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Articles from 2020 In February

How Packaging Trends Will Shape 2020

How Packaging Trends Will Shape 2020
Photo credit: byrdyak —

Sustainability, branding and “smart” packaging technologies continue to resonate with global packaging professionals, based on the leading stories from early 2020 on

In January 2020, you were most interested in learning about new packaging trends — rightly so! Brands need their packaging designs to stay current with what matters to today’s consumers.

In reverse order, here are the top five articles of January 2020, based on page views:


5. 12 design pieces that brought beauty to packaging in 2019.

In late 2019, our annual review of top articles of the year uncovered these gems related to packaging design:

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

2. 7 best packaging practices for cannabis marketers

3. 10 pack redesigns earn honors in Nielsen competition

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

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

6. Packaging in space!

7. Pets star on new packages of HIll's Science Diet pet food

8.  Evolution of a package: Heinz ketchup

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

10.  Packaging innovation awards celebrate excellence

11.  Inverted pouch trend upends food packaging: Chico Honey

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

Looking for more packaging design inspiration? Our new POWerhouse Packages searchable, sortable database contains all 200 new packages we published in 2019 — download your free copy today.


4. The sustainable packaging landscape: A decade in review.

Every so often, it’s sensible to look back to help guide your path forward. At the close of the 2010’s decade, sustainability expert Nina Goodrich reviewed significant developments from the last 10 years.

• Companies started the decade by making a business case for sustainability and proving its value through life-cycle analysis (LCAs).

• The Sustainable Packaging Coalition launched the ground-breaking How2Recycle label.

• The new The Closed Loop Fund helped create economic value for cities by increasing recycling rates.

• Other new initiatives, like the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastic Economy project, put plastic packaging waste in the global spotlight.

China’s Green Fence initiative sent the recycling market in the U.S. reeling.

• These two drivers — plastic in the ocean and China’s refusal to take the world’s recyclable materials — have significantly transformed the industry.

• ReFed’s report A Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent revealed that Americans waste 63 million tons of food a year. It pointed to the greater sustainable impact of wasted water, cropland and fertilizer that occurs when food spoils before it can be consumed. So we started to focus on how packaging could help solve the tragedy of food-waste.

• Documentaries like Blue Planet II and National Geographic’s “Planet or Plastic” campaign put more information about marine plastic pollution in the hands of consumers, and industry felt mounting pressure to create solutions.

• In light of China’s ban on post-consumer plastics, unsorted mixed paper, and textiles, the U.S. started to build capacity to process recyclables at home and Chinese companies started investing in the U.S. paper and plastics recycling.

• Walmart announced its ambitious Project Gigaton, which hopes to remove a gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain, with packaging being one of the six targeted pillars of the project.

• The circular economy began to gain significant momentum as circularity became a goal for packaging.

• Circularity gains ground, but corporate goals for recycled content start to exceed the available supply.

• SPC’s Design for Recycled Content Guide provide brands and suppliers a guide for incorporating recycled content in packaging.

So, what’s next? Click the headline link at the top of the page to read Goodrich’s predictions for the 2020s.


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

Two years ago, Packaging Digest posted this Q&A with Can Manufacturer’s Institute president Robert Budway where he reveals that at least 90% of today’s food cans have replaced linings that previously contained the controversial chemical bisphenol-A (BPA).

Since the word got out, readership of this article has peaked: Currently, this is the Most-Read Article on our site.

Packaging material safety will continue to matter to companies because health-conscious consumers care — deeply.


2. 6 food and beverage packaging trends that will dominate 2020.

At the end of 2017, 99designs chief marketing officer Pamela Webber identified “5 packaging design trends on the way out in 2018” — and our readers clicked and clicked and clicked. So, when she offered to explore packaging design trends for 2020, we said, “Uh, yes!”

Here are six packaging design strategies brands need to know:

Metamorphoses — This is where one design element goes through a transformation into another, creating an optical illusion that adds visual interest and draws consumers in to view the more intricate details of the packaging.

Maximalism and rich, heavily detailed packaging — More consumers are seeking a sense of opulence, luxury, and extravagance in their products. That’s why maximalism in packaging design is poised to be all the rage in the upcoming year.

