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Articles from 2016 In March

‘Unpoppable’ air cushioning protects shipments—there and back, if necessary

‘Unpoppable’ air cushioning protects shipments—there and back, if necessary
New durable air cushioning maintains its protective packaging performance for longer, making it suitable for a return trip from ecommerce shoppers.

As a habitual Bubble Wrap popper, I have mixed feelings about this new product. Bubble Wrap IB from Sealed Air Corp. is billed as “unpoppable”—definitely a benefit in the world of protective packaging, especially for the rough-and-tumble small-parcel environment of ecommerce shipping.

How is this bubble cushioning different from before? What makes it unpoppable?

“It is a proprietary formulation that takes the best of our traditional Bubble Wrap…our Barrier Bubble technology,” explains Kim Gillis, strategic innovator at Sealed Air Corp. and head of Bubble Wrap IB. “But it's much more than just the film. It's the combination of film formulation, moving to specially designed air channels versus individual bubbles and our patented inflation technology—all three work in harmony to provide superior cushioning protection.”

The special air channels transfer impact and shock away from products to be protected and deliver 30% more protection power compared to competitive bubble technologies, according to “extensive testing” by Sealed Air.

The channels are filled on-demand from flat, uninflated roll-film with the NewAir I.B. Express inflatable cushioning system. With the easy-to-use system, packing operations can create cushioning on-demand as needed.

Shipping flat film in rolls reduces storage space needed significantly versus inflated bubble cushioning. It saves shipping space and costs, too—one truckload of uninflated Bubble Wrap IB is equal to 36 truckloads of standard bubble cushioning. Material is supplied in two widths, 12 and 24 inches, in rolls of 3,700 feet flat (which becomes 3,034 feet inflated).

Rolls ship flat and are inflated on demand, saving considerable space in warehouses and on incoming trucks.

With Bubble Wrap IB’s large bubbles (bubble height is a half inch), pack operations can spend less time wrapping because products need fewer layers of cushioning to be adequately protected. This also helps operators create more “right-sized” packages, and faster than previously possible, too.

Does being unpoppable encourage reuse? This might be an important environmental benefit, as well as a great selling point, especially for ecommerce because of easier consumer returns.

Regarding reusability, Gillis says, “Bubble Wrap IB utilizes our patented material with Barrier Bubble technology which extends the life of each bubble so that they can last through longer ship cycles and spend more time stored in a warehouse before use without compromising protective performance.”

Gillis continues, “For e-commerce consumers—which is basically everyone these days!—this means that the Bubble Wrap IB that comes in your box protecting what you ordered can also be reused for a safe return journey. It is easy and reliable for consumers—and it's what they want. We know from our own research that 94% of consumers prefer to reuse the original packaging when they have to do a return. With Bubble Wrap IB, they'll get same protection from damage for a product going back as it did on the way there. A great example of providing more product assurance with less material."

Guess I'll have to get my stress relief some other way instead of popping bubbles!

Packaging compliance: A complex reality

Packaging compliance: A complex reality

As every brand owner who sells in, or plans to expand to, more than just a few countries quickly learns, regulatory complexities affect all aspects of their business. And packaging is no exception.

The number of environmental requirements for packaging continues to expand, as do their variety, making it increasingly challenging for brand owners to sell a product with the same packaging design worldwide. While a company may hope for one action it can perform to be compliant everywhere, standard data points it can collect, and a universal form for reporting to all packaging waste recovery organizations (WROs), it’s not that simple.

Rather, there are big differences in the rules and requirements brand owners must understand when selling in a large number of jurisdictions worldwide, some of the most critical of which are summarized below.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) reporting

Global brand owners have to comply with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) legislation in most parts of the world. While countries such as those within the European Union (EU) have had an established system for EPR compliance for a while, EPR programs continue to expand and are now present in at least a few countries on each continent.

The programs require producers to report on the packaging they place on the market, as well as finance the end-of-life processes for the packaging waste they produce, to ensure environmentally sound disposal. But while the intent of the programs is the same, countries define a number of concepts differently and have different rules for reporting, such as:

The Producer: The entity that is obligated to report and pay the fees depends on the definition of “producer” in the local market. In the EU countries, the producer is usually the entity that first owns the merchandise in the countries, while in countries such as Canada,  the responsibility is more brand owner-oriented. In other countries, such as the U.K., the fee payment is split based on “shared responsibility” between participants in the packaging chain. In this situation, rather than one producer being responsible for the recycling and recovery of a piece of packaging, any company that performs any of the obligated activities (raw material manufacturing, conversion, packing/filling, selling or importing) is responsible for a proportion of the obligation.

