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6 Options for Remote Packaging Machine Servicing

6 Options for Remote Packaging Machine Servicing
Using a mixed-reality program on a connected device allows a service tech to solve downtime issues without having to physically be in the manufacturing plant. Photo courtesy of Help Lightning

Because of COVID-19 travel restrictions and social-distancing requirements, many packaging machine builders are supporting their customers remotely now using a variety of technologies. Here are six options.

Most of America may be on lockdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic but essential manufacturing lines are still running. They need support from their packaging machine builders.

Field service is always expensive. Travel is one big cost. More costly yet is response time. Under the best of circumstances, it can take 24 hours or more to get a tech on site. What product manufacturer, even in normal times, can afford 24 hours of a machine being down?

Many packaging machine builders are supporting their customers remotely now using a variety of technologies. Here are six options:

1. PLCs connected to the internet.

Programmable Logic Controllers (PLCs) became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. They replace electro-mechanical controls, as seen at left in the photo below, with a small electronic box. Instead of tools, meters, and patience, troubleshooting is done using a laptop. It quickly became obvious that the laptop didn’t need to be at the machine but could be thousands of miles away. Initially with dial-up modems connecting to the internet, most modern machines allow remote troubleshooting.

Photo courtesy of Frain Industries.

2. Smart sensors.

High-speed networks, secure, always on VPN connections, and the cloud have enhanced this further. Some builders like ABB Robotics’ Ability Connected Services provide 24/7 monitoring of machine conditions and can notify of problems before they occur. Smart sensors, such as the GraceSense (see photo below), can continuously monitor temperature and vibration, and wirelessly send an alert locally or around the world before, rather than after, failure.

Photo courtesy of Grace Technologies.

3. Standalone internet of things (IoT) devices.

When the plant manager is working from home, they can’t tell what is happening on the packaging line. Is it running or down and why? Production output, rejects, and efficiencies are some of the data that can be accessed remotely via laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Systems range from the complex to simpler systems like this XL from Vorne. It will even send text or email notification when the line is down, running slow, or other trigger-events occur.

Photo courtesy of Vorne.

4. Smartphone apps.

Telepresence lets you be there without actually being there. We all have a camera in our pockets. With our smartphones, we can share what our camera is seeing, in real time, anywhere in the world. When a machine acts up, our phone shows the builder’s technician, even thousands of miles away, what’s happening. Language barriers and machine nomenclature no longer matter. They see what we see.

But wait, there’s more.

Help Lightning calls its app “Merged Reality.” The local tech focuses his or her phone or tablet on the area of interest. The remote tech not only sees this but can interact on the local phone screen. In this picture, we see the plant tech aiming the phone, and, on the local phone screen, the remote tech pointing something out.

Photo courtesy of Help Lightning.

5. Wearable connected headsets.

A number of companies make wearable headsets with embedded Android computers. RealWear is one (see photo below). Epson is another. Voice commands allow the wearer to pull up manuals, drawings, and more in the Heads Up Display (HUD) eyepiece. When they get stumped, assistance is a Skype call away. The built-in camera shows the remote tech what the local tech sees. The earpiece and mic allow them to discuss what is going on and what to do.

Photo courtesy John R. Henry.

6. Mixed-reality headsets.

JLS Automation has taken it even further, incorporating Microsoft’s HoloLens 2, an untethered mixed-reality headset, into its service repertoire. JLS president Craig Souser calls it “dumbed-down troubleshooting.” Unlike RealWear and other systems, the HoloLens allows the remote tech to be holographically present with the local tech. It may be the closest thing possible, at least today, to actual physical presence.

The lockdown has driven home that distance is no longer a barrier to service. Being there may be nice but no longer necessary in many cases. Distant assistance, remote monitoring, telepresence, and other future technologies will increase efficiencies by reducing downtime — and will reduce costs by eliminating delays in getting a tech onsite.

Bad as COVID-19 is, this shows that every cloud has a silver lining.

10 Popular Packaging Posts During the Height of COVID-19

10 Popular Packaging Posts During the Height of COVID-19
Photo credit: eldarnurkovic –

In early spring, the novel coronavirus infiltrated the United States, forcing most states to issue a stay-at-home order and many people to quickly set up home offices. Despite understandable distress and distractions, packaging professionals persisted in addressing pressing packaging issues, such as shifting consumer trends, sustainability, and, not surprisingly, industry reactions to COVID-19.

Here are the 10 best-read articles on, based on page views, during April 2020:


10. Kao’s New Pump ‘Bottle’ is Really Flexible Packaging

Packaging for the new MyKirei by Kao brand of vegan-friendly, plant-based personal-care products takes its cues from the Japanese Kirei sensibility, which favors sustainability as well as beauty, cleanliness, simplicity, and balance. Delicate graphics decorate the package, which looks like a rigid pump bottle but is, in fact, made from flexible packaging.


9. 5 Sustainable Packaging Trends to Look Out for in 2020

For sustainable packaging, 2020 is set to be a year of action and reaction, building on the fast-growing trends we have seen in the last two years. Here are the critical sustainable packaging trends to look out for in 2020.


