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Articles from 2017 In April


Carrot not stick: Municipalities move beyond packaging bans to ensure compliance

Carrot not stick: Municipalities move beyond packaging bans to ensure compliance
Municipal ordinances that identify compliant and non-compliant recyclable or compostable packaging also emphasize consumer education.

As more cities begin to leverage circular economy principles to reach ambitious zero waste goals, ensuring that packaging is both "recoverable" and "recovered" will be hallmarks of any successful plan. In recent years, cities have become bolder in categorically banning or mandating certain packaging types in attempts to match what packaging is being sold or distributed and what a given city’s recycling and composting systems can currently process.

The first wave of city-led packaging bans largely honed in on foam (expanded polystyrene or EPS), perceived by many cities as a problematic packaging substrate due to the confluence of several factors. Namely, less than 20% of Americans have access to recycling infrastructure for EPS, and yet we see a high incidence of EPS packages and EPS microplastics in marine environments. After a few of early outliers, more than 96 distinct city ordinances have banned EPS since 2008.

However, in the last few years, several cities have changed tack in approaching packaging requirements. Though straight-forward bans are still being implemented in many areas, cities like Washington, D.C., Seattle and Minneapolis have gone a step further and passed ordinances that deem recyclable and compostable packaging compliant and non-recyclable or -compostable packaging non-compliant. While common in Europe, this tactic is certainly more progressive for American cities. The practice of more hands-on specifications for packaging has even permeated national governments in Europe, led by France mandating that all single-use food serviceware be home compostable by 2020.

Yet, the compliant and non-compliant packaging established by Seattle, D.C. and Minneapolis paint packages with broad strokes. In terms of compliant packages that are recyclable, Minneapolis categorizes “glass bottles, aluminum cans and some plastic food and beverage packaging” as recyclable and names polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) as preferred plastics since robust markets exist. In a similar, but slightly more specific way, the Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables for D.C. considers packaging to be recyclable if “made solely out of one of the following resin types”: PET, HDPE, LDPE, PP and PS.

Overall, it’s exciting to see cities start to curate packaging that’s sold or distributed to match the local recycling infrastructure and note the importance of strong end markets. But, needless to say, just because a package is made of a recyclable resin, problematic colorants, inks, fillers, labels, adhesives, additives, barrier layers or closures could render a given package unrecyclable according to the Assn. of Plastics Recyclers’ Design Guide. Even though PET has a strong end market, for instance, if a PET package is opaque, it dramatically reduces the resale value and is considered detrimental to recycling by APR.

Among the compostable packaging sections of these packaging ordinances, there are big differences in how comprehensively each addresses compostability. For instance, some city packaging ordinances strictly govern packages and consider the many incidental items that are associated with food serviceware to be out of scope.

Minneapolis, for one, exempts utensils and straws from its Environmentally Acceptable Packaging Ordinance as “they are not packaging items.” The California county of Santa Cruz, on the other hand, is much more comprehensive in its Environmentally Acceptable Packaging Materials Ordinance, which went into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. Santa Cruz illustrates in its guideline for restaurants that plastic straws and plastic stir sticks are unacceptable and that “all to-go cutlery must be certified compostable.”

For composters, a more holistic view is critical in mitigating contamination of post-consumer pick-ups. Principal and managing director of the Compost Manufacturing Alliance, Susan Thoman, elucidates that “With all the best intentions, foodservice operators often spend time and effort procuring compostable serviceware, only to substitute what they may believe to be incidental non-compostable components to go with them.”

Thoman further explains, “For instance, when appropriate compostable hot or cold cups are sourced, yet the straws and lids used with them are not compostable, the entire set is tossed into the compost collection bin, creating a significant source of contamination for the compost facility.”

Justen Garrity, founder and president of Baltimore-based Veteran Compost echoes Thoman’s thoughts, lamenting that plastic straws and stirrers are Veteran Compost’s most challenging contaminants. While Veteran Compost regularly works with clients to use compostable serviceware, they have had to force the issue when plastic straws have persisted in the organics stream.

Municipality packaging ordinances are generally thorough in detailing compostable items that are within scope, however. St. Louis Park, MN, for example, communicates on its Public Works website that “Unfortunately many paper foodservice items are lined with plastic, so without a marking that it is compostable or other indication it is not lined, these items should go in the trash.” Moreover, the Minnesota city provides a phone number for residents to ask specific questions and encourages residents to look for signage or to ask restaurant staff. All of these strategies help prevent contamination and stimulate opportunities for further education.

Minneapolis and D.C. also demonstrate important attention to consumer education. Minneapolis’ online program materials explain why terms like degradable, biodegradable, oxo-degradable, and earth friendly are unreliable and don’t mean the same thing as compostable. D.C., on the other hand, draws attention to the fact that, while foodservice operators will have to comply with their ordinance and use BPI Certified packaging starting Jan. 1, 2018, there will be a separate acceptance list for compostable materials for all other entities and people once collection services are established in the District. This works to preempt confusion for residents who could mistakenly assume their requirements would match that of commercial foodservice operators in the near term.

D.C. also qualifies its Mayor’s List of Recyclables and Compostables by noting that “In the future, additional product and material types and processing types may be added to the list of what is required to be recycled.”

In lieu of the outright ban of yesteryear, these packaging ordinances allow cities to have more flexibility and adapt to changing technologies and innovations that increase recyclability of certain packaging types in the future. St. Louis Park’s ordinance even calls out a mandate to review what packages are acceptable annually. The St. Louis Park ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the City Council, is supported by one resident who clarifies that “If we just pick on polystyrene, we’re really not talking about zero waste.”

With pushback an undeniable consequence of these changes, increased costs will likely arise for businesses selling or distributing food serviceware. But Sue Sanger, a Councilmember of St. Louis Park, underscored that, in reality, these businesses are currently “off-loading their costs” and that “They may be saving a little money, but the environment is paying the price and frankly the taxpayers are paying the price. Taxpayers are funding the incinerators, the landfills and so on.”

While local businesses in Sanger’s area will only have months to comply for most packaging types, some exemptions are in place for small portion cups and PS lids for the time being.

Elsewhere, we can expect cities to reduce the quantity of exemptions and shorten the time periods that using non-recyclable or compostable packaging is tolerated.

Indeed, as more cities move closer to 2020, 2025 and 2030 zero-waste goals, it is likely that other cities will adopt packaging ordinances similar to those of D.C., Minneapolis and St. Louis Park. And, those that have already adopted packaging ordinances will, without a doubt, continue to tighten and refine what it means to achieve compliance.

