Novelty Ice Cream Downsizes Packs, Upsizes Benefits

Novelty Ice Cream Downsizes Packs, Upsizes Benefits
Single-serve packs of My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream balls increase convenience and food safety.

Portable single-serve polypropylene packaging for My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream balls conveniently serves food safely and with waste reduction.

Is it a snack or is it a dessert?

The answer is yes to both for an unusual shape in frozen desserts from My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream, a Las-Angeles-based brand of ice cream balls that’s claimed as America's fastest growing frozen novelty.A mochi ball is a scoop of premium ice cream wrapped in sweet, pillowy rice mochi dough for a fun and portable hand-held snacking experience.

Now the brand is serving up its unique dessert snacks in an innovative new format, single-serve packaging, to ensure optimal quality and freshness along with food safety. The new packs will be available in the self-serve My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream Bar at retailers throughout the country.

"Today's consumer is exceptionally aware of the issues surrounding food safety and food waste" says Russell Barnett, CMO of My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream. "Not only will the new individual packs give My/Mo a longer shelf life and reduce waste, but it will improve hygienic standards by eliminating the open exposure of the mochi to consumers. This is an important consideration during a time when food safety is top of mind for many Americans."

Barnett addresses Packaging Digest’s questions in this exclusive interview.

Tell us about the original packaging.

Barnett: Aside from the new single-serve packaging, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream offers all of its flavors in a six-pack container. The six-pack is the original My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream packaging and has been available since the product first hit stores in 2017.

Please describe the new product and packaging.

Barnett: The new single-serve packaging is made of a recyclable plastic, polyethylene, same as the original six-count package.

The dimensions of one single-serve [thermoformed] container is 1.62-inch high x 2.65-inch-wide x 2.65-inch deep. It’s sized to fit one 100-calorie My/Mo Mochi ball, which weighs 1.5oz. That’s the weight of a single My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream ball that is in our six pack — we did not change the size of our mochi balls.

What were the design goals?

Barnett: The single-serve packaging was designed to ensure ultimate product safety, quality and freshness. The visual aspect was created to reflect the design of My/Mo’s classic six-packs, as well as showcase the product’s look and texture and the fun, playful identity of the brand. We worked on developing the new packaging design for over a year to ensure we were providing consumers with the best and safest option for optimal consumption.

What’s an unmet consumer need that the new format addresses?

Barnett: Today’s consumer is exceptionally aware of the issues surrounding food safety and food waste. Not only will the new individual packs give My/Mo a longer shelf life and reduce waste, but it will improve hygienic standards by eliminating the open exposure in the Mochi Bars. This is an important consideration during a time when food safety is top of mind for many Americans. In addition to reducing food waste and spoilage that can occur with loose, unpackaged mochi ice cream, the individual packs give consumers more freedom and confidence to grab-and-go with the 100-calorie, pillowy My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream balls.

Anything further to say about the food safety aspect?

Barnett: Food safety and employee safety has always been our top priority. Before COVID-19, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream had recognized the need to ensure food safety by starting development of our new single-serve packaging in mid-2019. In addition, My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream has the highest rating from The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which is one of the few certification programs that assures packaging suppliers are compliant to the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI). 

What’s the balance between waste reduction versus more per-unit packaging?

Barnett: There’s no increase in per-unit packaging as our current trays carry six balls. The new package essentially breaks these into individual servings. My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream is proud to offer this additional level of protection with the new individual packs, all without contributing any additional packaging waste that could have an impact on the environment. Because we’re managing food waste, the single-serve packaging required an estimated 20% less packaging. 

What’s the shelf life and pricing?

Barnett: Each pack has a one-year shelf life and is printed with a “Best By” date to ensure freshness and maintain the integrity of the mochi ice creams’ taste and texture. That’s the same as our six pack.

The SRP of My/Mo Mochi’s single-serve is $1.50 to $2 per mochi ball, depending on retailer.

What’s next for the brand?

Barnett: The brand recently expanded its flavor portfolio with the release of three new flavors in March: Banana Chocolate Cream, Orange Vanilla, and Non-Dairy & Vegan Neapolitan. The new flavors were inspired by summer favorites, like ice cream sundaes and orange creamsicles. My/Mo Mochi Ice Cream continues to disrupt the snack industry by focusing on reinventing classic universal favorites into new, innovative concepts, and we are constantly looking to expand and continue our mission of bringing mochi to the masses. We have lots of exciting things planned for the rest of the year — stay tuned!

The company website is mymomochi.com

3 Reusable Packaging Perspectives from Popular Brands

Photos courtesy of Loop Loop reusable packages montage
Reusable packages from Clorox, Nestlé and Soapply sold by Loop offer beauty and functionality, as well as sustainability.

Last year, recycling/upcycling firm TerraCycle launched Loop, a shopping platform for zero-waste-packaging products, with the support of some of the world’s biggest brands (see “Loop and big brands boldly reinvent waste-free packaging.”) Together, the eco-commerce provider and the brands have learned that there is indeed a market of consumers who will by Crest mouthwash, Tide laundry detergent, and myriad other products from Loop’s online store — then return their empty packages to be cleaned, refilled, and reused.

Since its early 2019 introduction, Loop’s business has grown from a direct-to-your-doorstep model with regional service to testing of mass-market retail partnerships to imminent national coverage. Retail partners include Kroger and Walgreens in the US market, Canada’s Loblaws, and the U.K.-based Tesco chain. Germany and Japan are on the horizon, too.

Turning to package design, appealing design and decor, convenience, and affordability are keys to all packaging. For reusable designs, add the challenge of environmental sustainability — along with economic viability. So far, it appears the fates have been kind to the optimists eyeing the platform a year ago (see “Packaging peers react to Loop’s daring reusable-packaging model”).

We asked leaders at three brands about their reusable Loop designs, from structure and decor to reusability issues and cleanliness — including how reusability, done right, bucks the trend of those who thought single-use packages would dominate design in the post-COVID age.

The packaging leaders participating are:

• Matthias Palm, research director, global packaging & sustainability, The Clorox Co.

• Steve Yeh, project manager with Nestlé’s agen-Dazs brand.

• Mera McGrew, founder, Soapply.

We start with Matthias Palm from The Clorox Co.:

For your Clorox Disinfecting Wipes 60-count package, what are the key aspects of the product, package type, material, or overall design strategy?

Palm: Our Clorox Disinfecting Wipes stainless steel canister is reusable, durable, sleek, and designed to make the move from “under the counter” to something that families can be proud to display in their home.

 

Why did you choose this particular package decoration technology for your Loop product?

Palm: We partnered with Kohler to optimize a ready-built package that they had designed and that would meet the packaging requirements for the Loop system. The choice of a minimalistic label complements the functionality of the easy-to-clean and refillable product design.

 

How hard or easy was it to find and work with a packaging supplier who could deliver this particular package, and what were your considerations in the selection?

Palm: Our success depends on the collaboration among Clorox people, our business partners, and our communities. In the case of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes, Kohler has been a great partner to work with to further drive sustainable innovation. Their Design for Environment Program ensures that sustainability is built into the product design process.

Additionally, our partnership with them enabled us the speed and efficiency to get our product from design to market in six months’ time.

 

How many (re)uses does the package have across its lifecycle of reuses — and how does this inform your package design and decorating method?

Palm: The stainless steel canister can achieve 100 reuses. We expect the present closure to last a minimum of 10 reuses.

We are working on improving the design in a couple of ways: We’d like the closure to be even more durable; and we’re simplifying the number of components to aid in ease of cleaning the product, and for more optimized dispensing.

For the next phase of expansion, we aim to improve the overall package to enable even more reuses.

 

What adaptations did you make to accommodate this design with the Loop platform, and why (or why not)?

Palm: It was a challenge to find the right seal to the stainless steel canister that would protect the product from leaking or evaporating. We tried several designs and varieties of materials, but initially came up short. But, in the Clorox spirit of acting nimbly and working resourcefully, we thought to utilize another Clorox product’s existing packaging technology, and that did the trick!

 

Can you discuss the package’s present and future use in low-volume “specialty” vs. high-volume, mass retail rollout?

Palm: Right now, our product is currently available through Loop’s ecommerce platform in the Mid-Atlantic region. However, as Loop expands its retail partner presence, we are looking to integrate our products into those stores as well. Our ultimate goal is to reduce waste and strive for innovative sustainable product solutions that our consumers love. Loop is a crucial partner in helping us achieve this.

 

How does reusability and your Loop initiative relate to the needs of your business and your customers as we progress through the COVID-19 situation?