Retro-futurism — The combination of design elements evoking nostalgia (retro) and positive anticipation (futurism) can actually work very well together. Packaging designers will create packaging that pairs both futuristic and retro design elements to create remarkable designs that will appeal to a variety of consumers.

Ecologically-aware packaging — Marketers are increasingly driven to seek out more ecological, plastic-free packaging alternatives to current packaging materials.

Transparent packaging — Packaging that shows off a product’s color is already popular within the beauty and skincare sector, and in 2020, Webber expects to see a surge of this trend in food and beverage packaging as well.

Neatly structured layouts — Within the broader package design, selected typography makes for easy readability and a sense of structure that appeals to consumers and allows designers to take a more minimalistic approach to the rest of the design.



1. 5 branding and packaging trends for 2020.

It’s interesting to see how different packaging designers view the most important trends for the new year.

Here are the handful that matter most to Josh White, principal and creative director of NYC-based brand and design agency OffWhite Co. (some mirror what we’ve seen in Pamela Webber’s list on the previous page, but with a unique twist).

Sustainable packaging — More zero-waste packaging concepts are on the way as companies continue to promote packaging that’s both good for you and good for the environment.

Transparency with consumers — Consumers demand honesty about product ingredients and how products are made. Traditional packaging is being reinvented to embrace clear, to-the-point wording and when appropriate, see-through cut-outs that reveal what’s inside.

Sophistication — Companies are increasingly using strong, uncluttered messaging in simple, yet sophisticated bold colors and big type to communicate trust and respect.

Consistency — 2020 will be the year to refresh your brand story and ensure you’re conveying it in the most compelling way possible, across all brand assets, packaging and touchpoints.

Tech-centric — Consumers love their smart devices, and increased use of technology is, in turn, putting pressure on companies to deliver “smart tech ready” packaging.

12 Snack Packages Echo Consumer Trends

Photo credit: Drobot Dean – Consumer-snacking-AdobeStock_143889007-72dpi.jpeg
Photo credit: Drobot Dean –

Looking for a little healthy indulgence when hunger strikes? You’re not the only one. Americans snack before, after, and during mealtimes. After all, today’s packages make it easy to do so. Here are a dozen examples of brands using packs and graphics to tempt and gratify.

Little — Portioned, portable packs facilitate consumption anytime anywhere.

Healthy — Front labels tout key nutritional values.

Indulgence — Appetizing images draw the eye and tease the palate.



EastPack-2020 EastPack 2020: Automation. Design. Sustainability. June 9-11


How Will These 200 Designs Power Your Next Package?

Photo credit: ra2 studio – Electrifying-packaging-designs-stock-image

Creating a successful packaging design takes work. And inspiration. And resources. An idea here; an example there. Advice from other packaging design experts. Every bit helps fuel your creativity engine. Will it work for my product? How will it work?

For the fourth year in a row, Packaging Digest gives you a treasure trove of specimens with our 2019 POWerhouse Packages, a searchable database of new packages that we wrote about during 2019. Review 200 items posted on last year — from global brand marketers like Nestlé and ecommerce masterminds like Dollar Shave Club to sustainability stalwarts like Seventh Generation and healthcare advocates like Teva Pharmaceutical.

The free-to-download document is designed for easy scanning yet provides a link to each article so you can get more details. Short summaries succinctly explain what is most compelling about each package. Color photos and captions showcase and describe critical details.

How will you use this valuable POWerhouse Packages tool to build your next hit package?

Download the 2019 POWerhouse Packages for free now below. When you open the file, you’ll see that the information is displayed in chronological order, with newest posts at the top.


Copies of POWerhouse Packages from 2018, 2017, and 2016 are also still available for free downloads:

2018: “What can you learn from great packaging designs and concepts?”

2017: “166 new packages to inspire you”

2016: “2016 parade of new packages showcases great design”

Register to access this resource

Registering as a member of Packaging Digest will give you free access to premium content including digital magazines, webinars, whitepapers and more.

12 Snack Packages Echo Consumer Trends: Gallery

Photo credit: Drobot Dean –

Looking for a little healthy indulgence when hunger strikes? You’re not the only one. Americans snack before, after, and during mealtimes. After all, today’s packages make it easy to do so. Here are a dozen examples of brands using packs and graphics to tempt and gratify.

Little — Portioned, portable packs facilitate consumption anytime anywhere.