Covered Packaging: Countries or local packaging WROs (which brand owners often have financial incentives to join instead of self-complying) have different rules about the type of packaging that needs to be reported. For instance, in France, transport packaging that stays with the distributor or retailer is exempt, while in many other countries all levels of packaging must be included.

Also, in some countries, only packaging for a product whose final destination is a household is subject to fees while others include packaging intended for  businesses. In addition, some WROs in Canada and the EU cover printed paper, such as instruction manuals, brochures and flyers, while other WROs exclude these materials from reporting. Some WROs do not accept certain packaging types, such as pharmaceutical packaging, and countries such as Spain or Portugal require it to be reported to special organizations. And countries such as Japan also account for the type of product sold to determine packaging obligation.

Reporting Format: Variations  are also common in the required reporting formats. Based on criteria such as annual returns or amount of packaging placed on the market, a brand owner may have to report to a certain WRO either monthly, quarterly or annually. And they may have to use a regular reporting template or be allowed to complete a “simplified” template.

Reporting Thresholds: In some jurisdictions like the U.K., Hungary and Sweden, obligated producers that place smaller quantities on the market or have lower annual revenues, have limited, or even no reporting obligations. In other countries, such thresholds do not exist.

Material Categories: Different countries define various materials differently, as well as the categories where they should be reported. For example, the material threshold level, meaning the percentage of the total component weight that a material must comprise in order for it to be classified as that material, is not a consistent among WROs.  That means, in order to report the quantity of a material like paper packaging placed on one market versus another, a producer may need to follow different calculation rules in each country.

Penalties and Rewards: Other variations between WROs impact the amount of packaging fees a producer must  pay. In recent years, WROs have started to either offer incentives for positive environmental changes (such as adding recycled content), or penalize types of packaging that may disrupt the established recycling streams. For example, France has much higher fees for disruptor materials and Ontario collects data on such packages.  

To manage such variations like these, brand owners need to carefully consider a comprehensive data collection and management system, as well as detailed tracking of regulatory requirements worldwide.

Packaging design requirements and material bans

Many differences also exist in environmental packaging design requirements and material restrictions (or bans) worldwide. For example, while Essential Requirements for packaging in Europe include an array of rules regarding source reduction, recovery, reuse, and minimization of hazardous substances, global brand owners must be aware of specific requirements in other regions where they also sell.

For example, some countries have specific empty space and layer limitations for certain types of packaging (such as Taiwan and South Korea), while others entirely ban, or restrict, certain materials in some, or all, types of packaging, such as PVC restrictions in South Korea and EPS bans in the U.S.

One way for brand owners to avoid the risk of non-compliance is to abide by the strictest design requirements for packaging that is sold worldwide. Sometimes, however, that may not be the best approach. If a certain requirement is so narrow, it may not be feasible or efficient to apply it to all packaging sold worldwide. One such example is the ban reportedly imposed by the Ministry of Environment in the United Arab Emirates on the use of fossil-fuel derived plastic packaging, with the exception of oxo-biodegradable plastics.

Environmental labeling and claims for packaging

Just like material restrictions and design requirements, rules regarding environmental labeling and claims vary greatly among countries and regions. While a detailed description of such differences is not possible here, brand owners should be aware that significant differences may exist, including:

-- Environmental labeling or EPR financing symbols are voluntary in some jurisdictions and mandatory in others (such as the use of the Green Dot as a financing symbol).

-- The significance of certain environmental symbols is not considered the same across environmental claims guidance (such as the use of the Möbius Loop, the three-chasing arrows symbol).

-- Some countries may require symbols or coding similar to that used in one region for certain packaging and those similar to a different region for other types of packaging. For example,  in Croatia, the mandatory material coding is similar to the EU material coding for all materials except for plastics, where coding consistent with the U.S. SPI resin identification is required.

Brand owners need to pay close attention to all the different requirements when deciding whether “worldwide” environmental labeling is a feasible and effective option for their specific case. Depending upon the types of products sold (food, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and more), the packaging materials used and the types of packaging components most frequently placed on the market (such as mostly plastic bottles vs mostly fiber-based packaging), and the environmental message the company is interested in sending to its customers, a company can decide whether to create region-specific labeling and/or environmental claims, or a worldwide labeling system.

