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Articles from 2015 In July

Recycling in America: Déjà vu all over again

Recycling in America: Déjà vu all over again
Single-stream curbside recycling makes it easy for consumers, but makes it harder for recycling businesses to minimize material contamination.

Compared to many, I’m still a relative newcomer to the world of sustainable packaging. But I suspect it’s frustrating for newcomers and veterans alike to see the same problems crop up again and again in the packaging industry, seemingly never to be solved.

Sparked by the June 2015 release of U.S. EPA’s annual Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures report (previously called the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts and Figures report), the most recent ones to re-emerge are the problems of the stagnant American recycling rate and the rising costs of recycling. Companies like Waste Management have spoken out, saying it is losing money on its recycling operations and can’t continue this way. Is American recycling doomed?

A recent Washington Post article cited contamination from the increase in single-stream recycling collection systems and a rise in dirty processing at materials recovery facilities (MRFs), along with lightweighting of packaging and falling commodity prices, as reasons for these problems. As the article reminded us about lack of sorting by the public, “Many of the problems facing the industry can be traced to the curbside blue bin—and the old saying that if it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.”

To make things worse, material contamination and the resulting lower value of commodity bales is increasing as dirty MRFs proliferate. In the same article, Patty Moore (of Sustainable Packaging Coalition member Moore Recycling) was quoted: “If we’re going to be serious about secondary-materials management, we’re really going to have to address it at a state or preferably national level,” she said. “We need to harmonize what we’re doing and make it work in a way that we’re not spending all this money and spinning our wheels.”

Reading this article, I was reminded of the Yogi Berra quote, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

I conducted an extensive research project into how recycling infrastructure can increase recycling rates for CalRecycle from 2008-2011. From the research, I wrote a series of seven reports (all downloadable for free at The final report, “Closing the Loop: Roadmap to Effective Material Value Recovery” (2011), examined best and worst practices in recycling systems around the world and made 10 “best practice” recommendations to the state of California on how to increase recycling rates. The data I used may now be out of date, but I think the recommendations still resonate.

One of those recommendations was to maximize material quality by implementing a four (or better, a five) bin system with separate collection for glass, paper, all other recyclables, organics and trash. Another recommendation was to standardize the materials collected and collection method across a state or country so collection and sorting infrastructure can also be standardized, decreasing contamination and increasing quantity of recycled materials. These recommendations go directly to the heart of our current problems, and are still as valid today as they were five years ago.

I titled the section of the report about single-stream recycling “Popular but Problematic,” and it is still an apt description. Single-stream recycling is much easier for the public to understand, and it definitely results in more material collected.

However, if we’re serious about both the quality and value of materials we collect, we need to ask the public to sort more, not less. I believe they are willing to do it. Recycling is often cited by citizens as the one tangible way they help the environment. Let’s not give up on the public just yet!

And ideally, all industry groups representing packaging materials would stand together in support of more up-front sorting and the idea that all materials are valuable and need to be kept that way during collection and reprocessing.

I continue to find one recommendation from the Roadmap report absolutely critical, but haven’t seen it get much publicity: Consumer education is an on-going requirement for success. If we are serious about the quantity and quality of the materials collected, then we have to commit to educating the public forever.

Yes, you read that right.

It’s not just about sending a pamphlet when rolling carts are introduced. It should also include television, print, billboards/posters, social media, school curricula and more. They don’t have to be expensive, but they do have to be a priority. 

Finally, if we as a country are serious about the sustainability practices of recycling and using recycled content in our products, then we need to address the equally serious issue of the cost of recycling. Recycling is not free, so who is going to pay for it? The packaging industry, states and municipalities, and consumers all want to say, “Not I!” And often each group “helpfully” suggests that the others should be the ones to pay the costs.

My report looked closely at the policy of extended producer responsibility, or EPR, because it’s common in Europe and Canada, and at least in Europe, corresponds with extremely high recycling rates. However, there is resistance to implementing EPR in the U.S., with the rationale that the U.S. is not Europe and you can’t copy and paste a solution from one place to another.

A number of other funding mechanisms have been identified, but obstacles to their widespread implementation have emerged.

Maybe what we need is a uniquely American combination of policy and economic techniques, but to date no state or corporation is taking a strong lead to make serious changes. And let’s not forget Patty Moore’s comment from above—what we need is harmonization, not more fragmentation.

I haven’t lost hope that these issues can be solved, even as I see them rise and fall and rise in the public eye once again. I am sure we’ll get it right someday and the result will be a society that prioritizes sustainable materials management and uses resources wisely. But I am hoping that day comes sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, read “Closing the Loop: Roadmap” and let me know if you think the recommendations are still valid.

Liz Shoch is assistant director of GreenBlue’s Sustainable Packaging Coalition. For more info about the SPC, visit

7 packaging designs that make the most of summer movie mania: Gallery

Yoplait attracts Minion lovers—kids and parents alike—with graphics from the “Despicable Me: Minion Made” movie on low-fat yogurt cups and their multipack cartons. Who can resist those big eyes and impish smile?