Hopefully, second-generation packaging ordinances will provide clarity where the pioneering ordinances were vague. Including food serviceware incidentals like straws, utensils and stir sticks will make palpable differences in composters’ operations. And, getting more granular with what constitutes a recyclable package will go far in ensuring that recyclers are able to collect the highest-value materials that sort and reprocess correctly. In both cases, the bottom lines for composters and recyclers would improve.

As cities are hoping zero-waste achievements will be lasting solutions, ensuring recyclers and composters have strong business models is a fundamental that must be remembered.

Charlotte Dreizen, now a project associate for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, joined GreenBlue as an intern in March 2016, focusing on the development of compost-related programs. Assisting with the creation of the Sustainable Composting Collaborative and research efforts to quantify the value of compostable packaging, she contributes experience from leading food waste research efforts, as well as supporting residential and higher-ed composting programs.

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Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!

Combine rewinding with vision to ensure pharma labeling accuracy

Combine rewinding with vision to ensure pharma labeling accuracy
Web Techniques WT-35 rewind system equipped with Cognex DataMan 262X ID reader. Image courtesy of Cognex.

According to the FDA, 11% of packaging and labeling-related pharmaceutical recalls in 2014 were caused by labeling mix-ups. Many of these problems can be traced to the traditional manual approach of inspecting labels, which relies upon operators to detect errors in labels as dozens of them flash by every second.

Developers of rewind systems used to count and prepare labels for application to drug packages are moving to address this challenge by upgrading their products with machine vision so that they can automatically inspect every label to make sure it has a readable and correct bar code. Often, these machine vision systems check the label artwork, text, and other factors. The cost of machine vision equipment has fallen to the point that this type of inspection equipment can quickly pay for itself in avoided recalls and reduced labor expenses. One example of this new approach is provided by the Web Techniques WT-35 series rewind system offered with the Cognex DataMan 262X ID reader for verifying bar codes or the Cognex In-Sight 2000 machine vision sensor for complete label inspection.

Label inspection challenges

Pharmaceutical manufacturers invest enormous resources into complying with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) that ensure their ability to maintain high levels of quality in manufacturing drugs. These manufacturers and their suppliers need to also pay considerable attention to labeling of these pharmaceuticals in order to avoid errors that could result in patients taking the wrong medication and suffering serious harm. Labeling issues can also result in enormous financial costs such as those required for product recalls and paying fines as well as damage to the manufacturer’s image and reputation.

To address these challenges, pharmaceutical manufacturers and label converters typically maintain close control over labels, often storing them in a locked cage and releasing only the exact number of labels needed to complete a specific production run. The labels are typically produced in economical large batches so they need to be converted to the smaller batches need for specific production runs.  This approach minimizes the chance that leftover labels might accidentally be used on the wrong product. This conversion process normally includes counting out the exact number of labels needed for the production run and inspecting each label to be sure it is correct and has a readable, validated bar code.

The Web Techniques WT-35 bi-directional rewind system quickly and accurately counts and rewinds large master rolls into rolls of a predetermined count or length in either direction. The bi-directional machine saves time by providing the capability of winding the roll right back into the original copy position.  The system automatically overspeeds the motor in order to expedite the process of rewinding smaller diameter cores, providing higher speed in the common application of rewinding small rolls from bigger rolls. Web Techniques has produced tabletop roll label rewinding and inspecting machines since 1976. The company produces four different models of rewind machines as well as optical splice and label error detectors, clear label counters, slitting attachments, constant web speed controls, and ink jet imprinting systems.

Above: Closeup of ID reader on rewind system. Image courtesy of Cognex.

Limitations of manual inspection

Pharmaceutical manufacturers and converters typically rely upon manual visual inspection at one or more stages during the label converting process. Each roll is unwound on the rewind system, which is typically equipped with sensors to count labels, check for missing and torn labels, and in some cases validate bar codes. Rewind systems are frequently equipped with a strobe light to provide the machine operator with the opportunity to view each label, if only for a tiny fraction of a second, to verify its correctness. The problem with this approach is that rewinders operate at such a high rate of speed that operators have a great deal of difficulty detecting even major errors such as a completely different label. A typical rewinder operates in the area of 300 feet per minute, which means that for a typical pharmaceutical label 1.5 inches long, the operator must inspect 40 labels per second and has only about 20 milliseconds to process each label. The result is that the operator is normally only able to detect gross errors that are repeated over many labels. The operator may even miss repeated errors if he or she is tired or distracted.

“When I purchased this company two years ago, my top priority was redesigning its equipment to take advantage of the latest technological advances,” said Todd Hickman, President of Web Techniques. “We upgraded to programmable logic controllers (PLCs), variable frequency drives, and touch screen controls to create rewind systems that allow for new technologies to be integrated seamlessly. As an example, we used to offer redline lasers for bar code validation, but these systems were only capable of validating 1D bar codes. They were not able to validate 2D bar codes or determine whether or not the artwork is correct. They were also limited in throughput and required maintenance due to moving mechanical components. With the increase in capabilities and reduction in price and size of vision systems that has occurred over the last few years, I felt that the time had come to incorporate machine vision across all our products. We selected Cognex as our machine vision supplier of choice because Cognex was already a well-respected and preferred supplier to the pharmaceutical industry whose units are trusted with critical inspection processes. Another benefit of working with Cognex is that the company’s global footprint enables them to help us service pharmaceutical companies’ plants around the world.”

Human machine interface (HMI) of rewind system. Image courtesy of Cognex.

Integrating rewind systems with machine vision

Web Techniques has already begun integrating Cognex image-based ID readers and vision sensors into its products. These include DataMan 262X fixed-mount image-based ID readers, which offer the ability to process the complete image in order to identify codes that cannot be read with redline scanners such as 2D bar codes. These bar code scanners can acquire and decode up to 45 images per second using a high-speed, powerful platform that runs the latest Cognex algorithms. Cognex’s 1DMax decodes damaged or poorly printed 1-D bar codes as small as 0.8 pixels per module (PPM). And its 2DMax provides reliable 2-D code reading independent of code quality, printing method, or the surface that the codes are marked on and can locate and read 2-D codes that exhibit significant damage to or complete elimination of the finder pattern, clocking pattern, or quiet zone.

Web Techniques also integrates Cognex In-Sight 2000 vision sensors into its products to provide the capability to not only read bar codes but also to validate the identity of the label including artwork, text, and blemishes. In-Sight 2000 vision sensors are designed for quickly and easily addressing error-proofing applications. The operator can set up the inspection of a new label simply by acquiring an image of the new label and making a few adjustments such as how closely the image must match the pattern. The simplicity of operation is increased by the integration of a lens and LED ring light that produces even, diffuse illumination across the entire image. Lenses and a variety of light colors can be easily swapped out as needed to meet application requirements. Together with the In-Sight Explorer EasyBuilder interface, which provides a fast, step-by-step application setup, the In-Sight 2000 series allows even novice users to achieve extremely reliable inspection performance in nearly any production environment.