8. Food Packagers Address Pandemic-Driven Risk to Supply Chains

For food manufacturers and packagers, the current and future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the supply chain is a nagging concern. A recent webinar about today’s coronavirus challenges offered insight into the supply chain disruptions and how businesses can manage that risk.


7. 8 Dramatic Ways Wine Packaging Innovates

From new designs, bottles, and labels to NFC, AR, AI, the cloud, and blockchain, there’s exciting options for wine brands to consider.


6. 7 Consumer Trends Driving Packaging Decisions

As an instrument of product sales, packaging must always be evolving. Because to have a successful product, brands must keep up with or stay ahead of the latest consumer trends. From a growth in ecommerce to an increased concern with sustainability, here are patterns in consumer behavior that influence today’s top packaging designs and developments.


5. 11 Influential Flexible Packs: FPA Gold Award Winners

Innovative flexibility in structure, sustainability, convenience, and utility characterized the winners in The Flexible Packaging Association’s 64th Annual Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Competition.


4. Brands Refit Packaging for Hand Sanitizers

To combat the spread of COVID-19, breweries, distillers, and others changeover to package sanitizers to supplement inadequate supplies.


3. Gerber Delivers First Single-Material Baby-Food Pouch

The world’s oldest and largest baby food company will introduce something that has not been seen before. Its new recyclable polypropylene pouch replaces an unrecyclable multilayer structure, as part of the brand’s move toward a more circular economy.


2. 8 Packaging Must-Reads from the First Quarter of 2020

Coronavirus-related news has been driving readership on practically every media platform for the past month. But looking back at the first three months of this year, several other topics also made our list of most-read articles here.

Among the top eight Packaging Digest articles for the first quarter of 2020, food packaging and beverage packaging were recurring themes. Packaging design, sustainable packaging, and branding also were compelling topics for our readers.


1. Fast and Furious: Pharmaceutical Company Makes and Packs Hand Sanitizer in Record Time

First-time sanitizer maker HR Pharmaceuticals gets a major assist from C-P Flexible Packaging in 10-day start-to-finish project in the fight against COVID-19.

Sustainably Optimized Flat Wine Bottles Enter US

Garcon Wines flat bottle
Space-saving flat wine bottles blowmolded of 100% recycled PET plastic are an ideal fit for US ecommerce channels. Image: Garçon Wines

UK flat bottle inventor Garçon Wines partners with Amcor to bring the ecommerce-ready packaging stateside in an rPET format.

Glass wine bottles have been around for at least 3,500 years and have been available in the familiar round shape recognized worldwide since the early 1800s.

In the last 20 years, lightweight polyethylene terephthalate (PET) wine bottles in that same shape were introduced. And in the last two years Garçon Wines in the United Kingdom debuted a category-busting new design innovation: flat wine bottles. Versus glass bottles, the flat bottles are…

  • 87% lighter;
  • 100% recyclable;
  • 40% spatially smaller, which means that more than twice the number of bottles fit on a pallet;
  • Stackable like books and save space at retail, at homes, and everywhere;
  • Slightly taller than an average bottle, which distinguishes them on the dining table and enables greater merchandising presence in a retail setting, increasing visibility, and driving sales.

A new collaboration between the inventor-brand and Amcor brings a toast-worthy, two-fold breakthrough: Not only is the format available in US markets for the first time, it will include bottles made of post-consumer recycled (PCR) PET plastic (rPET).

“As we are facing a climate emergency and existential threat, we urgently need to be making step changes to products to slash their carbon footprint,” says Santiago Navarro, CEO and co-founder, Garçon Wines. “Flattening the wine bottle saves space, and making it from recycled PET saves weight and energy. We are highly motivated by the opportunity to collaborate with Amcor for our flat wine bottles in the world’s largest wine market. As the leading plastic packaging company to the U.S. wine industry, Amcor is the perfect partner for the stateside launch of our innovative wine bottles.”

Jonathan Jarman, Amcor marketing manager, spirits & wine, responds to Packaging Digest’s questions about this innovative new packaging option.

What value does Amcor see in this arrangement?

Jarman: Garçon Wines is the innovator of the idea, first launching in the UK. Sustainability has always been Garçon’s primary focus. This inspired the use of PET for weight savings, the use of recycled material, a shape that would not only save space but also provide a convenience element by being more ecommerce friendly, and allows for the container to fit through the mail slot. 

In the US, the mail slot might not be as common, but the light weight and space-saving aspects certainly lend themselves to our growing interest in ecommerce. Lightweight, durable containers are ideal for food and beverage delivery through ecommerce and this package paves the way for that to happen in the wine world.

For Amcor’s technical and design teams, this is the kind of challenge we like to take on and are eager to solve. Our wine and spirits team was able to deploy wide-ranging resources and know-how to tackle a unique application and provide a solution for-large-scale production. Amcor is thrilled to be part of this journey with Garçon and we are equally thrilled to see where it takes us.  

What are the challenges in introducing the format stateside?

