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Articles from 2019 In December

Unpacking Santa’s holiday mixers giftpack

Unpacking Santa’s holiday mixers giftpack
Santa’s limited-edition bus pack delivers holiday mixers California style.

Giftpack bus of holiday cocktail mixers is decked out with an impressive amount of packaging design details.

Giftpacks appear annually on store shelves all decked out in classy, festive or other appropriate attention-getting holiday designs in the weeks ahead of December 25.

Limited-edition packaging can be found everywhere; last week we reported on a remarkable giftpack found at Target (see Unpacking Jim Beam’s remarkable gift-pack sampler), but this week’s discovery was a little more atypical: It was found on end-cap display in the grocery section at Menard’s, a Midwest-based home improvement chain.

While Jim Beam’s design was tasteful, Santa’s Hang Loose Holiday Cocktail Mixers is decidedly playful. The package is a jazzed-up-for-the-holidays 6-count multipack of nonalcohol mixers designed as a party bus in both graphics and shape, all driven by a strong California beach vibe that’s underscored by a printed Santa character hanging ten on a surfboard while wearing Hawaiian shorts on the main front panel that has a wood-panel look.

There’s also an antlered shark with a gift-wrapped surfboard.

I reached out via phone to the brand, Modern Gourmet Foods, Irvine, CA, but it was unresponsive. Plan B was to unpack this one in DIY fashion and let the visuals help tell the story.

Woody bus details

The rest of the theme-supporting design elements include…

  • A single, transparent film backs three cutout windows in the box display the six cocktail mixer bottles;
  • Inside are six 70mL bottles with on-point labels: Feliz Navidad Margarita; Mistletoe Mojito; Blue Hawaiian Holiday; Merry Mai Tai; Christmas Caipirinha; and Polar Pina Colada;
  • Six cutout microflute surfboards each with a different design schemes that rise above the bus top are perfectly matched in design to each bottle’s label;
  • Side front and back panels are strung with printed Christmas lights long the top and a second string appears on front and back;
  • The front of the bus has headlights, windshield, Christmas tree and red bow;
  • The bus’s back is printed with a Good Vibes window “sticker” and hand symbol;
  • The wheels are three dimensional, the microflute corrugated board printed with wheels is strengthened with a pack-wide foam roller so that the bus rests on the wheel base;
  • The bus is 13 inches long, a little more than 2 inches wide and measures 5 inches from wheels to the roof; the surfboards add another 2 inches to the height.

Another impressive aspect is that the entire packaging is made from a one piece of printed microflute corrugated that’s folded and sealed in several places with pressure-sensitive tape.

All-in-all, it was a gift-worthy packaging design.

As my holiday shopping continued I found two additional products in a similar vein in the brand’s Christmas giftpack line that are shown below.

The Cocoa Express based at the North Pole Station was found at Penney’s; it offers four powdered hot-chocolate variations: Milk Chocolate, Salted Caramel,Peppermint and Gingerbread flavors.

I first came across the Sound the Alarm hot sauce 6-count giftpack at Bed, Bath and Beyond and subsequently at Penney’s in the same display as the Cocoa Express that also included the Santa bus. The firehouse-themed multipack delivers 3oz bottles of Ignite, Blaze, Smoke Eater, Raging Inferno (aka Green, Orange, Habanero, Smoke, Garlic and Red) hot sauces. Surprisingly, there's a 7-pack available, too.

Unpacking Jim Beam’s remarkable gift-pack sampler

Unpacking Jim Beam’s remarkable gift-pack sampler
Jim Beam’s seasonal giftpack offers a lot of holiday cheer for the brand’s fans.

Whiskies of the Season is an impressive packaging of 12 days of 50mL gift bottles that’s worth toasting.

When out and about doing any kind of shopping this time of year, you can’t help but notice the eye-catching displays of limited-edition products and especially packaging aligned with the Christmas season as brands and retailers aggressively leverage the largest binge-worthy holiday opportunity of the year.

It was on a recent outing to a local Target Store that a package standing heads and shoulders among others in the front-of-store display of seasonal packs got my attention: a large and impressive stand-up, book-style microfluted package of Jim Beam’s Whiskies of the Season. Rather than rectangular, the distinctive package is designed with gables.

The attraction proved to be more than superficial after I quickly discovered the packaging delivers a lot of details and personality apart from the classy, irresistible allure of a tasteful on-shelf presentation.

We explore it from the outside in, with an assist from Kim Hanson, senior customer marketing manager for national accounts at Beam Suntory, who sets the stage in summarizing the reasoning for the packaging.

“Recognizing the growing trend around Holiday Novelty concepts and that national account customers are more and more interested in innovative offerings, we wanted to deliver a new and exciting gifting option for our loyal Jim Beam consumers,” she says. “We figured there was no better way to promote our range of bourbons than by highlighting our iconic rackhouses in Kentucky.”

According to the internet, a rackhouse—which I found to my amusement was also known as a rickhouse—is “a structure that holds barrels of alcoholic beverages during the aging process where barrels are typically stacked on their sides, often up to several stories high.”

That’s why in appearance and shape the pack looks very building-like while retaining a high-end gift-package motif; the white and light-gray striped building’s facing is adorned with a printed wreath surrounding the brand emblem figuratively “hung” near the top of the front gable.

Below the wreath is the bold product name and below that is the tagline of “12 days of 50 mL gifts.”

The backside repeats the rackhouse motif along with a detailed listing of the samples inside, which include three Straight Bourbon Whiskeys and two each of Jim Beam Apple and Jim Beam Vanilla.

The package has a tamper-evident sticker that repeats the branded wreath element on the side that seals the hinged front and back sections together.

Next a look at the even more impressive inside.

In the name of full disclosure, you should know that this isn’t the first time the brand has done a gift pack like this.

