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Articles from 2014 In December


2014 Top 10 packaging features: Dominated by trends, innovative design: Gallery

10. For 20 years, consumers enjoyed the convenience and luxury of being able to quickly heat up their Hungry Jack syrup in the microwave—thanks to ingenuity in packaging (left). But earlier this year, brand owner J.M. Smucker replaced the squat container with a tall bottle (right) similar to all the other ones out there. Frustrated Facebook fans were quick to speak up about the change; and the fervent complaints continue.

Packaging trends and innovative designs captured the most attention with our online audience in 2014. Articles about food and beverage, the top consumption markets for packaging—and where we see a lot of activity and innovation—ranked high in page views. Beer and marijuana were also popular topics, although we’re sure that’s because you were interested in the packaging.

10. Fans lament loss of hungry jack microwavable syrup bottle – Here’s a tip: Don’t take away a package that consumers love.

9. Top trends for 2014 – Predictions of trends are always hot at the beginning of a new year

8. 5 outrageous packages that demand ‘look at me!’ – Our first photo gallery on our new website was a big hit!

7. It’s open season for Busch beer drinkers – For the sportsmen out there.

6. Blog: 5 sustainable packaging trends to look out for in 2014 – How to satiate the ever-growing desire by consumers to reduce their eco footprint? Sustainability expert Tom Szaky had a few ideas.

5. Campbell Soup partners with Keurig on K-cup packs for soup sits smack dab in the middle of our list, fanned by the subsequent article in October 2014 “Hot, healthy and quick? General Mills taps K-cup style packaging for hot cereal,” which ranked No.11 on this Top 10 list.

4. Craft beer brews up label innovation— Some 13% of craft beer drinkers in a study say they select a product that looks cool when the kind of beer they typically drink is not available and 8% of craft drinkers say label or packaging design is important in their purchasing decision.

3. 5 emerging packaging design trends for 2014 – Savvy food and beverage brands are tapping these trends to gain favor with consumers.

2. 8 surprising packaging innovations from Pack Expo – These developments remind us of Forrest Gump.

1. Marijuana packaging: Beyond the baggie – We’re ending on a high note!!!

3 ways to improve the usability of flexible packaging: Gallery

1. Give it a job: Packaging that completes a task—whether that’s measuring, dispensing or mixing—makes a product stand-out on-shelf and provides a better and more memorable user experience, like this icing pouch from Betty Crocker. Unique fitments resemble traditional frosting tips, similar to tools seen in bakeries for cookie decorating.

Flexible packaging has firmly established its place in the world of packaging. Brands have converted to pouches in every category—from motor oil to barbeque sauce to dog shampoo. We’ve also seen a rise in pouch innovation—such as pouches that conveniently maintain historical brand equity with old fashioned mason jars shapes or pouches with tear-off spouts and many different types of handles.

But pouches aren’t perfect.

Here are three strategies for how structure improves the usability of flexible packaging.

3 ways to improve the usability of flexible packaging

3 ways to improve the usability of flexible packaging
1. Give it a job: Packaging that completes a task—whether that’s measuring, dispensing or mixing—makes a product stand-out on-shelf and provides a better and more memorable user experience, like this icing pouch from Betty Crocker. Unique fitments resemble traditional frosting tips, similar to tools seen in bakeries for cookie decorating.

Flexible packaging has firmly established its place in the world of packaging. Brands have converted to pouches in every category—from motor oil to barbeque sauce to dog shampoo. We’ve also seen a rise in pouch innovation—such as pouches that conveniently maintain historical brand equity with old fashioned mason jars shapes or pouches with tear-off spouts and many different types of handles.

But pouches aren’t perfect.

Although there has been a rise in cross-category adoption and a rise in innovation, when it comes to pouch form factors, there’s a lack of progress in fitment innovation. Whether the pouch holds gelatinous dish soap, dry granular baking ingredients or a liquid cooking sauce, the fitment is nearly always the same.