Jarman: Amcor has had extensive experience in designing and producing unique shapes such as flasks and travelers for decades. Our engineering and design teams have adapted our proven knowledge and capabilities to produce this unique wine container. Amcor has identified key partners, particularly on the handling/filling side, who have equally stepped up to the challenge to meet the filling needs of a large-scale manufacturing process.


What’s been Amcor’s footprint in the wine market?

Jarman: Amcor has been providing PET packaging for wine for more than 15 years. An evolution in wine drinking is underway and new modern packaging options are a way to capture the style and spirit of today’s younger consumer. Brands are looking to diversify their product lines and employ packaging for emerging brands and brand refreshes.

Amcor has been highly successful in 187mL wine bottles and is the largest supplier of PET bottles in the industry. With a drop in overall wine growth, the industry is shifting its attention to these younger consumers. This has been most apparent in the last few years with more size options, higher quality wines in bag-in-box, the birth of the craft style winery, and more “alco-pop” options such as seltzer and craft cocktails. 

PET is a desirable alternative over other packaging materials because it is less expensive, in greater supply, easily customizable, extremely durable, resealable, and results in up to 70% less greenhouse gas emissions. PET containers can be offered in different sizes, finishes, and can include an overcap.

Amcor designers continually work on the latest PET bottle innovations to meet the evolving requirements of brand owners and manufacturers in the wine industry.

What can you tell us about manufacturing and investment?

Jarman: No extraordinary costs were incurred in this development. This project fell within Amcor’s standard product development effort for design of a custom container and didn’t pose any particular molding challenges. Amcor’s wine and spirits team is able to capitalize on existing best practices and know-how in design and engineering.

The company is considering production at a facility on the West coast or Midwest.

What are size and color options?

Jarman: It will be available only in 750mL for now, but other sizes are on the horizon.

It will be available in clear and any colors that customers request. One of the advantages of PET is the ease and flexibility to produce an almost limitless range of colors.

Final thoughts?

Jarman: I will add that in addition to our excitement in working with Garçon, our partnership with them is reflective of our desire to take on unique challenges. It requires thinking about existing markets in different ways. Bringing new ideas like Garçon’s to life is extremely rewarding. The flat Garçon wine package is an inspired vision and to be trusted to turn that into something widely available in the US is a very high compliment.

 All images: Garçon Wines


How Robotics Beef Up Food Packaging Automation

How Robotics Beef Up Food Packaging Automation
Photo credit: industrieblick -

The number one operational improvement in the crosshairs of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies in the food sector remains automation, particularly robotics. So much so that actual robotic usage continues to outperform end-user forecasts.

According to the Trends and Advances in Food Packaging and Processing report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, in 2014, companies forecasted robotics would be operating in 82% of manufacturing plants in the US. In 2018, actual usage reached 88%. In 2019, the number of companies using robotics will tick up to 90%. In the next five years, nearly all manufacturers will likely be operating robotics somewhere on the plant floor.

Here are four recent improvements that are helping drive this wide-spread adoption:

1. Robotics today are more affordable than they have ever been.

The initial machine cost of robotics continues to decline, and installation and integration service costs are falling. Reduced programming costs have cut the average time to achieve return on investment (ROI) in the last decade. In addition, simplified programming and service routines are mitigating the need for retaining costly robotics experts as full-time employees.

2. Robots can be cleaned easily.

As technology has improved, robots can now perform in a range of environments while still conforming with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). Sanitation issues were once a deal-breaker for food. But new washdown compatible robots are available and popping up throughout the production line — to the extent that washdown-capable sanitary robots are also finding applications outside of food and beverage in industries that still require hygienic production environments, like pharma and medical device manufacturing.

Washdown-compatible robots provide tangible benefits to food producers by reducing operational costs, improving food safety, and eliminating tasks that pose an injury risk to human operators. The development of hygienic robotics has also drastically reduced the maintenance costs of robots operating in harsh industrial environments, by up to 60%.

3. Robotics operate at high speed now.

Along with other technologies, such as vision systems, robots can process information at a greater rate and operate at far higher throughput levels than that of a human worker. Besides improved speed, robots offer a higher level of accuracy and repeatability. This not only improves the rate of production but also reduces downtime and waste caused by human errors, such as incorrect positioning of a product.

4. Robotic grippers can gently handle more products.

With developments in complimentary technologies, such as gripper technologies, the ability of robots to handle more fragile products and reduce damage has improved significantly. As this technology continues to grow, this will broaden the potential applications for robot usage. For example, engineers have developed a sensor small enough to be placed on the end of a glove that can accurately measure the direction and intensity of pressure. The sensor is so accurate that a robot equipped with it can safely contact a blueberry or raspberry without crushing it.

How Lush Enlists Packaging Partners in its Sustainability Quest

How Lush Enlists Packaging Partners in its Sustainability Quest
From selling “naked” (unpackaged) products like soap cakes to buying responsibly sourced paper packaging, Lush lives its environmental values.

Health and beauty companies looking to establish or expand their sustainability commitment should keep these four main takeaways top of mind when looking for packaging supply chain partners.