As we enter the dog days of summer, kids and kidults alike try to cram as much fun into what time they have left to enjoy the season. Like taking in a cool movie when the temps heat up.

Tapping into the marketing magic of blockbuster movies, brand owners have adorned their packages with heros, dinosaurs and cute yellow troublemakers. See some popular character studies in our entertaining slideshow.

6 ways to better manage your packaging budget

6 ways to better manage your packaging budget
How adept are you at managing your budget? These tips could help you get better.

Budgets. Seems like it should be a four-letter word right? This one word causes so much angst over the course of a year and it is a necessary evil to execute our projects. Why is it that everything in the business world is continuous except budgets?

Let’s look at a few ways to spend the budget you get and maybe even spend more that you were granted.

Think back to the end of last year, you enjoyed some wonderful time off, return to work in January refreshed with the prospect of starting an exciting new packaging project only to find that budgets have not been approved in the company yet. So you’re on hold for a bit, but then January turns into February, February to March…

Or have you ever had all or a portion of your budget swept soon after the second quarter results are reported so the company could try to meet 3rd quarter or year-end numbers for investors? This is where private companies have an advantage; they can focus on what is right for the company in the long term versus managing short terms results quarter by quarter.

So, your budget may not be ready to spend in January and it may be swept later in the year. This may not leave much time to spend. I have heard from packaging associates that sometimes they lose four to six months out of a single year due to the inability to spend for one reason or another.

How can we avoid some of these problems that slow our personal progress, company’s progress and increase our company’s time to market? Here are six different approaches you can try to get, keep and even increase your packaging budget:

1. Get pre-approvals at end of year.

Most companies start working on business plans in the spring of the preceding year. By the fall, budgets are coming together. So what can you do to be ready when you go back to work that first day in January? The answer is to get spending pre-approved in December. Often you can get approvals so you are ready to cut purchase orders and spend that first week in January. Check with your finance department about how to do this.

2. Spend what you have quickly.

Just like your training and development budget that starts to disappear if not spent early in the year, spend your packaging budget quickly. Get suppliers approved, receive quotes and submit purchase orders. The early bird gets the worm and so it goes with budgets. It is common to underspend early in the year. If you spend your money and need additional budget later in the year for something important, it will likely be found. Spend the money when you have it because you never know when it will disappear.

3. Spend in phases.

For big ticket projects it may be difficult to get all of the funding approved upfront. Using a stage-gate approach makes great sense from a project management perspective, but it is also a great way to secure funding for a project. Request the budget needed to complete the next phase of work only. Be prepared to share, in detail, how the monies will be spent and over what timeframe.

When you need more budget, go in with the positive results generated from the last phase and the new spending plan for the next phase. If the last phase was well executed, but the results suggest the project should not continue, you don’t need budget anyway. Or you may need just a small amount of budget to go back and recycle to generate some missing information or data.

4. Come up with a great new idea(s).

Let’s admit it. All of our ideas are not winners. So what do you think will happen if part way through the year you come up with a killer idea? Is the company going to tell you that you have to wait to go through the next budgeting cycle? I doubt it. If you come up with an incredible new opportunity, articulate what you need and the benefits to the company, most organizations will find the money you need.

5. Spend other function’s budgets.

Think about another function—innovation, brand and consumer research, for example. I can hear everyone reading this saying to themselves “Oh right. If I can’t get the budget I need and money is so hard to get, why would someone else give me their budget?” Sounds crazy right? It is, but it is also true.

Often certain groups in the company get more budget than they have a plan for. Can your project help them meet their objectives? Maybe you can create a win-win. Get out and network internally to find out how much budget your coworkers have and what the funds can be spent on. I was frequently successful finding budget with another group where my project helped them achieve their goal.

6. Be ready to spend at the end of the year.

Just like being ready to spend when the new year arrives, you have to be ready to spend when everyone else is planning their December holiday vacation. Many of your colleagues do not spend all of their allocated budget and, in most organizations, it does not roll over to the following calendar year. It is “use it or lose it” time.

Also, for some strange reason, many companies award next year’s budget based on what you spent this last year. Thus no one wants to underspend. It has never made sense to me that companies rush to spend money in December (on things that funds really should not be spent on) only so they can protect their budget in the upcoming year. Is that really in the best financial interest of the company?

Anyway, always be ready in November and December to spend. Have vendors approved. Obtain quotes. Have purchase orders drafted. Often, this is a first come, first served exercise, so being prepared only increases your chances of getting the unspent budget.

