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Articles from 2017 In July

Dior pumps up the volume with new mascara package

Dior pumps up the volume with new mascara package
A study in contrasts: Dior blends hard and soft, and matte and shiny, in its new mascara package.

A specially developed package and product formula combine to produce extra volume for Dior’s new Diorshow Pump ’N’ Volume mascara. The package also makes the most of opposites: hard and soft; matte and gloss.

The new mascara tube combines a hard copolyester with a soft rubbery material—specifically poly-cyclohexanedimethylene terephthalate acid (PCTA) and styrene ethylene butylene styrene (SEBS), respectively—to create a unique package that helps consumers improve mascara application. Package supplier Texen achieved this through a two-phase bi-injection process.

By squeezing the tube with two fingers where it’s pliable—under the embossed logo on both sides of the tube—consumers are able to mildly warm and soften the mascara formula. This helps the mascara better fill the ultra-supple bristles on the specially developed synthetic brush to transfer more make-up to the lashes.

“The idea was to make the impossible, possible—to create very thick lashes without clumping,” explains Peter Philips, creative and image director for Dior Makeup. “By pumping, you soften the formula and get a creamy volumizing effect that creates really rich lashes.”

The flexible area on the tube features a matte finish, whereas the rest is shiny, for an eye-appealing look that is also functional for easy gripping.

Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

AR and VR in packaging: Beyond the buzz

AR and VR in packaging: Beyond the buzz
Heineken’s Desperados beer added a virtual dimension to a limited-edition promotion that caused a social media stir in France. The design was created using Google Tilt Brush, a virtual reality headset and hand controllers. The label is from CCL Label.

A look at real-world opportunities using augmented and virtually reality technology for packaging, consumer engagement and more.

It was in Toronto in May where I moderated a well-attended panel discussion on augmented and virtual reality at UBM’s Advanced Design & Manufacturing event, a duty that took me a step or two outside my comfort zone in packaging editorial.

I learned that the technology is even more remarkable than I’d imagined, with the panelists pointing to applications real and possible across a wide swath of industries. I also found very quickly there’s no way to take notes while moderating, so nearly all of what the panelists said evaporated.

However, I felt this fascinating subject—is there anyone unaware of the Pokémon GO phenomenon that uses an augmented reality smartphone app?—deserved a wider audience. I reconnected with research firm IDC Canada senior analyst, Emily Taylor, whose insights anchored the broad-based panel discussion of experts. Taylor conducts strategic research and analysis on mobility technology markets, focusing on mature and emerging technologies including augmented reality and virtual reality.  She sets the stage for further drilling down into the packaging side of the equation by the president of Shikatani Lacroix Design, “designers of immersive experiences,” on the next page.

As a backdrop to the market itself, a report from research firm SuperData projects that mobile augmented reality will become the primary driver of a global $108 billion VR/AR market by 2021, with AR taking the lion’s share of $83 billion and VR at $25 billion. Another report projects the global  market at nearly $120 billion by 2022 at a 75% CAGR from 2016 to 2022.

Let’s start with defining these two terms.

Taylor: Augmented reality (AR) is technology used to complement a persons’ environment through the addition of digital content or objects into their field of view, while virtual reality (VR) is technology used to remove a person from their existing reality and provide a “virtual” reality, immersing them completely within a digital environment.

What’s the state of the AR/VR market?

Taylor: Over the past year or so we’ve seen some big players in the tech industry bring AR/VR solutions to market in the form of software, services and hardware. This industry push and the promise of AR/VR technologies to be the next key computing platform has encouraged experimentation and innovation in this burgeoning market. Initial waves of AR have been seen on smartphones and tablets where the device’s camera is held up to a key landmark and additional information is augmented into the scene on the screen, and it is expected that this will be the way many are first exposed to AR.

With AR, the blending of the real and the virtual can be difficult to create, but the possibilities with both mobile devices and head-mounted displays like Microsoft’s HoloLens are expected to be more limitless than VR. Initial VR headsets and solutions have been heavily focused on gaming and hyped launches for products like HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but as both AR and VR solutions evolve the technologies have potential to revolutionize business as we know it.

What are the biggest growth markets for the tech?

Taylor: We’re seeing spending and lots of interest in AR technologies in manufacturing, transportation, and healthcare. For VR, retail, construction, and healthcare are areas where we see great potential. Overall, for enterprise users AR and VR ultimately raises productivity and allows workers to interact with data rather than view it statically. Those interactions have the capacity to facilitate experiential learning, virtual collaboration spaces, and training simulations. For consumers, these technologies will provide “as if you were there” and augmented experiences as new ways to consume and share content.

What benefits does virtual-enabled packaging offer?

Taylor: AR/VR-enabled packaging—and AR/VR-enabled content overall—facilitates heightened interactions for the user by supplementing the real world with digital content and provides a new, unique experience that wasn’t previously possible.

There is currently a lot of hype surrounding AR/VR solutions, and utilizing these technologies in advertising or marketing can provide benefits that are two-fold:

  1. It allows organizations to investigate the applicability of the medium to their business before making broad decisions or investments; and
  2. It also can provide some PR and marketing hype for a brand.

Still, some AR/VR executions may be seen as a gimmick to some consumers, particularly if there is no obvious benefit or utility for the technology’s usage. Product visualization is an area where this technology fits well, where consumers can view items virtually before purchase. This may help facilitate the purchase if the consumer isn’t sure, as it allows them to visualize the item(s) in a new way.

A test subject, outfitted with electroencephalography (EEG) sensors and Samsung Gear VR headset, uses a controller to navigate through a VR environment. Image: Shikatani Lacroix Design.

What newer technology comes into play?

Taylor: Head-mounted displays (HMDs) enabling AR/VR content are poised for growth over the next few years. These devices are also expected to evolve as both AR and VR HMD experiences require a lot of processing and battery power to make the experience robust, which can be a trade-off between power and mobility. Devices are also expected to become lighter and thinner, easier for longer term wear.

What’s a piece of advice for brands considering using AR/VR on their packaging?

Taylor: It is important to lead with good quality AR/VR experiences, as bad experiences can both be damaging to both the evolution of AR/VR in the market as well as the brand. One of the key advantages of these technologies is the level of immersion in the user experience, and the quality of this user experience will help drive adoption and interest overall. Further, adoption and usage of these technologies requires a certain level of digital operation, so assessing the current state of readiness within the brand or organization will be important when pursuing next steps.

Next: Packaging design & development and the 3 hot spots for AR and VR


Immerse yourself in a real-world packaging experience at MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive 6-event megashow that also includes PLASTEC. For more information, visit


Jean-Pierre Lacroix, president, Shikatani Lacroix, addressed our questions with a thorough, informative reply that’s worth relaying intact.  

The future of packaging is immersive and virtual

One of the biggest challenge for brand marketers is ensuring their new product launch or rebranding efforts succeed and overcome the risks associated with any change. Ultimately marketers are looking for solutions that will break the industry risk benchmark where only 1 in 10 new products succeed or where repackaging initiatives fail to drive significant sales growth. The question many of our clients are asking is “What is the role of AR/VR in the packaging development process in addition to how these technologies can better engage with customers?” It’s an important question when you consider that all new mobile devices will come with AR/VR capabilities built right into their systems, thus making the barrier of access and use a moot point.