The founders of Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics wanted to keep it simple. They began creating cruelty-free beauty products in the late 1970s based on their own personal principles. That guiding ethos happily remains the company’s lodestar, fostering brand loyalty among generations of customers now served by 900 stores in 49 countries circling the globe. 

For Lush, a commitment to sustainability and the environment is the crux of its brand promise. — It keeps that promise, day in and day out, by finding and nurturing complex supply chain partnerships with suppliers that live and operate by similar values.

“The overarching first step is that Lush will only partner with companies that share the same type of values we do, which are centered on making the world a better place,” says the company’s print and gift packaging buyer, Karen Moll. “We have put together the Lush Foundation, which is essentially our code of conduct. It sets the expectations we have, and also details our aspirational goals.”

Moll has been with the company since 2012 and is responsible for sourcing ethical packaging, working with local and global suppliers to procure 100% recycled substrates, fulfilling Lush’s brand promise.

“We only buy 100% recycled material because it reduces garbage to landfill, expends less energy, has less of a carbon footprint, and reduces greenhouse gasses,” Moll says.

Many Lush products are “naked,” meaning that Lush does not package solid products, such as soaps and bath bombs. But when paper materials are necessary, Lush uses ethical buying practices and a transparent commitment to sustainability.

Monadnock Paper Mills is one of the company’s packaging supplier partners. Monadnock is increasing its use of recycled and unique plant-based fibers to make its products. The company is Forest Stewardship Council-certified (FSC C018866; ensuring responsible use of forest resources) and all its papers are manufactured carbon neutral, with 100% renewable electricity.

There’s a lot of synergy between Lush and Monadnock. And while papermaking may be an ancient industry, we’re delighted that Lush has discovered Monadnock’s innovative approach to creating sustainable and environmentally responsible packaging.

According to Moll, health and beauty companies looking to establish or expand their sustainability commitment should keep these four main takeaways top of mind when looking for packaging supply chain partners:

1. Set clear goals.

It can be through aggressive goal-setting, forward-thinking Sustainability Reports, or a simple premise, but start with the basics. How do companies define sustainability and how are they going to be increasingly sustainable? What are the time horizons? This key decision will serve as the bulwark upon which companies can start to make difficult decisions. Lush has a clear vision and it drives how it operates, what it produces, and with whom it partners.

2. Go deep.

Supply chain partnerships will be critical to meeting sustainability goals. Companies will need to “eliminate the middleman” and get to know the owners of their potential supply-chain partners, understanding not just what they produce but how they produce it. For example, what is their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) commitment as it relates to how it treats its employees? Lush meets on-site with its global supply base to ensure that its core values are aligned.

3. Commit to the costs.

Living up to a brand’s sustainability promise isn’t easy. The time commitment in foraging for and forging compelling supply chain relationships is substantial. Frequently, there are additional hard costs in sourcing natural ingredients and sustainable substrates. Measuring the return on investment (ROI) can be challenging. Lush sees it as an investment in its customers and its continued success, 900 retail outlets and counting.

In its stores, Lush offers shoppers the option of wrapping products bought as gifts in a reusable scarf instead of single-use wrapping paper.

4. Tell your story.

As companies move steadily ahead with the previous three points, they then need to ensure that they effectively communicate to end-use customers and potential supply-chain partners. What has been achieved, why does it matter, and how does the sustainability journey continue? Lush maintains a well-earned grip on its overall brand narrative and communicates frequently on its owned, earned, and paid channels.

COVID-19 Spurs Spike in Sustainable To-Go Food Packaging

COVID-19 Spurs Spike in Sustainable To-Go Food Packaging
Sustainable paper packaging delivers an eat-at-home solution that's both recyclable and compostable.

Restaurants’ all-or-nothing pivot to takeout and delivery reignites the ‘paper or plastic’ debate for foodservice packaging.

As Americans isolate in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s been a definitive surge in the demand for food delivery. Apps like Uber Eats and Grubhub have seen a significant uptake in orders placed and have now become a vital lifeline for struggling restaurants. Many food delivery apps have even changed their policies and waived delivery fees to further encourage people to stay home.

Furthermore, fast food restaurants, such as Burger King and Subway, have ramped up advertising campaigns to promote free delivery and encourage patrons to order their favorite meals right to their door, making food accessible while maintaining social distancing.

This situation represents a new and unique dilemma for brands that have built a reputation on their commitment to sustainable practices in response to consumer preferences. Just last year, a Consumer Trends Report from Asia Pulp & Paper showed that 64% of Americans prefer to purchase food products packaged sustainably.

Despite this demand for sustainable packaging, single-use plastic is still produced in vast quantities. Global production of plastic packaging equates to approximately 78 million metric tons, of which a meager 14% is recycled. Plastic bags can take upwards of 10 to 12 years to decompose, while plastic bottles can take upwards of 20 years to break down due to their more complex and thicker polymers. Additionally, expanded polystyrene foam, aka “Styrofoam”, commonly used for takeout packaging takes 500 years to completely decompose.

