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Articles from 2020 In July

Packaging Design

With Pride and Against Racism, Some Packaging Takes a Stand

Photo credits (left to right): Red diamond and Vadim Maslov – Social-issues-AdobeStock_206718713-featured.jpeg

Companies large and small are noticing — and acting on — the sea-change in cultural attitudes we’re witnessing across the country and throughout the world. June was Pride Month, and with protests continuing throughout the US against racial discrimination and police brutality, we wanted to highlight some of the packaging designs being shared recently across social media that support inclusion and diversity in various forms or slam unfairness and perceived bias.






















Can we all take a moment to appreciate the perfection that is @jeffreestarcosmetics packaging ?! @jeffreestar you DID...

Posted by MakeupMurderess on Friday, June 29, 2018





Love and a Bach’s Pride. Limited edition for the #csd 2019. Available only this weekend. #craftbeer #beer...

Posted by Stefan Hübsch on Thursday, June 6, 2019



Conagra Commits $100M to Expand Snacks Plant

Image courtesy of Flickr user chriswaits (Chris Waits) 6000602472_1cdceb2c5b_o.jpg

American food company Conagra Brands is gearing up to start a $100 million expansion project at its meat snacks production facility in Troy, OH, several local news organizations and trade publications recently reported.


During the effort, Conagra will add about 63,000 sq ft of manufacturing space to the facility’s existing footprint, add new smokehouses and drying rooms, and install new packaging equipment, according to coverage by The company is reportedly initiating the project in response to an uptick in demand.

Conagra’s Troy plant current manufactures the Slim Jim and Bike’s Smoked Sausages meat snack products.

Work on the project is slated to reach completion before the end of this year, an account by Food Business News said. About 200 new jobs will be created through the expansion.


Healthcare Packaging

Packaging Should Be Part of the Design Control Process

Jenn Goff / Oliver Healthcare Packaging Jenn Goff / Oliver Healthcare Packaging

It’s important to consider packaging design early on during the medical device product design process, according to Jenn Goff, director of product marketing of Oliver Healthcare Packaging. During the recent webinar, "Medical Device Packaging as Told Through Design Control," Goff shared tips on design control requirements for packaging as well as advice for packaging engineers on getting involved in the design process. The webinar was part of the series, “How the Medtech Industry Can Respond to Crisis,” developed by Packaging Digest's sister publication MD+DI.


During the event Goff answered a number of attendee questions, and we asked her to expand upon those answers and address any additional questions we couldn’t include in the hour-long webinar. We encourage you to log on to the now-on-demand event for her presentation.  


Design Control

I have found that the design control process has been managed through the QA/QC staff. What is your experience with making sure that packaging is included in the whole process of documentation responsibilities?

Goff: The first step is identifying who owns the design control process. In my experience, this is typically someone from Quality or R&D. Once you have identified the process owner, I recommend you ask to get involved. If you receive pushback, help the process owner understand the value packaging brings to the overall process. Ask them to watch a recording of Oliver’s webinar with you and answer questions at the end. Or create your own Packaging 101 presentation and present to them or their team during a lunch and learn. The greatest tool you have is your packaging knowledge and how it impacts the overall process. Share lessons learned and help the process owner understand the value the information will bring. For example, easy-to-find information during an audit, documented evidence to support faster/smoother submission approvals, and minimize unnecessary project delays from device changes that impact packaging.


What functional area do you usually find that "owns" the design control process?

Goff: From my experience I’ve seen the design control process owned by R&D or Quality.


During the initial stage, do you involve Marketing, Sales, Regulatory, QA, Purchasing, and Manufacturing?

Goff: If by initial stage, you mean project kick-off/planning, then absolutely. All of those functions will have information necessary to design and develop the best sterile barrier system for your device and end user. In some cases, not all information you need will be available in the early stages of the project, such as make/buy decisions, manufacturing location, etc. Your partnership with marketing to understand the user needs for packaging will be key. If marketing hasn’t already begun this work, you can plant the seed and ask them to gather needed information as they continue to develop user needs.