According to the Flexible Packaging Association, flexible packaging made up 58% of shipments in the retail and institutional food industry and 12% of retail non-food applications in 2013. There are many benefits of flexible packaging, such as less waste, lower distribution costs due to smaller footprint and customizable solutions that have become more accessible for companies.

What could happen to the world of flexible packaging if we paid more attention to the rigid element that pouches contain? What if the flexible world decides that structure, too, matters?

Here are three strategies for how structure improves the usability of flexible packaging:

1. Give it a job

Packaging that completes a task—whether that’s measuring, dispensing or mixing—makes a  product stand-out on-shelf and provides a better and more memorable user experience.

Let’s look at the baking aisle. The iconic tub of frosting is no longer the only option. Many frosting brands have debuted squeezable pouches, but one brand takes it a step further. Betty Crocker’s frosting pouches come with unique fitments that resemble traditional frosting tips, similar to tools seen in bakeries for cookie decorating. The packaging is no longer just a vessel, it has a job—which improves the user experience and, in turn, increases Betty Crocker’s brand equity.

2. Adopt for new behavior

A quick walk down the baby food aisle is one of the best examples of packaging adopting for new behavior. The classic jar of baby food has practically disappeared, with many brands having converted to the direct-to-mouth pouches that contain everything from Stonyfield yogurt to Motts applesauce. Parents now have a quick, on-the-go snack option for their kids that doesn’t require a cup, bowl or spoon.

Plum Organics, the first baby food brand well-known for providing its product in squeezeable pouches, recently came out with a screw-on spoon. They recognized that, while great for toddlers, mothers couldn’t feed their infants from the existing package without another device, in this case a spoon.

Another example is Capri Sun’s product launch of the Capri Sun Big Pouch. As its target audience grew up, and out of juice boxes, the company realized that consumers demanded a larger, adult-size drinking pouch with a reclosable cap. The direct-to-mouth trend started with babies, and has worked its way up to adults.

Clearly a departure from baby food and juice boxes, many adult beverages are also now available in the same packaging form factor. Single-serve, on-the-go pouches for cocktails like margaritas or pina coladas are perfect for a day at the beach or relaxing poolside.

3. Know your audience

Discovering consumer insights and learning how your product interacts with the consumer’s lifestyle is a key path to innovation. Perimeter has connected with more than 10,000 consumers on a variety of topics, including a series of one-on-one meetings focusing on protein powder. The research led to a unique on-the-go packaging solution recently launched by Perimeter called BlenderPak.

Protein powder is best when it’s been freshly mixed. Consumers who were using protein powder on-the-go were forced to pack up their mixing bottle and protein powder in a small bag. Even then they were left with a dirty cup. Consumers said that the messiness of making a protein shake, drinking a poorly-mixed shake and having to wash their protein shake bottle daily were some of their biggest pains, and prevented them from having the product when they wanted it.

BlenderPak is a single-serve, just-add-water package with a rigid fitment inside that acts both as a gripping structure and mixing ball. The pouch is pre-filled with one serving of powder, so the consumer only needs to fill it with water, shake and drink. The unique MixingMesh technology helps break up the clumps of powder and deliver a smooth beverage. The MixingMesh turns a normal pouch into something consumers needed. Using these key insights from invested consumers provided a clear path to innovation.

Giving the packaging a job, designing to adopt for new behavior and knowing your audience are just three ways structure can bring innovation and improved usablity to the world of flexible packaging. 

Even in the flexible world, structure matters.

With more than 25 years of experience in product design and innovation leadership, Steve Callahan brings valuable strategic insight to the new product development challenges facing the consumer packaged goods (CPG) brand packaging marketplace. Callahan is the general manager of Perimeter Brand Packaging, a frequent speaker at leading industry conferences and a published writer on packaging design and innovation. Prior to Perimeter, he founded and managed Radius Product Development for 15 years, an award-winning industrial design firm with locations in Boston, Chicago, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Beijing, until selling it in 2007.