Palm: Right now, the health and well-being of our employees, consumers and communities is our priority. As we try to keep our families healthy and safe, the need for Clorox Disinfecting Wipes has reached extraordinary levels. We are working around the clock to increase our supply and are committed to doing everything we can to support consumers, healthcare facilities and communities during this time.

 

Q&A with Steve Yeh, project manager with Nestlé’s agen-Dazs brand:

For your Häagen-Dazs ice cream in the 14 fl oz container, what are the key aspects of the product, package type, material, or overall design strategy?

Yeh: We created a beautiful, reusable package for Häagen-Dazs ice cream with rounded corners and a sleek, modern look. It also keeps the ice cream at a perfect temperature, which means it melts more quickly at the top to provide the perfect texture for scooping. In addition to the container itself, the team developed a cooler box system to fit inside the Loop tote bag that keeps Häagen-Dazs ice cream frozen for 24 to 36 hours. The cooler box system was designed by Loop.

 

Why did you choose this particular package decoration technology for your Loop product?

Yeh: The package design development was a critical part of the entire Loop process. We knew from the start we had to get the right people involved. It’s not just about making a reusable container — It’s also about creating a consumer experience and making a package that people will want to showcase in their homes and that they’ll enjoy using.

The Häagen-Dazs Loop package went through four major iterations, with the final version being the 15th iteration. We’re really happy with how people have responded to the design.

Consumer insights were another main driver of our design process. We know a lot of people eat their ice cream directly from the container, and we were concerned that holding a cold steel container wouldn’t be a good consumer experience. To solve for this, we created a double-walled container that allows the product to stay cold while still being comfortable to hold. Our team also rounded the corners to make it easier to scoop without leaving extra ice cream at the bottom of the container.

 

How hard or easy was it to find and work with a packaging supplier who could deliver this particular package, and what were your considerations in the selection?

Yeh: We worked with multiple packaging suppliers. One challenge was that this was Nestlé’s first entry into the “reusable” space, so we needed to work with reliable, already qualified suppliers. The final decision was based on both the ability to deliver a unique experience to the consumer as well as ensuring food safety through reuse.

 

How many (re)uses does the package have across its lifecycle of reuses — and how does this inform your package design and decorating method?

Yeh: We partnered with TerraCycle to develop proprietary cleaning technology that is critical to maintaining the quality and safety of the product. We expect the container to endure dozens of reuses/refills. The graphic design on the bottom portion of the package also were designed with flexibility and re-use in mind — this part of the container can be used across any flavor we might offer, while most ice cream containers have customized designs across the entire package that reflect the specific flavor.

 

What adaptations did you make to accommodate this design with the Loop platform, and why (or why not)?

Yeh: This was designed exclusively to use with the Loop program. It was not a modification to a previous design.

 

Can you discuss the package’s present and future use in low-volume “specialty” vs. high-volume, mass retail rollout?

Yeh: Since the launch of Loop, the Häagen-Dazs packaging has been offered in NYC-area Häagen-Dazs Shops locations, and we’re expanding to more than 200 Häagen-Dazs Shops across the US this year. On average, we’re seeing a 62% refill rate, and it’s as high as 160% in our best-performing location.

TerraCycle is working with Kroger and Walgreens to test an expansion of Loop in retail stores later this year. We are still evaluating the viability of a high-volume, mass retail rollout and have not committed to participating with TerraCycle in such a pilot.

 

How does reusability and your Loop initiative relate to the needs of your business and your customers as we progress through the COVID-19 situation?

Yeh: An interesting insight that we uncovered for our Loop e-commerce experience is that ice cream is consumed more quickly than other items sold on the platform such as household cleaners or detergent – and people don’t want to return their tote with just one or a few items. Having a retail presence gives people the option to return their pint as soon, and as often, as they want via stores. This addresses the need for a quicker turnaround while providing another touchpoint of interaction with the brand.

Our plans currently are to continue with Loop/TerraCycle in this journey. We plan on producing and will be ready to pivot with demand.

 

Q&A with Mera McGrew, founder, Soapply:

For your Soapply Liquid Hand Wash in the 8 fl oz jar with pump dispenser, what are the key aspects of the product, package type, material, or overall design strategy?

McGrew: Everyone needs soap. Soapply is more than soap. Simply put, Soapply is the best soap for you, your skin, our planet, and people around the world. Design-focused with the environment in mind, Soapply’s sink-side recycled glass bottles offer a minimalistic chic addition to your sink and are meant to be refilled and reused over and over (and over) again.

 

Why did you choose this particular package decoration technology for your Loop product?

McGrew: Soapply has always been bottled in recycled glass bottles. Every second, 20,000 plastic bottles are produced. Your soap shouldn’t come in one of them.

I care about the environment and our conscious consumers do too. Our recycled glass bottles allow our customers to help tackle the plastic problem from next to their sink. From the beginning, I was obsessed with what was in our soap (and what wasn’t) and how it was packaged. Soapply didn’t create new packaging for Loop.

When it came to designing Soapply’s sink-side soap bottle four years ago, we were concerned with three things: creating something that looked beautiful next to your sink, creating something that made a statement, and ensuring the product and packaging were safe for our consumers and our planet.

 

How hard or easy was it to find and work with a packaging supplier who could deliver this particular package, and what were your considerations in the selection?

McGrew: Soapply’s bottles are silk-screened, which ensures they continue to look great over time. We have worked and continue to work closely with the individuals who do our bottle decoration. Their skill, craftsmanship, and experience are invaluable.

 

How many (re)uses does the package have across its lifecycle of reuses — and how does this inform your package design and decorating method?

McGrew: Soapply’s sink-side recycled glass soap bottles are meant to be refilled and reused. With proper care, there is no limit to how many times you can refill and reuse your sink-side bottle!

 

What adaptations did you make to accommodate this design with the Loop platform, and why (or why not)?

McGrew: We always intended for our sink-side bottles to be refilled and reused. We launched with Loop three years after we launched Soapply. The reusability, sustainability, and quality standards we put in place for ourselves from day one have always been extremely high. So, when it came to on-boarding with Loop, our high internal standards meant we met all of Loop’s standards with our existing packaging — there was no need to evolve, adapt, or reinvent our packaging.

 

Can you discuss the package’s present and future use in low-volume “specialty” vs. high-volume, mass retail rollout?

McGrew: Soapply is already available in major retailers. The cost of producing packaging that is better for consumers, designed with the environment in mind, and created to last is obviously more expensive than single-use packaging.

However, consumers now realize that the actual cost of single-use packaging is greater than the price tag they see. Soapply offers a great product and an alternative to the dominant single-use plastic soap bottles lining most shelves.

 

How does reusability and your Loop initiative relate to the needs of your business and your customers as we progress through the COVID-19 situation?

McGrew: Soap and proper hand-washing are so important right now. We have seen our online business continue to grow overall month-over-month as the demand and need for soap has increased in light of the global pandemic. Like so many other businesses, we’re working hard to solve the challenges that have come our way and to continue to meet consumers where they are.

Right now, most consumers are at home. Offering shoppers a safe way to get their essentials delivered directly to their homes and with a reduced impact on the planet is a double win. It’s really exciting to see Soapply continue to be a best seller on the Loop platform.

 

The wrap-up: Loop ensures packages’ safety.

The high confidence brand-owners place in Loop’s safety and sanitation bodes well for the reusable packaging platform in light of public concern over COVID-19. Tom Szaky, Loop founder/CEO, offered these additional assurances:

Neither single-use nor reuse packaging is inherently safe or unsafe — it’s how you deploy these systems. Consumer perception of reuse and how reuse is framed is massively important. People are used to reuse without even thinking about it; think medical industry or dentists. When you go to a dentist office, and you get your teeth cleaned, they’re using metal tools that were used on hundreds of patients before you. And if they didn’t clean that to a surgically sterile state, that could be putting you at massive health and safety risk. Right? And we’re all totally fine with it. 

Cleaning is what makes reuse safe or unsafe and Loop takes cleaning uber-seriously! Loop uses state-of-the-art cleaning facilities in France and the US, and when we launch in the UK, we will have a dedicated UK facility.

Loop uses strong and robust cleaning processes. Pre-COVID-19 we were already protecting against other diseases and concerns — way more potent than COVID-19. Following COVID-19, we had to make no upgrades to our cleaning processes at all in terms of people or overall protocol.

 

Does Your Packaging Show You’re Listening to Consumers?

Does Your Packaging Show You’re Listening to Consumers?
A growing consumer desire for non-disposable packaging has a corollary: Make recycling convenient.

Younger consumers value sustainability more and brand loyalty less. How should brands respond with their packaging designs? A perspective from Dow.