Usually, what is the average duration of a typical project?

Goff: The average duration significantly varies from project to project. It can be anywhere from a few months for a next-generation device that falls within existing packaging and existing worst-case family justification, or it can be years for an innovative new device needing clinical trials. In my experience, the average new product development project lasts 18 months to two years.   


Have you experienced a stand-alone sterile packaging DHF [design history file] for universal packaging being utilized across multiple product lines? So, this DHF number is referenced in other device DHFs when they move to implementing sterile packaging in its development phase.

Goff: No, I have not experienced this personally. This strategy sounds like a great idea for standard run-of-the-mill packaging requirements for a large family of devices or for devices that have the same user needs. However, this could also prevent you from identifying unique user needs for your specific packaging/product combination. For example, notches, hang holes, and specific procedural requirements could allow packaging to create a competitive advantage. 


Having operator feedback is huge to packaging design and the equipment to be used (e.g., sealers). What would be a good practice for the packaging design engineers in how they should get involved if an already validated design is showing complaints?

Goff: The core team is typically composed of design engineer(s), marketing, quality, regulatory, and operations. Ensuring that the entire core team, or at a minimum the influencers, are aware of the complaints is key. Gathering quotes or information from operators and sharing their feedback with the core team can also be helpful. This allows the team to identify any potential risks when moving forward in the process.


For design verification testing...are there situations where you would just do transit conditioning (i.e., DC 13) and not include the environmental conditioning prior to transit conditioning?

Goff: No, not in my experience.


How would you define worst-case packaging samples (per ISO 11607-1) for performance DV testing?

Goff: Worst-case packaging samples are samples that represent the worst-case conditions when manufacturing, sterilizing, distributing, and using the product. At a minimum the following are considerations for a sterile barrier system: worst-case packaging configuration, worst-case product representation for a product family, worst-case distribution environment, worst-case sealing parameters, and worst-case sterilization process.


How much (clinician) user experience is now rolled into the ISO 11607-2019?

Goff: Section 7 of ISO 11607-2019 is designated for usability evaluation for aseptic presentation. It is up to the medical device manufacturer to determine the best method to meet the requirements in that section.



Are there several MDM companies with multiple packaging sample size requirements based on internal risk assessment?

Goff: It depends on the size of the medical device manufacturer (MDM) and the diversity of the product portfolio. Some large MDMs with multiple business units globally may have different sample size requirements within their procedures.


If bubble leak testing is performed on sterile pouches, do you think a peel test also needs to be performed?

Goff: In my opinion, yes. A peel test should be performed to either confirm you meet the minimum specification or create the minimum specification. This will depend on how the design verification protocol is designed and what level of detail/data was collected during process development.


Packaging Sustainability

What is your advice for guaranteeing lean documentation and avoiding over-engineering and over-documenting?

Goff: This is highly dependent on the organization you work for and their approach to compliance risk. For example, it would be challenging to create lean documentation in an organization that documents every detail. From the reverse perspective, giving an organization a lot of detail when they’re already lean would also be challenging. If you have identified opportunities for lean documentation, it doesn’t hurt to have a conversation with the project manager or process owner to align on best practices or potential lean activities. More documentation is not always better and can lead to unnecessary questions from internal and external auditors. Direct and to-the-point documentation that tells the whole story, while meeting the regulation, has been a successful approach in my experience.  


What is your opinion about using green packaging product? How do you balance between cost, ruggedness, and recyclability while designing the packaging?

Goff: First priority is always patient safety. Second priority is compliance to the quality system in which you work. If both priorities are met, then you can start exploring different materials and identifying sustainable packaging opportunities. With that being said, it’s important to understand how the packaging will be used by the end user and if they have the ability to recycle the materials. This is something that should be explored when identifying user needs. Recyclable packaging materials can create a competitive advantage as well as decrease the cost and carbon footprint of some hospital systems. This information can then be used to justify a premium cost for innovative recyclable packaging materials.