Over the past decade, there has been a substantial shift toward sustainable packaging, but COVID-19 has flipped this shift on its head. Due to the safety concerns of reusable bags, containers and mugs, plastic bags and packaging have reemerged as the assumed safer alternative to reusable ones. Social distancing measures now have consumers relying more heavily on food delivery services, further adding to a high demand for disposable food packaging that maintains food safety and quality. Habits that took close to a decade or more to establish are vanishing in just days.

Consumers are paying close attention to how the businesses they patronize are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the brands they trust to feed their families. Sustainability, safety, accessibility, and attention to quality are all key considerations as shoppers adjust their day-to-day purchasing decisions.

Food packaging plays a major role in meeting these consumer demands — including preserving food quality, assuring protection from contamination and providing customer convenience. It also forms an extension of a brand’s personality and reinforces its commitment to a healthier planet.

For restaurants that have made public sustainability commitments, now is still a time when innovation is possible, even amidst drastic market changes. As restaurant brands are evaluating their supply chains and navigating potential disruptions, options exist for brands that are phasing single-use plastic out of the rotation.

It is for this reason that the makers of sustainable, recyclable, and compostable take-out containers are racing to connect with packaging companies. For organizations that have been able to maintain steady production as the crisis has developed, they have an opportunity to support food brands as lockdowns continue to interrupt the normal course of business worldwide. Paper packaging products such as the Bio Natura Foopak solution from Asia Pulp & Paper provide a solution that is both recyclable and compostable, allowing for brands to continue to reduce plastic and Styrofoam usage without interrupting crucial workflow. Solutions like this maintain the food quality and safety that consumers are paying attention to now more than ever, while making it easier for consumers to sustainability dispose of the packaging once their food arrives at home. This kind of paper solutions is more easily recycled while also being industrial compostable within 12 weeks—a drastic difference from plastic containers, cups, and straws.

Now is the time for food and restaurant brands to connect with their supply chains and understand how safety and sustainability come together in this moment of crisis. As the surge for food delivery services continues, the packaging industry will continue to innovate to help food brands satisfy consumer demands for both environmental sustainability and unprecedented mass consumption.

COVID-19 Brings Out American Ingenuity in Packaging

COVID-19 Brings Out American Ingenuity in Packaging
From fast turnaround on package printing and repurposing manufacturing to make face shields, American packaging manufacturers step up to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any student of WWII knows that the US became a manufacturing juggernaut for itself and its allied partners. With all the emphasis on the global economy over the last few decades, it’s easy to forget how powerful US industry can become when it sets its eyes on a goal.

Nobody expected the impact of COVID-19. But here we are, in a different kind of war, and our manufacturing capabilities are seriously depleted. But despite the news we hear of shortages, I’m seeing that same wartime spirit of innovation and collaboration come together to defeat this new adversary.

90+ volunteers, 3 weeks, more than 17,000 units of PPE for frontline warriors.

I saw a post on social media from a colleague and friend of mine who was putting together a consortium of companies (and individuals) from a range of specialties, from 3D printer hobbyists to packaging design firms like mine to traditional printers.

Mask straps (ear savers) were created on FORCEpkg’s 3D printer.

Berk’s PPE Resource Network is a group of Pennsylvania-based companies and volunteers that are using a crowd-sourcing approach to manufacture face shields, mask frames, and mask straps (personal protective equipment or PPE). The products are being donated to healthcare workers and first responders. My company, FORCEpkg, had recently set-up a 3D printer, although we’d never really printed anything serious, only test models and a few Star Wars-related pieces. Through this amazing organization, and with the help of the other partners within the consortium, the group went go from producing 20 face shields per day to several hundred per day (see photo right at top of page).

People with diverse skill sets from a host of different industries and backgrounds were on our Build Team. We’ve gotten funding and material support from universities, school districts, printers, manufacturers, research centers, design firms — you name it.

Think about it. These people were strangers just a few weeks ago. They’ve come together as a cohesive, working team simply because they saw a vital need and a cause bigger than themselves. It’s no wonder the website quotes Coretta Scott King as their guide:

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”

Coincidentally, a similar effort is being made by Out Front Protect. I got a call from Ed Moeller, an old friend/colleague who is technically a competitor, but in today’s environment, who cares? His group is producing face shields by rallying traditional carton printers, label printers, and die cutters. Out Front Protect offers a pattern for a single-sheet, die cut PPE face shield — right on the website It’s a free download and available to suppliers everywhere.

To date, this effort has resulted in the distribution of free shields throughout the nation. And over the April 18 weekend, Ed hopped in the car and personally delivered a batch of face shields to a Brooklyn hospital. As you can tell by his actions, this is personal … “Out Front Protect is a result of the desperate plea for PPE echoed by his daughter, an ER nurse in Las Vegas.”

Answering the call for clean hands with just a three-week turnaround.

KO-SAFE was the brainchild of some socially minded business collaborators: KO-Industries and K2 Kinetics. For anyone who’s gone to the store looking for hand sanitizer, you are familiar with the phrase, “We’re out.”

On March 23, Ben McGlaughlin of K2 Kinetics emailed me with a Drug Facts panel and a request to design five different label sizes — and a new branding and graphics system (see photo left at the top of the page). Oh, and by the way, they needed it “last Friday.”