For many products, the consumer experience begins with the packaging—and it’s the first opportunity to showcase the product’s sustainability. So, as consumers increasingly use their wallets to show their commitment to the environment, one kind of green is leading to another.

Nearly half of people ages 25-34 said they’ve stopped buying a company’s food or beverage products after discovering the company is not environmentally responsible, according to a survey by financial services firm ING.

Moreover, adults under age 30 have lower brand loyalty than previous generations, and they’re more likely to switch brands if a company’s values don’t align with their own. As this segment gains disposable income, a desire for non-disposable products will influence the future of all marketplaces. Our work at Dow, therefore, is to ensure the experience meets expectations from the moment that eco-conscious consumer eyes a product on the shelf.

Customer expectations are advancing the circular economy for plastics, creating a societal blueprint for public policy that champions a business-decision process that prioritizes nature. To make this work, the value chain needs to work together, and change must begin when product design starts. For brands, that change increasingly revolves around recyclability.

Recyclability doesn’t happen without an organized, capable infrastructure. To act on their sustainable values, consumers need products that can be recycled through existing streams. Brands need flexible partners that can adapt to their products’ needs. And converters need partners that can expand their scope and scale. Materials science companies can be the glue that brings it all together.

Bear Naked recyclable pouch

A crossroads of consumer, convenience, and sustainability.

So, at what crossroads can we all meet? One place we’re already seeing it happen is the grocery store, where convenient store drop-off bins make it easier for people to recycle. Plus, you can bet that as they drop off old purchases, the recyclability of new ones will be on their minds. As more consumers learn about the drop-off program, it’s our job to create recyclable products to comply with it. That’s why we developed RecycleReady technology for polyethylene-based (PE) flexible packaging that’s recyclable at the thousands of grocery store drop-offs across North America. We’re already building on industry firsts, such as developing the first fully recyclable stand-up barrier pouch with Kellogg’s Bear Naked granola products. And if our industry puts existing streams top-of-mind, we can foster greener supply and demand at the same time.  

We also need to optimize our own processes to close the loop and repurpose used plastics. Once again, this is easier done together. Partnerships are the backbone of innovation, and alongside Houston-based Avangard Innovative and Netherlands-based Fuenix Ecogy Group, Dow has begun incorporating used plastics back into valuable new products.

By pooling our expertise, we’ve channeled waste collection into post-consumer resin plastic film pellets—and even produced new polymers from the oil released by used plastic. Partnerships like this do more than produce innovative, cost-effective results; they help companies meet their aggressive sustainability goals, turning supply chains into true value chains.

Consumers, organizations and governments are demanding change, and that means the packaging value chain needs to demand it of ourselves, too. At Dow we believe that plastic is too valuable to lose to the environment.  It drives our business. If companies across industries expand their collaboration to include waste management and recycling technology leaders, and implement best practices in their own processes, they’ll be poised to make a lasting, positive impact — not just for themselves, but for generations to come.

Packaging Community Consumes COVID-19 Coverage

Packaging Community Consumes COVID-19 Coverage
Photo credit: eldarnurkovic – adobe.stock.com

During May 2020, people in packaging devoured our pandemic-related articles. But, as some US states began reopening businesses after their close due to COVID-19, you weren’t solely engrossed with the health crisis. With the country starting to get back to some semblance of “normal,” new examples of sustainable packaging also caught your eye.

Here are the top five articles you were reading last month on PackagingDigest.com, in reverse order:

Flat-wine-bottles

5. Sustainably Optimized Flat Wine Bottles Enter US

After a successful launch in the UK, Garçon Wines brings its flat wine bottle to the ecommerce marketplace in the US, but with the added bonus of being made of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET). In the UK, the flat design allows the container to fit through a Brit’s mail slot. That’s not as critical for the US market. But the ecommerce friendly package offers other benefits vs. glass wine bottles, such as:

• 87% lighter weight.
• 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.

BPA-food-cans

4. Most Food Cans No Longer Use BPA in Their Linings

This February 2018 article continues to appear in our monthly lists of “best-read” articles. The vast majority of people come to this article through an internet search — leading us to believe the traffic is from consumers rather than packaging professionals. However, their interest is significant enough to keep reminding you that your customers still care deeply about chemicals of concern in packaging materials.

pg-all-paper-deodorant-stick

3. P&G Launches All-Paper Deodorant Packaging

The anti-plastics movement in packaging took another step last month. On May 1, Procter & Gamble Beauty launched a limited-edition all-paper tube for Secret and Old Spice deodorant in 500 Walmart stores across the US. The new package 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%.

10-Hottest-Packaging-Careers

2. 10 Hottest Careers in the Consumer Packaging Industry

Even though the unemployment rate dropped from 14.7% in April 2020 to 13.3% in May 2020, about 30 million Americans are still collecting unemployment benefits, according to The Washington Post.

We saw a spike in readership of this timeless article, published in 2017, as job seekers searched online for opportunities. Packaging jobs usually weather economic downturns quite well. Let’s hope you fare as well this time.

Ameripen-Post-COVID

1. 4 Inevitable Packaging Changes After COVID-19

Everyone wants to know what the new “normal” will look like as the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Dan Felton, executive director of AMERIPEN, offers these four predictions from a sustainable packaging perspective:

1. Consumers may appreciate the value of packaging more but will still want a circular packaging system.

2. Our definitions of recycling need to be expanded and harmonized.

3. Reusable packaging strategies may shift towards more industrial models.

4. Social distancing and transmission concerns will drive automation in hauling and sortation.

Medical and Food Packagers Warm Up to Smarter Heat Sealers

Medical and Food Packagers Warm Up to Smarter Heat Sealers
A programmable controller controls all operations of Belco's PM 18 PC Medical Pouch Sealer and aids in quality control.

Heat sealer technology continues to advance, with automation enabling the machines to do more than just seal pouches and bags. Above-and-beyond functions include printing on-pack codes, sharing operational data, and validating seal quality.

Using machine (or artificial) intelligence, some advanced heat sealers communicate with other equipment on the packaging line, addressing process errors that occur either before the package arrives at the sealer or threaten to occur after it leaves that stop.

For medical-packaging applications and others that require traceability, band sealers that incorporate a printer for unique device identifier (UDI) coding are in demand. Machines that validate seal integrity, which is keenly important for many medical and food products, are also available.

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and programmable controllers (PCs), as well as enhanced sensors, switches, and other components, also continue to make heat sealers safer and easier to operate.

In the following Q&A, exclusive to Packaging Digest, industry experts provide insight into recent advancements in heat sealer technology and a glimpse of what we can expect to see before long. The participants are:

• Kent Hevenor, vice president of sealing technologies for SencorpWhite

• Ann Marie Kellett, president of OK Sealer Division of OK International Group

• Lynn Miranda, sales and marketing manager at All Packaging Machinery (APM)

• Mike Misik, president of Belco Packaging Systems

What recent advancements have you seen in heat sealing technologies for packaging machines?

Miranda: In heat sealing, the heat can be generated from a heated bar or hot air. I have noticed that new components improve how the heat is applied.

For example, specialty Teflon or Kevlar bands can improve specific processes on band sealers. The heater bar is located in the sealing head of a band sealer. The Teflon band acts as an insulator to help protect the bag but also allow enough heat through to melt the plastic. Kevlar is a heavier material used for higher temperatures, but again the Kevlar — same material used in fireproof products — allows some heat through and is stronger.

Kellett: A majority of the heat sealing manufacturers today have launched new software features to offer customers increased control of sealing parameters and settings, enhanced operations data, and more customizable user preferences. Some models include an easy-to-use touchscreen industrial PC that simplifies setup and operation, streamlines maintenance, and improves data management.

For projects undertaken in the healthcare and pharmaceutical setting, in addition to improved and consistent seal quality, some band sealers offer the option to print codes. Many of the heat sealers feature a self-contained printer that can print key information, such as UDI codes. The code registers the department responsible, expiration date, location, and what date and time the pouch was sealed. Here, traceability is ensured in the event a mistake is made.

The Supersealer SB20 Continuous Band Sealer from OK Sealer continuously seals a range of bag materials at high speed and features operator-friendly controls.

Hardware enhancements include new standard sensors that improves data and package feedback during sealing. Multiple high-quality components, connectors, and switches have been enhanced for easier operation and maintenance.

Washdown versions of continuous rotary sealers are another enhancement within damp and wet applications. The sealers will be manufactured with an IP69 or IP69K rating, which is a product-standard rating developed to ensure that products carrying this rating comply with required simulated environmental conditions.