Our firm has pioneered the use of both AR/VR in addition to the combination of these visualization tools with neuroscience and our research has proven these tools are very effective in gaging consumer reaction to design options. Although there are many applications of this technology being used and considered by marketers, I believe the biggest short-term impact will be its use for research. I have listed three major areas these technologies have started to be used today and suggestions to what the future will bring.

1. Shop-ability packaging research

The battle still remains at the shelf level irrespective of all the hype of online sales, especially in the grocery category where only 10% of all sales are completed online. The battle is won or lost every day driven by a brand’s shelf visibility and shop-ability since most consumers can be swayed at this pivotal moment of purchase as we have coined the term Blink Factor, that split-second impulsive decision emotionally driven to buy one brand over another. Historically marketers have relied on eye tracking shelf studies to determine how the new design performs at store level and although they do provide some insights, they only tell a partial story. The challenge is every retailers has different planograms making predictions of shelf impact and shop ability a real challenge. More importantly it does not get to the emotional dimension of the at-purchase moment so pivotal in driving sales.

This is where VR plays an important role when coupled with neuroscience technology as the combination of these tools allows for researchers to gage consumer cognitive and emotional responses across a wide range of planogram configurations in the context of a virtual world that every day is getting closer to mimicking reality.

Research firms such as Explorer and our VR/AR work with True Impact have for the past years pioneered the combination of these technologies with great success in helping marketers get to the true facts of how consumers make buying decisions. With the increase of screen resolution and computer processing speeds to drive the virtual world frame rate to match that of a real environment only a few years away, the blurring of what is virtual and real will become reality allowing the use of these technologies to provide even richer insights.

AR gets physical: Through the use of the custom-built app on the tablet, the Pepsi Emoji product artwork is displayed using the soda can as the marker instead of a code or surface tracking. The user is able to touch the object, pick it up, turn it or place it alongside other cans or products. Image: Shikatani Lacroix Design.

2. Store experience agile design process

The big challenge for retailers is how to ensure the millions of dollars in investment associated with a new store concept are successful in engaging customers and driving in-store sales versus online. Historically retailers only gain insights on the success of their new store program well after the prototype is built and customers have frequented the new experience. This was the case with M&M Food Market where we built two separate store concepts in order through ethnographic research determine the optimum experience. However retailers have a new took with VR allowing them to assess new store concepts with their customers at the very beginning of the design process allowing an agile and iterative process.

We recently used the combination of these technologies to research a new bank we were designing in China, allowing both our client and the design team to gain insights regarding the design options with customers. The results of using this technology when compared to the actual built environment has proven the accuracy and effectiveness in gaining deep insights and understanding of customer’s responses to new designs. We now incorporate these tools in most of our larger branded environment projects helping our clients make smarter decisions well before the stores are built, minimizing the traditional risk of making changes or enhancements driven by real world customers shopping reaction once the prototypes are completed.  

3. New 3D visualization tool

AR or augmented reality provides a whole new platform for marketers to engage with customers at the product level. The technology linked with eye tracking enabled AR glasses allows researchers to provide consumers with physical packaging with AR mapped graphics that can easily be changed within seconds. This technology will allow for more realistic assessment of packaging graphics in its physical state and allowing a full 3D view of the label design. This has significant benefits when research pharmaceutical packaging with the need for extensive product information. The current HoloLens technology is still in its infancy (the product is not ready for official launch and plans are years away) and we view the use of this technology as limited to client label presentations at this juncture.

We do leverage this technology in creating augmented reality worlds viewed from your tablet or smart phone as part of creative presentations for clients. Most recently we presented to a major fast food chain in China a virtual view of their new concept providing the opportunity to view all aspects of the experience through their smart phone virtually.

The carton lid on Vital Farms' eggs uses Augmented Reality to show how much space the pasture-raised chickens have as a way to increase consumer engagement. See Augmented Reality app complements egg carton redesign

Future forward

We see AR as taking greater dominance amongst marketers as a new medium to connect with customers. The advent of invisible bar codes allows customers to now easily use their smartphone to enter a brand’s virtual world, allowing richer storytelling and more immersive experiences as the critical at-purchase moment. This technology has been around for more than a decade and has received gained very little traction since the mobile devices being used provided limited quality of experience. With today’s smart phones high resolution screens and fast processors, we predict its use becoming more prevalent.

Ikea has pioneered its use several years ago to help customers make better furniture decisions by allowing items from their catalogue to be virtually placed in a person’s home. We will see its use as an alternative to a mobile site or promotional in-store conventional material. Coupled with geofencing* and Artificial Intelligence data technology, it will provide a more personalized and richer customers experience allowing brands to compete at a different level of engagement.

 *Ed. Note: Geofencing is “the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area.”

For more on the topic of AR/VR-enabled packaging from Packaging Digest:

Augmented Reality offers real-world value for packaging design

Blippar and packaging: The reality and possibilities of digital engagement


Immerse yourself in a real-world packaging experience at MinnPack in Minneapolis November 8-9 that’s part of a comprehensive 6-event megashow that also includes PLASTEC. For more information, visit


Is voice-enabled technology suitable for packaging lines?

Is voice-enabled technology suitable for packaging lines?
How can you use voice-recognition technology in your packaging operations? Photo courtesy of

“Hey, Siri. Does the cartoner magazine need to be refilled on Packaging Line 4?” With artificial intelligence (AI)—a.k.a. machine learning—and voice activation, packaging line operators could be more aware of what needs to be done and when. Would that better prevent costly downtime? Would it increase productivity without having to hire more hard-to-find skilled workers?

Too far-fetched? I don’t think so, especially considering that:

Voice-directed warehousing was introduced in the late 1990s, and is seeing a rapid rise in adoption;
Advancements in life science due to artificial intelligence and machine learning continue at a rapid pace;
• Consumer acceptance of voice-enabled assistants continues to rise. According to CNBC, Amazon’s Echo Dot, which gives people access to voice-assistant Alexa, was the best-selling item during Amazon’s Prime Day 2017 (July 10).

This type of technology transfer could yield positive results for packaging lines. (Photo above is Designed by

What do you think?

Take our short poll and tell us what you think about the practicality of voice technology for packaging machines/lines. CLICK HERE TO VOTE NOW!

Packaging Digest posed this topic to select exhibitors at interpack, the world’s largest packaging show, in early May 2017. Here is what top executives (see full bios at the end of the article) at a handful of leading packaging machinery manufacturers think, as they weigh in on the viability of incorporating voice-enabled technology on packaging systems and lines:


Riccardo Cavanna, CEO, Cavanna Packaging: Theoretically, voice activation is an interesting feature because hands-free is something that our customers request, especially on a production line to manage packaging machinery. Hands free for changeover, without using tools, is a must and that’s why we have introduced [at interpack] the new ZeroX flow wrapper, a tool-free machine.

Here where we are standing in the booth [at interpack], it’s quite crowded and noisy. And in a production area, there is noise everywhere from machinery.  So, voice control could be a very interesting but the technology has to be able to recognize my voice in a noisy environment. The Siri technology is one benchmark we have. Even in a situation like this [in the booth], it’s difficult to recognize your voice.