In your experience, how have you dealt with long established parts that are not meeting drawing dimensions? In the past 5 lots, the supplier hasn't been able to meet the drawing on PET-to-Tyvek pouches. Supplier has a positive shipment history with items now out of spec for over 10 years. There have been no material, equipment, or supplier changes or supplier process or equipment related changes. How would one create a solid rationale to relax drawing without repeated DV testing? Supplier is having difficulty in finding root cause.

Goff: It is a red flag that there have been no issues for 10 years and then suddenly products are out of spec consecutively. It might make sense to review the internal process as well as the supplier’s process. Have there been changes in inspector personnel, measurement equipment, or inspection procedures that may be giving different results? If all checks out internally, it is critical that the supplier partners with you to identify root cause or at a minimum share resources to help you through the process. If a thorough root cause investigation has been completed internally and with the supplier, and there has been no resolution, it may benefit you to start with tolerances as opposed to the dimension itself. Some questions to ask yourself: What are the tolerances? Are the tolerances consistent across all packaging materials? Are other suppliers able to meet those tolerances? If you find that increasing tolerances within the drawing is the solution, a justification must be created to document how the change would not impact form, fit, or function. In my experience, the best way to do this is by looking across multiple product families and identifying any risks or lack thereof in those dimensions. This is also a great opportunity to partner with cross-functional team members within your organization to brainstorm ideas on how to solve the problem.


Article courtesy of Packaging Digest's sister publication MD+DI

IoT Subscriptions for Manufacturers Grow Through the Pandemic

Zuora COVID19-Image.png

Looks like manufacturers are making the most out of data collection. They’re using subscription services to monitor their plant equipment as well as monitoring their products once they’re out in the field. During the pandemic, these data collection and management subscriptions are doing surprisingly well. Zoura – a software company that manages data subscriptions – noticed there wasn’t much of a falloff as the impact of the virus grew.


Zoura took its data and produced the Subscription Impact Report. It analyzed data from 700+ companies globally during the March – May 2020 period and found that four out of five subscription businesses were still growing their subscriber base amid COVID-19. A surprising 50% of subscription companies growing just as fast as they were before, while 18% were seeing subscriber growth rates accelerate. Seventeen percent of companies, including those in the IoT sector, were seeing a slower growth rate, they were still growing.


The chart shows the surprisingly high amount of growth experienced by data subscription services during the pandemic.

Continued Growth in a Dire Economy

A likely explanation for the continued growth in IoT service subscriptions is that companies see the gaps in the global supply chain during the current crisis and turned to IoT services as a solution. The goal was to turn to robotics, IoT, and other forms of automation to gain resilience in the event of a future outbreak – and simply to cut costs. “We’re talking about companies that are using IoT to reduce labor. They quickly embraced the transformation,” Michael Mansard, principal for business transformation at Zuora, tells Packaging Digest's sister publication Design News. “Companies like Siemens and GM deployed these services extensively.”

Mansard noted that many of the highly automated companies quickly expanded their IoT services when the pandemic hit. “We’re seeing manufacturers like Caterpillar and Thermo Fisher Scientific on a clear path of innovation when it comes to monetizing connected machines,” says Mansard.


Highlights from the Report

  • 4 out of 5 subscription companies are growing. Only 14% are contracting
  • For most companies, the revenue associated with each subscription is not growing as fast, pointing to a slowdown in upsells and expansions
  • Subscription suspensions increased 4X and credit memos for payment relief increased 2.5X
  • Subscribers on free plans increased by 1.2X

To some degree the report reflects the ups and downs of manufacturing. The industry took a hit at the beginning of the pandemic, and then it began coming back. “Manufacturing is different from other subscription services because there is a machine involved,” says Mansard. “We saw it slow down by 75%. Then it increased per customer by 42%. Subscription services have been able to focus specifically on a strong customer base before the pandemic.”

