inventor’s wife who was blind, and the result was a stove that was easy to use for everyone.

At GSK, the pain relief brand, Voltaren, comes in tubes that were specifically designed so the caps could be opened by people suffering from arthritis — consequently, they are easier to open for everyone.

Photo supplied by GlaxoSmithKlineGSK-Voltarol-web.jpg

Whether product or packaging, service or sign, to be inclusive designers must ruthlessly question themselves — does this work for the left- and right-handed; can text be easily read; would someone who’s color-blind be able to use this?

Inclusive design starts with the few but expands to encompass a much wider, more accepting audience. It ultimately leads to the broadest possible bandwidth of people. While it requires consideration of individuals, it ensures that no one is alienated. The thought process is about bringing humanity into every stage of design, as the designer works through the problems that need to be overcome. The best design involves a layering of detail so that the final experience is completely intuitive.

When inclusive design is discussed it is too often associated with limitations — with accessibility and disability or focused on assistive technology. Invariably seen as being about accommodating niche markets such as older people or only being about public services, aesthetics risk becoming less important.

But one of the most important principles of inclusive design is that it is still desirable — not just functional. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is the humble pizza cutting wheel, easy to use for both the left- and right-handed, and for those with different dexterity and strength profiles.  Designers should work hard to avoid alienating people as they try to meet specific needs. For example, the bars that support people when using stairs or in the shower are frequently cold and ugly — they end up highlighting that there’s a problem.

So, while design generally caters for the mainstream user, it is vital to remember that the ideal consumer is regularly in a minority. Most people are excluded in one or more ways at different times, be that because of their age, disability, gender, race, or socio-demographic status.


By looking at people who are generally excluded, we can broaden design’s focus and increase the market potential and opportunities. This means embracing diversity, avoiding stereotypes, and recognizing the ways in which lifestyles are changing.

To this end, the seven key principles for inclusive design are:

1. Equitable: It offers the same means of use for all users and is equally available to all users.

2. Flexible: It should accommodate a range of individual preferences, strategies and abilities so it includes a choice in methods of use, accommodates the right- and left-handed, and is adaptable to the user’s pace and precision.

3. Intuitive: It should prove easy to understand regardless the user’s experience, knowledge, and skills by eliminating unnecessary complexity. It should allow for a range of literacy and arrange information consistent with its importance.

4. Perceptible: It should communicate necessary information effectively, maximizing legibility of essential information, be compatible with techniques and devices used by people with sensory limitations, and differentiate between interface elements.

5. Tolerant: It should reduce any adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions by arranging elements to minimize hazards and errors, give warnings, include fail-safe features, and discourage unconscious action in tasks that require vigilance.

6. Ergonomic: So it can be used efficiently and comfortably, it should allowing the user to maintain a neutral body position, minimize sustained physical effort, use reasonable operating forces, minimize repetitive actions, give a clear line of sight, accommodate variations in hand and grip size, and give adequate space for the use of assistive devices/personnel.

7. Desirable: It should appeal to all potential users, precluding any possible connection to stigma. So, avoid trying to be too young, or using visual language/color strongly associated with any specific demographic group and design for identity, emotion, delight, and self-expression.

Integrating inclusive design into a business strategy requires linking this strategy with the company’s other objectives. It involves making sure design is incorporated through all areas of the business and established within the core competencies of marketing, market research, and research and development (R&D).

When all this is followed, we are far more likely to develop designs that address the needs of the few but benefit the many.


Packaging Design

Striking Packaging Upgrades Spark Curiosity

Spirits, sustainability, and standout designs captured your attention in October 2020. Our list of best-read articles, based on page views, includes new packaging inspection technology from spirits leader Sazerac, an inside look at Absolut’s paper bottle development, winners of SPC Innovators Awards, and packaging design trends during the COVID-19 era.

In reverse order, here are the top five posts you were reading during this year’s pandemic-restrained Octoberfest.


[As we anticipated last month, our continuously updated page that showcases The Best in New Food and Beverage Packaging is in the list of Top Articles for October 2020, as it was for September. But since we expect this to be the case nearly every month, we’ve decided not to include this in the Top Articles of the Month list.

In case you’re curious, though, news coverage in October included:

• 100% recycled plastic bottles for Snapple and CORE from Keurig Dr Pepper Inc.;
• Burger King’s reusable packaging for Whoppers and drinks;
• Anheuser-Busch investments support new jobs, new brewing capabilities, and a new can line;
• First sustainability store at Asda Middleton in Leeds.]