No single solution to multiple requirements

These are just a few of the complexities global brand owners face as they prepare packaging for products intended for distribution in various countries. And while there is no simple way to  ensure compliance with all rules and regulations, close monitoring of legislative changes and proper understanding of how they impact your organization is critical since non-compliance  penalties and mandatory design revisions can be costly.

Gabriela Dobrot is a project manager at Environmental Packaging Intl. (EPI), a consultancy specializing in global environmental packaging and product stewardship requirements. Contact her at 401-423-2225 or [email protected].

Examining the value of healthcare plastics recycling

Examining the value of healthcare plastics recycling
Image provided by the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council

Recycling programs in hospitals are reportedly expanding, but given the amount of waste produced each day, there’s definitely opportunity for improvement. A new program organized by the Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council promises to demonstrate the value of plastics recycling.

U.S. hospitals and healthcare facilities generate significant amounts of waste each day—according to Practice Greenhealth, it’s about 14,000 tons each day. Some of that waste seems to be making its way into recycling streams, because according to the association, 83.6% of it’s award winning hospitals have initiated clinical plastics recycling programs. However, there’s opportunity for further progress, given that a survey Practice Greenhealth conducted last year along with HPRC found that 66% of responding hospitals are recycling 40% or less of what could be recycled. 

To further the promotion of recycling, Tod Christenson, HPRC’s executive director, says that the group is announcing a project in Chicago to demonstrate the economic viability of healthcare plastics recycling. Called the “100 Tons Project,” the program aims to recycle 100 tons of noninfectious plastic products and packaging from hospitals. “We are excited to have participants from across the value chain including hospitals, waste transporters, [and] recyclers, and we even [have] an end-user that wants all the polypropylene we can generate,” he explains. “We are going to get that number.” 

According to HPRC, initial Chicago-area hospitals participating in the project include Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center and NorthShore University HealthSystem Glenbrook, Evanston and Skokie campuses. Other area hospitals are also considering the opportunity to join the project, it was reported at time of press release.

The potential materials being targeted for collection and recycling include primarily polypropylene and polyethylene resins in the form of sterilization wrap, irrigation bottles, basins, pitchers, trays, Tyvek, and rigid and flexible packaging materials, HPRC reports on its Web site. "Companies providing logistics and recycling support include Waste Management of Illinois Inc., LakeShore Recycling Services, and Antek Madison. Key Green Solutions LLC, a sustainability management software service provider, will collect and maintain project metrics. Barger, a division of PLACON, will lend additional financial support to the project as interested end-users looking to create new products from the recycled materials, and Petoskey Plastics will supply specialized bags to accumulate and transport the plastic materials," HPRC reports.

With some recyclers reporting changing demand, I asked Christenson how the drop in oil prices would impact recycling. “It’s a concern, because it changes the basic economics,” he says. “As the price of oil drops, so does the price of virgin resin, so recycled material loses its luster.”

Christenson says he “likes to believe it won’t hinder our efforts. Economics is still a driver for hospitals, but the reality is they are already moving materials, and the cost to hospitals to recycle is minimal. There’s also a strong internal driver from doctors and nurses—there are expectations of their organizations to do something to avoid just throwing all this material away.” 

Recycling also plays a significant role in EUROPEN’s Circular Economy Package, announced in December 2015. HPRC is contemplating forming a European chapter to not only leverage its work in the United States, but also get involved in the Circular Economy dialogue in Europe. “We are thinking about how it applies to healthcare plastics,” he says. “It is not waste anymore—it’s thought of as a resource stream. I understand the initiative as taking one person’s waste and making it someone else’s asset.” 

The idea is to add value. Sorting plastics waste, for instance, adds value. “And if you go back upstream to design products so that they can more easily be sorted by material type at end-of-use, that adds value, too,” he says. “It’s thinking about the end at the beginning. 

“We more and more will be living in a resource-constrained world, so we cannot afford to waste anything,” Christenson says.


Fighting words: How ‘unboxing’ videos are reshaping consumer purchasing behavior

In this mobile device-enabled era of Instagraming, snapchatting, texting, tweeting and periscoping, it’s often more surprising when an event, thought, idea or experience isn’t captured and posted online than when it is. Consumers armed with anything from a basic smartphone to a portable GoPro to broadcast-quality video cameras are supplying the world with digital content that not only entertains, but in some instances informs, educates and, now, even influences purchasing decisions.