Part of the increase is a matter of bringing new customers into the manufacturing subscription services. “In manufacturing, the subscription service companies started to offer free trials,” says Mansard. “In other cases, the companies doubled down on adding value for existing customers to keep them on board. They accelerated their services to maintain the customer relationship so they wouldn’t have to reacquire the customer after the pandemic.”


Tracking Assets in the Field

As well as using connectivity for its operations, some manufacturers sell after-market connectivity that tracks the condition of the product in the field. Caterpillar produces connected machines with integrated sensors that gather data about usage. This data helps customers optimize the use of their fleets and reduce the overall cost of ownership. As a result, the company has new recurring revenue streams, closer relationships with their customers, and the largest connected fleet in the world, with more than 500,000 connected assets in the field.


Subscription Companies Adjust to Support Growth

To set themselves up for continued growth post-COVID, the data subscription service companies focused on several strategies including:

  • Usage-based pricing. Zuora research shows that companies that adopt this strategy grow faster than peers
  • Improving data insights. Offering a recurring service provides manufacturers and vendors a deeper look into customer use habits than they are used to. This helps to make full use of the new access to improve the service 
  • Activating in emerging markets. The connected auto market is expected to grow by $6.85 billion during 2020-2024, offering opportunities for new revenue streams

Mansard noted that monetizing connected devices and machines via subscription services is designed to ensure manufacturers can weather economic storms or external market pressures. “Manufacturers offering digital services are tailoring their pricing and packaging to meet ever-changing demands,” says Mansard.

Rob Spiegel has covered automation and control for 19 years, 17 of them for Design News. Other topics he has covered include supply chain technology, alternative energy, and cyber security. For 10 years, he was owner and publisher of the food magazine Chile Pepper.


Food Safety

Cleaning Tips for Food Packaging Plants During COVID-19

Photo credit: auremar – Food-plant-cleaning-AdobeStock_98576186-featured.jpeg

During the COVID-19 pandemic, much has been written about methods used to clean, sanitize, and disinfect surfaces, equipment and people.

Since COVID-19 has cost so many lives and is so virulent and insidious, official and expert resources are being pushed to provide ongoing answers and information in the form of guidance, governance, and best practices. Even though coronaviruses are not new, mutations can be unique and, therefore, stubbornly different based on sequences or genomes. So, guidances are based on “best available” knowledge to date, which may be limited, incomplete, or, at worst, inaccurate.

Thus, safety and sanitation experts have their hands full determining which substances or methods to use to execute functional kills of coronavirus that are complete and effective. It will be a daunting task for independent labs to take and analyze “clean” samples at production facilities and validate COVID-19 kill effectiveness. Until methods for killing and disrupting the spread of the COVID-19 virus become tested and mathematically validated, experts must depend upon best practices known to date and make sensible, conservative additions to existing Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs) based on “best available” information.

Let’s look at what we already know.


Defining cleaning terms.

The concepts of applying consistent, documented, defined-interval, and situational “cleansing” and disinfection protocols to materials and equipment used to produce and distribute comestibles are intended to meet or exceed regulatory targets, requirements and safety scheme (program) objectives, as per current guidance.

Regardless of the final objective, which should be product and situation-specific as defined by regulations, laws and best practices, the purpose for requiring, evaluating, and developing sanitation procedures is simply to assess and understand the risks for physical, chemical, and microbiological contamination — and control or eliminate them.

Terms such as cleaning, cleansing, sanitation, sanitization and sanitizing, and sterilization have likely never been more relevant or discussed in world households. Nothing like a worldwide catastrophe to popularize technical terminology and generate awareness. The general public may have misunderstandings about the definitions of these terms and technologies, so let’s start by defining and explaining same as they relate to packaging and packaging equipment used in the processing, manufacture, and distribution of comestible products.