Beech-Nut optimizes new baby food packaging line

Beech-Nut optimizes new baby food packaging line
A new p-s labeler was key to producing a clean "no-label" look (top); below that, the jars enter the multipacker on a mass-flow conveyor

In supporting its launch of a new kind of “food for babies,” Beech-Nut started up a new packaging line in early February 2014 at the four-year-old plant in the east-central New York town of Amsterdam, NY. The facility is distinguished as the world's first LEED-certified baby food production facility. Packaging Digest paid an on-site visit to the operations this fall to get the inside details.

Vice president of marketing and sales Andy Dahlen knows well the importance of an effective, optimized new production line that he says “brings everything to the ‘table.’ It enables us, in my opinion, to make the best baby food in the world.”

The fast-track product and packaging development of Beech-Nut’s new line of natural baby foods (see the companion feature, Beech-Nut transforms baby food, packaging and itself) took a little more than 12 months from conception to real-world introduction, a timeframe Dahlen says was lengthened by the vetting, procurement and start-up of new production machinery. He says the line is unlike anything Beech-Nut has done in the past.

Helping spearhead the plant-side charge was Jeff Heiser, vp of manufacturing. “We did as much pre-training and pre-testing as possible, so that when the equipment arrived we could be efficient right away,” he says. “Our vendors were directly involved in the start-up and training process from the beginning, and provided on-site support for a month once the line was running.”

Processing relies on a “gentle cooking” method, like a double boiler, to protect the integrity of nutrients and lock in the freshness of flavorful ingredients. This method doesn’t add any water or artificial preservatives.

The packaging operations are essentially a straight-flow layout beginning in the filling area that is segregated from the processing and downstream packaging operations.

The overall equipment selection involved several key factors, according to Chris Darling, director of engineering.

“We considered many aspects to shape the overall strategy of the line,” he says. “These included changeover, cleanability, ease of use and familiarity with vendors. All testing and  integration to the existing line was completed in advance of the system’s arrival.” There was no overall integrator for the installation. Beech-Nut solely handled the integration from the early planning stages to installation.

One of the key pieces of new equipment was the labeler. Other major components include a tray packer, X-ray inspection and a palletizer.

The line has been operating daily since February. “We are seeing continued improvements in OEE [overall equipment efficiency], a key production metric for us,” Heiser says.

Line controls and integration was another key aspect. “Line controls and seamless integration are vital to making everything function properly,” says Darling. “The line controls utilize hardware and software systems provided by Rockwell Automation, which were integrated by Beech-Nut directly.”

Labeler is center of the line

On many production lines, the filler is the pace setter, but at Beech-Nut that distinction belongs to the Krones Autocol labeler.  “We operate with a ‘pull system” and so the labeler is the pace setter,” Heiser explains. “Because it is a pull system, we don’t want it to be full of product.”

 “The labeler has been reliable and was very much ‘plug and play’ relative to a seamless start-up,” adds Darling. “We have been very impressed with it.”

Heiser found the line startup to be a lot easier than that done with the equipment migration from the old to this new facility about four years ago. This was a well-defined and specific project, so we were able to fully understand all the details to create an action plan that ensured the success of the line. We learned the importance of clarity, and used takeaways from the plant migration to make this start-up process easier.

“We knew that the new jars would require us to make handling modifications to our line and there were a lot of packaging changes that came with this project. The new label technology was challenging at first and this was the first time we had used laser coding on closures. We also switched to a three-sided tray. In the end, we were successful on all points due to testing and paying close attention to detail.”

3D printing Slideshow Gallery for 2014

io-based 3D printing for packaging.

2014 was a 3D printing kind of year judging by the interest and popularity of our postings on the topic throughout the past 12 months. As a review, here are our six articles involving 3D printing, all of which scored very well based on our website analytics—proving that an extra dimension adds a lot of interest. The articles are revealed on reverse order, starting with #6, which involves a bioplastic printing material, thus merging two hot topics in packaging.

Use the Next button above to advance the Slideshow Gallery.

6.  Ladies and gentlemen, please “starch” your 3D print engines.                       

5. 3D printing corralled in Fort Worth.                                                                                 

4. Showtime is 3D printer time.                                                               

3. Packaging vendor uses 3D printing as an engine for growth.                                     

2. 3 ways packaging lines can use 3D printing to save time, materials and money.