To date, Web Techniques has delivered many converting systems with ID readers for bar code validation and a few with vision sensors for validation of the entire label. “The new vision systems are simple and fast to set up and have enabled the pharmaceutical companies and label printers that use them to eliminate the potential for shipping a product with the wrong label while at the same time reducing labor costs,” Hickman said. “The image-based ID reader and vision sensors have also eliminated problems experienced in the past with redline lasers such as excessive no-reads and inability to keep up with production speeds. The Cognex ID readers and vision sensors are also quite easy to integrate with the PLCs that operate Web Technique’s rewind machines. The ID readers and vision sensors support the Ethernet/IP protocol so they can easily be controlled by the PLC. All in all, the integration of machine vision into rewind systems has the potential to eliminate the potential for injuries and fines associated with incorrect labeling while also reducing labor expenses.”

Bethany Freedman is the Marketing Programs Manager for Cognex Corp. For more details, dial 1-877-COGNEX1 (1-877-264-6391), e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.cognex.com

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User-centered design will be one of the major themes at the upcoming Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) East 2017 conference in June. Check out these sessions and more:

To Err is Human, But How Do You Prevent It? Speaker: Michael Wiklund, General Manager, Human Factors Engineering, UL LLC, Wiklund R&D

Panel: What Does Usability Mean Today for Medical Device Engineers? Moderator: Stephen Wilcox, Principal, Design Science; Panelists: Daniel Kosoy, MD, Partner, Athenian Venture Partners; Jim Lebret, MD, Physician, New York University School of Medicine; and David Brick, MD, FAAP, FACC, Clinical Associate Professor, New York University Medical Center

How Usability Research and Engineering are Changing Medical Device Development Speaker: Philip Remedios, Principal, Director of Design & Development, BlackHägen Design

New Tools for Obtaining Better Data from Contextual Inquiry Speaker:Stephen Wilcox, Principal, Design Science

 

The sustainable packaging community celebrates achievements

The sustainable packaging community celebrates achievements
Winners of the 2017 SPC Innovators Awards proudly show their awards.

The best in sustainability—people, packaging, partnerships and processes—sparkled on Monday night, April 24, at the 2017 SPC Innovator Awards celebration. Organized by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the competition recognizes outstanding ideas, efforts and achievements in sustainability and packaging.

The winners of this year’s contest received their awards on the first night of the SustPack 2017 conference, jointly produced by SPC and Smithers Pira, and with Packaging Digest serving as the media partner.

This is the third year of the competition, renamed from the previously known Trashies Awards. As Steve Mahler, design manager and sustainable package development manager at Caraustar Industries—an SPC member and the originator of the competition—explained at the award presentation ceremony, “After two years of having this event, we realized that everyone in this room is not just a packaging person—you’re an innovator. So we decided it was time to call this award what it really is: an innovator’s award. Without innovation, we can’t progress, we can’t come up with the new ideas to shape everything.”

SPC awarded one winner in each of the competition’s four categories: Outstanding Person; Packaging Innovation; Outcome of a Partnership; and Breakthrough Process.

The winners are:

Page 1. Outstanding Person: Chad Kreye, senior packaging engineer, Target

Page 2. Packaging Innovation: CleanFlake Solution from Avery Dennison

Page 3. Outcome of a Partnership: Hefty Energy Bag program partnership between The Dow Chemical Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, First Star Recycling, ConAgra Brands, Recyclebank and Systech Environmental Corp.

Page 4. Breakthrough Process: Keurig Green Mountain materials recovery facility (MRF) Flow Study Methodology

 

Look at his smile! Chad Kreye, Target’s senior packaging engineer, owned brands packaging, shows his appreciation for winning the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the People category.

1. Outstanding Person: Chad Kreye, senior packaging engineer, Target

With passion, tenacity, technical expertise and “memorable warmth,” Kreye has made the daunting task of adding the How2Recycle label to thousands of products over years’ time look easy. He initiated a custom work flow process that has allowed the retailer to apply the How2Recycle label to a “wildly diverse and voluminous array of packaging types, with the highest level of efficiency and quality,” according to the entry.

As leader of Target’s How2Recycle team, Kreye has spurred the passion of the entire group, inspiring them to achieve a remarkable feat. No other How2Recycle member company has added the label to as many packaging types as Target. As of today, more than 1,700 Target items use the How2Recycle label.

But the real kicker is that it’s not just Target that benefits from Kreye’s energetic work ethic. “Since Chad has driven Target’s implementation of How2Recycle in the label program’s early days, the operational insights and solutions Chad has helped not only uncover and solve—but also proactively predict—will benefit all future How2Recycle member companies.”

The winner of the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Product category is Avery Dennison for its CleanFlake label adhesive. Heather Valentino, North America sustainability manager, accepts the award on behalf of the company.

2. Packaging Innovation: CleanFlake Solution from Avery Dennison

To advance the recycling of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), Avery Dennison developed in 2012 CleanFlake, a water-based recyclable paper label adhesive that cleanly separates during the sink-float recycling process.

In 2016, the company expanded its CleanFlake portfolio to include an improved adhesive that works with paper and film labels on bottles and thermoformed containers.

Compliant with the legislation “Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals” (REACH), this cost-competitive CleanFlake adhesive allows recyclers to produce purer PET flake with less contaminants. According to the company, 560 million PET bottles are wasted every year in the recycling process, largely due to incompatible label materials.

Accepting the 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Partnership category are (l to r) Matt Maurer, director, new product development and growth strategies at Reynolds Consumer Products; Jeff Wooster, global sustainability director at The Dow Chemical Co.; and Han Zhang, Dow’s sustainability and advocacy manager, packaging and specialty plastics.

3. Outcome of a Partnership: Hefty Energy Bag program partnership between The Dow Chemical Co., Reynolds Consumer Products, First Star Recycling, ConAgra Brands, Recyclebank and Systech Environmental Corp.

The Hefty Energy Bag program hopes to change people’s perception of “recycling” by collecting non-recyclable plastics at curbside and converting them into an energy source.

­­After a successful pilot in 2014 in Citrus Heights, CA, the program continues in Omaha, NE, where the collected materials are used to fuel a cement plant.

According to the entry, the program “demonstrates the feasibility of collecting households’ non-recycled plastics at curbside, sorting them at a material recycling facility, delivering the desired/sorted materials to an energy conversion facility [such as a pyrolysis plant] and effectively converting them into an energy resource—all via an existing waste management infrastructure.”

A range of organizations came together in partnership for a shared cause. With support from Mayor Jean Stothert, Dow helped launch the first phase of the program for Recyclebank’s 6,000 existing member in the Omaha area in September 2016.