“Cleaning and cleansing” refer to practices intended to remove visible contaminants, such as unwanted, incidental, or unintentionally occurring matter, residues, allergens, and other contaminants from equipment, utensils, and work surfaces.

“Sanitation” can have different meanings based on context. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sanitation broadly as the processes or conditions necessary to safely manage (human or animal) waste for the purpose of providing water and environments free from infectious diseases caused by microbiological contaminants. Alternately, sanitation subject matter experts (SMEs) tasked to control contamination of comestibles define “sanitation” as designed, targeted, and validated written plans composed of processes and procedures intended to maintain equipment and environs in a sanitary condition for processing, packaging, and storing foods. It is a step-by-step description of cleaning and sanitizing procedures developed to cleanse and decontaminate areas and surfaces which, if not controlled, would represent hazards to consumers.

“Sanitization” as defined in the US Food Code denotes the use of one or more suitable and approved control mechanisms (typically heat or chemicals) on cleaned and designated contact surfaces, which yield at least a 5 log (equivalent to a) 99.999% reduction of representative disease microorganisms of public health importance when properly evaluated for efficacy (validated). 

In addition to visible surfaces, sanitization may also refer to ambient or process air, water, and steam — all of which are required to achieve some level of physical, chemical, and microbiological purity based on applications and objectives of packaging and supporting edibles. As an example, “sanitizing” of air is not the process of freshening it. Freshening is a qualitative sensory process. Sanitation is a qualitative and quantitative verification of targeted purity.

“Sterilization” differs from sanitizing, in that it utilizes approved methods that require a verified removal of all microorganisms from a surface or substance. The context of sterilizing is typically related to medical applications rather than areas that handle comestibles. Notable exceptions in the food industry include materials and surfaces of aseptic or ultra-clean packaging and equipment or circumstances where specific micro qualities and quantities must be met, such as labeled as “sterile” single-use packaging or personal protective equipment (PPEs).


Listing expert resources.

A number of resources provide written guidance for virtually any comestible product circumstance, including the packaging of comestibles and the materials and equipment used.

Expert reference resources for control of contaminants include:

United States Code of Federal Regulations

• US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Bacteriological Analytical Manual (BAM)

FDA Food Code

• US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Services (FSIS) compliance documents

USDA Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) guidance documents

• United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

• United Nations WHO Codex Alimentarius and subject-related compendia, including the United States Pharmacopeia and Food Chemicals Codex

• Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)

• American Public Health Association (APHA) Compendium of Methods for the Microbiological Examination of Foods, et al

• And globally recognized private safety certification organizations.. 

As mentioned earlier, the objectives for “packaging” are fundamentally the same as the products they are intended to contain, with some specific measurable exceptions such as water activity (aw) and acidity or alkalinity (pH). The fundamental objective required to deliver safe product necessitates that product and package be free of contaminants, violative materials, or adulteration. By relationship, the support mechanisms for comestibles — their packaging, storage, and transportation — must also meet similar requirements. Think about “eating clean food with dirty utensils.”


Setting up the process.

For any facility to create an effective contamination-free operating environment, the designated subject matter experts tasked with sanitation must analyze risks from literally the ground up, beginning with the exterior air, ground, and water quality, all the way through transportation and storage.

As with the comestible, the packaging materials, equipment, and support mechanisms must be designed and handled to provide the requirements, targets, extent, and limits of composition and purity as defined by the experts creating specifications and instructions using the reference information in the resources listed above.

In a proper application of (edibles safety) protocols, qualified experts (quality, microbiology, sanitary design, sanitation chemists and engineers) will collaborate to document the information used to create Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures (SSOPs), and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) or Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls (HARPC) plans and related protocols. These protocols are intended to create environments, conditions, and handling conditions that are verified to deliver and maintain safe packaging and conditions designed as suitable for each individual product, subline, or component.  