Misik: We must continue to innovate and respond to the needs and expectations of our customers in the medical device, food, pharmaceutical, and industrial packaging industries. From all indications, better and more accurate controls for monitoring sealing parameters are being requested, so that each company’s quality control (QC) demands can be met or exceeded.

This comes from the use of PLC- and PC-controlled machinery, smarter and more robust mechanical designs, and safer interaction for the machine operators around the packaging equipment.

Hevenor: We have seen advancements in machine intelligence as it relates to standalone manual pouch and tray sealers. We see a trend toward making manual sealers, which historically have been independent of upstream and downstream processes, communicate with equipment around them to ensure that the process flow does not skip a step or allow the process to move forward if an upstream error is encountered. Our company has seen the percentage of machines purchased with customizations increase from less than 15% to close to 50% over the past 15 years.

How do these advanced systems compare to the existing standard equipment?

Kellett: With the improved technology of software, heat sealers today are working almost like a smartphone. On continuous rotary sealers, a high-performance human machine interface (HMI) provides fast, repeatable setup; simplifies operation and maintenance; and increases flexibility to manage important data and resources.

Enhancements include an easy-to-use touchscreen interface that simplifies setting, monitoring, and tracking crucial controls like heat, seal pressure, and speed, as well as new capabilities to set preferences, calibrate processes, manage maintenance, and identify issues.

Hevenor: Existing standard equipment is isolated from what is happening around it. There is nothing to prevent a product from being sealed into a package that has skipped or failed an upstream process or to prevent a product from being placed in a package, not sealed, and moved forward to the next process step. Machine intelligence catches these common human errors.

Miranda: Validation is becoming very important in the food- and medical-packaging sectors. The product must remain untainted and have an airtight or watertight seal. Then one must prove that the seal can be replicated over and over, with in-house testing and the capability to enter the seal speed, temperature, and pressure into the band sealer and expect the sealer to render the same seal results each time. The pouch must be coded, as well, to allow package traceability.

Misik: With the costs of traditional controls becoming more expensive in actual cost along with the labor to support and install them, PLC and PC technologies have significantly come down in price and offer a level of increased performance and ease of installation and reliability that makes them cost-effective to use.

 

The PM 18 PC Medical Pouch Sealer from Belco Packaging Systems can apply top and bottom heat to sealing surfaces and is compatible with a variety of pouches and materials.

What are the benefits of these advancements for packaging machinery buyers/users?

Misik: The new technologies offer multiple levels of access to the machinery they control, so that an approved operator can log in and use the machine but not change parameters.

This is especially effective in multiple-shift operations, in which various operators run the machinery and can potentially tweak settings. Maintenance, Supervisor, Admin, and Operator passwords can allow varying degrees of permissions to the machine. The best features are pre-programmed and approved recipes that can be created and used over and over for effective QC management of the packaging process. We use this technology in several of our shrink-packaging lines of equipment and our medical line of equipment, currently.

Kellett: With the improvements I mentioned, the end user gains quite a few advantages. Because of simplicity, the sealers are easy to use and require less maintenance. With improved software, the customer now can retrieve more in-depth operations data and more customizable preferences.

The sealers also do not require their components to be blazing hot all the time, so the risk for accidental burns and injuries is minimized.

Furthermore, the sealing frames are made of aluminum, which helps in the cooling process of packaging material used. In traditional sealers, fusion and cooling used to take place while the packaging film was shrinking, which often produced uneven seals.

Manufacturers understand that downtime is an important consideration for the buyers, who rely on their machine for production continuously. Listening to the buyers is extremely important for the manufacturer.

The CeraTek P/3-Series Constant Heat Pouch Sealer, designed and manufactured by SencorpWhite, features a sophisticated control platform and offers a variety of communications capabilities.

Hevenor: The benefit of machine-intelligence technology is risk mitigation. Operators of manual equipment are performing repetitive tasks and are susceptive to human error. Humans are key to manual processes, but humans are also the weak link. People make mistakes, and mistakes can result in recalls. Machine intelligence prevents the process from moving forward until the predetermined steps have been completed successfully.

Miranda: They provide safer machinery for operators to use and less time spent tweaking machinery to produce the needed seals and coding requirements.

Having built-in ways to help the operator confirm the seal saves time and rejection rates. Reliability is key.

What areas in heat sealing still need work and why?

Kellett: We have certainly opened up a lot of great opportunities with the improved technology of software, but there is always some learning that needs to take place, especially when you are a manufacturer of end-of-the line packaging equipment.

What it comes down to is that it’s not the heat sealer manufacturers that drive the market. The processors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are the people who bring the requirements to us. We don’t drive them, they drive us.

Safety regulations always need to be investigated to find the right balance between keeping people safe and working with machinery.

Misik: Cost is still a big function of any machine purchase. Offering all the safety, performance, and quality features in one package is up to the machine manufacturer to develop and justify.

Improvements in medical-pouch sealing offer absolute control over all sealing parameters, with double-redundant components to ensure that the readings for every cycle can be monitored and verified and even reported for data-acquisition needs.

Miranda: All machine manufacturers strive for safety and versatility. Customers would like to have one machine that is safe and seals all materials and types of bags and pouches. Unfortunately, there are limits to one-size-fits-all.

The VCBS-3/8-DH-10-V, from All Packaging Machinery (APM), is a validatable sealing system for medical pouches.It is a vertical, high-speed rotary band sealer with an integrated, synchronized product support conveyor.

What’s next, and when might we see further improvements in heat sealers?

Miranda: Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used more and more, I believe, because workers have fallen ill during the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to protect our medical and food sources, as well as the employees producing these goods.

Hevenor: The next steps in machine intelligence will include the ability for the equipment to communicate with production supervisors, engineers, and maintenance personnel. The ability for equipment to notify the proper personnel of production data, machine service needs, or required scheduled maintenance will help to minimize unscheduled equipment downtime.

Misik: The improvements to machine performance and operation will come through customer needs and the ingenuity of the responding machine manufacturers. Better components may become available, and the manner in which they are used will be interesting.

Any assistance to the operation through increased throughput, fewer operator mistakes, and more efficient material handling into and out of the packaging machinery will be cost-justified in overall production output, at the end of the day.

Kellett: The activity from the consumer market is what we react on. Heat sealers are extremely dependent on software technology, so the advancement that would probably drive the biggest improvement in their operation would be within the software. The sealers would greatly enhance their ability to improve the simplicity of operation and maintenance, and continue to increase flexibility to manage important data and resources.

Growth in demand in the heat sealer market is expected to increase strongly. Important factors contributing toward the growth are innovation in pharmaceutical packaging and convenient packaging for food and beverages. More availability of online ordering of food and grocery have also helped to increase the demand for packaging food, giving the heat sealer market more scope for expansion.

Packaging Design

Packaging Designs Speak to Immunity and Mood Management

Packaging Designs Speak to Immunity and Mood Management
Consumers worried about their physical and/or mental health, perhaps triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, look for products that reassure them, with package colors, such as orange to indicate Vitamin C, or precise immunity claims on the label.

The physical health threat that COVID-19 poses, together with pandemic-related fear and uneasiness, are driving sales of products that enhance immunity or improve mental well-being. Brand owners in those categories, in turn, are taking a close look at packaging design to assure product safety and communicate product benefits to stressed-out, health-minded consumers.

The health/wellness products affected include packaged foods and drinks, vitamins, supplements, and even essential oils. The products’ physical and mental health benefits range from immune-system support to improved sleep.

In a recent consumer study conducted by Bend, OR-based InsightsNow, 36% of participants reported making changes to their diet and supplement consumption to boost immunity. Of those, 65% said they were taking more vitamins and supplements, particularly zinc and Vitamin C.

Reports from packagers resonate with that trend. Batavia, IL-based GreenSeed Contract Packaging, which specializes in custom packaging for natural and nutritional dry foods and beverages, has seen a shift in demand since the pandemic started.

“We are fully equipped for supplement and nutraceutical packaging solutions, which we’ve seen increase tenfold since the pandemic, as consumers look for ways to boost immunity in their diets,” says GreenSeed CEO David Gray.

“We’ve seen about a 133% increase in demand for immunity-boosting products since the pandemic, as everyone stocks up on supplements and other healthy, natural food products to stay healthy,” Gray adds. “Supplements and nutraceutical demand is up, but we’ve also seen more CPGs [consumer packaged goods companies] adding additional immunity-boosting features to their regular food and beverage products.”

Healthy body, healthy mind.

Even before the pandemic struck, consumers were including mental well-being in their definition of health/wellness. That mindset bodes well for sales of products geared to mood enhancement, relaxation, and anxiety relief — and demand for appropriate packaging — in the current health-focused climate.