  1. This packager took 3D printing to a new level: It uses the technology  for every biodegradable jar it makes sold at retail.           

3D printing on-trend in packaging in 2014

3D printing on-trend in packaging in 2014
io-based 3D printing for packaging.

2014 was a 3D printing kind of year judging by the interest and popularity of our postings on the topic throughout the past 12 months. As a review, here are our six articles involving 3D printing, all of which scored very well based on our website analytics—proving that an extra dimension adds interest. The articles are revealed on reverse order, starting with #6, which involves a bioplastic printing material, thus merging two hot topics in packaging.

Use the Red View Gallery button above to launch the Slideshow Gallery.

6.  Ladies and gentlemen, please “starch” your 3D print engines.                       

5. 3D printing corralled in Fort Worth.                                                                                 

4. Showtime is 3D printer time.                                                               

3. Packaging vendor uses 3D printing as an engine for growth.                                     

2. 3 ways packaging lines can use 3D printing to save time, materials and money.

1. This packager took 3D printing to a new level: It uses the technology  for every biodegradable jar it makes sold at retail.             

We would welcome hearing about your company's 3D printing advances in packaging at any time, feel free to contact me at [email protected]

Pattern control options for packaging

Pattern control options for packaging

If you’re looking for a way to cut down on your adhesive costs, or simply need the ability to create customized adhesive patterns for your specific packaging process, you’ll want to take a look at employing a pattern controller. Available for both hot melt and cold glue systems, pattern controllers are relatively straightforward mechanisms. In most cases, it’s a matter of a sensor sending to a pattern controller which in turn sends a signal to a solenoid to actuate an automatic glue gun.

Two types of pattern controllers:Timer and variable speed
There are two main types of pattern control mechanisms: those that are timer-based and those that are variable speed. In an automatic adhesive system using a timer, a photo sensor sees your box being advanced through the packaging machine, which triggers the pattern controller to begin a countdown until it’s time to glue; then the gun applies adhesive for a predetermined amount of time.

In a variable speed pattern control environment, an encoder actually tracks the line speed of the material that’s moving through the packaging system. Instead of working with time, a variable speed pattern controller applies a pattern based on the distance and speed the substrate travels— the encoder tracks the speed of the product through the system and sends a signal to the glue gun based on the package’s distance from the sensor. It goes without saying that if your packaging line is advancing product through the machine at variable speeds, you’re going to be better served by being able to track the speed of the package so you can vary your pattern according speed versus time.

Spot gluing patterns
Imagine that you’re running a three-inch glue pattern from a glue gun onto a minor flap and you want to figure out if there’s a way to reduce the amount of adhesive you need. One way to achieve this would be through spot gluing, cycling dots or lines with gaps between them, which could generate a very similar bond characteristic to your original three-inch pattern. 

Many businesses that use timer or variable speed pattern controllers have had success reducing adhesive quantity by spot gluing. Assuming you’re using a modern high-speed hot melt glue gun that has the capacity to cycle at 20, 50 or even 100 cycles per second, you likely have the ability to spot glue a pattern. However, if you’re using older style hot melt equipment, spot gluing is not recommended; turning things on and off at high speed can cause problems in older systems by advancing the wear on the solenoids and the modules.

Pattern controllers can help streamline the packaging process
Pattern controllers can help you reduce the amount of adhesive that’s necessary in your packaging process. Deciding which type of pattern controller will best meet your needs will ultimately depend on your budget and your packaging process. Timer-based pattern controllers work well in most environments, but if your production line moves at anything other than a constant speed, variable-speed pattern controllers may make more sense. Additionally, spot gluing may be a viable option for cutting adhesive use (and cost) in packaging applications using newer machinery. Though they may seem complicated at first glance, pattern controllers can actually help simplify and streamline your packaging operation when used correctly.

Pierce Covert is the president of Glue Machinery Corp., a company that builds, sells and services industrial hot-melt and cold-glue systems used worldwide by a range of manufacturers.