Following closely on the heels of the YouTube sensation of “haul videos”—where shoppers shared the booty of their retail treasure hunts with anyone willing to watch—brands, retailers and even packaging converters are now the target of “unboxing” videos. The unboxing phenomenon is unfolding literally as we watch, sometimes in collective amazement and sometimes with a shared horror.

By and large, unboxing videos are produced and shared by otherwise everyday consumers unpacking consumer goods ranging from food to electronics to shoes purchased either at retail or online. These videos are most often posted in all their unedited glory where both product and package are the target of their uncensored opinions and, when they discover something they find unpleasant or, in their opinion, wrong, their rants.

Unboxing videos can vary in length from 30 seconds to 10 minutes or more. As of Mar. 18, 2016, there are more than 39 million search results on YouTube for the term “unboxing.”

The popularity of unboxing videos can be attributed to consumers’ interest and most importantly, trust, in online reviews. According to Mintel’s January 2016 US Beauty Retailing report, 39% of U.S. adults who are social media users and have purchased beauty products in the last 12 months agree that social media posts encourage them to buy particular products. Thirty-five percent of the same adult group like sharing their product experience on retailers’ social media channels. Clearly, social media has become a major influencer of purchasing decisions, which poses challenges and creates opportunities for brands to reach consumers in ways not previously possible.

Accordingly, unboxing videos have begun to weave their way into the zero moment of truth (ZMoT), when consumers begin to form purchasing opinions well before they enter a brick-and-mortar or online retail environment. Unboxing videos have taken both ZMoTs to a new level—moving it beyond the control of retailers, brand owners or even packaging converters. Unboxing is creating a genre of wanna-be social media reality stars who now get first crack at consumer engagement and influence.

It’s because of that influence, and even power, that unboxing videos hold the potential to persuade or dissuade purchasing behavior. In kind, brand owners and even packaging converters need to embrace, rather than ignore them. Ignoring the uncensored reality of unboxing videos is akin to putting a lid on a pot after it has boiled over. By embracing, or even sponsoring, unboxing videos, brands can create a new level of consumer engagement and, potentially, a new level of trust with consumers.

Unboxing videos should also become part and parcel of new product and packaging development projects. They are teachable moments, albeit after the fact. But they can be used to gain key insights into what consumers like and dislike. They can be used to gauge reaction, sentiment and even ideas on how to improve a product or package.

And most importantly, and perhaps productively, if brands would actively engage in the comments sections of unboxing videos—to include the recognition of constructive comments as well as non-condescending education regarding why a product is packaged the way it is—unboxing could be a valuable and reliable tool in brand marketers and packaging converters’ toolboxes.

David Luttenberger is the global packaging director at Mintel. He has 24 years’ packaging experience. He can be reached at [email protected] You can also follow him on Twitter at @packaginggeek.

Dairy reshapes PET bottle for national expansion

Dairy reshapes PET bottle for national expansion
Promised Land’s milk packaging is refreshed by a structural and graphics redesign done for three bottle sizes.

A packaging change to a proprietary, ergonomic PET bottle paired with a new label design that meshes nostalgia with a modern look across 25 milk SKUs positions Promised Land Dairy for brand recognition nationally.

For small companies, the promised land of business success is to grow from a local icon into a national player. That’s no different for Promised Land Dairy, Dallas, TX, which is relying on major changes to its milk packaging to help the brand gain recognition across America. The dairy, which has seen 45% growth in adding 2,536 stores over the past three years, continues to expand throughout the U.S. and will be available nationally by mid-2016.

In conjunction with that expansion the company is now introducing a new and improved custom PET milk-bottle design for 14oz single-serve, quart and half-gallon sizes of flavored and white milks that’s easier to grip, pour, and open. The new packaging will be across the brand’s entire milk portfolio of some 25 SKUs including limited-time flavors such as Mint Chocolate Chip Milk, Salted Carmel Latte Milk and Egg Nog for the holiday season. 

The new bottle and packaging design has been in development for about a year, according to Allen Spence, director of marketing for parent company Borden Dairy Co. He says that PET continues as the bottle polymer for two reasons: Its part of the brand’s heritage, and consumers want to see the rich and creamy product inside, as they have since the launch in 1987.

“The design began as a vision of our packaging design firm, The Launch Point, and was finessed to completion by bottle supplier CKS Packaging to our manufacturing specifications,” Spence says. “CKS was elected for its expertise in dairy packaging and strong design capabilities, especially at it relates to packaging ergonomics. It is a new supplier for us and they have been a great partner.