“We launched this pack last year and brought it back this year,” Hanson says, pointing out that while the overall package structure remains the same, “we refreshed the creative slightly this year to align with our current Jim Beam global creative.”

A quick online search revealed last year’s pack; my take is that “slightly” is an understatement and that the brand really upped its game in 2019 via a dramatic exterior makeover moving from a dark to light color scheme both inside and out that better positions it as more upscale (you can follow this link to an unboxing video from a year ago).

The packaging design was handled by Proof, Beam Suntory’s internal creative agency, according to Hanson.

When opened, the giftpack book unfolds as a left-and-right spread display of 12 numbered printed barrels, all neatly stacked upright in two rows inside the rackhouse, six to a side. The interior is the same combination white/gray color as the exterior, and additionally is also printed with wooden beams; a branded wreath is “hung” from both gables.

Each printed barrel is a perforated compartment covered by a barrel-printed flap that opens up to reveal the 50mL plastic bottle of whiskey nestled inside. The back-of the barrel flap is printed with a recipe; for example, the barrel #2 flap (shown) shows how to make a Jim Beam Bourbon Sour. A nice detail is that there’s a small cutout for a finger hold to permit easy opening of the perforated compartment flap.

Hanson says the varieties remained the same this year as last.

How long did the packaging development take? “13 months is the average time to execute a package project,” responds Hanson. “These projects can take quite some time to finalize, and they require collaboration across multiple departments.”

The good news is that the brand has a 3.0 version scheduled for next holiday season.

Depending on state pricing, the suggested pricing is $17.99.

Words of wisdom from your packaging peers

Words of wisdom from your packaging peers

The packaging field advances as fast as it does partly because people openly share ideas, pain points and best practices. Throughout 2019, we interviewed several subject matter experts on key concerns, including sustainability challenges and solutions (specifically around plastics), benefits of working with Gen Z, ecommerce packaging improvements, using robots to improve packaging machinery operation and the impact of social media on packaging design.

Here are select thought-provoking quotes from packaging executives—from major brand owners such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay and Coca-Cola—in articles exclusive to Packaging Digest. Click the “View Gallery” button to the bottom right of the photo above to scroll quickly through the quotes.

To give these remarks context, here are links to the articles these quotes have come from:

1. Tom Szaky, founder/CEO, TerraCycle and Loop
Loop and big brands boldly reinvent waste-free packaging

2. Captain James (Jim) Lovell, astronaut
Packaging in space!

3. Survey respondent, 2019 Packaging Digest Consumer Survey on Plastic Packaging Sustainability
Consumers want non-plastic packaging options

4. Ivan Keener, student, Michigan State University, School of Packaging
Gen Z on technology, packaging jobs and the environment

5. John R. Henry, owner,
The right way to use robots in packaging machines

6. Nestlé USA packaging sustainability manager Walt Peterson
Nestlé clarifies its sustainable packaging vision

7. Jason Foster, Replenish founder and chief reuser
Amazon chooses refillable packaging for Clean Revolution

8. Anitra Marsh, global sustainability task leader for P&G’s Global Skin and Personal Care brands
Olay is latest household brand to embrace refillable packaging

9. Bruno Van Gompel, technical and supply chain director, Coca-Cola Western Europe
Coca-Cola trials recycled marine plastic for beverage packaging

10. Katie Ceclan, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay North America
Social media-friendly food packaging ‘reignites’ Lay’s brand

11. Trina Matta, senior manager, Sustainable Packaging Coalition
Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

12. Kim Marotta, global senior director of corporate responsibility, Molson Coors
Molson Coors shrinks plastic packaging’s Beer Print

13. Maximiliano Sassone, research and innovation director at Danone Argentina
Danone’s new yogurt jar conveys ‘natural’ and premium

14. Martijn Huijbreghs, IT application manager with BBio
Biopharmaceutical company uses label system to enhance ops

Words of wisdom from your packaging peers: Gallery

The packaging field advances as fast as it does partly because people openly share ideas, pain points and best practices. Throughout 2019, we interviewed several subject matter experts on key concerns, including sustainability challenges and solutions (specifically around plastics), benefits of working with Gen Z, ecommerce packaging improvements, using robots to improve packaging machinery operation and the impact of social media on packaging design.

Here are select thought-provoking quotes from packaging executives—from major brand owners such as Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay and Coca-Cola—in articles exclusive to Packaging Digest. Click Start Slideshow to scroll quickly through the quotes.

To give these remarks context, here are links to the articles these quotes have come from:

1. Tom Szaky, founder/CEO, TerraCycle and Loop
Loop and big brands boldly reinvent waste-free packaging

2. Captain James (Jim) Lovell, astronaut
Packaging in space!

3. Survey respondent, 2019 Packaging Digest Consumer Survey on Plastic Packaging Sustainability
Consumers want non-plastic packaging options

4. Ivan Keener, student, Michigan State University, School of Packaging
Gen Z on technology, packaging jobs and the environment

5. John R. Henry, owner,
The right way to use robots in packaging machines

6. Nestlé USA packaging sustainability manager Walt Peterson
Nestlé clarifies its sustainable packaging vision

7. Jason Foster, Replenish founder and chief reuser
Amazon chooses refillable packaging for Clean Revolution

8. Anitra Marsh, global sustainability task leader for P&G’s Global Skin and Personal Care brands
Olay is latest household brand to embrace refillable packaging

9. Bruno Van Gompel, technical and supply chain director, Coca-Cola Western Europe
Coca-Cola trials recycled marine plastic for beverage packaging

10. Katie Ceclan, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay North America
Social media-friendly food packaging ‘reignites’ Lay’s brand

11. Trina Matta, senior manager, Sustainable Packaging Coalition
Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

12. Kim Marotta, global senior director of corporate responsibility, Molson Coors
Molson Coors shrinks plastic packaging’s Beer Print

13. Maximiliano Sassone, research and innovation director at Danone Argentina
Danone’s new yogurt jar conveys ‘natural’ and premium

14. Martijn Huijbreghs, IT application manager with BBio
Biopharmaceutical company uses label system to enhance ops

10 dynamo sustainable packaging revelations of 2019

10 dynamo sustainable packaging revelations of 2019

If you’re in the field of packaging, chances are you’re also well versed in sustainability. You almost have to be because the two concerns conjoin these days more often than not. As we reviewed our best-read articles of the year, we realized that most articles we posted on in 2019 at least touched on sustainability if not focused on it entirely.