Healthy — Front labels tout key nutritional values.

Indulgence — Appetizing images draw the eye and tease the palate.


How Retail-Ready Packaging Disrupts Food, Beverage and Pharma Markets

How Retail-Ready Packaging Disrupts Food, Beverage and Pharma Markets
The global market for shelf-ready packaging is seeing substantial demand centered on food & beverage, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics. Source: Global Market Insights, Inc.

Robust growth of the global retail sector in recent years has fueled the demand for low-cost packaging materials, which will drive retail-ready packaging market trends in the coming years. Retail-ready packaging (RRP) or shelf-ready packaging (SRP) refers to packaging products in custom-designed multipacks that simplify stocking and filling of shelves for retailers. Examples include the use of perforated tear-off-panels to eliminate the need for store staff to use box cutters to open the case and prescored folds for fast display setup, among other design characteristics.

Global Market Insights forecasts that global retail ready packaging market size will reach $51 billion by 2026 at a 4.2% CAGR, with substantial demand from applications across food & beverage, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics sectors. The manufacturing of RRP products has significantly been driven by the availability of raw materials, labor costs and rapid industrialization in developing economies.

Hrishikesh Kadam, Research Content Developer at Global Market Insights, answers six questions about this market.

What key factors impact RRP industry trends globally?

Kadam: Driven by the ever-expanding retail sector, governments and private groups are increasingly spending on the development of retail infrastructure, which is certain to augment RRP market share. In addition, the presence of stringent regulatory frameworks pertaining to the use of plastics in packaging products will fuel the demand for recyclable and reusable RRP such as paperboards, corrugated paper boxes, and folding cartons as well, for years to come.

The rising trend of recycle-ready packaging will have a significant impact on packaging manufacturers in this market, as most governments are also focusing on reducing their environmental impact aligned with economic growth. Introduction of recyclable packaging has already started and could soon expand to most of the RRP manufacturers, suppliers and retail customers.

Why will shelf-ready packaging see increased consumption?

Kadam: Shelf-ready packaging helps retail stores to achieve massive cost savings in packaging materials. Further, the use of RRP materials in stocking makes packaged products easier to spot for customers, resulting in better sales. Significant efforts and investments are usually made in improving aisle efficiency for consumers, ensuring consistent demand for suitable RRP products from physical outlets.

Shopping from physical stores helps avoid extra charges, such as packaging and shipping costs, and can be obtained immediately rather than waiting for shipping. Further, it is much easier and faster to return a defective or unwanted product while shopping in-store rather than shipping it back to the online retailer. The open nature of some innovative SRP design allows shoppers to easily pick the preferred pack without disrupting the rest of the contents.

How are brick and mortar retailers driving sustainable packaging demand?

Kadam: Rapidly growing popularity of online shopping platforms has outpaced the growth of brick-and-mortar sales. However, despite the hype around ecommerce and online retail, a large number of consumers still prefer shopping at physical stores. Statistical data suggest that nearly 82% of millennials, including those who engage in online shopping, prefer in-store shopping.

This can be attributed to a variety of reasons. When it comes to buying food, groceries, or cosmetics, in-store shopping is still the preferred choice for majority of consumers as it allows them to check the products for quality or freshness. In addition, people who enter physical stores are much more likely to make purchases than those who visit online shopping websites or platforms.

How will food & beverage applications influence RRP manufacturing process?

Kadam: Majority of shoppers turn to organized retail stores for buying food, beverages, and grocery supplies. RRP is extensively used in retail stores and supermarket stores for stocking food products. SRP manufacturers are anticipated to find extensive opportunities in the near future from food storage applications.

For example, British packaging company DS Smith recently partnered with UK-based Morrisons Supermarkets to supply a more sustainable form of RRP for the supermarket chain. Morrisons had revised its packaging policy last year to minimize its use of plastic packaging. Meanwhile, DS Smith had been developing a new SRP design using sustainable fiber-based corrugated that the company claims is 100% recyclable. The move also exemplifies how sustainable trends influence retail ready packaging industry.

Why is the pharmaceutical sector emerging as a major RRP consumer?

Kadam: Packaging plays a key role in transport, storage and identification while helping suppliers fight against counterfeit drugs. RRP saves cost and offers improved transport efficiency owing to the innovative designs of the packaging. The ink and corrugated used to produce these packaging are considerably lower, enhancing the overall cost-efficiency of the production process and supply chain.