Scott Biondich is the president of Packaging Innovation & Design LLC, a consulting firm that helps companies create incredible branded consumer experiences through new package and product development. Previously he was a group director at The Coca-Cola Co. responsible for packaging and equipment development for North America. He led numerous projects to commercialization at Coke, including Share A Coke packages and shaped aluminum bottles. He serves on the Editorial Advisory Board for Packaging Digest and The Canmaker. Reach him at [email protected]


Q&A on Metallized BOPP Film for Extended Shelf Life and Directional Tear Sealant Retort and Non-retort Films with Kerri Boyens, New Product Development Manager

Torayfan® PWX5 BOPP film

Torayfan PWX5 BOPP film delivers superior metal adhesion and barrier-durability performance for products requiring an extended shelf life. It is designed for use as a high-performance inner moisture- and oxygen-barrier web in gas-flushed applications.

One side of PWX5 film is vacuum-deposited aluminum on Toray’s proprietary ultra-barrier layer, which produces a packaging film that has superior metal adhesion and a shiny appearance. The other side of the film has a stable coefficient of friction (COF) and is heat-sealable.

Overall, PWX5 offers superior moisture-, aroma-, and flavor-barrier protection. It also offers excellent puncture resistance. In addition, its excellent barrier-durability, including guaranteed oxygen barrier, makes it the preferred choice for applications requiring an extended shelf life. New Torayfan PWX5 is ideally suited for the packaging of salty, flavorful snacks, cookies, crackers, biscuits, confectionery items, and chocolate, as well as health and beauty products.

1.    Is Toray the first maker of this film?

Torayfan® PWX5 BOPP metallized film is a unique, proprietary film manufactured only by Toray Plastics (America).

2.    Are there others in the marketplace?

There are other metallized BOPP films in the marketplace, but none are designed with Toray’s resin formula or manufactured by means of Toray’s proprietary extrusion and metallization processes.

3.    Is it being used by a customer and if so, who?

PWX5 film is now being used by a major snack food packaging converter for a major snack food manufacturer. Unfortunately, we are unable to name the converter or end user, as that is confidential information.

4.    Where is it made?

Torayfan PWX5 film is manufactured in the U.S. at Toray Plastics (America)’s 70-acre campus in Rhode Island. The facility offers integrated services under one roof, including product development, film manufacturing, coating, and metallization.

5.   Is this strictly for food packaging and if so, what geographic markets is it available in?

PWX5 is not strictly for food packaging. It is also suited for health and beauty products that require aroma and oxygen barrier-protection, such as sample sachets.  

Regarding food packaging, it is especially ideal for the CPG who is expanding its global distribution channels and wants a solution for brand applications that require prolonged oxygen- and moisture-barrier protection. Food applications include salty, flavorful snacks, cookies, crackers, biscuits, confectionery items, and chocolate.

Torayfan® TreaTear™ OPP directional tear sealant film for retort and non-retort pouches

Is Toray the first maker of this film?


Toray is actively engaged in developing its next generation of TreaTear™ polypropylene film with enhanced sealant performance characteristics and precise directional tear for retort and non-retort pouch applications. TreaTear will be a unique, proprietary brand manufactured only by Toray Plastics (America). Toray’s directional tear OPP film is slated for use with retort and non-retort pouches and for use as a drop-in film replacement for CPP sealant web applications. TreaTear can be produced at thinner gauges, without sacrificing stiffness or feel, providing source reduction benefits. TreaTear requires only a simple slit, eliminating the need for laser scoring and “V” notching in order to achieve a precise, clean, straight-line tear. TreaTear film will also offer high clarity, for example, for a window to view pouch contents, and high strength.

Are there others in the marketplace?


There will be no other directional tear OPP sealant film designed with Toray’s resin formulation or manufactured by Toray’s proprietary extrusion and metallization processes. We have found that the common alternative substrate in the U.S. is nylon with directional tear properties.

Is it being used by a customer and if so, who?


TreaTear is in the development phase. We cannot identify the customer.

Where is it made?


TreaTear sealant film is manufactured in the U.S. at Toray Plastics (America)’s 70-acre campus in Rhode Island. The facility offers integrated services under one roof, including product development, film manufacturing, coating, and metallization.

5.   Is it strictly for food packaging and, if so, what geographic markets is it available in?

TreaTear will be for food packaging pouch applications including chicken, seafood, prepared entrees, military MREs, cheese, snacks, cookies, confectionery items and nuts. It is also suited for pet food.

It will be available in the U.S. and internationally. Customers will benefit from improved pouch performance, greater production efficiencies, and possible source reduction advantages.

In terms of non-food applications, pouches offer the potential to cross over into other markets. Toray is always open to exploring creative ideas and new innovations with any manufacturer.

A packaging debriefing on GS1 US’s Attribute Explorer

A packaging debriefing on GS1 US’s Attribute Explorer
Attribute Explorer aims to standardize product attribute terminology across the supply chain.

Attribute Explorer, just released by standards organization GS1 US, is an online tool developed in response to the retail grocery and foodservice industries’ need for standardized data. Bernie Hogan, senior vice president of emerging capabilities and industries, who worked closely with the industry on this project, identifies the packaging implications for brand owners and other supply chain stakeholders.