One of the reasons we prepare lists of the Top Articles of the Year by different topics is so one hot topic—like sustainability!—doesn’t dominate the others. Because it would. Nine of the 10 sustainable packaging articles on this 2019 list appear in the top 50 of all articles ever posted on

So, what are these relevant and compelling articles?! As succinctly as possible (and in reverse order for the ultimate reveal!), they are:


10. Non-plastic packaging isn’t the only sustainable solution

Plastic waste is becoming a more pressing concern for today’s consumers than it has ever been in the past. But, as sustainable packaging leaders, we have an obligation to help the public understand that there is more to sustainability than shifting away from plastics entirely. Sustainable Packaging Coalition senior manager Trina Matta has some recommendations on how brand owners can handle the situation.

9. How Nestlé is innovating its way to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging

Walt Peterson, Nestlé USA’s manager of packaging innovation and sustainability, talks about the world’s largest food and beverage company’s ambitious goal of moving to 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025. In this 28-minute presentation, hear how Nestlé is harnessing partnerships and cutting-edge technology to get there.

8. Marine pollution consumes plastic packaging’s sustainability story

When it comes to plastics and sustainability, packaging professionals are hyper aware there is an attitude or perception problem—69% of respondents in Packaging Digest’s 2018 Sustainable Packaging Study feel a high level of environmental concern around plastic packaging. And much of that concern is centered around the visible and visceral problem of pollution in our oceans and waterways.

What else do packaging professionals think about plastic packaging and its sustainability position? Download your free copy of this 48-page report by clicking the headline above.

As a companion to this industry study, Packaging Digest also conducted a survey on plastic packaging sustainability with consumers. The interesting results include an analysis of the different viewpoints between packaging professionals and their customers. Click here to download your free copy.

7. Paper or plastic? 6 sustainable foodservice packaging options for both

Consumers’ appetite for foodservice convenience at restaurants of all types—casual, quick-serve and takeaway—and for catering services continues. And Novolex product lines are seamlessly aligned with the ongoing foodservice packaging shift toward sustainable solutions. Here are six notable examples.


6. Remedies for single-use plastic packaging

Does cold and flu season inevitably generate packaging waste? Consumer brands can step up to treat people and planet, as TerraCycle and Loop CEO Tom Szaky enlightens us. A new example is the RB Health & Nutrition Recycling Program, a national network for health-and-wellness package recovery.


5. Top sustainable companies by state

Rankings always gain attention—you’re reading this “Top 10” article, right?!

This infographic identifies the top sustainable companies from each state and includes many that are familiar to you as either brands or packaging vendors.

4. Packaging peers react to Loop’s daring reusable-packaging model

Spoiler Alert: You’ll hear more about Loop as you continue through this list.

When it was announced in January 2019, Loop—a circular economy shopping platform with durable reusable and luxury packaging at its core—gained massive media attention from around the globe, including numerous packaging and sustainability publications, as well as Forbes, Bloomberg, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, BBC News, Reuters, Le HuffPost, Fortune and many more.

So what do packaging professionals think about this ground-breaking Loop initiative? Reactions were mostly positive, but there are, uh, concerns as well.

3. Amazon chooses refillable packaging for clean revolution

A sustainable-packaging collaboration between Amazon and Replenish has borne fruit in the form of Amazon’s Clean Revolution cleaning products. Amazon uses the new Replenish 3.0 packaging design for its Clean Revolution line, with Replenish acting as a private-label supplier.


2. Amazon incentivizes brands to create frustration-free packaging

When we published this article in September 2018, we knew it was going to be the top article of last year. And it was.

Interest in ecommerce packaging remains high, though. So this article experienced high readership well into 2019—enough, in fact, to be the second best-read sustainable packaging related article of this year.

Here’s what the hub-bub is all about…

To help reduce packaging waste and improve efficiency of ecommerce shipping for its vendors, Amazon requires that select products being sold and fulfilled by Amazon arrive in its fulfillment centers in certified packaging under its Frustration-Free Packaging (FFP) program. This means that the packaging does not require any shipping preparation or an overbox to be applied. On the positive side for marketers, the vendor retains its own branding on the shipment. But now you might have to create a separate/special package for products sold through or face a stiff penalty.


1. Loop and big brands boldly reinvent waste-free packaging

At the time we reported on the new Loop circular-economy shopping platform—which is totally based on reusable packaging—I knew it was going to be the top packaging news of the year. Not only is this the best-read article posted in 2019, but it also appears as the top article in our list of packaging design-related articles because design and sustainability are integral to the success of this new venture. It really belongs on both lists!

Major brand owners—like Nestle, Coca-Cola, Mars, PepsiCo and Procter & Gamble—have created luxury packages for their regular products for sale in select areas of the world.


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15 fundamentals packaging pros should know

15 fundamentals packaging pros should know

Packaging professionals tend to be curious, intelligent people. They wonder about anything and everything related to packaging, such as materials, design, formats, troubleshooting and other aspects of the industry. At Packaging Digest, we satisfy that constant curiosity by researching, writing and posting articles on a variety of packaging-pertinent topics. We chat about robotics, material reduction, the ins and outs of healthcare packaging and more.