With prescription drug sales anticipated to surpass $1.84 trillion by 2024, a tremendous demand for RRP products is expected across the pharmaceutical sector. Rising prevalence of trauma as well as bacterial and chronic diseases will undoubtedly bolster the manufacturing and consumption of pharmaceutical products.

What are the advantages of automated retail-ready packaging production?

Kadam: Proliferation of the retail industry and a steady rise in the popularity and demand of shelf-ready packaging in recent years is encouraging RRP manufacturers to integrate advanced technologies to make retail product packaging more effective. While retail ready packaging on its own offers a wide range of advantages, implementation of automation technologies could make the product more efficient, ecological, and more affordable for supply chain operations.

Automated case packing helps to considerably reduce the size of shelf-ready cases, allowing a number of products to be fitted onto a single pallet. More compact packaging materials will significantly minimize storage space as well as the number of delivery vehicles on the road. It will also reduce the amount of material required in product manufacturing and make empty packages easy to flatten and recycle.

Global Market Insights Inc.’s report on the global retail-ready packaging market was published December 2019.

First reusable egg cartons appear at retail

First reusable egg cartons appear at retail
Consumers save money after six refills with the new reusable polypropylene cartons now testing.

With industry-first reusable egg cartons, Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs proves that small companies can develop breakthrough sustainable packaging.

Packaging professionals don’t really need to know whether the chicken or the egg came first, but they should know that the industry’s first reusable egg carton is here and came from Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs of Monroe, NH.

In joining major brands like Procter & Gamble, PepsiCo, Nestlé and Unilever that have developed reusable packaging, Pete and Gerry’s proves that you don’t have to be big to implement big ideas.

Made of recycled, durable, BPA-free plastic which can be washed at home and reused repeatedly, the new plastic egg cartons are currently in pilot at Hanover Co-op Food Stores in New Hampshire and Vermont.

It’s a notable accomplishment considering the frequency of use: the average person in the U.S. eats approximately 279 eggs per year or about 23 cartons worth that, projected over a lifetime, would save more than 1,800 cartons per person, according to Pete and Gerry’s.

"While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton, which is made from 100% recycled plastic and has less environmental impact than the [expanded polystyrene] or molded pulp cartons used by conventional egg brands, we continue to challenge ourselves to find even better ways to improve our environmental stewardship," says Jesse Laflamme, Pete and Gerry's Organic Eggs CEO.  "Reusable cartons are a logical next step in our ongoing commitment to sustainability, moving consumer behavior from recycling to reuse.”

Laflamme informs Packaging Digest that the pilot began in December 2019 and since then the brand has received “really positive feedback from retailers and consumers. We plan to expand this program in 2020 to reach even more consumers and amplify the program's impact nationally with major retailers clamoring for this type of sustainable innovation."

Laflamme discloses that the reusable plastic carton is made from durable, recycled BPA-free polypropylene. The rest of the interview follows.

What prompted this “outside the egg carton” idea?

Laflamme: As a Certified B Corporation, we take great care in how our business practices impact the environment, our workers, the wider community and are always working to improve on the current practices in place. While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton, we wanted to challenge ourselves to find an even better way to improve our environmental stewardship—and ultimately, we recognized that reuse is even better than recycling.

With reusable shopping bags now the norm, we thought, why not do the same for our egg cartons? That’s how the idea for the project came about that’s currently in pilot. 

How is this different from the brand’s standard, single-use plastic carton?

Laflamme: The key component is that the new reusable egg carton has been designed with durability in mind and can be washed at home and reused repeatedly.  While the current rPET carton is great because it’s made of 100% recycled plastic and is one of the most widely recyclable materials, this new carton moves up the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle hierarchy. 

Any special challenges or considerations?

Laflamme: An initial concern of ours was transporting, protecting and presenting the loose eggs.  Additionally, convincing retailers to supply the space for the educational display that houses the reusable cartons was a hurdle.  However, this was perceived as very exciting innovation in a category that has traditionally been starved for innovation. 

What input did Co-Op Food Stores have in the packaging and project?

Laflamme: Mainly, we worked with the Co-Op Food Stores to ensure that it would work from a store operations standpoint. 