What’s the reasoning behind Attribute Explorer?

Hogan: As it often happens with the development of any GS1 US resources and tools, the supply chain community approached us, stating that they needed an easier way to find standardized attributes and their definitions to conduct business better. Today’s consumer expects there to be reliable information available at their fingertips, and trading partners are increasingly collaborating to standardize the data to be able to respond to that demand.

What the businesses were finding is that there was no easy way to surface the product attribute definitions they needed to efficiently communicate with their trading partners. When we say “product attributes,” we are referring to the descriptive language used in data exchange, particularly when using the Global Data Synchronization Network (i.e., the GDSN) or Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), which rely on many GS1 attributes.  Product attributes can include data type, name, and values (i.e., descriptors) like “gross weight,” “ingredient name,” and “brand name.” But companies were running into multiple definitions for such attributes. They needed one source of the truth to be able to keep product information consistent and better serve the needs of their trading partners, regulatory bodies and consumers.

What are the benefits of AE throughout the supply chain?

Hogan: GS1 US Attribute Explorer organizes product attribute definitions from various sources—from guidelines developed by our industry initiatives and from GS1’s Global Data Dictionary—so supply chain partners do not have to reinvent the wheel and create their own solutions or spend an inordinate amount of time and money verifying information. They can use one tool to easily search, discover and access a set of standardized industry attributes—for free.

Consumers will ultimately benefit from having trustworthy, consistent product information. If they search for the ingredients in a candy bar, for instance, they’ll be able to trust manufacturers and retailers are using the same definition for something like allergen across different channels—whether it’s listed on the physical product or online.

What’s an example of a physical attribute and how would that play out?

Hogan: Some product attributes describe broad physical product features like “height,” and “shape.” There are also more specific attribute values such as “heel height” when you’re dealing with shoes, or “peg hole type” when you’re depicting the shape of the peg hole used for packaging. The GS1 US Attribute Explorer assists users in understanding the breadth and depth of all available standardized attribute definitions; they can easily search, find and access a set of standardized industry attributes.

Since the GS1 US Attribute Explorer also includes all of the attributes and code list values contained within the GDSN, a data manager can be assured that when he is sharing GDSN product data that he and his trading partner are defining “height” the same way. In effect, both the supply and demand side trading partner data managers won’t be left wondering “Does height mean vertical or horizontal dimension?” Or “does that include the shipping pallet?” GS1 US Attribute Explorer allows everyone to be more confident in their product information reliability and consistency.

What are the packaging implications for brand owners and others?

Hogan: Packaging is changing rapidly due to market factors like sustainability and changing consumer behaviors and needs. GS1 US Attribute Explorer provides hundreds of standardized definitions for product attributes that pertain to packaging—e.g., “packaging type,” “packaging reuse,” “packaging material description,” and ways to define if the packaging is biodegradable.

By streamlining their product attribute search and discovery process, industry partners can more easily adapt to the flexible nature of today’s supply chain. Additionally, having a single attribute view helps companies to harmonize product data, eliminate inaccuracies, reduce implementation time, and save money.

What on-package changes are reflected through what Attribute Explorer offers?

Hogan: Major players in the retail, food, and healthcare industries approached GS1 US with a need for a tool to enhance supply chain information reliability and simplify their implementation processes. Packaging may change depending on the way a company changes their data exchange processes, but standardized definitions can be easily discovered and found using GS1 US Attribute Explorer.

What’s the status—and for packaging?

Hogan: The GS1 US Attribute Explorer has just launched. Although there are already more than 120 companies using it, it’s unlikely that packaging would be changed so quickly. GS1 US will collaborate with all industry partners and to collect industry feedback to help identify any gaps in the information provided and potential opportunities to improve the tool. We are encouraging all users, including data pools, to provide feedback by contacting us at [email protected]

Click here to view the GS1 US web page for Attribute Explorer.

Augmented Reality offers real-world value for packaging design

Augmented Reality offers real-world value for packaging design
Studio allows users to visualize packages in 3D--and overlayed onto store shelves if they wish.

Esko’s Studio suite that centers on packaging design projects for boxes, flexible packaging, labels and shrink sleeves offers up some fresh improvements that push the capability of tools used for packaging design.

While perusing some of the tabletop exhibits at Packaging Digest’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in July, I came across a demonstration from Esko that can virtually place packaging mockups into real-world environments such as onto store shelves. In addition to the wow factor of this particular application, it turns out that the Studio suite of applications offers up many additional options that are enhanced in a just-released version.

Michael Naughton, Esko’s pre-sales solution architect - brand owners, responds to our questions about how the software can be leveraged by brands and packaging designers.

What’s the background to this software?

Naughton: Originally introduced in 2008, Studio is a suite of solutions centered on packaging design. It incorporates intelligent dielines and 3d modeling to help facilitate package design and create virtual mock-ups.