“Our previous bottle, while beautiful, was not proprietary to us, and with our national expansion plans in place, we did not want to not own our bottle. We wanted to maintain key brand equities, modernize the look and feel, as well as our label to provide more shelf impact. The bottle is part of our story, and we love a good story!

Spence tells the rest of the packaging and design story in a Q&A that on the next page that starts with the benefits of the new bottle—and how it is more spill-proof now.

Limited edition and seasonal flavors in the new design will provide periodic additions to the brand’s year-round products.

What are the benefits of the new bottle?

Spence: New typefaces, color palettes and the more modern, art deco design of the bottles reflect the evolution of the Promised Land brand’s overall look and feel, while still evoking nostalgia consumers have come to instantly recognize. The new bottle family now unites the products to give a distinct, owned look to Promised Land milks. The bottles are more ergonomically correct and address the consumer’s previous challenges with spillage while the new mid-height tapering allows the bottles to be gripped on all sides by our consumers.

Exactly how does the new bottle address spillage?

Spence: The 38mm neck finish is more of an industry standard size and what consumers would expect with milk. It provides a more controlled pouring experience. The larger neck size on our old quart and half gallon bottles increased the likelihood of spillage. Improving ergonomics and usability were priorities with this packaging refresh. 

What were the design goals—and what graphic elements deliver on that?

Spence: The overall objective of the new bottle design was to evoke nostalgia by looking reminiscent of a vintage glass milk bottle. The business challenges that needed to be met in attaining that goal were trying to stay as close as possible to current specifications while making sure we improved our shelf presence. How this objective translated during label design was the need to maintain the air of nostalgia while being distinctly modernized. We did this through a more balanced, cleaner design, a simplified logo (without the filigree), while showcasing our beautiful Jersey cows. We think the design, as verified through consumer research, delivers on all of these elements.

Old versus new design on the right reflects a cleaner design, simplified logo and improved bottle design.

How do the graphics compare to the previous label? 

Spence: We changed design houses between this label and the old label. The graphics in the new label are much more balanced, vibrant, and indicative of current design principles. On our half gallon and quarts there is more real estate to share our story. Label design agency The Launch Point was a great partner in helping us achieve what we were hoping to achieve aesthetically.

Are the packaging changes messaged on the label?

Spence: We are not actually communicating the change on label. We are using more peripheral communication, such as in-store point-of-sale materials to communicate that the bottle is new but that the contents are the same and consumers can expect the same high quality, Jersey milk they have always enjoyed. For current markets, our “Moo Crew” loyalists will immediately notice the change in look and feel, and based on our research and early market data, they are thrilled with the new bottle. For our expansion markets, the entire Promised Launch proposition will be new so everything about the bottle will be new!

What was the largest hurdle to overcome?

Spence: The biggest packaging hurdle was sustaining the structural integrity of the bottle while accounting for multiple externalities. We are making tweaks each step of the way to ensure continuous improvement and excellent service delivery to our customers and consumers.

What’s been the response?

Spence: The trade response has been one of wide acceptance and praise. We could not be more thrilled with the trade’sreaction.  We keep hearing from buyers and category managers that “our new bottles not only reflect the quality milk inside, but carry forward the core brand equities.” It has been exciting knowing that our new bottles are now more reflective of our story and that people are taking notice. Our most loyal consumers, while eager about the new look and understanding of the change, provide comments reminiscing about the “good old days when we were in a glass bottle.” You have to appreciate that level of fandom and their longtime continued support. 


Have a taste for food packaging? You’ll find plenty of food for thought during EastPack 2016, June 14 to 15 in New York City.


How to reduce risk and optimize shipping performance with packaging lab testing

How to reduce risk and optimize shipping performance with packaging lab testing
The Random Vibration Simulation test is one of several used to simulate shipping conditions a package/unit load will encounter in the real world.

The way we transport products from point A to point B has changed dramatically over the years. We’ve gone from domestic railcar and trucks to worldwide air and sea shipping. While this evolution has been critical to our global economy, each stage has presented new challenges for safely securing products in transit.

Since 1948, the International Safe Transit Assn. (ISTA) has led the industry in developing test protocols to ensure products survive the risky and hazardous global distribution market. Whether by land, air or sea, these tests allow manufacturers to predict and adjust their load containment practices to “manage risk while optimizing the supply chain.”

Since “One good test is worth a thousand expert opinions!” we’ve broken down the testing process and procedures available to help manufacturers make informed decisions for current and future packaging practices.