Our team of journalists works hard to bring you interesting, useful and entertaining stories about various aspects of packaging. When these stories resonate with readers well after their original publication date, it makes us happy. It is always nice to know our articles are connecting with you weeks, months, even years after they first hit the web.

Our review of the top stories of the year revealed more than a dozen high up in the list that deal with the basics of packaging. [A healthy chunk of them are healthcare related, so we also compiled “Packaging ‘basics’ popular with healthcare professionals”.]

Do you know what your colleagues and competitors know?

Here are the Top 15 Articles About Packaging Basics you all have been reading this year.

15. 5 food safety hazards...and how to prevent them

14. 5 tips on how to write a purposeful packaging design brief

13. Blister packaging: Catching forming issues before you fill and seal

12. 3 ways packaging aids brand marketing

11. How to achieve the perfect seal for your boxes

10. The economics of improving power factor

9. 7 distribution hazards and how packaging can help avoid them

8. How food processing methods affect your packaging options

7. 5 basics for engaging customers with packaging

6. FDA guidelines vs. regulations

NEXT: Find out the Top 5 articles on “packaging basics” on the next page


5. 3 steps to developing a successful packaging strategy

Packaging leaders typically do just fine setting departmental goals and handling day-to-day operations. However, according to Adept Packaging director David Foster, they may fall short in making sure they’ve put in place a solid strategy that supports the larger organization’s goals.

To succeed, packaging pros need to pinpoint what matters most to the overall company and figure out what resources and systems can be used to meet long-term goals. Establishing an effective packaging strategy, says Foster, requires three basic steps:

Discovery: This includes finding out the goals of the organization, understanding the industry the company is operating in, learning the strength of forces at play and grasping the goals of stakeholders within the organization.

Statement of goals: After determining the goals and priorities of the overall company, packaging leaders can craft their own goals around things like business processes, resources, engineering services and technology.

Determine objectives to achieve the goals: These are more refined steps and activities set to move toward packaging goals.

Setting a solid packaging strategy is crucial because it enables prioritization of meeting long-term goals and supports the success of the organization.


Photo credit: Logo vector created by starline -

4. History of BPA

Since bisphenol-A (BPA) was first synthesized by chemists back in 1891, the substance has had a notable history. Its journey really became relevant in the 1950s when the plastics industry took off and the material proved itself highly useful in injection molding and other processes.

Recently, however, BPA’s reputation has taken a hit, thanks to reports from various corners claiming the material poses a threat to human health. Countries such as Turkey, Canada, Denmark and others have banned the substance in various packaging products, citing concerns that use of BPA in food and beverage packaging could lead from everything from unhealthy hormone levels to fetal development.

Debates rage on about what BPA’s true threat, if any, to human health might be. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has weighed in, stating the agency “supports the industry's actions to stop producing BPA-containing baby bottles and infant feeding cups for the U.S. market, along with facilitating the development of alternatives to BPA for the linings of infant formula cans.”


3. What does a packaging engineer do?

The important functions that a packaging engineer play are fairly similar across industries. Whether the products they’re creating containers for are foods, beverages, electronics or other goods, the steps an engineer takes on the road to producing a package more or less look the same:

• New product development: Packaging professionals often team up with stakeholders from other areas to help make sure the packaging supports key criteria.

• Value engineering: After a product has hit the market, packaging engineers often take another look at the packaging to pinpoint opportunities to increase cost effectiveness, dial back overpackaging or introduce other improvements.

• Damage control: Engineers address a range of problems like equipment downtime, jammed packaging lines and communication with vendors and other stakeholders.

Overall, packaging engineers help tackle a variety of opportunities and challenges in the life of a product. Their role stands to positively impact a company across the entire supply chain.


2. 10 hottest careers in the consumer packaging industry

Myriad job opportunities exist for packaging pros. Consumer packaging is a $400 billion industry, and while other fields are shrinking, packaging shows no signs of slowing anytime soon. What’s more, it touches nearly every aspect of the average citizen’s life—food, beverage, electronics, health products and countless other fields.

If you or someone you know is interested in entering a field with significant growth potential, these top 10 consumer packaging jobs are worth consideration:

1. Packaging engineer.

2. Package designer.

3. Consumer behavior analyst.

4. Packaging specialist.

5. Packaging operator.

6. Product tester.

7. Food scientist.

8. Assembly line worker.

9. Compliance manager.

10. Packaging buyer.

With consumer packaging going strong, odds are the industry will continue to need hard-working, creative and capable talent.


1. You know you’re a packaging engineer if + More ‘packaging engineer’ quips

Packaging engineers have a unique way of looking at things—especially when they’re looking at boxes, bottles, cartons and other packaging. They notice things that a civilian never would, and they cringe at quirks and flaws that the average person wouldn’t even spot.

Packaging Digest first invited packaging engineers in 2018 to offer their singular insights in a survey asking them to complete the sentence “You know you’re a packaging engineer if…” The response was so strong that answers filled not one, but two posts.

Here are some of the highlights:

• …you spend countless hours in stores picking up items only to look at the packaging.

• …you find yourself outraged when a “civilian” tears apart a package with a reclose feature.

• …you can tell the thickness of a film in microns by handfeel.

• …you examine random consumer packaging and think “I could have done this better.”

• …you are more excited about unboxing a product just to have a look at the packaging inside rather than the product.

• …you buy the package and throw the product away.

How do you know if you’re a packaging engineer? If you’ve got your own reply, share it here:

We’ll continue to add new entries periodically as we receive them.


WestPack-2020  WestPack 2020: Ideas. Education. New Partners. Feb. 11-13

Medical packaging education starts strong in 2020

Medical packaging education starts strong in 2020

WestPack 2020 (Anaheim, CA, Feb. 11-13) will offer myriad learning opportunities for medical packaging professionals, with a conference program delivering packaging education and training in multiple formats.