Studio is tied into Adobe Illustrator. It is comprised of a set of plugins to help designers and prepress operators become more successful. Studio enhances the Illustrator offering.  

What industry drivers does it tap?

Naughton: Brand owners are driving most of this. It addresses the ability to create designs and receive instantaneous feedback from the brand owner. It also allows brands to use this virtual packaging on ecommerce sites. It's even starting to replace some photography. Most important, it reduces the time that was traditionally used to create on physical mockups. It accelerates the design process and provides a simple packaging concept approval tool. Instead of sending physical mockups to a number of locations via overnight delivery, the designs are simply attached to an email message.

What’s involved and how is it used?

Naughton: Studio is a series of Adobe Illustrator plugins and standalone packaging creation tools for boxes, flexible packaging, labels and shrink sleeves. It is used within Illustrator, in the creative sense, to help designers, prepress agencies, ad agencies and internal resources within brand owners to move a product from the conceptual stage all the way up to pre-physical mock up approval.

Designers and operators import a structural design file into Illustrator and add artwork from graphics files. They can design from either a two-dimensional flat or from a three-dimensional view. The 2D flat shows up instantly on a 3D model. The resulting artwork can be exported into an Esko workflow or to an external workflow or file format for viewing.

How have customers used it?

Naughton: Studio is used for all types of packaging. Beyond 3D packaging like flexible packaging, folded cartons and corrugated, it also works with labels. Studio works very nicely with non-Esko modeling programs that export the Collada file format—which is just like a PDF of the 3D world.

Users can move bottles back and forth between Esko and non-Esko solutions. For example, while labels are 2D, they are placed in 3D products. In fact, one of the Studio modules allows prepress shops to determine the distortion of shrink sleeves when placed around unusually shaped bottles.

Studio is also used for conceptualizing. It can turn around digital product simulations very quickly before a company goes to more expensive and some consuming physical mock-ups and print runs. Studio can easily show a wide range of material special effects like embossing, foils, and holographic art.

With Studio there are also ways users can create and stack products inside a pallet. This means that Studio will not only create individual packaging prototypes, but stand-up displays like end caps, as well. Store Visualizer will let the user test the visual impact of a design in the environment where it all happens: the store. They can create virtual retail environments with Studio Store Visualizer, and see the new designs on the shelf next to the competition, or present a complete product launch in 3D, including retail-ready packaging, displays and other branded items. With the ability to build a virtual store to emulate a real store environment, a user can now extend Studio's use from showing a few products on a shelf to an entire end-aisle display.

What value does it bring to users, especially for brand owners?

Naughton: There is a much quicker design approval process, resulting in faster time to market. This solution is very visual. What you see is the rendered final product before it even exists.

Brand owners are able to see much quicker 3D representations. They are also no longer limited to specific angle shots. The can spin the product around, look at the barcode, the Nutrition Facts panel, see how panels match and come together—basically everything as if they were holding a product physically in their hands. Esko even offers a free iPad/iPhone app to spin around or place the product in any environment with Augment Reality.

A good example of this is IKEA. Although IKEA does not use our technology, it uses a similar app for their furniture so that people can see how a couch, for example, might look in their living room.

Another app within the suite allows users to create labels and apply them to virtual containers.

And what kind of interest have you seen?

Naughton: There has been lots of interest, particularly over the past 18 months. Using a virtual 3D view is becoming standard procedure and an expected way to use the technology by a lot of brands. The word has gotten out because of shows and presentations Esko has done. It is becoming a common step in the process, and people are asking for that use of technology. It's almost becoming expected by mainstream brands.

Even brand management is asking, "Can you send a 3D PDF viewing file?"

While there are many recognizable brands that refer to this technology, Esko cannot divulge their names.

Please comment on the key features in the new version.

Naughton: Esko Suite 14.1, an upgrade of most of its software, was announced July 17. One of the major new features in Studio is an enhancement to the visualization of special effects in the 3D model. There are now lighting controls in the virtual store. There is lighting and shadows on the shelf. Those features that were announced include:

  • For the first time Esko offers the ability to purchase Studio via subscriptions. This offers some simple and flexible solutions that will get users making beautiful 3D concepts in no time.
  • Esko continues to port Studio Visualizer into Adobe Illustrator to further enhance the seamless design and creation workflow. Version 14.1 sees the implementation of environment lighting, scene presets, full screen mode, and the ability to export beautiful 3D multipart pack shots directly from illustrator.
  • For version 14.1, Store Visualizer gains a new Virtual Environment Generator. This replaces the current simple virtual store generator, and it will ship with 10+ brand new environments. The floor and walls in these environments can be edited with the user's choice of choice of color, images and textures.
  • The option of “Dynamic Lighting” is a very powerful system that gives users the ability to add their own lights (e.g. spots/light strips) anywhere in a virtual store. This could be focused lighting or in-shelf lighting. It adds even more realism and allows users to customize the feel of their stores.
  • To also further increase the realism a brand new “Shadowing system” has been added. Studio can now super realistically render shadows; for example view object shadowing through transparent surfaces.