So, it’s a matter of technology.

The second point is security. In a pharmaceutical plant, our HMI [human machine interface] has to log every single person who has made some change. Even in the food industry, that [type of security] is coming more and more.

If I can tell something to the machine by voice, it might not be so safe because voice is not like a digital fingerprint or a security card. Anybody could tell something to the machine.

So voice activation on a packaging machine is a possibility but there are security and technical challenges to be solved.

Brian Dillman, area sales manager, East, Universal Robots USA Inc.: I can only comment from the robot perspective and not from packaging machinery overall. 

The idea of voice-activated robot systems is intriguing from an ease-of-use perspective. The other side is safety. Safety and security concerns have password protection to make sure no one without authorization makes changes to a program. Imagine the risk of having a system with voice recognition making adjustments on the fly without validating the person providing the instruction.

I expect efforts are being made to make robots more intuitive and provide self-learning functionality. Voice activation may come along the same lines, but the safety experts will have to evaluate how to make it secure and tamper proof.

Alexa is great, but she can't tell if it is my wife or the local TV news sometimes. Voice control will need more sophistication to make it viable.


Martin Prakken, CEO, BluePrint Automation: To be honest, I don’t see a huge need for this, as there are so many other things that can be made so much more user-friendly. HMI’s, for example, are still not as intuitive as an iPhone.

Doug Stambaugh, svp, Bottling & Capping Group, Pro Mach: I have not seen voice-recognition technology utilized anywhere on packaging machines or production lines. Currently, we have not had any requests for it from our customers. Will it migrate to packaging machinery and packaging lines? Possibly. Most of our customers’ current focus is getting more efficiency from their current equipment and adding flexibility to handle the growth in SKUs [stock-keeping units]. Not sure how voice recognition helps with this, but who would have predicted the success of Alexa and Siri.

Uwe Harbauer, member of the executive management, Bosch Packaging Technology: That's an interesting question. I haven't seen any voice recognition applications yet. I reckon it's hard to implement in practice, since packaging facilities often feature a high volume of noise. This makes it difficult to prevent voice recognition errors that could hold up production. This would certainly counteract the benefits of a self-explanatory HMI.

At this point in time, I don't see voice recognition being applicable in packaging, and I've certainly not seen it on the exhibition floor (at interpack). I think voice recognition would be very difficult to use when packaging pharmaceuticals or sensitive products that require cleanrooms or protective and hygienic operator gear. These conditions can distort voices.  

But from a technological standpoint it's certainly possible. It shouldn't be that much of a challenge to add it into an HMI, and it would be affordable, too. We already use voice recognition technology on a day-to-day-basis, in cars, in smartphones. Why not in an HMI 4.0 application? I think it would be possible. The question is, is it necessary and practical?

Do you need or want voice-enabled packaging machinery? Take our poll now by CLICKING HERE.

Our panelists (alphabetical by last name):

Riccardo Cavanna became CEO of Cavanna S.p.A. in 2004, after having served as a member of the board of directors since the year 2000. During his present term, Cavanna has grown the company internationally by opening a manufacturing plant in Brazil and another one in the USA. Additionally, Cavanna is the vp of UCIMA (Italian Association of Automatic Machinery for Packing and Packaging) and president of Ipack-Ima’s board of directors, the leading Italian packaging trade fair, in a joint venture between UCIMA and Fiera Milano. He is also a member of the PMMI Global Marketing Committee in the USA.

Brian Dillman, area sales manager, East, Universal Robots USA Inc., manages the company’s expanding sales channel network in the Eastern United States. He joined the cobot market leader in 2016, bringing with him three decades of sales experience with increasing leadership responsibilities, including positions with KUKA, Motoman and several systems integrators where he sold welding, material-handling, loading, dispensing and assembly automation solutions. Dillman joined UR to be part of what he considers to be “the most transformative robot company to arrive in the market in the last 25 years.”

Uwe Harbauer has been a member of the executive management of Bosch Packaging Technology and a member of the managing board of Robert Bosch Packaging Technology GmbH since January 2017, with responsibility for sales and the Pharmaceuticals Business Unit. He joined Bosch Packaging Technology in 2000 as head of sales for the Business Unit Pharma in Crailsheim, Germany, then served as head of Business Unit Services in Beringen, Switzerland, in 2006 before returning to Crailsheim in 2013 as head of Business Unit Pharma. German born, Harbauer earned a degree in general mechanical engineering from the Technische Universität Darmstadt in 1990.

Martin Prakken became CEO of BluePrint Automation in 1999, after having joined the company in 1990 and served as president of the company’s U.S. division for five years before his promotion to CEO. BluePrint Automation BV was founded in 1980 to “supply the ‘missing link’: Automatic case packing of non-rigid packages,” according to the company’s website. As CEO, Prakken manages the U.S. division—BluePrint Automation Inc.—and the sister company, BluePrint Automation, BV, located in The Netherlands.

Doug Stambaugh is svp of Pro Mach's Bottling & Capping Business Line, one of the company’s key growth platforms. In this role, he is responsible for overseeing the operations and global commercial development for the business line, which includes the Federal and Pacific filling brands, the Zalkin capping brand and the Pace container handling brand, as well as numerous international sales and service offices. A 30-year veteran of the packaging industry, Stambaugh has a broad base of experience in the global consumer packaged goods market from packaging through the supply chain. Prior to joining Pro Mach, Stambaugh served as general manager of ITW Warehouse Automation, where he managed international operations and was responsible for global growth of ITW's warehouse and supply chain automation. Prior to that he served in senior leadership roles at Hartness Intl. as both general manager of integration and vp of global sales.


MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis) celebrates its 15th year to bring you the latest developments in all things packaging as part of a comprehensive advanced manufacturing event. Sign up today to attend!

Authentication: Reactive testing simply not good enough, says pharma expert

Authentication: Reactive testing simply not good enough, says pharma expert
Image of pharmaceutical-grade ink containing DNA markers on capsules courtesy of Applied DNA Sciences

“Even though FDA’s enforcement of the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) has been pushed back a year, the illicit trade won’t stop,” warns Bob Miglani, speaking of pharmaceutical counterfeiting, diversion, and other criminal activity. Miglani spent 23 years working for Pfizer, and a year ago he joined Applied DNA Sciences to serve as chief of business development.

The firm’s DNA markers have already made “tremendous progress” in several pharma labeling and packaging pilots, he says, and the company is now working to address industry’s challenges—and perhaps reluctance—with employing a routine product authentication strategy.

“DSCSA is a tide that lifts all boats,” he explains, but he adds that “regardless of serialization,” there are still threats. “Serialization is digital, and anything digital can be copied and hacked. Threats and challenges will always be there for anything digital,” he says. “Companies need to refresh their toolbox.”

Layers of anticounterfeiting technologies can help counter these risks, just as they do in currency, he says. “Our technology fits into those layers,” he says. 

Applied DNA Sciences’s DNA markers—which Miglani describes as “molecular bar codes”—can be incorporated in “virtually any material.” They have been tested and validated in inks, varnishes, even embedded in materials, and the company has recently completed feasibility studies of tablet coatings. “With a significant proportion of the world’s tablets having a coating,” he says, “it is a seamless way to integrate our technology.”