The show’s conference program comprises two Innovation Summit tracks—the Smart Manufacturing Innovation Summit and the 3D Printing Innovation Summit—and eight Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West Conference tracks:

• Exploring Emerging Technologies of the Digital Health Boom.

• User-Centered Design Strategies and Tactics for Faster Product Development.

• Advancements in Medical Plastics for Medtech.

• Keeping Up and Staying Compliant with Global and FDA Regulations.

• Driving Next-Gen Design and Innovation Strategies.

• Product Development: Effective Strategies for Moving from Engineering to Production.

• Materials, Testing and Risk Management Solutions.

• Understanding the Impact of Recent Changes to Quality Standards.

In addition to keynote panels and conventional sessions, each of the eight MD&M West tracks includes non-traditional session formats, such as Lightning Workshops, roundtable discussions and Tech Talk Panels.

Tech Theater presentations, sponsored education sessions and lunch-and-learns round out the show’s educational options.

A new feature at WestPack 2020, the Meet the Speaker Lounge, will give attendees the chance to continue asking questions and talking with speakers after their sessions conclude. Click here for the WestPack 2020 conference overview.

Here are a few must-attend sessions for medical packaging professionals:

• Innovative Tools for a UX-Centric Design.

• Beyond Usability: Why Requirements Aren’t Enough to Make Sure You Win in the Marketplace.

• Panel of Industry Experts: Sustainability, Environmental Responsibility and the Medical Device Community (presented as a pair of back-to-back sessions).

• Strategies for Implementing the New European Union (EU) Medical Device Regulation (MDR) Requirements.

WestPack attendees will also have the opportunity to learn about packaging for cannabis products for healthcare and other markets, including cannabis-derived CBD, at the first-ever Cannabis Packaging Summit. This one-of-a-kind event, which will include both an expo and a conference program, will run alongside WestPack 2020 at the Anaheim Convention Center.


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7 popular perennial packaging pieces

7 popular perennial packaging pieces
Photo credit: Background vector created by iconicbestiary -

Packaging is an ever-evolving industry. Experts constantly look for ways to innovate in materials, formats, technology and scores of other areas. Professionals perpetually monitor trends and, at the same time, harness their expertise to try and anticipate what’s coming down the pike.

That doesn’t mean, though, that what’s packaging news today is forgotten tomorrow. Concepts and concerns tend to hold the interest of packaging pros for months, even years, to come. Exploring recent trends helps hone their ability to predict future trends, and seeing what worked well (or maybe not so well) can guide their plans for success.

Here are seven lucky articles from previous years that have remained your favorite reading material in 2019: Oldies but goodies!


7. How flexible packaging trends are shifting and why

Posted date: Aug. 29, 2018

Flexible packaging has seen impressive growth in recent years. According to the Flexible Packaging Assn., the field reached about $31 billion in sales in 2017. While it’s still going strong and showing no signs of stopping, industry watchers hold a few concerns—the potential impact of tariffs, recent and impending mergers and acquisitions, and more.

After looking back at the dramatic changes we’ve noted in flexible packaging in past years, the editors of Packaging Digest wondered, “What’s ahead for this dynamic format?” Summer 2018, we polled a group of experts from various points in the supply chain (resin supplier, equipment manufacturers and a converter) to gauge what changes might be on the horizon:

What top trends are you seeing in flexible packaging and why? What are the drivers?

What challenges is the flexible packaging market encountering now and how are they being addressed?

Where do you see the biggest growth for flexible packaging moving forward and why?

What, if anything, is different about the sustainability message of flexible packaging today versus, say, two or three years ago?

Sustainability, according to the respondents, presents a variety of challenges and opportunities in flexible packaging.

“Sustainability is both a challenge and an opportunity throughout the value chain,” says Jonathan Quinn, performance films market development manager, Nova Chemicals. “We can’t find optimal solutions in isolation; we are all interdependent and must collaborate to develop the environmentally responsible packaging that consumers and brand owners are demanding.”


6.  How sustainable are biodegradable and plant-based plastics?

Posted date: May 30, 2017

As concerns about the consumption, recycling and landfilling of plastic packaging mount, manufacturers and consumers have spent a great deal of time and energy working to alleviate these worries. They’re seeking ways to make plastic packaging lighter, increasing post-consumer recycled content and exploring plant-based plastic alternatives.

Bioplastics have captured the imagination of brands and packaging manufacturers. For example, the PlantBottle (a durable alternative to traditional PET) has been tapped by Coca-Cola. Composed of up to 30% ethanol from plant material, the container can be recycled in traditional streams.

There are also biodegradable bioplastics, like polylactic acid (PLA) that can be composted.

While these materials come from “natural” plant sources rather than petroleum, experts question whether they offer true sustainability. Durable plastic containers can be recycled—but will they? Biodegradable plastics can be composted, but is the nation’s composting infrastructure ready to handle the load?


5.  Are refill stations the answer to packaging waste?

Posted date: Apr. 1, 2015

The plastic water bottle is the most popular target when it comes to discussions on packaging waste. However, it’s far from the only problem the packaging industry faces. With single-use containers the norm in most markets and uses, there are many opportunities for improvement.

Conversation about exploration of refillable packaging is increasing. It isn’t exactly a completely new idea. Previous generations of Americans got their dairy beverages from the milkman, who picked up empty bottles, cleaned and refilled them, then delivered them to thirsty customers. The question is, are consumers prepared to return to the concept?

Pilot projects like TerraCycle’s Loop refillable-container concept have piqued some interest, as did California’s Green11 refill stations.


4.  L’Oréal’s paper bottle: Easy on the earth but tough in showers

Posted date: Apr. 30, 2018

Paper-based bottles launched in previous years faced some challenges. The material offered increased environmental friendliness, but the packages were prone to breakdown when exposed to moisture.