Here is the role of each partner:

Dow contributes the company’s plastics expertise and resins that allow the Hefty Energy Bag and the non-recycled plastic contents inside the bag to be converted into energy. Dow is also providing project management and ongoing communications to raise awareness of the program.

Recyclebank provided communication support and access to their existing members in the Omaha area. Recyclebank’s 6,000 existing members in the Omaha area were first to participate in the Omaha program’s initial phase.

Reynolds Consumer Products is the leading sponsor of the program. Hefty is also the manufacturer of the orange Hefty Energy Bags that are distributed to program participants.

First Star Recycling is responsible for the collection and sorting process.

• ConAgra Foods provides a strong advocate for the program working to ensure its consumers can recycle the packaging from their products.

Systech Environmental Corp. converts the recovered energy into cement.

Additionally, the municipality of Omaha and local government officials, specifically the office of Mayor Stothert, helped support the program by providing education and access to residents. In November 2016, the city issued 2,500 additional roller bins so more citizens could participate.

Keurig’s Ali Donahue (left), environmental sustainability engineer, and Monique Oxender, chief sustainability officer, accept their 2017 SPC Innovators Award in the Process category.

4. Breakthrough Process: Keurig Green Mountain materials recovery facility (MRF) Flow Study Methodology

What really happens to a package as it goes through a MRF? We used to make educated guesses. But, thanks to a three-year study with myriad partners across North America, Keurig can tell you. The company developed a unique and practical flow study methodology that reflects actual material flow versus estimations from manual sortation.

The methodology uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to track 100% of any package, big or small, in real time—and without negatively impacting the facility’s operations. According to the entry, capturing this data enables analysis of recovery rates and contamination potential to inform subsequent optimization efforts of new or existing packaging.

Additionally, “The resulting baseline data, in turn, allows industry to make strides towards increased recovery rates for any package, but specifically those categories of packaging that have historically received less attention and yet are increasing in volume in the waste stream.”

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Ahh…Coke refreshes its sustainable packaging strategy

Ahh…Coke refreshes its sustainable packaging strategy
Sustainable packaging sourcing partnerships helps Coca-Cola continue to optimize its PlantBottle packaging.

Even Coca-Cola can’t do it alone. Development of its groundbreaking PlantBottle needed a helping hand from the global beverage giant’s packaging technology partners. The company’s sustainable packaging lead Sarah Dearman will share Coca-Cola’s new sustainable packaging strategy, including supplier sourcing, at the upcoming SustPack 2017 event.

Her keynote—“The key role that sourcing plays in Coca-Cola’s new Sustainable Packaging Strategy and advancements in PlantBottle Packaging”—is scheduled for Day 2 of the conference on Tues., April 25, at 10:45 a.m. (Sustainable packaging sourcing is also a focus area in the Packaging Digest 2017 Sustainable Packaging Study. We invite you to participate by answering our questionnaire here.)

Dearman gives Packaging Digest some insight into her topic.

What makes your partnerships with sustainable packaging technology suppliers so powerful and successful?

Dearman: The Coca-Cola Co.’s goal is to reduce the carbon footprint of our packaging. We know that we can’t do it alone. The way we can maximize progress is by working together. Our suppliers play a critical role by working together to advance innovation to help enable all parties to meet their goals.

Continued advancement in sustainable packaging means being open to newer technologies as they develop. How does Coca-Cola encourage and embrace new technologies while still moving in the right direction on its sustainability path?

Dearman: Our consumers’ desires and expectations are evolving. We know that we must continue innovating to stay ahead of these needs. This includes minimizing our impact on the environment.

To help manage and understand these impacts, we conduct lifecycle assessments on our packaging. We also partner with organizations such as World Wildlife Fund and the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance.

Additionally, we leverage valuable resources and collaboration opportunities, such as through the Sustainable Packaging Coalition

Coca-Cola introduced the PlantBottle in 2009 (see photo above), with 30% of the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) package made from sugar cane and sugar cane waste. In 2015, the company unveiled a 100% plant-based PlantBottle. Where do you go with further development once you’ve hit 100%—and why?

Dearman: PlantBottle packaging, which is a fully recyclable PET package made partially from plants, is a really exciting innovation. It’s continuing to roll out across our portfolio, currently making up about one third of our PET packaging in the U.S.

We are working now on reducing the cost and further improving the environmental benefit of using renewable materials through technologies that will allow us to use a larger variety of feedstocks. This will enable us to locally source feedstocks, which will help to further reduce carbon emissions in our supply chain.

What key point will attendees hear in your presentation at SustPack 2017?

Dearman: I’m honored to be participating in SustPack 2017. During my session, I will talk about how we are working to advance the sustainability of our packaging from design to sourcing and recovery. I hope that by providing a few examples of what is working for us, I may be able to help others advance their sustainable packaging initiatives.

The New Plastics Economy is committed to increasing the recycling rate of plastic packaging to 70% by 2025, up from just 14% now. How is Coca-Cola helping to get there?

Dearman: The Coca-Cola Co. has a long-standing commitment to ensuring our packages are recyclable and we are working to recover them. We believe collaboration is key to advancing this work.

In North America, we are supporting a strong recycling system by investing in increased access and participation through collaboration with organizations such as the Closed Loop Fund, Recycling Partnership and Keep America Beautiful. Through partnerships like these, we have helped place more than 800,000 recycling carts and bins in communities throughout the U.S.

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Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!

There’s still a need for speed in cartoning

There’s still a need for speed in cartoning
The P5000 high-speed cartoner for high-speed blister packaging lines from Körber Medipak Systems AG

In the pharmaceutical industry, there’s been much discussion about lot sizes shrinking and the need to accommodate quick package changeover. But while this trend has deepened, another years-long trend continues—the growing demand for generic drugs and commodity products. So, while flexible, quick-changeover packaging lines are in demand for small-volume products, the industry also needs higher-speed systems to support burgeoning generics demand. 

"Oral solid dose applications are trending towards more generic, long-run, commodity campaigns. As such, they are necessitating solutions that drive cost efficiencies," Daryl Madeira, director, business development at Körber Medipak Systems AG, tells PMP News. "A better utilization of manufacturing operations supports this need. Having said this, customers do not want to compromise the changeover and cGMP benefits that they have come to appreciate from Mediseal." 

In addition, "parenteral applications, meanwhile, are trending toward less caregiver interaction," Madeira continues. "This is driving therapies from multi-count to single-count packaging. But the volume of therapies have not dropped and thus there is a need for high-speed cartoning to manage the same demand in single-count packaging." 