The technology is also a robust one. The DNA markers have been employed in cash boxes that have an electronic system that sprays the cash with dye if breached. A thief may be able to wash out the dye, but not the DNA, so the crime can be linked to the person, he says. “We’ve already had 114 convictions in the United Kingdom,” he says.

And field DNA readers have gotten better, with faster readers and field-deployable authentication kits that can be carried onto planes, he says.

However, the challenge with authentication technologies hasn’t necessarily been the speed, but rather the frequency, he explains. “When the police bust bad guys in Poland, for instance, they look at the packaging and then call the drug company to verify. The security contact is located and sent the suspect product. Folks in the lab then test it and determine whether it is counterfeit. The company then needs to file a suspect product investigation report with FDA. All of this is a very reactive way of testing suspect products, and it happens a few times a year,” he explains. “It is useful, but not good enough.”

Pharma companies may hesitate to employ forensic authentication because of the effort behind investigation. Miglani says companies struggle with training employees, developing SOPs, access to systems, and accuracy.

But given the ongoing risks—and the fact that FDA is putting pressure on companies to monitor markets—“companies need to be more proactive and routinely audit and test products in the supply chain,” he says.

To address these challenges, Applied DNA is developing a new “authentication as a service” approach. “No longer do companies have to worry about testing,” he says. “We will do so in hotspots where there could be problems. We could provide each customer with an inspection officer who can test products in the field. We’ll produce quarterly audit reports and produce ‘heat maps’ showing, for instance, that 70% of the samples from one market are authentic and 30% are not.”

Applied DNA has performed such frequent testing in the cotton and tech industries. The company runs a full-service ISO 17025 accredited lab in Stony Brook, and its lab workers are trained like crime scene investigators, he says. “Our forensic reports have held up in court,” he adds.

The approach offers the potential for “a lot of data mining,” he says. “You can utilize analytics to shift strategies. If you see problems in one country, for instance, you can take a look at your distributors.”

Such data can also be used as a value proposition, he adds. “If you want more business from a hospital chain, you could show reports on testing of the supply chain. We are living in a world of total transparency. It is important to put all your cards on the table.”

Miglani advises pharma companies to look upon routine field authentication as just another means of auditing. “The pharmaceutical supply chain is used to auditing,” he says. “Pharma is very good at compliance.” And some companies would rather be given a certificate showing they have passed such audits, he adds.

He adds that Applied DNA has “learned that the approach must be seamless and integrated into the pharma supply chain ecosystem. The vastness of that ecosystem is massive in scale and complexity,” he says. “There is a lot of potential for our technology—pharma needs to reduce risk and differentiate its products, and FDA is watching pharma companies closely. For certainty in the marketplace, our approach offers a whole system to tag, test, and trust.”

For more details, see our 2016 article, "Turning to nature to fight counterfeiting." 


MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis) celebrates its 15th year to bring you the latest developments in all things packaging as part of a comprehensive advanced manufacturing event. Sign up today to attend!

What does FDA’s DSCSA enforcement delay really mean?

What does FDA’s DSCSA enforcement delay really mean?
Image source: Shutterstock/g0d4ather

FDA is delaying enforcement of the upcoming product identifier requirement under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act, but should this delay alter your plans?

This past June, FDA announced that the agency “does not intend to take action against manufacturers who do not, prior to November 27, 2018, affix or imprint a product identifier to each package and homogenous case of product intended to be introduced in a transaction into commerce as required by section 582(b)(2)(A) of the FD&C Act,” the agency writes in the draft guidance, “Product Identifier Requirements Under the Drug Supply Chain Security Act – Compliance Policy Guidance for Industry.” 

Some in industry simply may not have been ready this fall. “With the various touchpoints we engage across the industry, including a recent poll taken at our Serialization webinar just this month, we continue to see a significant lack of preparedness,” says Justin Schroeder, senior executive director - global marketing & design, PCI Pharma Services. “The pharmaceutical companies and CMOs have simply been slow to react, and we are seeing the hockey stick effect on resource demand across the supplier market. The various organizations that have petitioned the FDA for this delay have brought attention that there are limited resources to call upon for this scale of an initiative, which is now at a fevered pitch. The body of equipment providers, integrators, EPCIS solution providers, IT and Operational consultants, as well as CMOs are stretched considerably thin and many are running substantially behind. At PCI, we are fortunate to have anticipated and foreseen much of this situation, therefore executing on a strategy to insulate ourselves. Despite our being ahead of the curve, it continues to be an ongoing challenge for the industry as a whole.”

Brian Daleiden, vice president, industry marketing for TraceLink, adds that “pharmaceutical serialization and the management of serialized product information is simply hard, and companies often under-estimate the time and effort needed for a company and its supply ecosystem to implement a serialization solution as well as the broad impacts they have to business operations. In particular, mid-sized and small companies that use contract manufacturing organizations (CMOs) are only just realizing the complexities of the task at hand, a fact borne out by several surveys from TraceLink and others highlighting that lack of readiness in the external supply ecosystem with CMOs is a key reason why some pharmaceutical manufacturers are not ready for 2017 DSCSA deadlines,” Daleiden continues.

It’s important to note that “the FDA’s enforcement delay does not change the deadline—it only means that companies have a one-year grace period before any penalties for non-compliance will be levied,” says Pete Sturtevant, senior director of industry development - Pharmaceuticals for GS1 US. “In the meantime, drug manufacturers should be driving forward with their work to meet the phase 2 requirements and continue to prepare their production lines for serialization. The transition takes time to implement, so this extension provides time for companies to put the necessary systems in place.”

This delay in enforcement—not in the deadline itself—is telling, believes Dave Harty, head of professional services – Americas, for software provider Adents. “Postponing its enforcement rather than delaying the official compliance deadline is a deliberate and very clear signal from the FDA that the law remains in place and is not going to go away or suffer multiple further delays,” he says. “After all, the law is intended to make the drug supply chain safer and, ultimately, save patients’ lives by protecting them from counterfeit medicines. It is more than likely that this suspension of enforcement for 12 months will entail a complete zero-tolerance approach in 2018 as anyone not in compliance would technically have been in violation of the law for a full year.”

So, should this delay alter your plans?

“We believe that drug manufacturers shouldn’t alter their existing plans,” says Daleiden of TraceLink. “The time is now to continue pushing ahead, not to hesitate or pull back. Acting now will ensure that scarce project resources assigned to serialization stay together and stay focused. Continuing the push to compliance will ensure that accumulated serialization knowledge is put to good use rather than fading away. Challenging investments in communication and coordination with supply partners will only pay off if the program continues moving, otherwise the pharmaceutical manufacturer risks having their supply partners refocus on other client needs. Finally, many of the most unexpected and most challenging to solve issues are only unearthed during the final stages of testing and go-live. Postponing current plans will only postpone the inevitable adjustments and rework involved in commercializing your serialization program.”

Jeff Benedict, senior vice president, global business development, Sharp Packaging Services, says that most of its current clients “are moving forward as planned to be ready for the original date. Sharp and the parent company UDG Healthcare have made all the upfront investments to ensure 80% of our lines are ready for the November 2017 date, and we are able to support up to 5 levels of aggregation.” He says that current and pipeline clients continue to focus on the November 2017 timeframe. “This will also allow the pharmaceutical companies to align with the wholesalers and their requirements,” he says.