Seed Phytonutrients (a division of L’Oréal USA) developed a more durable paper-based bottle. It is made from recycled materials, can be composted and is designed to be used in the shower.

The package was designed in partnership with Ecologic Brands. While previous paper-based bottles consisted of two glued-together halves, the new bottle is fused together with interlocking tabs to create a stronger outer structure. The water resistance of the package comes through a proprietary blend of minerals and paper fibers, and the use of heat and pressure to bind the fibers.


3.  Decadent Delici dessert packaging designed for Costco

Posted date: Apr. 19, 2016

When a food manufacturer creates a tempting premium dessert, it is tasked with coming up with a package that matches the deliciousness and high-end appeal of the product inside. Otherwise, consumers will not be very likely to be tempted to treat themselves with a purchase.

Delici, a line of imported Belgian desserts sold at Costco, launched its tempting sweets in clear clamshells containers that give shoppers a nearly unobstructed view of the product. The desserts are held in individual glasses, which the consumers can reuse at home or recycle. Six of the single-serve glasses are housed in a thermoformed plastic clamshell, then wrapped with a glossy, perfect tolerance/tension-tight product sleeve with a heavy varnish.


2.  Most food cans no longer use BPA in their linings

Posted date: Feb. 20, 2018

In response to consumer concerns about the safety of bisphenol-A, most food cans (90%) have dispensed with the material in their linings. Instead of BPA, linings most commonly are made from acrylic and polyester, and any materials are extensively tested to prove their fitness and safety.

According to Robert Budway, president of the Can Manufacturers Institute, manufacturers and material providers take packaging safety very seriously.

“Safety is our number one priority and we’re proud to contribute to a healthy, affordable food supply in a way that reduces food waste and respects the environment,” he says.


1.  Demand grows for paperboard, with some barriers along the way

Posted date: Jun. 27, 2014

Packaging developers always seem to be looking for more “sustainable” packaging materials—and, right or wrong, renewable paper is often at the top of that list.

Thanks in part to the current anti-plastics packaging movement, the paper and board industry has experienced notable growth in recent years. Back in 2014, researchers from Smithers Pira predicted the market would hit approximately $70 billion in sales by 2017. They estimated sales would be more than 30 million tons—an increase of 7.5 billion tons over just five years prior (2012 to 2017).

Back then…drivers behind this market surge included huge growth in demand for food packaging. Helping the surge were things like innovations in barrier technologies, coatings and liners. Additionally, the field also was seeing improvements in water-based coatings, and tech that enables easier separation of coatings and barriers for end-of-life processing.


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Top 5 beverage packaging breakthroughs of 2019

Top 5 beverage packaging breakthroughs of 2019
Bottles dominate an all-star lineup of the best-read beverage articles of the year.

Packaging Digest toasts the five top-read beverage articles of 2019 that include two brand owner’s sustainability plans, a roundup of global innovations, a game-changing cup and juiced market trends.

People like to know ratings, whether that be top-watched TV shows, box office sales for blockbuster movies, sports team rankings or books at the top of the bestseller lists.

Which brings us to Packaging Digest’s annual top-read beverage packaging articles of 2019 in reverse-order countdown.

#5 Unlike its parent company, the Coca-Cola Company’s counterpart in Europe, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), is taking a different, more concentrated path to greater sustainability.  Earlier this summer it was announced that Honest teas, Glacéau Smartwater and Chaudfontaine bottled water brands will be sold in bottles made from 100% recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) plastic. The rollout planned to start in early 2020 will eliminate the need for 9,000 tonnes/9,920 tons of virgin plastic yearly across Western Europe.

CCEP’s ambitious plan is also remarkable for its scope: CCEP is the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, operating in 13 countries and distributing branded beverages to more than 300 million consumers. Joe Franses, CCEP VP, Sustainability, discloses details about the company’s landmark program in packaging sustainability in Beverage brands bank on rPET for packaging sustainability 

#4 Juice packaging—one of the most exciting areas in beverages today—is advancing swiftly in three ways:

1. Extended shelf life/freshness drives a constant demand for better packaging materials that can offer increased barrier for packaged juice products.

2. Convenience via packaging is growing demand for various types of flexible packaging that score well on consumer convenience has bolstered the market for bag-in-box.

3. Increased sustainability is catalyzing the use of eco-friendly resins for packaging including vast interest among packaging manufacturers, especially for biomaterials in developed markets.

Read the story: 3 market influences shaping juice packaging today


#3 August 13 was a watershed day for Dasani when the water brand unveiled the largest sustainability initiative in the brand’s history, a five-component salvo of sustainability initiatives aligned with parent company Coca-Cola Company’s global “World Without Waste” goal. The plan? To make packaging with 50% recycled material by 2030.

The news centered on five parallel initiatives involving hybrid bottles from renewable resources, a major entry into highly recyclable aluminum, package weight reduction research, recycling-enhancing labeling and packaging-reducing dispensing for foodservice outlets.

The day of the announcements Packaging Digest interviewed Sneha Shah, group director, packaging innovation, Coca-Cola North America, who disclosed details and reasoning behind these initiatives.

To find out what Shah had to say, read Dasani’s next 5 steps to greater packaging sustainability

#2 The ongoing displeasure with plastic packaging sustainability opens opportunities for alternative materials to supplant polymer-based formats in certain applications.

A certainty is that plastic beverage cups are now a vulnerable market.

In late August Ball Corp. announced it would roll out pilots with major entertainment venues and concessionaires across the U.S. to replace their plastic drinking cups with 20-oz aluminum cups starting in September 2019 at Colorado University’s football stadium and continuing through 2020.