Mediseal is supporting these trends with packaging machinery options to meet needs for flexibility and speed. At Interpack, the company will be introducing the P5000 high-speed cartoner for high-speed blister packaging lines. With a 120-mm separation, 500 cartons per minute are possible, with a maximum folding box size of 90 x 110 x 200 mm. And with 180-mm separation, available as a machine variant, cartons with dimensions up to 150 x 110 x 200 mm can be filled at speeds of up to 300 cartons per minute.

"In numerous discussions, we were hearing that our customers have a need for even faster cartoners,“ said Borja Guerra, Mediseal's sales and marketing manager, in a news release. "With the P5000 high-speed cartoner, we now offer the right solution for our high-speed blister machines."

So Mediseal widened its portfolio to extend from highly flexible systems such as the "White Line" system for custom printing blisters, leaflets, and cartons to high-speed cartoners. The company based the P5000 on the platform and components of its established P3200 cartoner.

“What makes the Mediseal solution novel is the ability to transfer all valued functions of our lower-speed, intermittent cartoner to this higher-speed continuous cartoner,“ Madeira reports. “For example, to support higher speeds, a stronger force is required to feed the carton contents, but we do this without any increased force against the product. This ensures that the customer’s product is kept safe throughout the process. In addition, in keeping with Mediseal’s design vision of maintaining the ultimate in operational flexibility, the P5000 continuous cartoner uniquely offers an extended format range.“ 

Madeira says that there are a few challenges when operating at high speeds, so Mediseal leveraged its proprietary expertise to overcome them. “One example is what we described above – we have developed a method for feeding the carton contents without increased force against the product. Relative to feeding, it is key that one is able to feed product to the product cell chain to keep up with the cartoning speed – this is a unique strong point from Körber Medipak businesses, leveraging intelligence from Dividella and Fargo Automation. A final example would be in the area of cGMP. High-speed packaging is quite prevalent in segments such as food and beverage, but doing this for a highly regulated segment such as pharma is quite another story. Mediseal has perfected features to ensure a clean, open cartoning process so that cGMP is never a concern at any speed.“ 

For example, for such cGMP compliance, “we have achieved this by virtue of features such as maintaining easy-access from the front and back and by articulating each carton just prior to grabbing for carton erection. These features are also maintained on the new P5000.“

And quick changeover is still possible. “Mediseal is the industry leader in small-lot, quick-changeover,“ Madeira says. “We have achieved this by virtue of features such as automatic carton height adjustment and digital changeover handwheels directly tied to the HMI. These features are maintained on the new P5000 to ensure quick changeover is not compromised at high speeds."

Lot codes, expiration dates, and serial numbers can all be added at high speeds. “All print and verify requirements, including those for Track and Trace, can be achieved with the P5000,” he says. 

The primary drivers for the P5000 cartoner are pharma oral solid dose and parenteral applications, but medical device applications could benefit, too, Madeira says. “For example, medical device applications such as insulin pens or asthma inhalers are also moving towards large volume, long run, generic applications, similar to oral solid dose, and thus a high-speed cartoner will allow for these trends.“

Madeira believes that the P5000 will continue to meet the needs of pharma (and medical) companies for the next 5 or 10 years. “As the therapies recently launched continue to be successful, volumes will grow by virtue of patient demand and generic uptake. This is true for oral solid dose and for parenteral applications. The P5000 will position pharma companies well to support this growth.”

The P5000 cartoner will be in operation along with the CP600 high-speed blister machine at two upcoming shows: Interpack 2017 in Düsseldorf (Hall 16 Booth A25) and at FCE Pharma in Sao Paulo, Brazil (Booth 721).

Bringing testing to the sealing level

Seal testing is performed in the operation and performance qualification steps of validation. For PQ, ISO 11607 Part 2 says that three consecutive successful production runs are typically evaluated at the established sealing parameters. Manufacturers determine the frequency of subsequent in-process seal testing based on risk assessment considerations.

“One of the biggest problems we see is that companies are not testing enough,” says Charlie Webb, certified packaging professional, Van der Stahl Scientific Inc. (Wrightwood, CA).
 
“As a result, they are receiving FDA 483 warning letters and, in the worst case, incurring product recalls, for seals produced outside specification,” Webb says,

“The validation process is front-loaded,” he adds. “Most people can create a cogent validation, even with modest equipment. [But] production creeps away from the spirit of validation, as manufacturing is left to production and maintenance staff.” 

Van der Stahl’s MS 451 PV heat sealer integrates a peel-strength tester and the company’s VIU seal integrity inspection device. The on-board units support ATSM F 88 and ASTM F 1886 seal testing. Webb says the machine supports a “forced compliance” model that systemizes and automates compliance.
 
Companies can discover sealing failures at the point of packaging, in the interim between quarterly or annual peel studies.

 “Testing cycles tend to be calamity-based, after failures occur,” Webb says. “Companies need to discover if there is a problem before they ship 100 cases to hospitals worldwide. The MS 451 PV prompts additional testing, performed in a mechanized and standardized fashion.”

The operator is prompted to perform the peel test at pre-set intervals. The system records testing events, pass or fail status, peel strength values, and time and date. If the seal fails to meet the seal strength specification, the machine locks up until a supervisor enters a four-digit code and investigates the problem.

Seal integrity testing is reported as pass or fail with the VIU visual testing aid. Offered also as a freestanding unit, VIU features a low-angled light wash over the seal area, with 3X magnification. Van der Stahl provides a laminated reference card for helping operators exploring the possible causes of seal topography anomalies.
 
Companies can avoid the high costs of managing failures, with testing that is easily performed during production, Webb says.

“Many of our customers are doing hundreds of seals per day on machines with four to five times that capacity. If you are pulling one out of 100, that’s a statistically high sample population. Other customers are producing less than 25 pouches per day, and performing 100% inspection.”

Bringing testing to the sealing level

Seal testing is performed in the operation and performance qualification steps of validation. For PQ, ISO 11607 Part 2 says that three consecutive successful production runs are typically evaluated at the established sealing parameters. Manufacturers determine the frequency of subsequent in-process seal testing based on risk assessment considerations.

“One of the biggest problems we see is that companies are not testing enough,” says Charlie Webb, certified packaging professional, Van der Stahl Scientific Inc. (Wrightwood, CA).
 
“As a result, they are receiving FDA 483 warning letters and, in the worst case, incurring product recalls, for seals produced outside specification,” Webb says,

“The validation process is front-loaded,” he adds. “Most people can create a cogent validation, even with modest equipment. [But] production creeps away from the spirit of validation, as manufacturing is left to production and maintenance staff.” 

Van der Stahl’s MS 451 PV heat sealer integrates a peel-strength tester and the company’s VIU seal integrity inspection device. The on-board units support ATSM F 88 and ASTM F 1886 seal testing. Webb says the machine supports a “forced compliance” model that systemizes and automates compliance.
 