Says Kevin Keller, managing director of K2 Kinetics, “We deliver automated processing and packaging solutions to the food and beverage industry. We had the machines, sourced the bottles, caps, and spray atomizers and got the product from a chemical company that mixed the ingredients. All we needed was a brand and labeling, which we got from FORCE. In about three weeks, we were able to pull all this together, as well as FDA approval.” That included brand name generation, parent company, and brand logo creation — and FDA-compliant packaging design for five stock-keeping units (SKUs). And, keep in mind, this company did not even exist until mid/late March.

KO-Industries wanted to get samples out, so FORCE was printing labels and delivering them on weekends. The product comes in 2-, 4-, and 8-oz, half liter, and gallon sizes. As they’re signing on retailers, more and more are coming on board. We expect that health issues around COVID-19 will be long term, much like security was after 9/11.

Newly created company KO-SAFE packs hand sanitizer in various sizes. Branding and package design happened in about three weeks.

All of these efforts — all of this networking — it’s all about relationships. People we know, people we knew and haven’t talked to in years … people we didn’t know at all. They all came together to solve a problem. Professionals know who we can count on and who we can trust. We may be competitors in business, and we may not agree on everything politically, but it doesnt matter. We can get back to all that later. For now, let’s show what American innovators can do.

The American Spirit is alive and well. We may have differences, but together we can overcome any obstacle.

Will Compostable Film Prove a Fruitful Solution for Produce Waste?

Will Compostable Film Prove a Fruitful Solution for Produce Waste?
Pilot in India for packs of precut mushrooms shows difference in standard film versus BioFreshPak bioplastic film (bottom) after seven days.

New BioFreshPak film boosts shelf life without refrigeration and is ambiently compostable within 180 days.

Packaging continues to perform a number of key roles in the promotion, marketing, and protection of the goods. It’s that last role where packaging can take on a starring role to help reduce food waste.

Correct packaging, testing, and temperature control are fundamental to enhancing the shelf life of fresh produce, which is all the more vital as figures for global food wastage continue to soar. Current estimates place that amount close to 1.6 billion tonnes. Relatedly, World Food Waste reports that one ton of food waste prevented could save 4.2 equivalent tons of carbon dioxide.

Consumer demand for fresh, convenient and healthy foods that are nutritious and safe has led to an increased amount of fresh-cut vegetables, fruits, and ready-made convenience foods. Unfortunately, these kinds of foods typically have a short shelf-life due to inadequate temperature and packaging management.

Landfilled produce amounts remain high even in developed countries with modernized packaging and temperature-management conditions. In developing countries, the situation is far worse as a high percentage of food is wasted between harvest and market due in the main to poor packaging. In India some 40% of foodstuffs are wasted before reaching the market; all packaging is done at the processing stage and most of it traps moisture, which causes the food to rapidly deteriorate.

Food spoilage represents an environmental problem as well as an ethical issue, which is why being able to increase the shelf-life of food is a key step.

Fruitful BioFreshPak pilot in India.

Food spoilage that occurs due to poor packaging is an important challenge for organizations to solve. That spurred Innovate UK, with the help of the Newton Fund, to back a British and Indian consortium to find a solution to the problem.

The project started in September 2017 in India has led to the successful completion of trials for a unique breathable film made of compostable polymers and waste starch.

The project’s consortium focused to slowing ripening and enhancing the storage stability of food during transport, even at higher ambient temperatures. Current solutions such as polylactic acid (PLA) film have proven successful, but only to a point: PLA is slow to decompose outside of a controlled environment. Unfortunately, most of it ends up in landfill where it is estimated to take somewhere between 100 to 1,000 years to decompose.

The consortium’s innovative plastic film, BioFreshPak, slows ripening and enhances storage stability of food during transport, even at high temperatures. Its unique blend includes thermoplastic starch (TPS) and other polymers that are room-temperature compostable. The film offers selective humidity and permeability control to maintain nutrients. Furthermore, this film has the capacity to increase storage-life performance of specific foods by two to five days without refrigeration.

Unlike PLA, which relies predominantly on genetically modified corn, BioFreshPak is produced with under-utilized agricultural byproducts such as second-grade tapioca starch from cassava processing waste. It is compostable in ambient conditions, breaking down in less than 180 days.

Reducing food spoilage and therefore waste goes a long way towards addressing interconnected sustainability challenges, such as climate change, food security, and natural resource shortages. It's game-changing packaging solutions such as BioFreshPak that take us closer to our goal of drastically reducing food waste.

Consortium members:


Brunel University  

Greenwich University  

Solutions 4 Plastic

Earth Champions Foundation

Manbras Plastronics   


Punjab Agricultural University

P&G Launches All-Paper Deodorant Packaging

P&G Launches All-Paper Deodorant Packaging
P&G Beauty's new all-paper deodorant tube was designed "to appeal to women and men looking for more sustainable package options in the beauty and personal care space, especially Millennial and Gen Z consumers."

Launching tomorrow, May 1, in 500 Walmart stores across the US, Procter & Gamble Beauty’s limited-edition all-paper tube for Secret and Old Spice deodorant displaces some plastic stick deodorant canisters, helping the company and brands reach their goal of, by 2030, using 100% recyclable or reusable packaging while cutting virgin petroleum-based plastic by 50%.