“The aluminum cup is a game-changer for the industry,” Sebastian Siethoff, Ball general manager, told Packaging Digest.  “We hope that our customers and consumers view the aluminum cup as a sustainable and easily recyclable alternative to plastic cups, which are currently a mainstay of stadiums, restaurants and beaches and often end up in the trash or on the ground.”

Read about the vendor’s aggressive plans in Ball Corp. presents the plastic-replacing aluminum cup.

And the #1 read beverage article of 2019 is…


#1 Notable breakthroughs from Packaging Innovation Awards 2019 winners drawn from nearly 250 submissions around the world cover a range of applications including food and, notably, for beverages. The awards honor innovations in packaging design, materials, technology and processes across the entire packaging value chain was open to brand owners, retailers, packaging designers, converters and technology providers worldwide.

It turned out the top Diamond Award winner (shown) was for a beverage package, the Dai Nippon Printing Co. (Tokyo), Ltd.’s DNP Functional Film Complex PET Plastic Bottle. It’s a hybrid bottle that uses a peelable film that can be made using a barrier resin.

Read about the eight others that include a collapsible bottle, Amcor’s 46oz with Geo-Strap Base bottle done for Coffeemate natural bliss Cold Brew and Molson’s impressive cooler bag in 9 innovative food and beverage packages from around the world

12 design pieces that brought beauty to packaging in 2019

12 design pieces that brought beauty to packaging in 2019

The past 12 months may or may not have been pretty in your overall world, but in the world of packaging, they were beautiful.

The most-read packaging design-related articles from Packaging Digest reflect an industry full of creative minds and innovative thinkers. Faced with the challenge of coming up with functional packages that resonate with consumers, many designers broke new ground. These innovators incorporated novel materials, used existing formats in interesting ways, tackled formidable challenges and introduced designs that delight.

The packages found in our top stores cover nearly every industry—food, apparel, cannabis, health and beauty, pet products and many more. What’s more, they go beyond presenting a pretty package to tackling a range of challenges, such as increasing product sustainability and defying gravity in space travel.

From the bottom up, enjoy!


12.  Social media-friendly food packaging ‘reignites’ Lay’s brand

Social media frequently drives, rather than follows, conversation among Americans these days. While most consumer brands have a presence on several social platforms, many continue to struggle in finding ways to incorporate social elements on their packaging and encourage consumer engagement.

Recently, Frito-Lay North America rolled out its first significant Lay’s chips pack redesign in a dozen years. The new look incorporates several elements intended to engage consumers, and it reflects the interests and behaviors of an increasingly social-savvy population. For example, the photography on the front of the pack shows the food shot from above, as an Instagrammer would. Also, the back of the pack shares the brand’s social platforms and encourages consumers to interact.

Other features include:

• smaller Lay’s logo on the front of the package, placed closer to the center than the top;

• back-of-the-bag imagery features fun photos, punctuated with flavor-descriptive words;

• more natural, realistic feel to product photos and images.

The updated design debuted in September on the new Flamin’ Hot Dill Pickle flavor and converted across all varieties in October.



11.  Inverted pouch trend upends food packaging: Chico Honey

Consuming honey can be a messy affair, causing sticky drips on the outside of the container, on kitchen counters and…well, everywhere. With its category-first inverted pouch packaging, Chico Honey aims to please consumers by creating less mess.

Inverted pouches have been slowly becoming more popular with brands, starting in 2015 with Daisy sour cream’s stand-up pouches. The format has since spread to barbecue sauce, yogurt and other food products. This summer, Chico Honey launched its sweet stuff in a 20-ounce inverted StandCap pouch, manufactured by Glenroy.

“We wanted to bring a product design to market that was mess-free and user friendly,” says Mike Watson, the company’s sales and brand manager. “Honey can be a sticky sweet treat, so having it mess-free makes life easier. We considered having the product packed in smaller sachet pouches until we fell in love with the idea of the StandCap pouch.”



10.  Packaging innovation awards celebrate excellence

Dow Chemical’s Awards for Packaging Innovation celebrates the year’s best and brightest achievements in packaging design. Winners typically show an impressive level of creativity, ingenuity and design talent.

This year marks the awards’ 30th year, with the competition drawing more than 200 entries from 30 countries. Judges whittled the nominees down to select nine Diamond Finalist winners, 8 Gold Award Winners and 11 Silver Award winners.

A few packages from the Diamond Finalist winners include:

• Coca-Cola’s Simply Beverages container: The brand reduced the weight of its 89-ounce Simply Beverages juice container by 9% and improved the package’s recyclability by switching to an extrusion blow-molding PET resin that complies with resin identification code #1 (PETE). Coca-Cola partnered with resin supplier Indorama Ventures and converter CKS Packaging on the project.

• Ecologic Brands Inc.’s Seed Phytonutrients paper bottle: This container is made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper on the outside, and a 100% post-consumer recycled plastic liner on the inside. Water resistance is achieved by mixing proprietary minerals with the paper fibers and by using heat and pressure to bind the fibers during production of the outer shell.

• Delivering Happiness Ltd.’s flat wine bottle: Designed for the Garcon Wines brand, this 750-mL bottle (made from 100% post-consumer recycled PET) fits through residential mail slots.


9.  Top 3 AmeriStar winners excel in packaging design, sustainability

The Institute of Packaging Professionals celebrates innovation in packaging design each year with its AmeriStar Award program. Each year competition is fierce, and the winners reflect the pinnacle of packaging ingenuity.

This year, a panel of judges (including Packaging Digest Executive Editor Lisa McTigue Pierce) convened to review more than 50 packages in 17 different categories. The top three honorees are:

• Best in Show—The Estee Lauder Companies’ Clinique iD dual-pump package combined two products in one package—a hydration base and a specialty booster serum. Consumers dispense both formulas with one press of the actuator.