Companies can discover sealing failures at the point of packaging, in the interim between quarterly or annual peel studies.

 “Testing cycles tend to be calamity-based, after failures occur,” Webb says. “Companies need to discover if there is a problem before they ship 100 cases to hospitals worldwide. The MS 451 PV prompts additional testing, performed in a mechanized and standardized fashion.”

The operator is prompted to perform the peel test at pre-set intervals. The system records testing events, pass or fail status, peel strength values, and time and date. If the seal fails to meet the seal strength specification, the machine locks up until a supervisor enters a four-digit code and investigates the problem.

Seal integrity testing is reported as pass or fail with the VIU visual testing aid. Offered also as a freestanding unit, VIU features a low-angled light wash over the seal area, with 3X magnification. Van der Stahl provides a laminated reference card for helping operators exploring the possible causes of seal topography anomalies.
 
Companies can avoid the high costs of managing failures, with testing that is easily performed during production, Webb says.

“Many of our customers are doing hundreds of seals per day on machines with four to five times that capacity. If you are pulling one out of 100, that’s a statistically high sample population. Other customers are producing less than 25 pouches per day, and performing 100% inspection.”

Zego’s packaging aims for a new level of food safety

Zego’s packaging aims for a new level of food safety
Zego’s new product launches feature the allergen-reporting QR code woven more seamlessly into the packaging design.

Superfood snacks maker Zego improves its proprietary batch-level QR code and adds an on-pack Call to Action to further promote awareness of food safety through allergen reporting.

Springtime is for many a season of flowering trees and plants and, alas, allergens. But what can be done about food allergens that are perennial, often serious concerns for a number of consumers?

Zego, a forward-thinking, San Francisco-based maker of superfood snacks, has a new twist on a food safety solution it pioneered in 2014: An on-package Quick Response (QR) code that provides batch-level allergen data on every product (see Food safety bar set higher with allergen-reporting QR code from April 2014 and Zego packaging boldly recasts allergen-level QR code from January 2015).

This spring, in conjunction with a three-product launch (shown above), Zego again pushes the envelope on allergen safety. Colleen Kavanagh, co-founder of Zego, shares news about the brand’s latest initiatives including a revamped, highly-flexible on-package QR code and proactive Call to Action on product boxes that aims to spark a consumer-driven movement.

Tells us about your new product launches.

Kavanagh: We have a fantastic new line of bars made from “ugly fruit” harvested from farms in Oregon, Washington and California that pack a huge burst of natural fruit flavor from just 2-3 fruit ingredients. For people looking for protein and heathy fats, we have another version with chia seeds added to provide protein and 600mg of healthy omega 3 fatty acids.

And for our original sunflower butter-based line, we are adding a new flavor called Lemon Ginger that features a deliciously spicy, anti-inflammatory combination of ginger, turmeric and black pepper.

Summarize your consumer-friendly, allergen reporting program.

Kavanagh: Every one of our bars is batch-tested for cross contact with top allergens and gluten. The products are manufactured in an allergy-free facility, which is the traditional standard for allergen safety, but cross contamination can occur anywhere from field to factory. So in addition to the many other precautions we take, we test the end product to see if anything slipped through. We call the Zego Quick Response Code our Z-Code food safety system. It’s the way people access the test results using their smartphones for the specific batch from which that bar was made.

What were the biggest challenges with the new look and design?

Kavanagh: We had two challenges. First was on the boxes. I really wanted to integrate the code into the artwork—it was a metaphor for how the transparency is integrated into our company, but we still had to make it clear that it was a QR code.

As background, smartphone cameras have evolved to a point where brands can integrate the QR codes into the packaging design without affecting the graphics, which makes the codes so much more usable for designers and brands. In fact, I had to ensure that they were still identifiable as QR codes.

We have a picture of the fruit the bars are made from on the boxes and wrappers and tried putting the code inside a piece of fruit. That didn’t work because fruit was the most important indicator about what was inside, and the code design interfered too much with that. Consumers didn’t first notice the fruit, they noticed the code—most of our customer actually don’t have allergies. They just love the clean, delicious superfood snacks.

But it worked perfectly when we put the code inside a leaf that’s part of the fruit’s artwork. The consumer first sees that the product inside features raspberries, for example, then they notice the cool leaf with a code in it and wonder and investigate why it’s there. 

A related challenge came about because the one-inch-wide fruit bars are smaller than our sunflower butter bars; we couldn’t fit a scannable QR code into the leaves in the fruit image for our wrappers. We opted for a square code that took up less space, though we were able to work with colors to make the code fit in with the overall design better.

What advice do you have about QR codes?

Kavanagh: When looking to place your QR, take care to put it in a part of the design that is unlikely to get crinkled or wrap around an edge if your machine is a little off. QR codes can be quite small and still scan, but they need to be as flat as possible.

Can you credit your design company?

Kavanagh: I’ve been using contractors from 99designs.com for my projects lately. If you have some background in Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, you can get what you need for a fraction of the cost of a traditional designer in the SF Bay Area.

Next: A bold Call to Action

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PACKEX and four other events are part of the Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Expo Toronto—Automation Technology Expo (ATX), PLAST-EX, Design & Manufacturing and Powder & Bulk Solids (PBS)—found under one roof May 16-18. For more, visit http://admtoronto.com

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How have you enhanced Zego’s proactive food safety directive?

Kavanagh: Adding the “Call to Action” to our boxes really ups the food safety ante, it is our communication tool for informing the clean food movement, and doing so beyond allergens. It calls on consumers to email other companies they buy from to ask for the same transparency we provide.

We’ve also started a glyphosate testing program for our organic and conventional products, and we tell consumers about it on the box as well. Glyphosate is the most concerning chemical in Round Up herbicide and it is in everything we eat and drink because it is in our rainwater. The test for glyphosate reside is fairly new, and what the testing done in Canada and by others is showing is that even organic food sometimes is very high in the chemical.

By including glyphosate information on our boxes, we are broadening our transparency conversation and increasing the audience beyond food allergic individuals.

What sparked the tipping point to develop the on-package Call to Action?

Kavanagh: One company that I had encouraged to use our Z-Code system in 2016 had a recall due to dairy contamination not four days after we had our most recent conversation about it! If they had used batch testing, those products probably would never have made it onto store shelves.

That same year, another company had bagged the wrong product, which certainly would have been caught before being released from the plant if it had used the Z-Code.

And these were allergy-friendly companies. I knew I had to do more to get the word out and drive consumers to demand these companies offer a higher level of safety.