John Jordon, PE, Vice President of Vantage Consulting Group, suggests that “clients continue their plans and schedules, but they do have time to ‘do things right.’ Interim solutions and inventory builds are probably no longer necessary; however, if a client has any lines that are not fully validated, they should finish them. It is probably not wise to put everything on hold for six months either. Put succinctly, there is an opportunity here for some course correction – but this should not stop any projects.

“For most companies, they can make smarter decisions on what they do when—but a considered approach and understanding of the guidance is required,” Jordon continues. “It should be kept in mind that there is no great delay here—regardless of the interpretation, there is inventory management to be done as well as returns management to prepare for. Once this is understood, each company should understand how these elements impact their plans.”

For “those pharmaceutical manufacturers with multinational product lines, the drumbeat of serialization and compliance reporting deadlines will keep getting louder as EU FMD, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and other mandates quickly follow,” adds Daleiden. “For manufacturers that were at significant risk to making the DSCSA serialization compliance deadlines, all of the post-November 2017 pressures will still apply. What the enforcement discretion may provide to these companies is an ability, where they had to make significant tradeoffs and compromises in a rush to attempt to meet the deadlines, to quickly reexamine their current program. For example, some companies may have decided that they couldn’t afford the time to create an efficient, necessary integration between their line management systems, internal distribution systems, their 3PL’s systems and their enterprise serialization management solution, and were thus relying in the interim on manual data entry or spreadsheet uploads. Or these companies might have decided that creating an effective exception management system wasn’t possible in the time available. These companies may look upon the enforcement discretion as providing the necessary time to do things right for their long-term business success.”

But for “pharmaceuticals manufacturers with no solution installed yet, this is a tremendous opportunity as many that have made selections or decisions they have come to regret, but felt trapped by the deadlines and unable to make a change,” Harty of Adents says. “Now they can carefully rethink their decisions, learn from what has been happening in the industry all around them, and hopefully find a better way forward.”

And “those who are currently equipped will have the advantage of working though the learnings and impacts while not under a penalty threat to accommodate and adjust as needed, and will be in the best position to run their businesses in the most effective way once the enforcement period commences,” he adds.

Schroeder believes that “the one-year delay does provide manufacturers more time to revisit their strategies around aggregation. The 2017, now 2018, DSCSA deadline does not require product aggregation. However, PCI is a very strong proponent for the use of aggregation. From the experience we have gained having been actively serializing commercial drug product for the past five years, we see significant operational and logistical benefits for using aggregation. With a robust serialization system using online vision inspection, aggregation provides 100% assurance and verification of serialized products. Without that systematic assurance, operations are left to human verification, which is less than optimal and comes with inherent risk. Furthermore, downstream in the supply chain the use of aggregation provides all trading partners the opportunity to avoid the use of inference, a practice that also raises considerable amount of concern for accuracy and product security. Aggregation may add some complexity for initial implementation, but ultimately generates a much more robust and safe supply chain.”

PMP News asked FDA about the sort of enforcement drug manufacturers could expect if they are not compliant with the product identifier application requirements on November 27, 2018.

“According to the guidance, products not complying with the DSCSA requirements are considered misbranded. Companies marketing misbranded products may be subject to warning letters, seizure, injunction, fines, and criminal prosecution,” FDA Spokesperson Tralisa Colby tells PMP News. “However, the FDA is delaying enforcement of the product identifier requirements for manufacturers until November 2018 to provide manufacturers additional time and avoid supply disruptions.”

Sturtevant says that if drug manufacturers “haven’t already started, they should get going! The one-year grace period does allow time for companies to do an appropriate amount of pilot testing to make sure that their implementation systems work. For help, they can consult the GS1 US Implementation Guidelines, and a case study that shares learnings from a pilot program conducted by Johnson & Johnson Supply Chain (JJSC) and AmerisourceBergen Corporation (ABC).” He also points to GS1 US’s one-day Certificate Course , Applying GS1 Standards for DSCSA” designed to help manufacturers, wholesale distributors, and healthcare providers prepare for the requirements of DSCSA. Additional industry resources are available from GS1 US here.

FDA has opened a docket for public comments on this draft procedural guidance. Stakeholders have until September 1, 2017, to provide input. Colby told PMP News that “the agency is interested in comments from all stakeholders about any aspect of this guidance relevant to the person or organization commenting.”

Dirk Rodgers, regulatory strategist for Systech, says that “we recommend that manufacturers comment on three things:

  •        Will one year be enough time to meet the serialization and verification requirements? If not, what is a sufficient time?
  •        What impact are the missing guidance on waivers, exceptions and exemptions, and grandfathering having on a company’s preparedness for this deadline?
  •        Seek better clarity on how FDA will enforce the 2017 requirements for drugs that are serialized during the middle of the one-year delay.”

Jordon of Vantage offers the following suggestions:

  •       Questions on specifics are warranted—such as what is the definition of “verified”?
  •       Most importantly—Does the inclusion of the word “intended” in the statement “product intended to be introduced in a transaction into commerce” mean that only product PACKAGED after Nov 26, 2018 (with the intention to eventually sell) must be serialized?
  •       Exactly what activities define when the manufacturer first engages in a transaction involving that product? 

Daleiden of TraceLink says that “with respect to the compliance policy, it might be particularly valuable to share with the FDA how pharmaceutical manufacturers will handle hybrid inventory of mixed serialized and non-serialized drug products during the interim period of enforcement discretion. Insights such as how manufacturers will identify non-serialized drug packages [that] fall into the discretion timeframe, how this impacts other shipments of drug product and the creation of their associated T3 (transaction history, information, and statements), and how the T3 and other data may be used to help downstream trade partners understand and identify such affected products which relate to their own parts of the new compliance policy.” 

Colby of FDA says the agency is planning “additional public meetings on enhanced drug distribution security to get input from supply chain stakeholders,” and refers stakeholders to this link: DSCSA law and policies

In terms of other open dockets related to DSCSA, “on April 28, 2017 the FDA reopened the comment period for the Request for Information about pharmaceutical distribution supply chain pilot projects,” Colby adds. “The comments are due by April 30, 2018 and will further inform the design and development of the pilot projects that the FDA establishes under the DSCSA. Please see the DSCSA law and policies page for more information about guidance and policy documents and associated dockets.”

Concludes Schroeder of PCI: “While the announcement does provide the industry some ‘breathing room,’ and this is certainly welcome, the overall resource and continued investment for the overall pharmaceutical industry remains considerable. PCI has no intentions to slow down our serialization implementation and are actively encouraging our clients to proceed with their initiatives to ensure a seamless strategy execution. Many in the pharmaceutical industry will absolutely need this additional 12 months to be in a position to succeed by November 2018.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article quoted John Capants, P.E., portfolio director at Vantage Consulting Group; those quotes should have been attributed to John Jordon, PE, Vice President of Vantage. This correction was made July 18, 2017.


This fall, boost your packaging expertise and discover more solutions by attending MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis), the largest Advanced Design & Manufacturing Event in the Midwest. Register today—See you there!