The process begins with creating a suitable base environment, including the facility and surrounding areas. For example, if the next-door neighbor up-wind of the plant produces, bulk-stores, or conveys materials determined to be hazardous or contaminating to edibles, the imperiled company must mitigate the risk of air or ground borne water contamination. It must also vet all physical processes and/or chemical applications. Chemicals used in comestible sanitation or sanitization must be scheduled, regulatory approved, and meet assigned quality standards as per law and approved compendia.

Next, the packaging materials and handling will be specified. Technical experts will evaluate conditions and specify quality standards for food-contact packaging components. As with incoming food ingredients and in-process equipment and accessories, food safety and quality overseers need to presume that incoming packaging components need decontamination until the implementation of effective prerequisite or hazard controls prove otherwise.


Vetting the process and method(s).

When equipment and support services are engineered and evaluated, be they new or used, they need to tested and vetted for post-sanitation quality. Same with packaging materials. After the sanitizing rinse, the UV treatment, the ozone, the sterilization, the chemical wash, the addition of ultra-hot product, the retort, the H2O2 bath, or other valid process — the process and products must be able to withstand and pass a scientifically identified and statistically validated “micro challenge.” The quantitative values and qualitative results will differ from product to product, but the results must meet sanitation specifications. Service materials must test clean as well: Steam, air, water, storage, transport must all test acceptable vs. specific cleanliness quality.

The list of methods and chemical compounds approved for use and determined to be effective microbial control agents are too numerous to name and describe, as they are subject to change. In these unprecedented days of heightened microbiological awareness due to COVID-19. , broad concern exists over contaminants that cannot be seen, but must be controlled.



Experts may refer to the EPA website (List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19)), the FDA website (, the USDA website ( and the web sites of qualified, certified commercial organizations that provide guidance and services relating to sanitation, disinfection, and cleansing. Be aware, though, that published data may be based on “best information to date with methodology” and may not reference all conditions and circumstances. 

Sanitation engineers and quality control management may benefit from any number of methods to deliver sanitizing and disinfection media, chemical and physical. Time-honored procedures include controlled-condition baths, washes, sprayers, injectors, pressure systems, pumps, applicators, scrubbers, temperature controls, and concentrators. More targeted methods for application include electromagnetic radiation (such as UV light), ultrasonic foggers, electrostatic dispensing applicators, and pressurized blasting (dry ice/CO2, for example) to name a few more recent methodologies.

SMEs tasked with insuring safety are charged with the unenviable responsibility of having to engage in a HACCP or HARPC type of risk analysis. They must familiarize themselves with the challenges, nuances of the facility and its infrastructure, the risks of contamination, cross-contamination, and infection of materials, equipment, people, and the ways that they can all enter the supply and manufacturing chain.  As if that learning were not a challenging enough exercise, they must then build the process, test the process, validate the process (hopefully using independently-performed micro challenges in high-risk or required processes) and be prepared with a “plan B” in the event of a positive test or breach in the sanitation process.

Sanitation experts and microbiologists are aware of the risks of contaminants being brought into a facility during standard day-to-day activities. Ambient airflow from outside or room to room can facilitate contamination, as well as foot traffic. Other potential sources of contamination include packaging of anything and everything entering the facility (which is a daunting concept once you begin to create a list), as well as from internal storage, trash receptacles and cleaning implements, new parts and equipment, employees, transient visitors, office workers, and so forth.

As if that were not challenging enough, safety and quality managers have to ensure that materials and application equipment/methods used to eliminate or control the host of contaminants “do no harm.” Excess concentrations of sanitizing chemicals, unwanted employee exposure to sanitizing and disinfecting media, and unanticipated contamination of comestibles, packaging, and process equipment with sanitizing and disinfecting chemicals have all occurred in the past in food and/or food packaging plants, resulting in embargo and recall.