Please comment on the new in-store bulk container (shown below) from which consumers select eggs to place in the new carton.

Laflamme: This item was custom designed to fit on an egg shelf. It has a tearaway front that enables consumers to easily access the bulk eggs. We designed it so that it fits in the facing of a traditional egg carton.  This item is made of recycled cardboard corrugate which is recycled by the stores after use.  Eventually, we would like to make all aspects of this program reusable including the egg shipper. 

What are the benefits of the program for stakeholders?

Laflamme: Like many other major consumer packaged goods companies, we recognize that reuse is even better than recycling, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this growing movement to help reduce the impact of packaging on the planet. Additionally, from a cost perspective, we sell the loose eggs at a discounted rate, allowing the reusable carton to pay for itself over time, further incentivizing shoppers to participate.

About how many roundtrips for consumer payback?

Laflamme: The refill eggs are priced so that the savings pays for the one-time carton purchase over six trips. 

Who's the target consumer for this?

Laflamme: Everyone! Eggs are one of the most widely consumed, affordable and nutrient-dense foods on the market. The more people we can convert to choosing reusable cartons to lessen our environmental impact, the better. Until then, we encourage consumers to recycle their cartons or participate in our carton Take Back Program.

Cannabis Packaging

Can the Cannabis Industry Eat its Way Back to Success?

Can the Cannabis Industry Eat its Way Back to Success?
Wanna appeals to Baby Boomers with a clean packaging design that positions gummy products as a healthy alternative to vaping and smokables.

To mitigate risk, the edible cannabis market needs packaging that clearly communicates dosage, warnings and regulatory information, as well as includes child-resistant (CR) features.

We’ve all heard the recent story about the professional basketball player who ingested an edible cannabis product infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) while on a plane. He had a panic attack followed by a full-out seizure, which leads one to speculate whether or not he read the dosage instructions on the package. After all, it just looks like candy — right?

This story suggests why edibles are surging in popularity, and their potential downsides.

On the one hand, edibles don’t have the bad press associated with vaping. Just recently, popular flavors such as fruit and mint have been prohibited in a newly-signed national law that seeks to prevent underage vaping and further damage from lung-related illnesses. Edibles are portable, require no paraphernalia and you can ingest them anywhere—even on a plane.

On the other hand, their “innocent” look is also their danger point. People have a hard time taking the dosage and warning information on their labels seriously.

What does this mean for package designers? Edibles offer the potential for innovative, fun design. With the cannabis industry still sorting itself out as a result of the recent vaping deaths and stock market plummet, edibles have an opportunity to create a safe zone.

At the same time, because edibles are such an attractive alternative to smokables, it’s doubly important that dosage, warning, regulatory information and particularly child-resistant (CR) features are crystal clear on packages.

How packaging can address these issues.

One company that seems to have a firm fix on its target market is Wana Brands. This Colorado-based maker of edibles tells a story on its website, where we see middle-aged to older people dressed in yoga attire. Clearly, they are positioning their product as a healthy alternative to vaping and smokables. Users are captured in videos doing yoga moves and taking products such as drops, capsules and gummies — no smoking to be seen.

One video is devoted to the brand’s new packaging design. Attributes include biodegradable, food-safe plastic, a freshness seal, tamper-resistant closure and recyclable container. The sustainability promise is also compelling — “Reduces Packaging Waste by Over 60%!”

The actual package for their gummy products (see photo above) contains the three elements mentioned earlier loud and clear.

First, it’s a modern, clean design that accentuates the appeal of the product with a colorful, appetizing fruit graphic.

Second, the marijuana leaf is clearly displayed, as is the dosage: 100 milligram THC per package, 10mg per piece.

Third, there is a bold warning label on the front which says: “Contains Marijuana. Keep Away from Children.”

In an age when everything — cannabis included — seems to be marketed to Millennials, it’s worth asking, why is this brand so visually positioning itself to Boomers? Of course, we shouldn’t forget that Boomers introduced marijuana to the market in the first place. But also, perhaps the product helps with those aches and pains that come with age. And it bears pointing out that most of today’s disposable income is in the pockets of these older consumers. Millennials and Gen Z are too busy paying off college.

Pouches are big and converters get into the action.

Seven years ago, Jim Andrasic of American Pouch Converters saw a white space opportunity with the legalization of cannabis that began in Colorado and started to spread nationally.