Packaging mistakes and misfires

Packaging mistakes and misfires
All seems right on the back of this carton until you spot the blooper.

Can you spot what’s wrong with the back of this carton? It’s an example of a failure or blooper that, however rare, does occur in an imperfect world and in packaging.

I’d come across the above cartoned  package of branded, imported spring rolls two years back  and held on to it thinking I’d someday write about it. That day has finally come, thanks to the inspiration from a wry, laugh-a-minute presentation on packaging design by John Nunziato of Little Big Brands during Packaging Digest’s Global Food & Beverage Packaging Summit in July.

We’ll get back to my find at the end of this article, but first we wanted to share a selection of Nunziato’s extensive list of packaging bloopers. They demonstrate what can happen when you take your eye off the ball, or in these instances, off of the packaging during development, design or packaging production.

Nunziato presented far more examples that drew louder laughs than these few, but we condensed them for reasons of practicality and, frankly, in order to keep this family-friendly for a general viewing audience. Obviously these are best seen, but due to copyright we’ve had to default to a description only:

One of his examples showed what can happen when a jam’s homey warm and fuzzy, family-friendly messaging gets messed up in a major way right on the label with branding that states “Tastes like Grandma.” Mmmm...gramma?!

He also had several examples of mispackaged produce, including blueberries in wrapped cartons clearly marked as Strawberries and corn cobs packed in large mesh bags with large labels stating Onions. Things must become very hectic and confusing during produce packaging, though it’s astonishing that something that seems so straightforward can go so wrong.

Poor spout?

Lest you think only produce packers make such mistakes, he showed a number of others, including a head-scratching incident where an aseptic carton’s spout was applied to the opposite side of the carton’s top instead of over where the peel-off laminate opening was located. Knowing that aseptic cartoning operations are large, high-throughput systems, we’re thinking that this wasn’t the only carton that made it outside the plant and onto a consumer’s table. I’d say this effort makes it far more a “poor spout” than a pour spout.

Downstream operations are also a place where errors can creep in, such as a shrink-film wrapped multipack of Fanta orange soda that included a rogue bottle of red-labeled Coca-Cola standing out against a film-wrapped sea of orange.  It showed what can happen when there’s only a 99.9% level of quality assurance along with a changeover that wasn’t quite 100% cleared out, either.

Another example was of a spoon in a blister pack marked as being a fork. It is so wrong it’s a wonder it ever made it to store display where the picture was taken. At least they had the adjacent knives properly packaged and labeled.

Nunziato ended his talk on a more serious note with an example of what may be the penultimate case study example of a major misfire on a package redesign: Tropicana orange juice, which has become the clichéd poster child for a redesign gone wrong. Nunziato found a silver—orange, actually—lining to this effort when he pointed out the great, brand-equity-gaining orange-like closure. The closure was lost amidst the hoopla surrounding a redesign that caused considerable consumer backlash.

Contact Nunziato at Little Big Brands for more examples or for how to properly plan, design and execute a great packaging design.

Did you spot the mistake on the back of the carton yet? It’s found in the Nutrition Facts box, or rather not found there because the % Daily Values are missing. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen that before or since coming across that mistake, which my former editor would say was an “egregious” one.

Whether egregious or humorous, we invite you to share those packaging fails that you’ve seen by writing a comment below. If you prefer and if you have any photo evidence, please sent it to our attention at [email protected] and add “Blooper” to the subject line.

Hair care maker transitions to thinner labels

Hair care maker transitions to thinner labels
Switching to a thinner pressure-sensitive label helps OGX brand owner save the equivalent of the annual energy used in 15 U.S. homes, among other savings.

Vogue International, makers of OGX hair care products, has reduced the environmental impacts of its pressure-sensitive labels on packaging through collaboration with WS Packaging Group Inc. and Avery Dennison.

By switching to Avery Dennison’s Global MDO film, the OGX brand will reduce environmental impacts by 26% to 34% across the categories of fossil material, water use, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and waste generated. According to Avery Dennison, that is the equivalent of saving 65 barrels of oil, the drinking water for 131 U.S. citizens, the annual energy used in 15 American homes, taking nine cars off the road for a year and eliminating the annual waste of five U.S. households, respectively. 

“Vogue International is committed to reducing our environmental impact and increasing transparency while maintaining our commitment to sustainable practices,” says Jamie Kontz, marketing and product development manager, in a released statement. “We encourage our suppliers and business associates to also make an effort toward practices that are not only commercially sound, but have a positive impact for future generations.”

According to Vogue, using the Avery Dennison Greenprint methodology, a life cycle-based environmental performance assessment tool, an evaluation was conducted to show that using thinner label materials will reduce environmental impacts. The Greenprint tool was launched in 2010.