Top 10 personal care packaging innovations of 2014

Top 10 personal care packaging innovations of 2014
Brut's new packaging design

Packaging designs for the personal care products category not only have to be good-looking, they have to provide consumers with another reason to buy. Better functionality? More convenient? Affordable? Yes, yes and yes!

Our top stories in 2014 tackle these packaging issues and more for major brand owners such as Procter & Gamble, Kimberly-Clark and Unilever.

Use the red View Gallery button above to launch the slideshow.

10. Brut rolls out new scents and updates look

9. Touch-friendly top plates add glam to cosmetics compacts

8. Summer personal care promotions highlight convenience, design

7. The ‘beauty’ in keeping beauty care packaging out of landfills

6. Thinking-up-a-dimensional-label-for-kids-bath-products

5. Dual dispenser ‘highlights’ redken blonde conditioners

4. Kimberly-Clark invents oxygen-generating lotion bottle

3. Softlips puckers up with innovative cube packaging

2. Designer tubs take home top prize

1. P&G doubles up convenience in personal care, laundry packaging

How industry leaders use data to connect sustainability to profitability

How industry leaders use data to connect sustainability to profitability
Tom Pollock, senior manager for GreenBlue’s Forest Products Working Group and Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Many will argue that a company needs to do more than just being a do-gooder to affect a stock price and profitability—and they’re 100% right. In today’s market, it is the shrewd business that understands the fundamental value of corporate responsibility and how to turn that into a business and value driver.

During her presentation at GreenBlue’s SPC Advance conference in September 2014, Avery Dennison’s senior sustainability manager, Rosalyn Bandy, said that collecting sustainability data is a key component to ensuring reliable and long-term sustainability of the products they provide. While measurement tools and scorecards have come a long way, what Bandy’s comments illustrate is the importance of how we ultimately decide to use this data. In the brave new world of “big data,” savvy companies seek out material sustainability data not for its own sake, but to develop strategies that leverage this data for long-term business benefits.

One of the more fortunate developments in the corporate responsibility sector in recent years is the number of credible reports that make the direct connection between corporate responsibility and profitability. For example, collecting data on water use is a useful strategy for companies interested in lowering environmental impacts while also reducing overall costs. And while tracking progress on social and environmental metrics has traditionally taken a distant back seat to traditional measures of profitability, leading CEOs and business executives now see that there is a clear, competitive advantage to incorporating corporate responsibility into their business strategies.

In the packaging world, those familiar with Avery Dennison are likely familiar with the paper products, adhesives and yarns they incorporate into an array of product types. With 49 Avery Dennison facilities in Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America, Avery Dennison provides its customers with the assurance that its products are not only sourced from responsibly-managed forests but also designed to minimize waste of that fiber. It is a corporate responsibility strategy that not only makes sense for its sustainability goals, but is also tightly integrated into its business strategy as a way to drive long-term shareholder value creation. Avery Dennison’s successful ThinStream liner is one of the labeling industry’s thinnest and reduces waste, while providing 17% more labels per roll: a clear example of how Avery Dennison is using sustainability data to create a competitive advantage.

Looking outside sourcing and directly at the health of its customers, CVS is another example of a company that has used corporate responsibility as a successful business driver. In February 2014, CVS announced it would stop selling cigarettes, a decision that cost the company $2 billion in direct losses. This decision was based on extensive research CVS conducted that showed it a path to profitability through a strong commitment to corporate responsibility by focusing on the health of its customers. CVS even expected a short-term loss in stock price after the announcement (and got it). However, by taking the long view, CVS revenue is up less than a year later, and its stock price to the tune of 26%, since making the “no cigarette sales” announcement.

You don’t have to take my word for it. A 2013 report by MIT Sloan Management Review andThe Boston Consulting Group is an excellent resource that puts sustainability and profitability into plain business terms. The report is based on results from a global survey of business executives and managers, as well as individual interviews with people who understand the sustainability issues facing organizations today.