First, however, I had a consumer education problem to solve—people can’t demand more safety if they don’t know what that looks like or how or who to ask for it. To that end, I developed a three-pronged strategy:

1. By expanding our line for the fruit and fruit + chia bars, we will be increasing our flavor appeal and gaining and educating more customers.

2. The “Call to Action” on the side of every box encourages consumers to email companies they buy from and ask them to adopt the same level of transparency we provide.

3. We are reaching out to the investment community to build our financial resources so we can dramatically increase our presence across the entire region west of the Rockies.

Why was packaging the best way to message the Call to Action?

Kavanagh: The Call to Action is critical to educating our consumers about how they can take action to make their food safer. As a company, we can’t possibly talk to all our customers about what we are trying to do and how they can be a part of cleaning the supply chain, but our boxes can do that. Most people want better, safer food. They want someone to offer them an effective way to advocate for it. Our Call to Action does just that—we suggest a simple but powerful way for consumers to advocate for cleaner food – email the companies you buy from and ask for it.

What do you hope to achieve with the Call?

Kavanagh: I want to empower a consumer-lead revolution to clean up the supply chain; I know that sounds big, but it’s a big problem so you need big, bold strategies. Big, bold strategies don’t have to be expensive and complicated. That’s the beauty of our Z-Code system. We take advantage of testing technology, smart packaging technology and the communication conduit of our packaging. Once a company starts testing frequently, it will find more problems and then will be able to trace down where the problem came from in the supply chain and work to fix it.

Congress can’t fix our food system, neither can individuals. But companies can, if we can get enough of them involved.

How will you know the Call is working?

Kavanagh: We will first measure our success when we see other companies starting to tell their customers how frequently they test and what they test for on their websites.

Next we will want to see them publishing their results on-line.

The final step, and the one most useful to consumers, they will make the batch test results obtainable through technology on their packaging, like we do with our Z-Code. It will just take a few allergy friendly companies to embrace this higher level of transparency to force the entire category to change its safety standard.

What consumer feedback have you received?

Kavanagh: After we introduced the Z-Code a few years ago, I started advocating with other allergy-friendly companies that they do the same. I was surprised by their resistance to adopt the idea. I talked to many good, conscientious companies who said that unless there was consumer demand for it, they wouldn’t take on the extra step to protect their customers.

To be fair, it is hard for companies to evaluate the comparative risk of testing each batch and possibly finding contamination versus not testing. As a result, a child can have an allergic reaction and/or the company has a recall, both of which happen infrequently. It’s so risky and expensive to produce an allergy friendly product, and companies are worried more frequent testing adds to the risk and expense, though I argue it decreases both in the long run.

A central goal of Zego is to be a catalyst for cleaning up the supply chain, and allergens are our starting point because the results of contamination are so dramatic, even fatal. To do this, we need to inform consumers so they can demand other companies increase their testing and adopt this new level of food safety.

Consumers, buyers and clean-food advocates love the transparency. It’s the other companies that are uneasy about it. There were so many more companies at the New Products Expo West this year making “Free From” claims—the category is exploding. It’s the right time for the allergy-friendly industry to take it up a notch to adopt this new batch-level testing and reporting standard.

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PACKEX and four other events are part of the Advanced Design & Manufacturing (ADM) Expo Toronto—Automation Technology Expo (ATX), PLAST-EX, Design & Manufacturing and Powder & Bulk Solids (PBS)—found under one roof May 16-18. For more, visit http://admtoronto.com

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How ecommerce can go green with flexible packaging

How ecommerce can go green with flexible packaging
Flexible packaging for ecommerce shipments offers a high product-to-package ratio—especially important as couriers move to charging by size in addition to weight (also known as dimensional or dim weight pricing).

The ecommerce market continues to expand as consumer demand increases for a digital point-of-sale, convenient product delivery and an effortless return, if necessary. In fact, research firm Forrester predicts U.S. online retail sales will reach $500 billion by 2020, up from $373 billion in 2016. 

While this growth is favorable for brands using an ecommerce platform, it presents a challenge in terms of packaging, particularly when aiming to operate a sustainable supply chain.

Ecommerce challenges

Aside from providing quality yet speedy door-to-door customer service, ecommerce industry professionals must maintain profit margins while operating sustainably. When brand managers plan their ecommerce shipping logistics, some major packaging challenges that emerge are how to achieve compactness and durable barrier protection, all the while maintaining the lowest possible carbon footprint.

The better protection packaging can provide the product’s journey to the consumer, the less likely it is for the product to become damaged and ultimately returned. In some cases, returns can cause the most waste and ecological harm. Returns represent fully-costed waste, as damaged products—which have already incurred the cost of production—then have to be processed, recycled and shipped to a landfill.

Ecommerce opportunities

Flexible packaging’s unique attributes can provide opportunities to tackle some of ecommerce’s largest sustainability challenges. Flexible packaging can reduce transportation costs and energy output because it is lighter to ship than rigid alternatives. By using flexible packaging, brands can reduce CO2 emissions by moving more product with fewer trucks and planes.

According to the Flexible Packaging Assn. (FPA), one truckload of flexible packaging is equivalent to 26 truckloads of glass jars. Flexible packaging also offers a higher product to package ratio—an especially important feature as couriers move to charging by size in addition to weight (dimensional or dim weight).

During transport, flexible packaging can also reduce waste by offering the appropriate barrier properties to protect the product. If, for instance, a liquid product breaks and spills during transport, flexible packaging is protected while other packaging formats—such as carton board—might be more susceptible to damage. A product that is damaged in this fashion is unusable and unreturnable, therefore becoming fully-costed waste.

Additionally, when considering that up to 40% of the food supply in the U.S. is not consumed—sending billions of pounds of food to the landfill and creating large amounts of methane gas—finding ways to extend the life of foods is paramount. This consideration is just as applicable for ecommerce as it is for traditional retailer channels, particularly with the growing market for deliverable produce and prepared meals.

Fortunately, flexible packaging can use multi-layered films that can provide enhanced protection against the myriad ways that food can be spoiled: air, moisture and sunlight. For instance, certain produce in flexible packaging can receive as much as five times the amount of shelf life over traditional forms of packaging.

Ecommerce benefits

With the projected growth of ecommerce over the next several years, it appears ecommerce is here to stay. Brands must continue to seek out packaging solutions that meet both consumer demand and preference.

While marrying sustainable business practices with ecommerce has challenges, flexible packaging can yield beneficial results for both the consumer and the brand. A brand can reduce its waste and carbon footprint, and increase shipping volumes and shelf life, while consumers pay less for shipping. Additionally, consumers could experience peace-of-mind that the packaging for their convenient online purchase is considerate of the environment.

If brand managers can demonstrate to consumers how the company’s flexible packaging choices are targeted efforts toward a more sustainable future, environmentally conscious consumers will likely become loyal customers.