A print converter and manufacturer of pouch technology for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands, the company was highly respected for its innovation around child-resistant designs and their ability to meet regulatory standards. “We did extensive research,” Andrasic remarks, “and discovered that most of the cannabis brands were getting their packaging from China where there is little familiarity with the US regulatory climate. In fact, a lot of the pouches for edibles and medicines were not child resistant at all.”


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Adrasic and his team were highly aware of the complexities posed by the state-by-state nature of the US cannabis market. They did 90 days of research on cannabis packaging and what would be required by states moving toward legalization. The company became an authority for brands looking to get into the market. American Pouch Converters knew the regs better than almost anyone in packaging.

“We were ahead of the curve when it comes child-resistant pouches,” says Andrasic. “We manufacture all styles of CR pouches. This includes stand-up, 3-side-seal, box bottom, bottom load and CR delivery pouches. When we started, there were over five basic CR pouch designs out there, and most would not pass testing. Our products, Intelli-Pouch with radio frequency identification (RFID) technology and anti-counterfeit are on pace with government-approved testing labs.

“We decided to specialize in CR pouches because the regulations are so tough. Brands can lose their license if their packaging is out of spec. And you won’t get it back. So, understanding compliance has been a huge business plus for our company. In fact, we’ve done so well with our slider, press-and-seal and side-opening pouches, we’re the biggest player out there—and we just got bigger.” Andrasic is referring to its recent merger with Advanced Converting Works (ACW).

“When we started this journey five years ago, it was chancy. A lot of our brand partners said, ‘Why are you talking to the weed guys?’ This is one of the hottest markets and it keeps evolving. What does the future look like? Testing is in the works to tap consumer DNA that will show exactly what dosage a person needs, and we’re involved in the trials. This will change the face of packaging in edibles and all other forms of cannabis products. It’s my dream come true,” Andrasic says.

Why packaging matters so much

Just what are the hottest cannabis-based extract products today? Per Greenentrepreneur, it’s both cannabidiol (CBD) and THC gummies. In 2018, CBD gummies were the third most-searched food term in the US on Google. Today, more FDA-tolerant hemp-based gummies are offered on Amazon with a pitch: “The best way to cope with the stresses of daily life is to take the edge off and enjoy some of the benefits Hemp Gummies have to offer.”

Packaging technology is becoming more and more critical as well. Producers and sellers are all looking to bring their buyers closer to their products, provide data and comply with regulations. Much of this technology can be delivered by the packager through the use of universal bar codes, quick response (QR) codes and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. With a simple scan, you can identify the age of the product, where it was produced and even who bought it.

Are the current struggles in the cannabis industry merely a brief pause in the inevitable transition to a robust market? On November 14, 2019, Pew  Research reported two-thirds of Americans say the use of marijuana should be legal and, currently, the “share of US adults who oppose legalization has fallen from 52% in 2010 to 32% today.”

Stay tuned.

5 Sustainable Packaging Trends to Look Out for in 2020

5 Sustainable Packaging Trends to Look Out for in 2020
Brands incorporate recycled content into their new packaging to create viable end markets for the collected material and meet their sustainability goals. Photo credit: Copal on Unsplash

For sustainable packaging, 2020 is set to be a year of action and reaction, building on the fast-growing trends we have seen in the last two years, as subject matter expert Nina Goodrich laid out in her recent article. Here are the critical sustainable packaging trends to look out for in 2020.

1. More companies announce sustainable packaging goals and create action plans.

In 2018 and 2019, a deluge of brands publicly announced new goals to make their packaging more sustainable, particularly in regards to plastic packaging and the looming threat of losing  social license to use plastics if we do not find a way to better recover them and prevent their leakage into the environment. This includes commitments made by individual companies, as well as collective commitments like the New Plastics Economy.

The majority of companies with these goals committed to achieve them by 2025 or 2030, and so 2020 represents a strategic turning point for action. These companies will need to put robust plans into place to achieve their goals and invest resources into implementing those plans. Companies that have yet to make such sustainability commitments will join the pack this year, or else risk falling behind the curve of their competitors

2. Companies innovate to boost end markets for recycled plastics. 

There are a growing number of announcements by suppliers who have created packaging using high levels (more than 90%) of recycled content in plastics, both from post-consumer and post-industrial sources. There is growing awareness for the need to create viable end markets for recycled material as a way to help brands meet their sustainable packaging goals. Recycled content will surely be a route many suppliers actively explore this year. 