What might be the most interesting finding is that executives agree and understand that sustainability creates business value, yet many are not taking action to leverage that value. Why is that? I think it brings us back to the original point that data is only as good as what you do with it. Maybe the next move is from “big data” to “material data.” We need to focus on collecting the data that matters and use it to make sound strategic decisions like Avery Dennison and CVS. Sure, there might be short-term losses, but leveraging data for the long view is what makes a savvy business: shifting from what MIT describes as a “walker” to a “talker.”

Author Tom Pollock is a senior manager for GreenBlue’s Forest Products Working Group and Sustainable Packaging Coalition. For more information about the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, visit www.sustainablepackaging.org.

Escalating e-commerce sales need better packaging

Escalating e-commerce sales need better packaging
While just about a third of respondents say their products are sold via e-commerce, we should see that number jump in the next three to five years.

“Packaging must rise to the challenge of operating in an e-commerce environment because it’s growing in numbers and needs.” That was one of the points in my recent “Must. Master. Digital.” article.

Let’s look at the numbers. A 2012 Forrester Research study projected U.S. consumers will spend $327 billion online in 2016. Sounds like a lot, but that number may actually be much lower than what we’ll really see. A 2013 study by eMarketer upped the ante by saying Americans were expected to spend nearly $385 billion in 2013, a number that exceeds the 2016 projection by 15%.

Clearly, online sales have got the “Big Mo.” We wanted to gauge how this momentum will impact packaging so we devoted a section of the Packaging Digest 2014 Sustainable Packaging Study to the topic of e-commerce.

Currently, 31% of respondents say, yes, their products are sold via e-commerce (see chart 1). But, looking down the road three to five years, 44% expect their products will be sold through this channel. Will that change their packaging efforts moving forward?

A majority of respondents (62%) say, yes, products sold through e- or m-commerce (mobile) should use packaging designed specifically for this channel. But nearly a quarter (24%) are on the fence about this and 14% flat-out say nope!  (See chart 2.)

Who is on the hook for the shipment? For those companies already selling products online, 43% say products ship from their manufacturing/distribution facility, 38% say products ship from another seller and 19% say they don’t know.

Only about a third of respondents—packaging professionals, remember—don’t think e-commerce products are over-packaged (see chart 3). Do consumers agree? In the 2014 Sealed Air e-Commerce Survey: Packaging for e-Commerce Success study, just over half of Americans think extra packaging is beneficial to prevent product damage. But 47% view it as wasteful.

More than 600 participants to our survey had advice on what product manufacturers should do to minimize the environmental impact of primary and/or shipment packaging for products that are sent directly to consumers. Many were what you’d expect—reduce weight/volume/materials. But some were quite inventive. Among my favorites:

“Consider shipping and packaging as a single packaging unit.”

“Educate consumers on the incremental environmental impact this mode of shipping has.” I have to ask: Would this change their behavior though?

“Remove any pilferage deterrents; these should be unnecessary for direct sale.”

“Design all packages and packing to be…usable as a clean fuel. …All other packaging materials and most items sold in retail should be marked with a paid return address so that UPS can take it back to the company that was not inventive enough to make it into a fuel.”

“Most important is getting the product to the consumer undamaged.  Over-packaging is a larger consumer impression issue than it is an environmental one.”

“Require minimum quantities.”

“Find freight carriers that do not damage the product.”

“Labeling packaging to encourage reuse or recycling—a numbered triangle isn't enough!”

“Design them and test them to ISTA 3A for Parcel Delivery Systems.”

“Shorter distance shipping…look at different delivery methods.”

“Reduce marketing packaging, similar to frustration free from Amazon.”

“Likely don't need tamper-evident packaging. Likely don't need extra barrier protection as consumer will consume/use more quickly.” Not sure I agree with the assumptions implied.

“If I knew, I'd be a millionaire.”

“Set economic rules for waste products collection.”

“Reduce graphic/pkg needed in store. Put more graphics/ brand equity into shipping container— the FMOT [first moment of truth] for many consumers in e-commerce.”

Click here to see results of the Packaging Digest 2014 Sustainable Packaging Study on:

Circular Economy versus Eco-Efficiency

Bio-Based Materials