Mark Brogan is director of technology and innovation at Printpack, a privately held manufacturer of flexible and specialty rigid packaging. Employing more than 3,200 associates worldwide, the company operates 19 manufacturing facilities in the United States, Mexico and China.

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Learn about the latest developments in flexible packaging at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!

8 tips for testing a new or concept package

8 tips for testing a new or concept package
Testing your new or concept package before it hits store shelves can give you insight into how well it will do with shoppers and how you can improve it.

When it comes to testing new packaging concepts or designs, the highest quality research and the most actionable insights must start with a good test. Over the years, we have found that the most successful projects keep a few simple things in mind, especially as it relates to eye tracking tests.

Thinking about the test itself as its own design project is directly related to how successful the test will be. Package tests for new-to-market or concept products are standard practice for new products, new planograms or existing products that are experiencing competition from emerging brands. Package tests can benefit greatly from an eye tracking methodology that allows the client to understand how their packaging design performs in terms of consumer attention in the retail aisle.

Let’s look at some key considerations for fielding research as it relates to package testing.

1. Include all partners in the methodology and design.

Many clients remain guarded about their concepts and it’s easy to see why. In an increasingly competitive consumer marketplace, one doesn’t want to give away too much detail or tip the scales to a rival brand or retailer.

But experience teaches that any partners who are involved in the research design can add invaluable guidance to a project’s overall success. The idea follows—the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Experienced personnel have seen the conditions of field research and can inform retail, brand and product managers of elements of the test they might not have thought of. While certainly not specialized in design, a good field technician understands the importance of consistency, how to deal with recruiting and administering tests to respondents, and how to mitigate bias that may be introduced when testing in a real store or a mock-store environment.

If possible, provide digital images of the new or concept packages to everyone involved with the research so that they can be clued in to the test designs prior to performing the research.

From top left, clockwise: (1) We start with a reference image of medication for children in concept packaging. (2) The standard heat map provides insight into hotspots for attention (red is most intense, blue is least intense) to understand where the consumer focuses his/her attention while examining the packaging concept. (3) Each enclosed shape is considered an area of interest (AOI). Darker blue AOIs are viewed for longer on average, while lighter blue AOIs are viewed for less time on average. (4) Darker red AOIs are viewed by a higher percentage of consumers, while lighter red AOIs are viewed by a lower percentage of consumers.

2. Let the shoppers perform their natural shop.

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as researchers is giving the shopper more information than necessary when they’re participating in a research study. When designing a package test methodology that uses eye tracking, of course ensure you’re recruiting the type of shoppers you want for the specific category. In the instructions for the shopper, make sure to ask the shopper to shop the category as they normally would, keeping in mind that this is how to determine if the new or concept package draws attention naturally from shoppers as they approach and shop the categories. Then allow the eye tracking equipment to record their shopping experience and step back and allow the shopper to perform this task as they normally would.

Moderators should refrain from talking to or influencing the shopper in any way during their test shop. Record notes and save the questions for the post-interview. This prevents as much test bias from encouraging the shopper toward the test packaging and allows for a realistic understanding of how the package draws attention.

3. Follow up the natural shop with a forced exposure.

Force expose the shopper to the package and ask them to examine it as if they were considering it for purchase either on the shelf or by asking the shopper to hold up the test or concept packaging.

Forced exposure, as part of a package test, allows for understanding the elements within a package design that draw and hold attention from shoppers while examining the package. From analyzing this part of the eye tracking data, researchers can learn if the important parts of the package are being noticed and what is being ignored. This will go a long way toward understanding how the overall package performs in terms of attention.

4. Review the video with the shopper to find out the “why.”

One of the best parts about eye tracking is that the videos are immediately available for review and can be used as a conversation tool for better understanding the shoppers’ behavior as it pertains to the test package. Reviewing the video with the respondent provides an opportunity to ask the shopper what they were thinking as they shopped and examined the package, as well as what they liked or didn’t like.

Invaluable information can come from these discussions, such as elements of the package people liked or didn’t like, what people thought they noticed about the package (which often differs from what they actually noticed) and gives ideas about clarity of information available to the shopper on the package as well.

5. Script your instructions as much as possible, while remaining consistent.

To ensure that testing conditions remain consistent, the ideal is having a script for interviewers to follow when administering shopping instructions for respondents performing the package test. Some flexibility within the instructions is key to consumer performance (and certainly provide additional explanation as needed), but remaining consistent allows for greater confidence in the research outcomes.

6. Get as much out of your test by leveraging relationships.

When testing a new-to-market product or concept package, make sure to reap the full benefits of often costly in-store or mock-store tests. When doing the test with an eye tracking component, make sure the supplier understands the key areas of interest for testing, including key competitive products and elements of the package. If testing a new package on the shelf, force expose the shopper to both the new and existing packaging to better understand how the new design affects attention on the package.

7. Don’t try to do to too much.

While it’s certainly important to get all the data you can from each test, don’t overdo it. Testing different planograms on shelf, while attempting to test new product packages, or other variables, may over-complicate the analysis.

By introducing multiple variables in a research study, it can be difficult to ascertain causation of any variances noticed in the analysis. Was it the vertical brand blocking that improved product visibility or the new concept packaging? Was it the location on the top shelf or the newly added on-shelf signage that influenced shoppers to interact with products?

While certainly it’s possible to test more than one variable with eye tracking, in a package test, it’s important to understand exactly what is being tested and allow interviewers to follow up with questions to the respondent after the fact.

8. Document everything, and we mean everything.

Something that has saved us headaches over the years has been an insistence on over-documenting the entire test process, everything from where the interviews are set up, to taking photos of the shelf throughout the day to ensure consistency after the fact. A quality camera is a field technician’s best friend and should be insisted upon by all clients doing in-store research, especially at the shelf level.

Prior to arriving in field for the package test, make sure all suppliers have proper documentation of what is being tested, what packages are being tested and what they should look like and other key items to pay attention to. Any and all information the field and analysis teams can have prior to arriving for the test will greatly benefit the outcome.

Package tests are key to understanding the performance of products in retail store environments. In performing a test with eye tracking, it’s important to keep these simple tips in mind while designing the test methodology to help the research team get the most out of the test results.

Kirk Hendrickson, CEO of Eye Faster, a leading provider of shopper research, developed his expertise in eye tracking and shopper research while leading worldwide field operations for EmSense Corp. and product management for MarketTools Inc. He holds a patent for conducting surveys on mobile phones and was twice a finalist for the EXPLOR Awards. Hendrickson holds a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration, Dartmouth College, and a Bachelor of Science (BS) and Master of Science (MS) in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.

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Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at PackEx Toronto 2017 (May 16-18; Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Register today!