According to the recently released “Global Food and Drink Trends 2030” report from Mintel, a global research firm, more consumers are considering mental health along with exercise and diet as they manage their personal health.

“This holistic health and wellness approach has inspired consumers to seek products that can improve mood and boost brain health. In particular, high rates of stress and anxiety find consumers open to emerging functional ingredients, including adaptogens and nootropics,” says David Luttenberger, Mintel global packaging director.

Cannabis continues to be the primary anxiety reliever, for some. A recent study from AmericanMarijuana.org that asked 1,017 US cannabis consumers about how COVID-19 has changed their “weed-smoking habits” found that 65.49% of the participants “are fine with weed and haven’t used any anxiety relief supplements.” However, 34.51% have used other anxiety relief supplements since the pandemic started.

Early in the COVID-19 lockdown phase, demand for some cannabis products soared. “Our cannabis-beverage sales in California were up 42% for the month of March [2020],” says Kenny Morrison, founder and CEO of Venice, CA-basedVCC Brands, a manufacturer and distributor of cannabis-infused products.

The company’s beverage brands include Subtle Tea, which launched in two ready-to-drink formulations in early 2020. Broad Spectrum Subtle Tea is an adaptogenic, cold-brewed tea infused with hemp-derived CBD — but not with the psychoactive compound THC.

The other formulation, Full Spectrum Subtle Tea, comes in two potencies: one infused with THC only and the other with a combination of THC and CBD. Full Spectrum Subtle Tea, in 8-oz bottles, is sold through cannabis dispensaries in California.

To comply with the State of California’s cannabis-packaging requirements, Full Spectrum Subtle Tea is filled into amber bottles. But the Broad Spectrum formulation does not require opaque packaging, because it does not contain THC. Broad Spectrum Subtle Tea is sold in 16-oz bottles at California retailers such as upscale Erewhon Market.

“Coming from the cannabis space, where all products need to be packaged in opaque packaging, we knew we wanted [Broad Spectrum Subtle Tea] to be visible,” explains Tad Jacobs, design director of VCC Brands. Colorless glass packaging was the obvious choice.

 “We chose glass Boston round bottles, because they have a simple, healthy, medicinal visual quality right off the bat,” Jacobs says.

“The main thing we learned about packaging over the years and have been unable to do because of our opaque packaging rules, is to let the product be the star,” he adds. “Just putting the beautiful natural color of the [Broad Spectrum] tea in a glass Boston round bottle, you’re 90% there. The last step was to lay out the information clearly and choose label colors that complement and harmonize with the tea’s natural color.”

Safe for consumers and the planet.

Although COVID-19 fears have spurred new approaches to hygienic packaging, especially for food and beverages, widespread safety-related changes to packaging have not materialized. “We have not seen any examples of ‘pack switching’ — brands quickly changing from one pack format or material — in direct response to COVID-19 fears of contamination or safety,” Luttenberger reports.

“That said, Mintel’s Global COVID-19 Tracker data from May 6 - 15, 2020, reveals 55% of US consumers are still worried about exposure to COVID-19, and 28% are still worried about the safety of the food and drink products they buy, which is 11% greater than during the April 29 - May 6 period,” he says.

Brands and suppliers that design packaging for health/wellness products are fully aware of that anxiety.

“Packaging design that lacks a connection to safety and protection — both to our bodies and environment — will struggle in a post-COVID-19 world. In light of the pandemic, consumers’ flight to well-being is more top of mind than ever, and they will gravitate towards products that provide a feeling of security and comfort,” says Josh White, principal and creative director of New York City-based brand and design agency OffWhite Co.

“To position themselves for success, brands will need to pivot to this new reality and either adapt their brand positioning or fast-track sustainable initiatives in the pipeline,” White adds. His agency is “seeing this transformative rush firsthand, as current and new clients try to understand how a boosted focus on well-being will impact their businesses and product offerings.”

As an example, White points to Maple Hill Organic 100% Grassfed, a dairy client that “has used this COVID time to better understand consumer behavior and pivot the brand from its current 100% Grassfed positioning to a Better Organic or Organic 3.0 value proposition. This shift in mindset opens new possibilities for growth and expansion into new and innovative product opportunities.”

Product safety can take a more tangible form, as well, via packaging designs that assure product purity and protection from contaminants. CBD-supplement maker Evielab, Los Angeles, designed those characteristics into the “doser stick” packaging for its new solid, sublingual CBD micropearls. The product line launched during the pandemic.

The doser stick “distributes pearl by pearl. You just need to twist [the dispenser end] a quarter, and the pearl arrives, avoiding finger contact,” explains Evielab owner Xavier Suid.“We were ready before the context of the virus. The product was already conceived to avoid contamination and skin contact. That’s what we didn’t like with tinctures and gummies. For Evielab, it was one of the imperative characteristics — no skin contact, no contamination.”

Evielab’s pocket-sized package is made from transparent pharmaceutical-grade plastic. To differentiate the eight stock-keeping units (SKUs), Evielab color-codes the doser sticks and accompanying blister cards by desired effect. SKUs include Immunity, Relax, Sleep, and Relief.

As for sustainable-packaging initiatives, vitamin brand Root’d has a goal of ultimately using no plastic packaging at all. Until that is possible, the company has pledged to use no more than 5% plastic in its packaging. Root’d also donates 1% of its sales for tree planting and another 1% for removing plastic from the ocean.

Root’d daily multivitamins are formulated as sugar-free “fizzy healthy drink” mixes. The three product formulations — Men’s, Women’s, and Prenatal — are packaged in cartons of stick packs.

Crafting on-pack claims.

To help safeguard the public from fraudulent COVID-19 treatments and preventives, the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and other health authorities are closely monitoring dietary supplements’ on-pack claims, including those related to immunity.

Nutritional Outlook reports that the phrase “immune support” is more acceptable to the FDA than wording that suggests a product can “defend,” “boost,” “protect,” or “build” a person’s immune system.

From a marketing perspective, less is more when it comes to on-pack claims. “The easiest way for brands to communicate health is by leading with the communication of key compelling claims to reassure the consumer. Too many brands, however, try and communicate too much,” says Richard Palmer, creative director at White Plains, NY-based branding agency Little Big Brands.

“By understanding what claims consumers are really looking for, and focusing on a couple of those, vs. a laundry list, a brand can create much more impact,” Palmer adds, noting that consumers have grown more informed about health and wellness, including ingredients and benefits. “Consumers are very savvy, and more and more used to weeding out brands that have created claims or are touting ‘marketing speak.’”

For obvious reasons, brand claims “that speak specifically to enhancing immunity are particularly interesting to consumers at the moment,” says Pamela Long, partner at Little Big Brands.

“Our work for Emergen-C is an example of a brand that consumers are looking for, or discovering now for the first time, especially some of the new innovations that speak to enhanced health needs, as well as combining unique form and function,” she says.

The brand’s innovations include Emergen-C Nutrient Shot Energy+ products, which are packaged in single-serve bottles. Immediately before consuming a shot, the consumer twists the closure clockwise to mix the powder in the cap with the liquid in the bottle.

Certifiably fun.

For any product claim, an on-pack certification can add credibility. “Better-for-you claims are resonating well with today’s consumers, who are looking for quick fixes to be healthier, both physically and emotionally, especially when those claims are backed by a certified organization,” says White.

Consider the packaging that OffWhite designed for Nightfood Nighttime Ice Cream. White explains that the brand “recently extended its ‘better-for-you, night-friendly ice cream that doesn’t mess with your sleep’ message to pregnant and nursing women as a healthy option to satisfy cravings.” To add authority to that positioning, the packaging states that Nightfood is the only ice cream endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association.

Nightfood’s package graphics create an emotional connection with consumers, as well. “We helped launch a special Pickles For Two flavor, with brand positioning that echoes the playfulness of the entire line,” White says. “Fun monster illustrations, called CraveMonsters, dominate Nightfood’s packaging, each hugging its favorite flavor and communicating the brand’s better-for-you message in a healthy, delicious, and fun way.”

A similar graphics strategy — one that communicates wellness benefits but is also whimsical — is evident in Little Big Brands’ packaging design for Little Spoon Boosters for babies. The products include vitamins and probiotics.

Little Spoon, an organic, fresh baby food brand, launched Boosters in early 2020.Targeting immunity, gut health, brain development, and regularity, the supplements are packaged in cartons of five stick packs.The cartons are printed with a soft-touch finish, which creates tactile appeal.