Food packaging safety: Avoiding '911' emergencies Part 1

Food packaging safety: Avoiding '911' emergencies Part 1
Guidance for avoiding business conditions that impact food packaging component safety risks before they advance from infrequent and manageable into recurring and calamitous.

What do you do when changing conditions transform limited food packaging risks into absolute certainties? Food safety expert Gary Kestenbaum knows.

Packaging Safety Expert Gary Kestenbaum offers guidance for evaluating, anticipating and recognizing business conditions that impact food packaging component safety and suitability risks before they advance from infrequent and manageable into recurring and calamitous.

Established food and food packaging facilities typically enjoy a consistent and reliably safe supply chain. Oversight and control is based on predictability with limited changes be they known, anticipated or unexpected.

However, with historic upgrades in regulatory oversight and the need for sustaining profitability, changes occur at a dizzying pace, and any changes in a chain affect all downstream players. Quality, consistency, reliability and safety can become predictably unpredictable. “Sure thing” quality characteristics of products or processes reside as future liabilities because they are considered invisible, on” auto pilot” based on long-term favorable reliabilities.

Typically, packaging “army of one” quality managers focused oversight on expected high-risks and demonstrated “bad actors.” Occasionally, low-risk or low-frequency defects occurred and were addressed at that time. Even when a supply chain change occurred, it was handled, per se. Defect levels increased temporarily and were “managed.”  Over time, though, sporadic defects became more consistent and annoying. When defects result in a food safety or unsuitability issue, the stakes increase significantly, and will not be tolerated by customers and regulators.

Job one is to assess and quantify true risks and the actual or potential harm to people and profits from those risks. That process needs oversight and ownership by cross-functional teams who should be taught to function as ad-hoc insurance actuaries. Job two is to have solutions in hand, ready to implement in advance of risks becoming events. 

A quick trip to the FDA website yields lists of published in-market quality events, recalls and market withdrawals. Multiple events from the same organization suggest that the oversight process is in need of review and rewiring.

The important learning from increases to in-market product unsuitability events suggests changing conditions: changes in supplier, materials, process, resources or other modification. Manufacturers are not blind to addressing product quality, safety and suitability, but usually limit themselves to the existing internal written and practiced process and in doing so they may fail to properly consider how changing circumstances or conditions increase risk potential. In light of the enhanced authority given FDA from FSMA and related food safety rules, federal regulators have stated that they are expecting U.S. food supply chain suppliers, including the food packaging industry, to continuously review, evaluate and adjust assumptions, programs and controls, in advance, to prevent or reduce risk of in-market calamities. 

Consider the analogy from a recent New York Times article that mentioned domestic flood and fire risks. Changing conditions facilitated irreversible increases for risks from floods, fires and related catastrophic property damage. The article stated that as time marched on, data showed that it wasn’t a question of whether there’d be floods or fires in targeted areas, only how often and how broad the scope. The key takeaway was that changing conditions in weather patterns, topography and environment were guaranteeing that calamities characterized as risks in the 1980s had evolved into certainties in 2017. Insurers will provide coverage for possibilities, but they recoil from covering certainties. How many times will an insurer fund a total rebuild or other expensive disaster before it simply withdraws coverage?

The classic argument within industry that “it never happened to us in all our years in business” is tantamount to the quote in the New York Times article that “although [the scope and impacts of super-storms] Katrina and Sandy felt like once-in-a-lifetime events, there is actually a 50% chance within a 10-year period” that there will be other Hurricane Sandy-sized losses. The article went on to define the term “100-year flood.”  The public takes that to mean “one catastrophic flood every 100 years.” That is not what a 100-year flood means. 

The article observed that there was a narrow window of opportunity for affected property owners living in high flood risk areas to accept a one-time mitigation offer, or assume 100% of the risk going forward. If would be fair to assume that food packaging manufacturers face the same terms in the event that insurance loss potentials become loss certainties. 

Identify costly and harmful food safety or suitability risks to your products.

•             Are you aware of potential causes and extents?

•             Are effective root-cause analysis and corrective action control mechanisms in place? 

•             If one slips through and harm occurs, do you have insurance to protect your business from such a calamity? 

•             How will you react if a loss event reoccurs? 

•             Who will insure you once it is public knowledge that you have an unmitigated risk generator in your process?

Not having answers and solutions to these questions leaves your company at high risk for financial and reputational losses.

When (formerly) sporadic-turned frequent calamities occur in the food supply industry as a whole, they are sure to pop up on insurer’s actuarial “hit lists” of known risks.  The food industry likely resides within insurers’ “yellow flag” categories already due to the impact on human injury and the high costs of market withdrawals and recalls. When given a reason to recalculate, insurers will quickly re-calculate and make the necessary adjustments including inspections, enhanced questionnaires, higher premiums and deductibles and, at worst, cancellation and rejections. For those companies who self-insure, the risk of increased in-market calamities can quickly affect the entire business model.

The conundrum exists that even though every food supply situation is unique, there are of course commonalities shared by every category in the industry. A good example is off-shore sourcing of materials, be they raw, intermediate or finished. Sourcing off-shore does not in its own right assure high risk; certainly, there have been many market withdrawals and recalls facilitated by errors and omissions within the continental United States, but it would be fair to say that sourcing from outside North America adds risks, challenges and degrees of difficulty including, but not limited to U.S. Government oversight, political climates, cultural differences, the inconvenience of distance, language and communication, resource limitations and other fixed elements which are difficult to foresee or control. 

A case study in futility

I was once in India to oversee packaging of bulk food products.  After reviewing one supplier’s process for case-packing bulk nuts and loading said cases into a shipping container, it was obvious that their loading pattern needed improvement. I carefully measured the case dimensions, plugged said values into a software optimization program and voila, a new and efficient pattern was created. 

You can imagine how excited I was as we began to load a container the next day using the new pattern. Smiles quickly turned to puzzled expressions when the pattern didn’t work because case dimensions didn’t match the internal limits in the container. “How did I screw that up,” I fumed?  A careful dimensional audit of knocked-down shipping cases culled from bundles in the warehouse exposed a wide variation in case dimensions, and I do mean WIDE! Variable and unpredictable enough to make cubic efficiency impossible to control.

When I asked the owner/operator of the facility how likely it was for him to reach out to the corrugated manufacturer and request/receive consistently dimensioned goods, he laughed. Such control was either impossible, unlikely and hard to enforce. Added costs of auditing, oversight, rejection and corresponding impact to his process made such a change impractical.  After that “aha” moment, I realized that many of the options in my packaging book of tricks intended to anticipate defects and apply controls were rendered useless.

To prove my point, I commissioned a consistently produced order of optimally dimensioned shippers, manufactured by a corrugated converted in the U.S. The cases were filled with product, as in India, and test-shipped in a similar container. Results were as expected, but, because of conditions beyond my control, the corrective plan was useless.

The next edition of this blog will explore processes that a food packaging organization can integrate to evaluate, control and react to quality/safety risks to its products.

Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, six as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer with Kraft. As senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at [email protected] or 410-484-9133. The website is


MinnPack celebrates its 15th year to bring the latest developments in food, beverage and all things packaging as part of a comprehensive 6-event megashow in Minneapolis November 8-9 that also includes PLASTEC. For more information, visit


Nelipak joins Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council

Nelipak joins Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council
Image courtesy Nelipak Healthcare Packaging

Nelipak Healthcare Packaging has joined The Healthcare Plastics Recycling Council (HPRC). Nelipak, a global provider of custom thermoformed packaging for medical devices and pharmaceuticals, recognizes “the responsibility as packaging manufacturers to take the environmental impact of our products into consideration as we work with our customers to create more sustainable products,” said Seán Egan, director of global marketing, Nelipak Healthcare Packaging. "Nelipak can not only help medical device OEMs make more informed decisions about packaging material selection, but is also often able to reduce the total amount of plastic used."

Nelipak plans to work closely to promote the work of the HPRC among its customers and suppliers, “creating awareness of the need to divert more plastic from landfills,” Egan tells PMP News. “Nelipak will examine ways of helping hospital staff more readily segregate waste material through education programs and clearer marking of thermoformed rigid packaging to help remove uncertainty on the material composition of the plastic used in the trays. We will also look to work with material suppliers to educate and promote the need for higher uptake of waste material by recyclers that can be used in non-medical applications.”

To help OEMs create more efficient and environmentally responsible packaging, Nelipak evaluates packaging beyond the initial need to protect the device to the point-of-use, says Egan. “This starts with optimizing the design to reduce the amount of material used in the manufacturing process, which in turn requires less material and energy to produce the part,” he explains. “Using simulation tools, we can streamline the package footprint to increase load efficiency during transportation from our facility to the customer’s loading bay. These same tools help customers lower their cost of ownership in their internal processes by requiring less energy in handling, sterilization and transportation to the clinical environment.”

Reducing the number of packaging components can also help. “Nelipak continues to innovate packaging by using fewer components,” he says, pointing to the example of putting laser-etched instructions directly on trays thereby removing instructional leaflets from the mix. “We also look to develop trays that become part of procedures in the surgical theatre, thus removing the need for additional containers,” he adds.

Recently Nelipak reduced the overall footprint of a packaging assembly for screw sets and plates compared with the previous packaging by using sealed trays instead of pouches, Egan says. “The new design decreased packaging volume by 40% for plates and 240% for screws. The previous packaging only held one screw at a time; the new pack holds three items (i.e., two screws and one locking screw); this removes four pouches from the waste stream. Additionally, extending product shelf life reduces the amount of un-used product that goes to waste.”

Innovating during the early stages of development could help result in recyclable packaging. “Nelipak becomes an extension of its customers’ packaging development team, taking on expanded roles in design, development, and testing,” says Egan. 

Nelipak’s expanding global footprint also plays a role. “Having multiple global manufacturing sites puts Nelipak closer to our customers, reducing our carbon footprint for shipping,” Egan says.

Peylina Chu, director of HPRC, says in a news release that “as a manufacturing leader in healthcare packaging, Nelipak offers important insights into new technologies and design best practices that can help increase the recyclability of these materials. Their input and wide range of expertise will be vital in helping support our goal of increasing the overall recycling of healthcare plastics.”

Other HPRC members include Baxter, BD, Cardinal Health, DuPont, Eastman Chemical Company, Johnson & Johnson, Medtronic, and Ravago Recycling Group.

For more details, visit or

Be sure to visit Nelipak at the upcoming Medical Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis expo November 8-9 at Booth #1316. 

New tech reshapes aluminum beverage bottles

New tech reshapes aluminum beverage bottles
Patented technique permits asymmetric shapes that can add differentiation and create unique brand equity in beverage packaging.

Patented technique permits asymmetric bottle shapes to add distinction and create unique branding opportunities paired with a variety of decoration options.

In a me-too world of packaging symmetry, asymmetry can be an attention-grabbing game changer. That’s the reasoning behind several years’ R&D by Montebello Packaging (Ontario, Canada), which unveiled custom-shaped asymmetric aluminum bottles that will available in Q4 2017. Besides product differentiation and a stand-out presence on shelf, a unique shape can create powerful iconic brand equity.

Made using proprietary, patented technology, the uShape bottle represents an opportunity for single-serve beverage packaging for beer, energy drinks, tea, coffee and other products to break out from the rest of the pack.

Montebello Packaging can asymmetrically shape an aluminum bottle with flutes, embossing, debossing and various fine details. Bottles are printed with the customer’s artwork in up to 9 colors using a high-quality dry-offset printing. A variety of visually striking print effects are available, including matte and gloss finishes, metallic and specialty inks, and an assortment of base coating options. The final product is capped using a roll-on pilfer-proof (ROPP) closure. The product is currently available in one base diameter, with hot-fill or ambient-fill volumes of 250mL/8 fl oz to 355mL/12 fl oz depending on the shape and other requirements.

Shatterproof aluminum bottles offer excellent barrier properties and are lightweight for shipping. We find out more in this Q&A interview with Kathy Mercer, director of sales, food and beverage.

What else can you say about the patent and the technology?

Mercer: We have developed a new technology which allows us to produce custom shaped aluminum beverage bottles, named the uShape aluminum bottle. The uShape bottle can be shaped using asymmetrical features, embossed, debossed, among other aesthetic shaping along the full length of the bottle. uShape your story.

I can’t speak too much about the machine itself other than it is the only one of its kind and it has sufficient throughput to accommodate small to large orders.

Why is an asymmetric shape capability desirable? What’s possible?

Mercer: The asymmetric shaping of aluminum changes the game in the sense that companies can now run a marketing or branding campaign that showcases their product and tells their story in a container that stands out on the shelves with all the benefits of aluminum packaging.

The possibilities are endless. We have an in-house graphic design team that works hand in hand with a client’s team to ensure their vision is clearly displayed through their container.

What’s your competitive advantage?

Mercer: Other aluminum beverage container manufacturers are able to shape aluminum bottles using embossing/debossing techniques or shaping through existing technology with necking machines. These manufacturers are unable to create custom shaping with asymmetrical features. 

What market trends does this address?

Mercer: Two in particular:

Innovation in recycling: The next generation of consumers are discerning in with their purchases and more curious about a company’s value chains than ever before. As companies embrace circular economy principles, designing packaging with the overall environmental impact in mind is critical to brand loyalty. Aluminum is 100% recyclable and around 70% of aluminum in circulation today is from recycled material.

Package design and labeling: Recent beverage industry trends have placed package design and labeling into the spotlight since consumers are attracted to visually appealing package design with easy to read labels that align with their health and sustainability interests in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks.

What’s needed from the brand/customer?

Mercer: We are launching a couple of options for customers to have a shaped bottle.  One option allows a customer to choose from a series of standard shaped asymmetric bottles that reduce the development and setup project for our customer. 

Alternatively, we will take a systematic custom approach to help the customer get started; we will need the expected bottle volume and headspace, ideas about the bottle designs and any concept or artwork already created.  We share information at each step of the process, from bottle design, capping, internal coatings, artwork and graphics, proofing and colors.

What level of attention are you seeing?