Benefits and timeline

As the quote above alludes, testing palletized units can save considerable time and money. Today’s laboratory testing procedures allow manufacturers to replicate real-life scenarios in a shorter timeframe. For example, a cross-country journey on a truck can be replicated in a few hours on a random vibration table (explained further below).

In addition, further savings can be added to the bottom line. Testing eliminates fuel, personnel and equipment needed to perform the actual journey and proactively isolates and helps solve perceived challenges.

Understanding these benefits is the first step to greater unit containment. So when is the right time to put your packaging method to the test? The simple answer is anytime: after product damage, during package redesigns, to meet customer demands, prior to product launch or to proactively test your packaging design. Ideally it’s best to test as early as possible and it’s recommended to do so during the packaging design phase.

There are a number of ways to approach testing. Three distinct approaches and services are:

1. Customer Application Review: Conducted onsite, an evaluation of current packaging methods followed by a comprehensive report of analyses and recommendations. Whether looking to upgrade a packaging system with new products or looking to identify further savings, this one to three day review can help.

2. Field Engineering: Services are performed onsite. It can include developing a new package or providing support through an existing project. The package can also be followed through the entire supply chain environment.

3. Packaging Laboratory Testing: Products are tested in a controlled environment on various ISTA-certified equipment to ensure the packaging solution can withstand various harsh handling and shipping conditions.

Of the services listed, the most common is the laboratory testing because it is effective and efficient. It also helps prove that recommended unit containment solutions will work in the real-world. For more complex or early-stage products, field testing is highly recommended. According to our laboratory packaging engineers, on average 40 hours of engineering work is required to properly test a unit. Timelines can vary based on the product conditions and testing parameters.

Testing solutions

So what tests are available? From vibration tables to environmental chambers, there are a number of solutions available to ensure products arrive in their intended condition.

One of the most popular tests is the Random Vibration Simulation machine (see photo above), which reproduces vertical vibration that packaged products experience during shipping and handling.

As mentioned earlier, the random vibration equipment can simulate long-distance travel at a fraction of the time and cost without risk. For example, a 30-day railcar trip can be simulated on the random vibration table in just several hours. The key element to the machines’ success is a portable shock and vibration recorder equipped with a time and date stamp. The recorder collects transportation-specific data that can be replicated later on the random vibration table. In conjunction with a separate GPS (global positioning system), the exact location of product impact, shock or vibration can also be determined. For products transported via ship or railcar, a Rotary Motion Vibration machine is best used to simulate its unique transportation conditions.

There are also shocks and impacts that typically occur during truck shipments and railcar coupling. An Incline Impact Machine (see photo below) can simulate railcar coupling and truck shocks for packaged products.

Before a palletized unit is placed on a truck or railcar it’s most likely being transported throughout the warehouse and storage yard via forklift trucks or other equipment. A Rough Handling Test (see photo below) can be used to recreate shock and vibration during handling.

In other instances, testing the environmental conditions of the product throughout the supply chain is most critical. This is especially true for refrigerated and frozen foods, produce and dairy applications. Whether the requirement is to test hot or cold temperatures, a Conditioning Chamber (see environmental chamber photo below) can duplicate conditions from -20-deg F. through +100-deg F.

When looking to test how unitized products perform when stacked or subjected to stacking weight, a Compression Test apparatus is used. This test is especially important for customers that stack settling or shrinking type units in warehouses or big-box stores. To condition the unit for warehousing, compression strapping is recommended. A compression test can generate forces up to 20,000 lbs.

Other common tests include a Drop Test, to illustrate product performance when less than a 150 pound packaged product is literally dropped.

The future
There will always be a need to transport goods from a manufacturer to a destination. As transportation evolves and new products are developed, testing will endure to be an effective and efficient way for ensuring properly secured packaged products, as its benefits are felt throughout the supply chain.

Neil Weisensel is brand and marketing director at Muller. As part of the Signode Industrial Group (SIG), Muller frequently solves customer load containment challenges in the SIGApplication Development and Research Laboratory (commonly referred to as the “SIG Packaging Lab”). The lab is equipped with ISTA certified simulation equipment designed to reproduce the forces that products experience in transit.


See a host of new ideas in packaging machinery, materials and more at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City.


What in the world of packaging is it?

What in the world of packaging is it?
A visual packaging quiz: What is this and what is its significance?

What does this image show? And what is notable about it from a packaging view? With today’s 2-part “visual quiz” we debut what we expect will be a regular quiz that touches on some interesting aspect of the wide world of packaging. Our hope is that it will be fun and educational for you, our audience of packaging professionals.