This brand “is definitely more targeted at a Millennial parent, but it has broad appeal,” says Long. “One thing all parents are concerned with is safety, so developing a brand that they feel good about — that is transparent and trustworthy — is key. But we are talking about babies and kids here, so we also wanted the products to have a playfulness and be ‘real.’”

“While the overall design is clean and modern, we brought in some fun through naming, copy, and illustration. It also helps parents understand very easily what the product is for,” she adds.

Connecting through color.

For some health/wellness packaging, color is the strongest differentiator on-shelf. Brands with “the most successful use of color are [those] that tap into color physiology to align with mood and feeling,” says Palmer. That thinking informed Little Big Brands’ rebranding work for essential-oil brand Guru Nanda, in which “color was at the heart of the redesign.”

Guru Nanda’s packaging redesign celebrates “the brand’s Indian heritage but also … create[s] a more shoppable portfolio,” Palmer explains. “Color cues vitality but also mood, in this case, and it needed to work very hard on both fronts. Good use of color should evoke positive feelings and help intuitively move consumers along the decision-making process.”

The brand’s lineup includes Immunity Oil Blend, Sleep Oil Blend, Breathe Oil Blend, and Focus Oil Blend.The products can be diffused into the air, inhaled, or diluted and then applied topically.

Packaging for orally consumed health/wellness products can also benefit from the discerning use of color, particularly when the hue amplifies a key ingredient. The wrapper for the Flat Tummies Vitamin Bar with Fresh Orange from Bangalore, India-based Moya Labs provides an example (see image at the top of the page).

“In terms of boosting immunity, Flat Tummies vitamin bars have used the term ‘fresh’ orange, usually associated with orange juice, when describing the flavor” of their product, says Mintel’s Luttenberger.

“Using fresh orange as the top ingredient makes the connection for consumers between the Vitamin C found in oranges and the immunity benefits they provide by highlighting the ‘immunity to rise’ bubble on the front of pack and featuring the orange color prominently,” he adds.

Package graphics for Emergen-C’s orange-flavor dietary supplements also use orange lavishly, broadcasting product flavor and color plus the high dose of Vitamin C in each sachet.

Other brands are more judicious in their use of orange. “In terms of color values, orange has long been known as a polarizing color,” Luttenberger says. “It can be warm and inviting, or it can mean one should exhibit great caution. Accordingly, designers should, and often do, use orange with what Mintel terms ‘mindfulness.’ Splash it for emphasis rather than flood for full effect.”

Clearly, the ability of color to modulate consumers’ emotional response to health/wellness packaging depends on the specific colors used and their relationship to the rest of the package design.

“Brands that are standing out on-shelf use a unified and strategic approach to communicate ‘good for immunity’ and mental-health messaging,” White summarizes. “Their positioning is direct, clear, and consistent in all of their brand assets, screaming to consumers that ‘this product will help you feel great about what’s going into your body.’ Simple graphics, comforting colors, and eco-friendly packaging delivered in creative ways are seeing the most success.”

Packaging Design

Hygienic Packaging Designs Calm Virus-Related Anxiety

Hygienic Packaging Designs Calm Virus-Related Anxiety
From wrapped and sealed baked goods, to "covered" beverage multipacks, brands can reassure consumers with packages seen as "protected" in the post-pandemic world.

Although food and packaging are not key players in the spread of COVID-19, pandemic-driven wariness is driving food brand owners and their packaging suppliers, as well as retailers and foodservice providers, to put more emphasis on hygienic packaging design.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website states: “In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging.” Nonetheless, consumers are concerned about that risk.

To assuage their fears, supply chain participants are developing more hygienic packaging for products ranging from freshly baked bread to canned soft drinks. The package designs span the technological gamut, with simple kraft bags at one end and controlled atmosphere packaging (CAP) at the other.

Here are several hygienic packages that illustrate the work in progress, starting with an option that stops pathogen growth.

InvisiShield

1. InvisiShield Says ‘No’ to Germs

A CAP approach called InvisiShield protects fresh-cut produce from viruses, bacteria, and fungi. InvisiShield is activated within sealed packages, releasing an anti-pathogenic agent —undetectable to consumers — that significantly reduces pathogens without contacting the product. The solution uses 3-Phase Activ-Polymer technology, patented by Aptar CSP Technologies, a division of AptarGroup.

Next: Skin4Can Coating

 

2. Beverage Cans Get Hygiene Boost with Skin4Can

Skin4Can, a transparent polymer coating, sticks to the surface of beverage cans to provide protection from contaminants ranging from dirt to microorganisms. The recyclable, skin-like coating protects cans throughout distribution and merchandising. Skin4Can, from The EMS Group, is also compatible with tinplate food cans.

Next: WaveSafe Carrier

 

3. Multipack Carrier Makes Beverage Packaging More Hygienic

The WaveSafe multipack carrier for beverage cans, from WaveGrip, protects the tops of cans from contaminants throughout the supply chain. The flexible carrier, available in a range of colors, incorporates a layer of recyclable polyethylene that covers the can tops. A new version of WaveSafe is in development: Featuring antimicrobial properties, it is expected to launch in September 2020.

Next: Coca-Cola’s Topper

 

Coca-Cola-Keelclip

4. Paperboard ‘Topper’ Keeps Coca-Cola’s Cans Clean

The Coca-Cola Co. announced last fall that it was launching the KeelClip paperboard “topper” in the European Union for multipacks of up to eight beverage cans. Supplied by Graphic Packaging International (GPI), the topper covers the multipack completely, keeping can tops clean.

Next: Fresh Bagels

 

5. Supermarket Starts Bagging Bulk Bagels

COVID-19 has forced grocery stores to alter many aspects of their business to protect both workers and shoppers. In Chicago, Jewel-Osco supermarkets now pre-bag their fresh bagels rather than offering them in bulk bins. Each bag contains not one, but two bagels — a strategy likely to boost the total volume of bagels sold, even as it enhances safety.

Next: Safer Baguettes

 

6. Bakeries Say Bye-Bye to Unsealed Bread Bags

In-store bakeries are adopting more hygienic packaging for freshly baked baguettes and other loaves of bread, which were often packed in open paper bags in pre-pandemic times. Some stores are simply adding a pressure-sensitive sticker to loosely seal the conventional kraft bag (see image below).

The bread package shown above is more hygienic, by far. Bread is packed in a clear film bag that’s closed with a twist tie, and this package is slipped into a kraft bag.

Overkill? Not necessarily. Shoppers familiar with seeing bread in a kraft bag might look for that outer packaging first during a quick trip to the store.

Next: Back to Basics at Starbucks

Starbucks-disposable-cup

7. Starbucks Nixes BYO Cups

With an eye to sustainability, Starbucks has for many years offered a discount to customers who bring their own reusable cup or mug. But the chain paused that "Bring Your Own" (BYO) program in March 2020 in efforts to combat COVID-19 and began pouring all store-prepared beverages into disposable cups. Despite the pause, consumers who bring a reusable cup to Starbucks (even though they don’t use it) or request a “for-here” ceramic cup still get a 10-cent discount.

Next: Clean cannabis cans

8. Cans Keep Cannabis Clean

Honest Marijuana is doing its part to keep its products free of contaminants and ready for curbside pickup (where permitted). The company packs cannabis flowers in squat ring-pull cans flushed with nitrogen. In addition to keeping the product clean, the packaging protects it from light and oxygen. An overcap is provided to reclose the package after the consumer removes the can end.

How Collaborations Combat Packaging Waste in our Oceans

How Collaborations Combat Packaging Waste in our Oceans
A special river plastic capture trap, installed in Thailand, intercepts plastic debris before it enters the ocean.

For World Oceans Day 2020, sustainability visionary Tom Szaky advocates for sustainability collaborations — both private and public — that help reduce packaging waste by aligning business interests with social responsibility.

Packaging waste and ocean pollution don’t occur in a vacuum. Both are the result of how products and packaging are made and used today. Items designed to be disposable are discarded and flow through a global system with a lack of effective collection (let alone recycling), so plastic and other materials are littered and pollute the ocean at alarming rates.

Why is it the “business as usual” that a full garbage truck worth of plastic, used extensively in the packaging world, enters the ocean every minute of every day? It all boils down to economics. Plastic packaging in and of itself isn’t the cause of ocean pollution, but we lack investment in and innovation for ways to capture and prevent it from becoming waste.

This year’s World Oceans Day theme is “Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean.” By aligning interests of business and social responsibility to drive change that stays, collaboration and cooperation across the private (businesses, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations or NGOs) and public (governments) sectors can combat plastic pollution.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies are in a particular position to offer solutions. At TerraCycle, we work around economic limitations all over the world by working with these types of private businesses to innovate and catalyze funding for change through the TerraCycle Global Foundation.