Mercer: Aluminum provides beverage companies, retailers and consumers with many benefits. We believe the industry has an appetite for asymmetrical shaping of aluminum containers that provide all the efficiencies of an aluminum can. Conventional aluminum cans generally have simple upright cylindrical sidewalls and have been relatively unchanged for 25 years. They are either one-piece bodies, or bodies open at one or both ends and closed at those top and bottom ends by separate parts. As new markets continue to develop in the beverage world and for reasons of aesthetics, consumer appeal and product differentiation, beverage companies can run a unique short term promotional campaign aligning to their long-term branding strategy.

We were awarded two awards this year from the Intl. Metal Decorators Assoc. (IMDA): Technical Achievement Award and Best of Category (Aerosol & Bottle) Award of Excellence for our propotype Muscle Up Milk and Panther asymmetric bottle designs (shown above).

What’s the market status? Where might you see a first adopter?

Mercer: We are conducting testing on custom designed bottles with various clients in the beer, ready-to-drink, carbonated soft drink and nutritional drink markets. We have a limited capacity this year and are scaling our production capacity with approximately 50 million bottles projected to be produced in 2018. 

It is difficult to say who exactly will be the early adopter of this technology since there are many possible candidates. Our current marketing and sales efforts have focused on the craft beer industry as well as RTD coffees, teas, Kombucha and carbonated soft drinks (CSDs). The reception has been positive and we look forward to delivering.

What’s the cost premium for these specialty bottles?

Mercer: Our uShape bottles are priced as a specialty package, which can be ordered at Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 30,000 units. The uShape bottles are targeted for short run promotions and long term branding strategies. 

What are your geographic markets? And what’s next?

Mercer: Product launch will be in North American markets. However, many beverage companies have a global footprint and we will work to support any type of campaign.

We will keep pushing this innovation to the next level through greater shaping capabilities, different finishes and creative closures and larger fill volumes.  

For more information, visit Montebello Packaging.


MinnPack celebrates its 15th year to bring you the latest developments in beverage, food and all things packaging as part of a comprehensive event in Minneapolis November 8-9. For more information, visit


The carbon footprint’s triumphant return

The carbon footprint’s triumphant return
Carbon footprints are back. Wait...were they ever gone?

For Walmart, sustainable packaging has a new mantra: everyday low carbon footprint.

This new emphasis is a touchstone for a sweeping amount of broader activity on greenhouse gas emissions, which had seemingly become a distant issue as the sustainable packaging conversation has revolved around recyclability. Walmart itself had placed recyclability front and center in its Sustainable Packaging Playbook, strongly encouraging use of the How2Recycle labeling system as a means to communicate recyclability and identify opportunities for improvement.

In April, Walmart changed the conversation by announcing packaging as one of six primary activity areas for Project Gigaton, its commitment to reduce one gigaton of greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. This summer, Walmart is putting the plan into action, giving suppliers a concrete directive for lowering the greenhouse gas emissions associated with packaging and asking them to report their progress.

Carbon footprints are back on the forefront.

A look at broader industry commitments suggests that interest in carbon footprint reductions in relation to packaging production has never waned. Research from the Sustainable Packaging Coalition on public statements and goals of brands and retailers found that the prevalence of commitments to reduce overall company carbon footprints was roughly equal to the amount of commitments to improve the recyclability of packaging. The key issue, though, is that carbon footprint commitments are always made at the corporate level, and they rarely—-almost never—-trickle down in the way of a formal commitment at the packaging level. The SPC only found one public commitment that explicitly made an imperative to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Packaging is never the chief contributor to the overall carbon footprint of a product or a company. And when it comes time for the packaging decision-makers to set goals, they want goals that resonate with sustainability-minded consumers. Consumers like recycling, and they understand recyclability, while the concept of low-carbon packaging doesn’t give the same warm and fuzzy feelings. Brands and retailers undoubtedly have non-publicized goals to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging, but secret goals don’t send the same signal. With Walmart’s loud new imperative, that may change.

It needs to be recognized that packaging is consequential to the carbon footprint of a packaged product, and improvements to the carbon footprint of packaging can be meaningful in the context of an overarching corporate goal. That is exactly what Walmart discovered, and why packaging is a centerpiece in its new push.

The rule of thumb for a packaged food product is that packaging comprises around 10% of the overall carbon footprint. Not huge, but certainly not too small to be ignored. For some products, it’s more. In the soft drink category, for instance, packaging can comprise up to 30% of the carbon footprint. For a company like Coca-Cola, this context sheds light on the rationale behind its massive push to use lower-carbon plant-based plastics in place of fossil plastics, which just so happens to be a strategy acknowledged by Walmart.

In all, there are likely hundreds of different types of actions that can be taken to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging. Any company seeking to reduce their packaging carbon footprint needs to take the actions that make the most sense in the context of their company’s activities.

The main effect of Walmart’s new focus on carbon is the bringing of a much-needed balance to the world of sustainable packaging. The narrative on packaging sustainability has been dichotomous at times. Do we place higher value on soft characteristics like recyclability, renewable material usage and recycled content, which clearly play into a circular economy vision? Or do we place higher value on scientific measurements of the true environmental impacts of the packaging life cycle, adhering to the principles of sustainable materials management and reducing today’s measureable impacts—like greenhouse gas emissions—regardless of so-called circularity?

It’s hard to do both, but the biggest danger is pursuing one school of thought in isolation.

To achieve more sustainable packaging, we need to maintain our long-term vision of creating a circular economy while simultaneously reducing carbon footprints and other measurable impacts that affect our environment today. Walmart is striking the right tone, establishing the expectation that suppliers make simultaneous advances in increased recyclability and lowered carbon footprints, and not saying outright whether one is more valued than the other.

Companies must rise to the challenge and elevate carbon footprint commitments to the same height as recyclability commitments. In some ways, it might be a revival. Going “carbon neutral” was the original centerpiece for all things sustainability, long before “zero waste,” “closed loop,” “circular economy” or “sustainable materials management” became established ideas.

With Walmart’s new push, old school sustainability is back!

Adam Gendell is the associate director of GreenBlue’s flagship project, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition. His work with the packaging value chain touches on goal-setting, design considerations and stakeholder engagement. Gendell has developed and delivered training seminars for hundreds of packaging professionals, including the coalition’s fall conference: SPC Advance. He coordinates several Industry Leadership Committees and is a frequent speaker and writer on sustainability topics. In 2013, Adam served on the PAC NEXT Leadership Council.


Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at MinnPack 2017 (Nov. 8-9; Minneapolis). Register today!

Survey: A look at medical device and pharma packagers’ salaries

Survey: A look at medical device and pharma packagers’ salaries

PMP News’s 2016-2017 Salary Survey and Industry Outlook reveals a pretty stable, satisfied workforce, but employees and managers do have some concerns. How does your experience compare?

In the below article available for free download, “Satisfied and Stable, But a Little Stressed,” PMP News shares the results of an industry survey showing that salaries for pharmaceutical and medical packaging professionals are healthy, and few employees are actively looking for new jobs. A good number of these employees, however, continue to experience the corporate downsizing that we’ve noted in past survey articles, so they are likely managing more projects, with fewer resources.

How do production managers, packaging engineers, and others keep up? Managers responding to our anonymous survey describe the qualities of employees they are hiring, while employees share their experiences on the job.

For these perspectives as well as the average annual salaries for packaging professionals employed by pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, please download the below article.