We start with this cropped image that tells a small part of something newsworthy that debuted this week.

Our first question is an obvious and perhaps fairly easy one: What is this?

Once you think you know, turn to the next page (below) and at least see what this is, though not what it’s about.

If you guessed it was a Belgian beer bottle, you were right. That part was pretty easy, wasn’t it?

But if you took it a step further and guessed that it was Martens Pils beer bottle, then that is impressive, kudos! You certainly know your beer and your packaging.

But what is it about this bottle that makes it so noteworthy? That’s the final part of our 2-part quiz.

If you’d like a hint, we have it atop the next page.

 Clue: Though it may be hard to see, it’s what the bottle is missing that’s notable.

Jan Martens, brewery owner, deservedly takes pride in his company’s innovative beer bottle.

Before we identify the packaging innovation, we offer one final hint: It isn’t a no-label look…it’s more innovative than that.  Scroll below for the reveal.

What is missing and what makes this bottle so remarkable is that it doesn’t have a label. Sure, it looks like it’s decorated with a no-label-look polymer label that’s been used on beer and numerous other bottles, but Martens brewery is one of the first users of direct on-bottle digital printing.

“Direct Print technology replaces the label of our standard Pils and we are now creating a more premium look and feel for our own brand,” says Martens. 

Along with the flexibility and speed that goes with digital printing, it also results in a more sustainable PET package

Direct Print Powered by KHS is the first industrial-scale, digital printing process with low-migration LED UV-cured inks for food-safe decoration of PET bottles.

You can read more about this remarkable technology here.


Have a real-world packaging challenge of your own to solve? Consider attending EastPack 2016, June 14 to 16 in New York City, which will offer numerous solutions to packaging problems and opportunities.


Five Things to Consider When Purchasing a Labeler

Production Rate
The production rate measured in products per minute is the single most important criterion used to determine the type of machinery needed for a given application. A simple inexpensive machine may be adequate for an application requiring only 40- 50 products per minute; whereas an application requiring speeds above 500 products per minute will be considerably more expensive.

We may have discovered the Holy Grail with new recyclable barrier pouches

We may have discovered the Holy Grail with new recyclable barrier pouches
New polymer compatibilizer technology creates barrier pouches that can be recycled in existing streams.

Sustainability and packaging expert Nina Goodrich of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition speaks out about a new packaging development that could be a game-changer for food packaging shelf life and sustainability.

In my past roles in research and development (R&D), I learned that it’s vital to keep food product, food processing and food packaging technologies in mind because a change in any one of these areas can become a great opportunity for innovation in the others. I was recently struck by the potential of a new recycling barrier packaging technology and a new food processing technology to set the stage for significant innovation.

New recyclable barrier films and pouches using Dow's Retain technology are the first barrier flexible packages designed with recycling in mind. Up until now, a brand using flexible packaging as part of its sustainability commitment has had to choose between a low carbon footprint from the use of lightweight flexible materials or the ability to recycle the packaging.

For the first time there is a barrier flexible pouch that has a viable recycling strategy. These new pouches can be recycled with other polyethylene (PE) films and bags at grocery store drop-off locations.

That’s significant in itself, but I believe this new packaging option combined with up-and-coming high-pressure processing (HPP) food processing technology creates a real sustainable packaging innovation opportunity.

HPP has started to grow exponentially in the fresh refrigerated market. It started with products like guacamole and salsas that suffered quality degradation from heat processing. It has now grown to include natural meat products, pet foods, sauces, meal packs, soups and chowders, dips, entrees and juices. The process uses a high-pressure cold water bath to reduce microorganisms. And because the products are processed in the package, post-process contamination can be eliminated. Flexible packaging works especially well with this process.

Food waste in the U.S. is a huge issue. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has committed to reducing food waste in the U.S. by 50% by 2030. Extending the shelf life of fresh processed products helps reduce food waste in a number of ways:

• HPP eliminates the need for preservatives in many products and increases the shelf life significantly.

• Products that used to last a few days can now be safe to eat for weeks. The products do need to be refrigerated because the spores of the microorganisms are not eliminated. Refrigeration also extends shelf life but the longer the shelf life the more likely a barrier package will be needed to keep out oxygen.

• Fresh, healthy foods can be safely stored longer in barrier packaging.

I believe that these two innovations combined (package and process) may lead to many new sustainable innovations. This is a huge step towards the circular economy for flexible packaging and a significant opportunity to reduce food waste.