With a core purpose to reduce the volume of marine debris and plastic waste found in the world’s waterways for environmental protection and economic development in global communities, the TerraCycle Global Foundation was created in 2019 as a public charity with the founding seed grant from The PepsiCo Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.

While fishing gear and nets are a large contributor to ocean pollution, 80% of this flows in from land-based sources and by way of smaller waterways, such as rivers. In a world where recycling is on the decline even for “highly recyclable” materials, this trend is especially prevalent in regions where a lack of economic resources make it difficult for local systems to keep up.

With a community-centered approach, the TerraCycle Thai Foundation, a locally registered independent nonprofit entity addressing the issue of plastic pollution in Thailand, was honored to be a part of the United Nations World Oceans Day event hosted by the government’s Department of Marine and Coastal Resources (DMCR) June 8 in Bangkok.

The Foundation installed a special river plastic capture trap in the waterway of Khodpor public park in Rayong through collaboration with the DMCR. Designed to intercept plastic debris before it enters the ocean, this is the second of two TerraCycle Thai Foundation collection devices installed in Thailand and mobilizes local workers to operate and manage them.

Though the establishment of relationships with regional waste management companies, as well as TerraCycle’s own unique network of processing partners, the Foundation will provide efficient and cost-effective uses for the collected material — including primary packaging for major global brands — for a solution driven in part by one of the world’s leading CPG companies.

The Foundation will recycle not only the marine waste (considered non-recyclable due to its degradation and exposure to UV light) collected through its own devices and efforts, but also the waste collected by all the other participating organizations in the World Oceans Day celebration.

Innovation in packaging and sustainability isn’t always about research and development or scientific processes, but systems that create value for all parties. Single-channel initiatives are a challenge to sustain and involve risk. But through private/public sector cooperation of entities like TerraCycle, angel investors like The PepsiCo Foundation, and the DMCR in Thailand, industry can support, assist, and build new and exciting ways to eliminate waste.

Healthcare Packaging

Medical and Food Packagers Warm Up to Smarter Heat Sealers

Medical and Food Packagers Warm Up to Smarter Heat Sealers
A programmable controller controls all operations of Belco's PM 18 PC Medical Pouch Sealer and aids in quality control.

Heat sealer technology continues to advance, with automation enabling the machines to do more than just seal pouches and bags. Above-and-beyond functions include printing on-pack codes, sharing operational data, and validating seal quality.

Using machine (or artificial) intelligence, some advanced heat sealers communicate with other equipment on the packaging line, addressing process errors that occur either before the package arrives at the sealer or threaten to occur after it leaves that stop.

For medical-packaging applications and others that require traceability, band sealers that incorporate a printer for unique device identifier (UDI) coding are in demand. Machines that validate seal integrity, which is keenly important for many medical and food products, are also available.

Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) and programmable controllers (PCs), as well as enhanced sensors, switches, and other components, also continue to make heat sealers safer and easier to operate.

In the following Q&A, exclusive to Packaging Digest, industry experts provide insight into recent advancements in heat sealer technology and a glimpse of what we can expect to see before long. The participants are:

• Kent Hevenor, vice president of sealing technologies for SencorpWhite

• Ann Marie Kellett, president of OK Sealer Division of OK International Group

• Lynn Miranda, sales and marketing manager at All Packaging Machinery (APM)

• Mike Misik, president of Belco Packaging Systems

What recent advancements have you seen in heat sealing technologies for packaging machines?

Miranda: In heat sealing, the heat can be generated from a heated bar or hot air. I have noticed that new components improve how the heat is applied.

For example, specialty Teflon or Kevlar bands can improve specific processes on band sealers. The heater bar is located in the sealing head of a band sealer. The Teflon band acts as an insulator to help protect the bag but also allow enough heat through to melt the plastic. Kevlar is a heavier material used for higher temperatures, but again the Kevlar — same material used in fireproof products — allows some heat through and is stronger.

Kellett: A majority of the heat sealing manufacturers today have launched new software features to offer customers increased control of sealing parameters and settings, enhanced operations data, and more customizable user preferences. Some models include an easy-to-use touchscreen industrial PC that simplifies setup and operation, streamlines maintenance, and improves data management.

For projects undertaken in the healthcare and pharmaceutical setting, in addition to improved and consistent seal quality, some band sealers offer the option to print codes. Many of the heat sealers feature a self-contained printer that can print key information, such as UDI codes. The code registers the department responsible, expiration date, location, and what date and time the pouch was sealed. Here, traceability is ensured in the event a mistake is made.

Hardware enhancements include new standard sensors that improves data and package feedback during sealing. Multiple high-quality components, connectors, and switches have been enhanced for easier operation and maintenance.

Washdown versions of continuous rotary sealers are another enhancement within damp and wet applications. The sealers will be manufactured with an IP69 or IP69K rating, which is a product-standard rating developed to ensure that products carrying this rating comply with required simulated environmental conditions.

Misik: We must continue to innovate and respond to the needs and expectations of our customers in the medical device, food, pharmaceutical, and industrial packaging industries. From all indications, better and more accurate controls for monitoring sealing parameters are being requested, so that each company’s quality control (QC) demands can be met or exceeded.

This comes from the use of PLC- and PC-controlled machinery, smarter and more robust mechanical designs, and safer interaction for the machine operators around the packaging equipment.

Hevenor: We have seen advancements in machine intelligence as it relates to standalone manual pouch and tray sealers. We see a trend toward making manual sealers, which historically have been independent of upstream and downstream processes, communicate with equipment around them to ensure that the process flow does not skip a step or allow the process to move forward if an upstream error is encountered. *Our company has seen the percentage of machines purchased with customizations increase from less than 15% to close to 50% over the past 15 years.

How do these advanced systems compare to the existing standard equipment?

Kellett: With the improved technology of software, heat sealers today are working almost like a smartphone. On continuous rotary sealers, a high-performance human machine interface (HMI) provides fast, repeatable setup; simplifies operation and maintenance; and increases flexibility to manage important data and resources.

Enhancements include an easy-to-use touchscreen interface that simplifies setting, monitoring, and tracking crucial controls like heat, seal pressure, and speed, as well as new capabilities to set preferences, calibrate processes, manage maintenance, and identify issues.

Hevenor: Existing standard equipment is isolated from what is happening around it. There is nothing to prevent a product from being sealed into a package that has skipped or failed an upstream process or to prevent a product from being placed in a package, not sealed, and moved forward to the next process step. Machine intelligence catches these common human errors.

Miranda: Validation is becoming very important in the food- and medical-packaging sectors. The product must remain untainted and have an airtight or watertight seal. Then one must prove that the seal can be replicated over and over, with in-house testing and the capability to enter the seal speed, temperature, and pressure into the band sealer and expect the sealer to render the same seal results each time. The pouch must be coded, as well, to allow package traceability.

 

The VCBS-3/8-DH-10-V, from All Packaging Machinery (APM), is a validatable sealing system for medical pouches.It is a vertical, high-speed rotary band sealer with an integrated, synchronized product support conveyor.

Misik: With the costs of traditional controls becoming more expensive in actual cost along with the labor to support and install them, PLC and PC technologies have significantly come down in price and offer a level of increased performance and ease of installation and reliability that makes them cost-effective to use.

What are the benefits of these advancements for packaging machinery buyers/users?

Misik: The new technologies offer multiple levels of access to the machinery they control, so that an approved operator can log in and use the machine but not change parameters.

This is especially effective in multiple-shift operations, in which various operators run the machinery and can potentially tweak settings. Maintenance, Supervisor, Admin, and Operator passwords can allow varying degrees of permissions to the machine. The best features are pre-programmed and approved recipes that can be created and used over and over for effective QC management of the packaging process. We use this technology in several of our shrink-packaging lines of equipment and our medical line of equipment, currently.

Kellett: With the improvements I mentioned, the end user gains quite a few advantages. Because of simplicity, the sealers are easy to use and require less maintenance. With improved software, the customer now can retrieve more in-depth operations data and more customizable preferences.

The sealers also do not require their components to be blazing hot all the time, so the risk for accidental burns and injuries is minimized.

Furthermore, the sealing frames are made of aluminum, which helps in the cooling process of packaging material used. In traditional sealers, fusion and cooling used to take place while the packaging film was shrinking, which often produced uneven seals.

Manufacturers understand that downtime is an important consideration for the buyers, who rely on their machine for production continuously. Listening to the buyers is extremely important for the manufacturer.