In addition, there will also be collaboration across the value chain to improve processing of used plastics to be reused in new applications. Partnerships around chemical recycling have taken off  at a tremendous rate, such as the partnership with Recycling Technologies, Total, Nestlé, and Mars to develop an oil from mixed flexible packaging that will be used to produce new polymers, creating new end markets that were not possible for these materials before. While resin manufacturers are not themselves often recyclers, there will be more of these types of chemical recycling collaborations emerging.

Developing these markets is critical to avoid losing viability of recycling for different products.

3. Brands replace substrates to meet recovery goals. 

In the hysteria around plastics and meeting recovery goals for packaging, some companies are exploring alternatives. We have seen a rise in paper-based solutions, as well as other recyclable, compostable, and even edible substrates being launched at scale. The market is in reactionary mode, which will likely continue through 2020 and beyond.

While innovation in new packaging designs can be exciting and promising, this can also potentially be a negative trend, as plastics often have a positive carbon story compared to other substrates. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition advocates for each design decision to carefully consider carbon and other environmental impacts to avoid just shifting the problem towards other environmental impacts to achieve recyclability.


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4. Companies start taking reusable packaging more seriously.

Reuse is a main element of the New Plastic Economy’s Global Commitment, and the growing number of signatories areassessing their packaging portfolios, looking for opportunities in reusables. Companies like Blue Bottle Coffee and Unilever have announced plans to scale up reuse and refill business models.

Ecommerce startups are increasingly penetrating the market with reusable shipping models to replace short-lived plastic or paperboard packaging with  closed-loop logistics models that work beyond business-to-business (B2B). The emphasis on reducing and reusing, which rank higher on the waste hierarchy than recycling, is again becoming an important part of the packaging sustainability conversation.

5. Material health becomes more important in packaging.

The recent announcement from the How2Recycle labeling program states that any packaging that contains intentionally added per- and/or poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, will be labeled as Not Yet Recycled. This is one of multiple indicators that this year does not look good for PFAS.

PFAS are commonly used in foodservice packaging and are often referred to as “forever chemicals” due to their persistence in the environment. The health impacts of short-chain PFAS are being called into question by the scientific community and companies are being pressed over efforts to downplay health risks.

Regulations are emerging in Europe and being discussed in North America. Some companies have already stopped making PFAS products for packaging. Thought leader William McDonough noted that the Circular Economy is no good if we are cycling toxic materials in a state of circular “retox.” The products we recycle should be safe, and then circular.


How to select the right gripper for your packaging robot

How to select the right gripper for your packaging robot
Is a mechanical or vacuum gripper best for your robotic pick-and-place packaging application? Photo credit: By Halfpoint -

When moving products or packages in an industrial setting, properly matching a robot’s end-of-arm tooling to the materials being moved improves application effectiveness. That may seem like common sense, but hoisting or stacking different materials requires careful consideration of many essential variables to avoid accidents, injuries and downtime.

Primary considerations include:
• Size
• Weight
• Work piece shape
• Access
• Environment
• Work piece material/structure
• Motion
• Speed

One of the most common end-of-arm tooling options is the gripper. What is a gripper? Simply stated, a gripper is an interface between a robot or machine and the physical world. A gripper acts on the work piece (product or package), allowing the robot to hold and manipulate it as it performs a series of tasks.

It would require an in-house expert to review every option, setting and scenario of your operations, and how those elements can dictate your choice, but this baseline can give you the tools you need to begin evaluating your pick-and-place needs.

Now, let’s discuss whether mechanical grippers or vacuum grippers are best suited to solve your pick-and-place packaging challenges.

Mechanical grippers

Mechanical grippers use two or more “fingers,” also known as jaws, that close and grip the product or package. They are a cost-effective and reliable option for many standard pick-and-place packaging applications.

A mechanical gripper can maintain a firm hold on products or packages during high-speed movements and their powerful jaws can lift and hold heavy items, but are in danger of crushing delicate items without proper calibration. They can pick and place pieces with varying thickness without changing the gripper, but oddly shaped items may present a challenge to static jaw shapes and angles.