With a suggested retail price of $9.99, the paper tube package contains invisible solid aluminum-free deodorant available in new scents made with essential oils: Secret Rose + Geranium and Old Spice Cedar & Salt.

During development of this new package, P&G Beauty enlisted help from consumers. According to Freddy Bharucha, vice president of personal care for P&G Beauty, “We co-designed this package with consumers who are interested in cutting back on plastic waste. The majority of Gen Z consumers have high expectations for environmentally friendly products.”

If this market test is successful, P&G Beauty says it will expand the all-paper package across more of its line-up.

P&G Beauty is partnering with Walmart on this market test because the retailer also has aggressive sustainability goals. In a press release, Jason Kloster, senior buying manager, Body Care & Grooming, at Walmart, said, “Walmart is steadfast in its commitment to transform retail in the interest of environmental sustainability. As the largest retailer in the world partnering with the largest deodorant and antiperspirant brands in the U.S., we know this new paperboard package has the potential to have significant positive impact and lay the groundwork for even broader impact.” 

Anitra Marsh, associate director of global sustainability and brand communications for P&G Beauty, shares more details about the package, its development, and its future in this exclusive Packaging Digest interview.

Why test this package with two brands, and why these two: Secret and Old Spice? One for male consumers and one for females?

Marsh: Old Spice and Secret are leading antiperspirant and deodorant brands. More sustainable innovation on big brands like these have the potential to have the biggest environmental impact.


According to your info: “If successful, P&G will expand the new package across more of its line-up.” How will you measure “success”?

Marsh: If consumers buy the product and like using it, we will know we are successful.

If successful, will this all-paper package fully replace your plastic stick canisters?

Marsh: We can’t predict the future. Right now, we are trying to learn on whether consumers buy the paper tube package and like using it. We are committed to making more of our products recyclable or reusable and that means we are looking at many different types of materials including recyclable plastics and other materials. We remain committed to reducing plastics within our business.

We are focused on the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. This year, we reduced the amount of plastic in our Secret antiperspirant and deodorant package by 8% saving 900,000 pounds of plastic waste. And in January 2020, we included the How2Recycle logo on our package to help guide consumers on how to recycle them.


If the consumer response is good, but the recycling test isn’t, will you still expand the package format to more brands? Why or why not?

Marsh: We are aiming for 100% recyclability and will keep working until we achieve this.

What are you doing to test this package for recyclability?

Marsh: The [second phase of our] recyclability test will be conducted this summer, and we are aiming for 100% recyclability.

Do you have any early results from the phase-one test for recyclability?

Marsh: We expect to have insights from the second phase of our recyclability test this summer.

What is/will be involved in the second phase of recyclability testing?

Marsh: The second phase of testing will confirm recyclability and re-pulpability for our final tube design and materials.

Who is your packaging supplier(s) for this all-paper tube?

Marsh: This is proprietary information that we are unable to disclose.

It says “Limited Edition” on the container. How long will this all-paper package be tested? Or how many packages will be test-marketed if you’re doing it by product volume rather than over a specific time period?

Marsh: For this pilot, we will be selling in 500 Walmart stores.  We don’t have specific numbers to share but it will be limited while we learn.

For the co-design project, did you involve consumers of all ages or just Gen Z?

Marsh: We co-designed these packages with consumers interested in cutting back on plastic waste including but not limited to Gen Z consumers.

How did the co-design process work? What insights did you learn from the co-design process?

Marsh: We co-designed this package with consumers who are interested in cutting back on plastic waste. We used qualitative interviews with consumers using various prototypes to determine what features they like and don’t like.

We also checked whether the design was intuitive. The “push up” design is something consumers intuitively understand from experiences in other categories, so this was appealing to them.  

I’ve tried one of the samples. I found that I had to hold my finger on the bottom to keep the deodorant from falling back down into the tube as I applied it. Is that how it is supposed to work or was I doing something wrong?

Marsh: The intent is that product remains above the tube when dispensed, without needing to support it with your finger. You might have received one of our early sales samples. We would be happy to send you another sample.

What is the tube’s inner lining made of and why do you need it?

Marsh: The inner and outer layers do not contain recycled paper to ensure compatibility with the product and consistent, legible labeling.

According to the info you sent: “The paper tube package will contain an invisible solid deodorant available in new scents made with essential oils…” It sounds like the products were reformulated. Correct? Was that necessary because of the packaging change? To be compatible/functional with a paper package?

Marsh: The invisible solid deodorants with essential oils were chosen based on their appeal to our target consumer for this product and are not related to the choice of package material. We also sell other Secret products with essential oils in plastic deodorant canisters (that is,  Lavender and Eucalyptus).

Why use 90% post-consumer recycled paper in this package? Why not 100%?

Marsh: This paper tube uses 90% recycled content and is certified by the FSC [Forest Stewardship Council]. FSC certification ensures that products come from responsibly managed forests that provide environmental, social and economic benefits.