“Improvements in sustainability require collaboration across the value chain,” says Laura Clark, Avery Dennison FMCG Director, North America. “Vogue’s leadership in improving the environmental profile of packaging is driving the value chain to work closer together.”

The life-cycle evaluation helped guide the packaging team at Vogue and WS Packaging Group in their decision to transition the labels for its leading products to Avery Dennison’s Global MDO film, states Avery Dennison.

“Collaborating across the supply chain drives value for brands,” says Wayne Richter, chief supply chain officer, WS Packaging. “By combining our converting and packaging expertise with high-performance films like Global MDO, we’re able to deliver sustainable benefits and shelf impact for leading brands like Vogue.”

Pharma/OTC, quick-serve and pet brands make it ‘stick’

Pharma/OTC, quick-serve and pet brands make it ‘stick’
Pharmaceutical products, like the gel shown here used during an electrocardiogram test, could benefit from the dispensing convenience and control of stick packs.

It’s hard to remember a time when stick packs were not the go-to package structure in a variety of product categories. But only 20 years ago, flexible packaging in the shape of a stick was a radically new concept, at least in North America.

Neil Kozarsky, CEO and president of Technical Help in Engineering and Marketing (T.H.E.M.), recalls: “Back in ’96, when T.H.E.M. introduced the first stick packs to the USA market, consumers didn’t know what they were! The closest thing people had seen to these innovative single-serve packs were Pixy Stix—flavored sugar for kids that was dispensed directly to their mouth.”

Since then, brand owners with products ranging from powdered drinks to Dijon mustard have adopted stick packs as a convenient, portable single-serve format. Kozarsky sheds light on three developments that he believes will drive the continued growth of flexible stick packaging.

1. You’ve predicted that stick packs will enjoy a healthy entrance into pharmaceutical and over-the-counter (OTC) markets. Why is that?

Kozarsky: Obviously consumers now know that stick packs can be used for a range of applications and market segments, including beverage, energy, dietary supplements and OTC products, too. Current examples in the USA and overseas include aspirin, Tylenol and other pain-relief medications (see image above). Advanced stick machinery and filling technologies now allow consistent dosing in tamper-evident pack formats, for dry and liquid products; and machines are available to meet pharmaceutical-design and sanitary-compliance levels. With an aging population, the FDA really likes perfect-dose packs that reduce the potential for improper measuring from larger, bulk containers.

In addition, consumers can see the benefit of fresher medicine. Since life for many is on the go, all the time, these portable purse- and pocket-friendly sticks are a perfect solution when taking meds away from home. Since all consumers now know what stick packs are and have used them, the time is opportune for these convenient packages to expand more rapidly into higher-level applications, including health.

Next, a case for high-end quick-serve applications...

Stick packs for elegant cocoa from Van Houten provide easy dispensing and use less material than other packet types.

2. You have also predicted the emergence of upscale quick-serve stick packs. What is driving this development?

Kozarsky: When Sanko invented stick packs in Japan more than 40 years ago, most applications were dry condiments, including sugar, sweetener, tea, coffee and cocoa. The technology was available for liquid sticks long ago, but cultural barriers in Japan prevented use of sticks for ketchup and other popular condiments. The potential for consumers getting product on their fingers was simply not acceptable.

Fast forward to the USA today: Many quick-serve restaurants are entering the market, and their message is higher-quality, fresher food. One strategy to gain consumer attention is to use a more upscale package to serve condiments. Stick packs are ideal as a point of difference, and they drive a higher value perception. Opening designs allow consumers to use the condiments in stick effortlessly and neatly. Also, sticks can provide larger fill sizes to address consumer frustration at having to use several packets for one order of fries or a single burger.

Sticks have always been used to differentiate brands. That is why they are an expanding presence in more upscale restaurants. Sticks also have the potential to use less film than traditional packets for the same serving amount. All companies are under pressure to source reduce, and sticks can be part of that.

Next, benefits for pet products...

Synacore's digestive support supplement for dogs and cats comes in portion-controlled stick packs.

3. Finally, you’ve predicted that pets will experience the same stick-pack advantages as their owners, going forward. Please tell us about that.

Kozarsky: Stick packs offer the same features and benefits for two-legged and four-legged consumer brands, providing differentiation on-shelf, portion control, tamper evidence and high value perception. Spot has to watch his/her waistline, too! Pets in the USA have obesity issues. Portion-control sticks are an elegant and upscale means to keep cats and dogs on their diet. Dry kibble in sticks has been on the market in Japan for decades. It is only a matter of time until sticks are on shelves in the USA for pets. Material savings will also help drive increasingly cost-conscious brand owners to leverage stick packaging.

3D printing’s future in packaging is promising

3D printing’s future in packaging is promising
One-third of respondents use 3D printing for packaging applications and of those 100% use it for rapid prototyping.