Hevenor: The benefit of machine-intelligence technology is risk mitigation. Operators of manual equipment are performing repetitive tasks and are susceptive to human error. Humans are key to manual processes, but humans are also the weak link. People make mistakes, and mistakes can result in recalls. Machine intelligence prevents the process from moving forward until the predetermined steps have been completed successfully.

Miranda: They provide safer machinery for operators to use and less time spent tweaking machinery to produce the needed seals and coding requirements.

*Having built-in ways to help the operator confirm the seal saves time and rejection rates. Reliability is key.

What areas in heat sealing still need work and why?

Kellett: We have certainly opened up a lot of great opportunities with the improved technology of software, but there is always some learning that needs to take place, especially when you are a manufacturer of end-of-the line packaging equipment.

What it comes down to is that it’s not the heat sealer manufacturers that drive the market. The processors and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are the people who bring the requirements to us. We don’t drive them, they drive us.

Safety regulations always need to be investigated to find the right balance between keeping people safe and working with machinery.

Misik: *Cost is still a big function of any machine purchase. Offering all the safety, performance, and quality features in one package is up to the machine manufacturer to develop and justify.

Improvements in medical-pouch sealing offer absolute control over all sealing parameters, with double-redundant components to ensure that the readings for every cycle can be monitored and verified and even reported for data-acquisition needs.

Miranda: All machine manufacturers strive for safety and versatility. Customers would like to have one machine that is safe and seals all materials and types of bags and pouches. Unfortunately, there are limits to one-size-fits-all.

What’s next, and when might we see further improvements in heat sealers?

Miranda: Artificial intelligence (AI) will be used more and more, I believe, because workers have fallen ill during the COVID-19 crisis, and we need to protect our medical and food sources, as well as the employees producing these goods.

Hevenor: The next steps in machine intelligence will include the ability for the equipment to communicate with production supervisors, engineers, and maintenance personnel. The ability for equipment to notify the proper personnel of production data, machine service needs, or required scheduled maintenance will help to minimize unscheduled equipment downtime.

Misik: The improvements to machine performance and operation will come through customer needs and the ingenuity of the responding machine manufacturers. Better components may become available, and the manner in which they are used will be interesting.

Any assistance to the operation through increased throughput, fewer operator mistakes, and more efficient material handling into and out of the packaging machinery will be cost-justified in overall production output, at the end of the day.

Kellett: The activity from the consumer market is what we react on. Heat sealers are extremely dependent on software technology, so the advancement that would probably drive the biggest improvement in their operation would be within the software. The sealers would greatly enhance their ability to improve the simplicity of operation and maintenance, and continue to increase flexibility to manage important data and resources.

Growth in demand in the heat sealer market is expected to increase strongly. Important factors contributing toward the growth are innovation in pharmaceutical packaging and convenient packaging for food and beverages. *More availability of online ordering of food and grocery have also helped to increase the demand for packaging food, giving the heat sealer market more scope for expansion.

 

Heat Sealers Q&A - photo captions

OK Sealer

The Supersealer SB20 Continuous Band Sealer from OK Sealer continuously seals a range of bag materials at high speed and features operator-friendly controls.

SencorpWhite

The CeraTek P/3-Series Constant Heat Pouch Sealer, designed and manufactured by SencorpWhite, features a sophisticated control platform and offers a variety of communications capabilities.

Food Packaging Safety: A Critical Review of Materials

Food Packaging Safety: A Critical Review of Materials
FoodPrint's critical review of food packaging uncovers problems and proposes actionable solutions.

A report on food packaging centers on an assessment of different materials. Spoiler alert: Plastics do not fare well, but neither do metal and paper.

First came the notion of the Beer Print, when Packaging Digest reported on Molson Coors’ sustainability efforts that centered around that idea.

“Beer Print is the notion that every time a beer is lifted up, there’s an imprint left behind,” explained Kim Marotta, global senior director of corporate responsibility. “We want to make sure it’s a positive one on our communities and environment.” (see Molson Coors shrinks plastic packaging’s Beer Print, published December 2019)

My interest was piqued when I saw a parallel approach to that at the FoodPrint website, which published a paper, The FoodPrint of Food Packaging.  It’s based on a March 2019 report, Safer Materials in Food Packaging, by Safer Made. Commissioned by Forsythia Foundation which “promotes healthier people and environments by reducing harmful chemicals in our lives,” Safer Made’s 49-page study discusses the needs for innovation in food packaging and showcases innovative companies and potential solutions to the sector’s health and environmental challenges.

FoodPrint’s document is comprehensive 30-page PDF that cites 86 footnoted sources for the data and information. Among other things, the report shows how harmful chemicals in single-use plastics and other wasteful packaging leach into food. For example, it found that…

• Styrofoam use is on the decline due to environmental concerns, but its precursor, polystyrene, remains widely used despite also leaching petroleum-based chemicals into food.

• [Paper] fiber food packaging like [corrugated] is often coated with plastic and additives such as perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) that make it impossible to recycle and are prone to food contamination.

In both Safer Made and FoodPrint’s reports, fault is found with all materials related so specific usages with the exception of glass packaging, which essentially emerges clear of any adverse criticism.

A FoodPrint contact informed me that “the report offers a clear path forward, sharing actionable steps consumers can take and uplifting successful initiatives to develop sustainable and reusable alternatives to traditional plastics.”

It’s beneficial to hear from diverse voices in the markets Packaging Digest covers, so I reached out to Jerusha Klemperer, director, for additional information.

The report's fundamental considerations that were used to assess different food packaging materials.

Briefly describe what FoodPrint is and does.

Klemperer: Based in New York City, FoodPrint is a website that helps people understand how to eat in a way that does less harm to the environment, animals, and people. We have information on shopping, cooking and eating more sustainably as well as deep-dive information on the impacts of our industrial food system.

When and why was the report conducted?

Klemperer: We worked on this report because we felt that food packaging is an important part of the food system that a lot of consumers don't think much about. People are thinking a lot lately about things like pesticides that are used to grow the food itself, but what about the packaging the food comes in? There are environmental and health problems that could be addressed with innovations in food packaging and supported by changes in consumer behavior as well. For example, food packaging innovations include an endlessly recycled plastic, polydiketoenamine, or PDK, designed by scientists at the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (see New plastic for food packaging is infinitely recyclable published July 2019). Researchers at Penn State have developed an inexpensive, compostable material they believe could replace the plastic barrier coatings that are problematic in packaging.

What do you see as the main problems with food packaging?

Klemperer: The environmental problems are around production, but also disposal.

For example, plastic is problematic because of all of the unsustainable petroleum production it relies on — plastic comes, in large part from petroleum, but also now increasingly from natural gas production. However, the problem is also because plastic never goes away and is filling our landfills, water ways and more with gluts of plastic.

And there are also health impacts from certain plastics, like polystyrene, which is used in many types of packaging including coffee cup lids, and which causes a range of health problems when it leaches into the food or drink it carries. The top chemicals for concern are bisphenols including bisphenol-A, Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and phthalates.

The report finds problems across three of the four main material types commonly used in food packaging.

Do you see instances where plastics is beneficial? For example, the coronavirus pandemic is underscoring the food safety benefits of single-use packaging.

Klemperer: Of course! There is a time and a place for plastic packaging, but I think we can all agree we are using way more than we need. We have prioritized convenience — and that's the key difference, between safety and convenience — to the point where we are drowning ourselves in unhealthy plastic.

What materials made out better than plastics, according to the study?

Klemperer: Cardboard/fiber can be better, but there are some additives, like PFAS, that can make them extremely problematic. Then we point out that some innovations that seem great might have problems as well, especially in the murky area of biodegradable plastics, for example.

Among other materials, metal packaging for instance is also singled out as potentially being problematic.

Klemperer: Metal is actually fine in terms of health as long as it is not lined with something, for example, as with metal beverage cans. I should point out that the use of the particlar material really depends on the exact nature of the metal, the use, if it's lined, etc.

What advice do you have for brands and for those involved in packaging development?

Klemperer: Innovation is happening, but more is needed! Customers are hungry for packaging that is safe for them and the environment.

Anything else to point out that’s important or not apparent?

Klemperer: While or report gives people lots of ideas for simple swaps they can make and items and chemicals to avoid, the onus shouldn't lie on consumers to make the right choices. We need new and safer packaging and companies have an opportunity and an obligation to step in and create products that are better both for human health and the environment.

The full 30-page report in PDF format is available to download.

Images: FoodPrint report

For related content from Packaging Digest, see Clean packaging: The next step in consumer transparency, published July 2018; and What ‘chemicals of concern’ are in your food packaging?, published June 2018.