• Design Excellence—Owens-Illinois Inc.’s O-I: EXPRESSIONS imaging technique uses direct-to-glass digital printing to decorate glass bottles. The RELIEF version creates tactile effects on glass bottles and packaging.

• Sustainable Packaging—Sherwin Williams’ Krylon Industrial Quik-Tap aerosol package separates the valve and actuator from the aerosol can to help reduce hazardous waste and improve recyclability.



8.  Evolution of a package: Heinz ketchup

Since 1869, Heinz ketchup has been a condiment consumers crave. In the decades since its debut, the packaging has gone through a number of evolutionary changes.

To honor the brand’s 150th anniversary, Packaging Digest walked through some of the ketchup’s most notable packaging changes:

• 1876: Heinz launches in clear glass bottles.

• 1968: The condiment launches aluminum-foil-laminated foodservice packets, still popular with take-out joints today.

• 1983: Squeezable plastic bottles debut.

• 2010: The Dip & Squeeze thermoformed containers debut (see photo above), offering more ways to use the condiment and three times more ketchup than foil packets.



7. Pets star on new packages of Hill’s Science Diet pet food

People have strong, fond feelings about their pets. Hill’s Science Diet aims to capitalize on that by putting photos of beloved critters on its updated cat and dog food packaging.

The revamp impacted all of the brand’s food bags and cans—more than 2,000 stock-keeping units (SKUs). In addition to showcasing adorable canines and felines, the updated packaging also carried a message. A callout reading “Helped 9 Million Shelter Pets Find a Forever Home” highlights the company’s work in helping homeless animals.

The updated graphics include images of real food ingredients used in the recipes, like chicken. The packs also incorporate color coding to signify various product subcategories. The updated packaging continues the previous tradition of using a white background to convey the brand’s clinical attribute.



6. Packaging in space!

In the half century since astronauts first walked on the moon, packaging engineers have helped contributed to our country’s space travels by designing and producing packaging capable of functioning on a NASA spacecraft. The Packaging Digest coverage includes stories from astronaut Jim Lovell and his tales of interacting with packaging while floating in zero-gravity conditions.

Additionally, we showcase packages of containers designed to withstand the rigors of space travel. According to Air Zoo exhibits and collections manager April Bryan, “One thing we learned through the research process is that companies like Del Monte, Crest and Stouffers made products for the astronauts. Crest definitely went into space. For Apollo 11, Stouffers helped feed the astronauts during their post-moon landing quarantine.”



5. What can you learn from great packaging designs and concepts?

Looking for inspiration to help fuel your next big packaging project? Try the Packaging Design free database of new packages we’ve posted over the years.

These databases have been organized for simple scanning, with a link to each of the articles mentioning the design. Brief summaries of each article explain all the compelling attributes of the packaging. Also, color photos and captions outline critical details.

The packaging profiled in the databases covers a range of markets, including high-growth arenas like cannabis, toys and beverages. The brands include smaller startups, as well as major players like PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline and Procter & Gamble.



4.  Nike’s new green lobster shoe box tests packaging limits

There’s something fishy about Nike’s creative packaging for its Concepts x Nike SB Green Lobster Dunks shoes. Instead of housing the footwear in a traditional box, this package more closely resembles something you’d use to hold fresh seafood.

The limited-edition packaging for the collectible kicks features a thermoformed box topped with an acrylic sheet, designed to resemble the totes commercial fishing ships use to hold lobsters and other sea creatures. Wide rubber bands wrapped around the toes of the athletic shoes mimic the bands placed on lobster claws after the animals are caught.

The packaging was unveiled in December 2018 at retail events at Concepts International’s boutiques in New York City and Cambridge, MA. Dordan Manufacturing Inc. created the singular container.



3. 10 pack redesigns earn honors in Nielsen competition

The Nielsen Design Impact awards honor achievements in packaging redesign, weighing the revamp’s effect on sales, brand perceptions and trial. Entries come from a range of markets, including food, beverage, personal care and more.

The 2019 competition tapped 10 winners, saluting their redesigns’ impact and effectiveness. Select honored packages include:

• M&Ms pouch: Mars Wrigley Confectionery switched from lay-flat bags to stand-up pouches to create a brand billboard on the shelf.

• Icelandinc Provisions Skyr yogurt cups: The updated cups include an easier-to-recycle cup with less plastic than the previous version.

• Arwana Oil cooking oil bottles: The new bottles include a consumer-friendly ergonomic handle, and an updated color to reinforce the brand quality.



2. 7 best packaging practices for cannabis marketers

With cannabis becoming legal in more states every year, cannabis marketers are being called on to step up their packaging game. Brands must offer packaging that enables their products to stand out, connect with consumers, send a message and more.

While the product category may be relatively novel, the basic principles of packaging design largely apply. These include:

• Aim for maximum shelf impact.

• Consider shape, color and text.

• Embrace tech and social media.

• Communicate responsibility messaging.

• Understand the consumer.

• Be authentic.

• Don’t view cannabis as exotic.



1. Loop and big brands boldly reinvent waste-free packaging

Consumers are about their environmental impact, particularly when it comes to packaging. Increasingly, these sustainability-minded shoppers are looking into ways to minimize the amount of waste they create, and possibly eliminate packaging waste altogether.

Enter Loop, which puts products in durable, reusable containers. Launched via recycling/upcycling/waste management company TerraCycle, the circular shopping platform is supported by Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Unilever and Procter & Gamble among other brand owners. The program brings together brands, retailers, delivery and waste-management companies. Loop launched in the spring with pilots in Paris and New York, and has already been expanded.

Nestle Product Technology Center for Ice Cream packaging manager Tommy See Tho says, “Nestlé is working to reduce its environmental impact in all its business operations, while also finding innovative new ways to connect with and provide great products to consumers. As part of these efforts, Nestlé is proud to join TerraCycle as a founding partner of Loop.”