Mechanical grippers must operate in the same environment as the work piece, creating potential failure modes, and need enough room for the jaws to actuate. Additional space is necessary to allow it to grip a work piece from multiple sides.


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Mechanical grippers are driven by any of three power sources:

Pneumatic—Because most plants employ compressed air, pneumatic mechanical grippers are the most common and provide easy implementation, but do not always provide precise control.

Electric—Electrically driven mechanical grippers provide precise control, but are more expensive and must be contained within a larger package, resulting in challenges to the program or operation.

Hydraulic—Hydraulicgrippers provide high forces and are capable of lifting larger loads, but they are costly to purchase and maintain, and have the potential for fluid leaks.

Mechanical grippers are also available in four different styles:

1. Two-finger (jaw) angular—Easy to apply, capable of picking different sized parts with the same jaw, and moderately priced; require more space than vacuum grippers.

2. Two-finger (jaw) parallel—Versatile, able to pick the outside or inside of a part, suitable for smaller spaces and flexible enough to pick different sized parts with the same jaw; more expensive and may crush softer or more fragile products/packages.

3. Three finger (jaw) parallel—Helpful when proper positioning is required to move the item; requires the product/package to be properly oriented and positioned for secure grip, and can potentially crush delicate work pieces.

4. Two-finger (jaw) locking—Jaws lock when closed and hold parts firm even if power is lost; higher price point and requires more space than vacuum grippers.


Vacuum grippers

Unlike mechanical grippers, which use jaws to grasp and move items, vacuum grippers use soft foam rubber, plastic plenums or vacuum cups to pick up materials without damaging them. They are ideal for applications with extreme weights (very heavy or very light) or delicate work piece materials, where mechanical grip strength is too low to pick pieces or too high and causes damage.

Vacuum grippers are more versatile than their mechanical counterparts. They can adapt to smaller or larger items by adding additional cups or adjusting flow. Mechanical grippers can sometimes cause damage to the items they pick, but vacuum grippers can pick parts that are delicate or thin without causing damage. Vacuum grippers only need access to one side of a item, allowing them to pick products/packages more easily; on the downside, this sacrifices flexibility that could cause the item to drop. Additionally, small dense parts may not offer enough surface area for a vacuum gripper to pick the part.

Vacuum grippers can also be configured specifically for different environments. Vacuum cups are made from a variety of materials that can be compliant with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or meet other regulatory requirements. The vacuum pump can be installed away from the pick point to protect it from environmental hazards.

Vacuum grippers rely on either electricity or compressed air for power. Electric vacuum grippers do not require cumbersome or awkward hoses to operate. The downside of this is low flow, which may make the gripper too weak to pick up some items.Compressed air vacuum grippers, on the other hand, can operate with high vacuum levels, enabling them to pick up heavy products/packages and provide greater flow for picking up parts that are porous.

Vacuum grippers have other variables that need to be considered when making a selection. Some grippers rely strictly on vacuum cups or foam pads to operate. Vacuum cups are easy to service and are highly precise in their operations, making it possible to choose ideal pick points on the work piece to prevent damage. They also come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials that can be suited for most applications.

Vacuum grippers may also be found with foam pads. These can conform to the shape of the product/package and allow picking a variety of items with a single tool. However, they are not as capable of precise placement when compared to suction cups.

Other less common vacuum gripper options include:

Soft grippers, which use vacuum to actuate silicone fingers to conform to the product/package, making a gentle and flexible picking solution.

Magnetic grippers, which employ large magnets to pick up strong materials. An actuator pulls the magnet away from the work piece, thus releasing that part.

Bladder grippers, whichfeature a rubber bladder inflated inside a work piece to pick the part. Deflating the bladder releases the item.

It can be difficult to determine exactly what components are right for your packaging applications. But, using these guidelines, you should be on the right track to building your perfect pick-and-place device.

Valentine’s Day packaging we love

Valentine’s Day packaging we love

Just try not to fall in love with these fun and festive seasonal Valentine’s Day snack packages. From the intimacy of personalization to classic hearts, Valentine’s Day packaging aims to get that special someone’s attention.

Packaging Digest showcased these 16 packages at the recent WestPack 2020 in The Snack Shack experiential exhibit. Click the "View Gallery" button at the bottom right of the image above.