Nina Goodrich, director, Sustainable Packaging Coalition, and executive director, GreenBlue, came to GreenBlue with an industry background in R&D, innovation and sustainability strategy. She believes that innovation and sustainability are linked as key drivers for our future.

3 ways dyeing eggs can help solve packaging design and printing issues

3 ways dyeing eggs can help solve packaging design and printing issues
What color lessons can packaging designers learn from dyeing Easter eggs?

It’s been said that everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten. Does this phrase ring true for packaging designers?

In the spirit of spring, we attempted to use a simple childhood activity—dyeing eggs—to solve some of the most perplexing color issues facing the packaging designer/printer relationship.

Here are three lessons to learn about color in packaging from our annual Easter egg ritual.

1. Why do we need black in color printing?

If mixing cyan (blue), magenta (red) and yellow can create every possible color, including black, why do printers need black ink (K) in addition to cyan, magenta and yellow (the other components of CMYK)?

The experiment:

We created a black dye with equal amounts of cyan, magenta and yellow, starting with yellow, adding cyan next and then finally magenta. Then we dropped in a white egg and let it sit for 20 minutes. Will the egg come out black?

We’re not sure what color this is…mauve brown? Olive green? It’s certainly not black.

What did we learn?

Mixing the additive primaries of red, green and blue in different combinations can create a full spectrum of colors. Combining two pure additive primaries produces a subtractive primary. The subtractive primaries of cyan, magenta and yellow are the opposing colors to red, green and blue.

Similar to our egg dyeing, many printers use cyan, magenta, and yellow to achieve a huge range of colors. When printed on a white substrate, each completely absorbs—or subtracts—its opposing counterpart from the white light. (You can learn more in our Additive vs. Subtractive Color Models post.)

So, if we really wanted to dye an egg black, what would we need to do?

We could either use a lot more cyan, magenta and yellow dye—or add a fourth color, black. In subtractive printing, black (or K, which stands for key) is added to CMY to make four-color printing—CMYK. Black is an important addition to the formulation because it is less expensive, helps neutralize images and graphics, and adds density to shadows.

NEXT: What if your egg isn’t white?

2. Substrates can have color

You perfectly specify your design, but when you get the proof back from the printer the color isn’t right. What happened?

The experiment:

Eggs come in plenty of colors, and we found these beauties at our local farm (see left circle of eggs in image above).

To see how different colors react to the same ink, we dropped them into the same pure red dye for exactly four minutes.

Did they all come out the same shade of red?

What did we learn?

The color of the background plays a pretty significant role in determining the final color of the dyed egg. Instead of red, each turned a shade of orange or brown (see right circle of eggs in the image above).

This is an often-overlooked fact that plagues designers and printers everywhere. When specifying color and formulating ink, you must consider the color of the substrate. Red dye, or ink in the case of printing, will only look red on a pure white background.

Our example is obvious, but even a slight variation in substrate color will affect the final result. You must always consider this, especially when you’re printing the same design on multiple substrates.

NEXT: What do you call that color?

3. Color communication is subjective

You want your printer to create “spring colors” for your carton. How do you know their idea of a spring color is the same as yours?

The experiment:

Using a small handheld color-matching tool, we measured the color of bright spring flowers and found the closest Pantone Color match for each (see photo above).

Then we used the color data to mix yellow, orange and red dye baths for the eggs.

Mission accomplished.

What did we learn?

It’s common for designers to use colors around them for inspiration, then describe them to the printer in a subjective language the printer doesn’t understand. Sunny, peachy, fresh and springy are not colors that can be found in an ink can. Not establishing clear expectations will most likely result in rework when the “spring color” your printer creates isn’t the same sunny shade you had in mind.

Be sure your printer understands what you expect. There are many ways to clarify color, including spectral measurements, Pantone Color Books and Munsell color standards.

Of course, we know there’s a lot more to specifying, communicating, and printing accurate color than what we learned in kindergarten. But sometimes going back to the basics can help us understand a lot of what we need to know.

Shoshana Burgett is the director of corporate strategy and customer insights for X-Rite, responsible for leading the company’s voice of the customer (VOC) initiative across all industries, identifying market trends and helping the company create innovative products that support emerging customer needs, now and into the future. Burgett has served in a variety of roles related to print, packaging and color management since 1986. She previously held senior management roles at Xerox and has a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in variable data technology and international business, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the School of Visual Arts.


Learn more about packaging design trends at EastPack 2016, June 14-16, in New York City.