An exclusive survey provides an overview to the market status, forecast, advice and points to several unusual projects in the packaging market.

Exclusive survey results for packaging’s role in 3D printing indicates that while current activity in 3D printing for packaging is limited, that will change due to increased investment in the technology as a near-term tipping point that will bring many more companies into using 3D printing for packaging.

That’s according to the final results of Packaging Digest’s informal 3D printing poll answered by dozens of industry professionals. We asked for their input whether or not they used the technology because we wanted to know the reasoning for those who don’t.

We’ll start with the reasoning for those who use the technology, which was exactly one-third (33.3%) of our poll takers, according to the poll. What do they use it for? In a question that allowed multiple responses, all  (100%) reported that they use 3D printing for prototyping. Also, 25% said they use it for packaging machinery parts and another 25% said they use it for “other” purposes. We’ve bundled some of those along with justification the poll-takers indicated for why they use 3D printing:

It is very valuable—an item in someone's hands that I am designing is better than a picture.

It provides rapid, iterative design free from current machine constraints.

It can speed up prototype lead-time, it can help avoid costly dies that may have to be created even just for a prototype initially. It also gets one to a high level of accuracy.

Speed and initial low cost to generate complex designs for consumer feasibility.

It provides fast, accurate prototypes that provide good feedback for all internal customers when developing new packaging or modifying the current packaging.

It offers rapid prototypes without tooling costs.

We use it for rapid tooling development for deep embossing and debossing applications.

It’s another important tool in the toolbox. Rather than use a CNC, milling machine or lathe, a 3D printer gives you another way to output a concept or idea to support the packaging innovation process.

It’s an excellent way to provide unique solutions to customers.

It is very useful for mockup preparation.

We use it for components and machinery parts.

Enables us to quickly innovate and respond to our customers.

The high value to see the advantages and disadvantages in the printed design

We don't do it internally, we leverage our suppliers and their outsource partners, mostly for prototyping packaging components.

There are too many advantages to list.

We found that exactly one-third (33.3%) who use the technology do the 3D printing in-house; more than one-fourth (26.7%) outsource the technology and 40.0% use a combination of self and contracted projects.

Next we explored the reasoning for nonusers and peered ahead at 3D printing's near-term future in packaging…  

We found that the majority of respondents (~63%) don’t use 3D printing technology; of those, 44.4% reported that it was not applicable to their business while another nearly 30% reported that it was not in the budget. Examples of “other” responses that comprised 26%: we don't know how best to utilize 3D for packaging; we are in a wait and see mode; we don’t need it; and we have not done any projects currently, but may explore it for the future. This response captures the essence of those caught in the middle: “There’s a huge potential, but currently the advantages in packaging are not very clear.”

It was the future exploration that we wanted to address with the question “Do you plan to use 3D printing in the next 1-2 years?” Specifically, 61.4% said Yes, 6.8% said No and 32% checked off Didn’t Know.

We also asked for advice, which elicited the following:

Be careful on how you choose a printer.

Buy 3D printers or partner with good 3D machine vendors. Also, don't be cheap!

Find a partner. Most software companies that sell CAD CAM programs also offer 3D printing

First purchase Solidworks and become competent at design. Without that capability, the 3D printer will sit idle.

Make sure your design works well with the technology.

Tailor the printer type to your application. There are many choices each, with their own nuanced differences.

The 3D printer used for prototyping must be using the print technology that provides a very smooth, production-quality surface. Not all 3D printers are alike and capable of producing production quality surfaces.

Try to use a transparent plastic. [Ed note: Presumably because this allows users to see the details of the printed object’s shape and contours.]

Interestingly, one person suggested that conductive inks can be used in a 3D printer.

Another respondent echoes a universal lament from across the spectrum of packaging about a lack of time and resources: “I wish we could learn how to use the associated software programs and hardware internally to gain a deeper knowledge of its uses and applications, but we don't have the allocated apace and resources for it.”

Among the unusual 3D printed projects that we solicited, this Elephant Bottle was certainly one of the more interesting. The 3D printed version used for prototyping is on the right.

Finally, we asked them to tell us what was the most unusual 3D printing project you’ve used related to packaging? Here's what they told us:

Parts to hold product in place within a crate;

Replicating food products for sizing studies; [Ed. note: I've known of a brand owner that arranged to have various sizes of protein products 3D printed to then determine the sizes of the packaging required for different product sizes and package counts.]

Printed a box insert for small hardware, then sent that 3D piece out for approval with a sample of the intended end use material that was a bio-based paperfoam. We gained approval right away and saved weeks of time!

Printing a piece of art and merged the art with packaging.

Created a candy tin prototype container where the skirts were shrink-wrapped with a full-color label and the top was adhesive labeled.

A 1-L bottle that has an elephant’s face (see image above).

While 3D printing’s role in packaging is currently a mixed bag, we can expect more and broader uses for the technology in the months ahead.