Paper can be recycled many times; however, it cannot be recycled endlessly because the paper fibers will get shorter every time due to the recycling process. Therefore, new paper fibers are added to the post-consumer recycled paperboard pulp to strengthen the base material.

Additionally, the inner and outer layers do not contain recycled paper to ensure compatibility with the product and consistent, legible labeling.

Tell us about the packaging graphics. How were they designed?

Marsh: Beautiful packaging is important in this category. We made sure that the design was attractive yet still retained the cues to let shoppers know that it is made of 90% recycled paperboard.

What does the design communicate to the consumer?

Marsh: We think this package will appeal to women and men looking for more sustainable package options in the beauty and personal care space, especially Millennial and Gen Z consumers.

There are highlighted areas with metallic color. What is the technology used?

Marsh: The metallic look is created with cold foil stamping.

Are you filling these all-paper tubes in a P&G plant? If so, what was needed to do so? Did you have to set up a new packaging line or did you modify an existing packaging line?

Marsh: This is proprietary information that we are unable to disclose.

Walmart has more than 4,700 stores in the US. How did you select which 500 stores will carry this all-paper package?

Marsh: Walmart decides which assortments to offer in which stores.

According to your information: “The products’ suggested retail price is $9.99.” The all-paper package holds 2.0 oz. On Amazon, I can buy a 2.6-oz Secret plastic deodorant package for around $3. Why such a markup on the price of this product/package?

Marsh: The suggested retail pricing for this Secret formulation in a paper tube package is the same as our Secret with Essential Oils deodorants in plastic packaging ($9.99). Both contain high-quality essential oils. Suggested retail prices for Old Spice and Secret antiperspirant and deodorants range from $4.99 - $11.99. However, pricing is set by retailers, which is why you see variance in the marketplace.

Packaging Design

5 Benefits of Owning Your Packaging Specs

5 Benefits of Owning Your Packaging Specs
Consider the advantages of compiling and owning all your packaging drawings, dielines, and specifications as a strategic activity. Image: planet Earth/Adobe Stock

Packaging specifications are the backbone of your products' packaging system, yet not all companies internalize ownership of their specs.

Packaging specifications, aka specs, are the backbone of your product’s packaging system. They are the key communication tool to communicate our designs, requirements, and graphics to our packaging suppliers. Yet not all companies internalize ownership of their packaging specs, leaving a gap in their process on the quest towards quality that drives a Packaging Center of Excellence.

Packaging components will vary depending on material type and will often include a detailed drawing layout for production, a dieline for graphics and written directions to ensure conformance to ISO or FDA requirements.

Because the vast world of packaging touches all industries, packaging specifications will cover a similar wide range of materials and packaging types including corrugated fiberboard, paperboard, flexible films, bottles, closures, labels, pallets, and stretch film to name a few. When you consider the various tiers of primary, secondary and tertiary packaging within your value chain, the list will be quite expansive.

Currently packaging specs can live within enterprise planning resource (ERP) or existing product lifecycle management (PLM) systems. These platforms allow for internal process control, revision control and visibility across multiple sites and geographies.

However, not all companies are as advanced in identifying the value within packaging or especially owning those packaging specifications. In many instances, drawings and specifications are written and controlled by the packaging material suppliers. And while these suppliers also need their own specs to produce these materials, it leaves little control or ownership for the brand user.

Compiling and owning all of your packaging drawings, dielines, and specifications may be a long-term strategic activity, depending on the number of product SKUs and packaging components within your operations. But once you gather all this information there can be significant benefits for your organization:

1. Speed to react: When the time comes for change — to improve operational efficiency, address a quality concern, to implement sustainability programs, or execute a strategic sourcing initiative — having access to your specs can save days on the front end of your change management process. Easy access to digitized drawings and specs within your internal system enables fact-based collaboration to address any changes or modifications.

2. Competitive sourcing: When a single packaging vendor controls your design specifications it provides limited opportunities to shop other vendors for reduced costs, better service levels or improved quality. Pulling together bid packets without having your own digitized specifications can then be an arduous task requiring significant time and resources to compile these documents

3. Geographic flexibility/flexible operations: Having the ability to shift sources of supply or move manufacturing operations to different geographic locations allows for a lower rate of risk within your supply chain. Whether your company is looking to move manufacturing from China to Vietnam or from California to South Carolina, owning your digital packaging specifications can enable seamless transitions when these supply chain shifts are needed

4. Improved communications: Many companies operate with a centralized corporate packaging engineering team which support satellite plant manufacturing and production. Owning packaging specs within your systems can allow for fast and effective communication and collaboration with remote sites and cross-functional teams.

5. Version control: Following any new product launch, it’s common that packaging is optimized to maximize the product’s profitability.  To achieve results, both designs and materials are often incrementally revised — changes to the primary, secondary, or tertiary packaging, or to all levels. Maintaining ownership of your packaging drawings and specifications allows for improved control managing these revisions along the way.

There can be great strategic value to internalizing and owning your packaging material specifications. Creating digitized specifications and owning these documents within your system is a foundational task on the road to establishing a Packaging Center of Excellence within your organization.