Flexible Packaging

Glenroy and Gear Aid Unpack a Specialty Spouted Pouch

Glenroy Gear Aid water repellent pouch and spout

Thanks to the savvy pouch packaging design, waterproofing the family’s rain gear has never been easier with Revivex Wash-In Water Repellent from Gear Aid, headquartered in Bellingham, WA. A single one-ounce treatment per garment creates and restores waterproofing protection without impacting breathability to high-tech gear including outerwear including gloves and Gore-Tex brand jackets and pants. Packaging essentials:

  • The 10oz pouches measure 7-in. x 4.5-in. x 2.75-in.
  • It’s offered for six products under the Revivex branding: Wetsuit & Drysuit Shampoo, B.C.D. Cleaner, Odor Eliminator, Wash-In Water Repellent, Down Cleaner, and Revivex Pro Cleaner
  • Prices vary depending on formula, from $6.50-$12.95.

The product was launched in the Americas and Asia in the spring of 2018 and is currently available for sale at retail and online. Here’s the case study of how that all came to be from the viewpoints of the brand and the supplier, Glenroy.

Glenroy’s viewpoint courtesy of the company’s Product Development team.

Gear Aid approached us with a need to transition from a rigid plastic bottle to a pouch for a line of Wash-in Water Repellent products.

“We’ve been working with Gear Aid since late 2016. Through a collaborative effort between our Product Development, Sales, and Customer Service teams, and the Gear Aid team, we developed a pouch that: could be used for all six of their SKUs; had a spout and cap that fit their custom designed dosing cover; and addressed leaking issues they were having with initial pouch designs.”

The beauty of the Gear Aid pouch is a durable structure that can hold the complex liquid application, yet still use a standard spout and cap that allows the custom-designed dosing cover to snap on top.

That’s a unique feature. The standard spout and cap protect the product inside while the custom cover serves as the measuring device for each use.

“The unique design of the cover adds to the visual appeal of the package. The structure of the pouch was engineered to better allow for maximizing the seal integrity around the fitment to reduce the possibility of seal failure. The pouch design is also optimized to withstand the rigors of ecommerce distribution.”

Gear Aid’s viewpoint courtesy of Christian Rudolph, Product Manager, Anti Fog/Adventure Tools.

It was a first for the brand and for the category.

“We have used stand-up pouches for some of our kit components in the past, but this is the first time we’ve put our liquid products into the flexible pouch. Also, our competitors continue to use standard blow-molded plastic bottles.”

The 10-oz spouted pouch replaced 12oz and 8oz HDPE bottles.

The pouches feature heavy-duty MPET construction and a spout fitment with tamper-evident cap.

“We had some initial challenges with creating an efficient workflow to fill the new pouches, but now that we are up and running, we use one-third less plastic for these items, we use less warehouse space, and we’ve gained some shipping efficiencies.”

Consumer education remains important.

“Our customers are typically outdoor recreation enthusiasts who appreciate environmentally responsible options. Even so, not everyone understands the life-cycle analysis of pouches or packaging. Once this knowledge is more widespread, we hope to see a more positive response.”

It opens up further opportunities for the brand.

“We are currently looking toward the future and seeking innovative solutions to reduce and minimalize the packaging for all of our products. Specifically, we are evaluating other items within our product offering that would be well suited for flexible packaging.”

Flexible Packaging

Packaging Sustainability Insights from My Personal Recycling Experience

Photo by Lisa Pierce Recycling-bin-1-featured.jpg
The good news is we fill our recycling bin every week with used packaging that is cleaned and separated so it has the best chance for another life.

Don’t judge me too harshly, please. Despite writing about sustainability and packaging for more than three decades, I confess that I’ve only been recycling at home for a couple months. My reasons for not recycling up until now are pretty lame, so I’m not even going to try to justify them. But we recently switched waste haulers and when they asked if I wanted a recycling receptacle along with our new bulk garbage can, I immediately said, “Yes!”

Now a couple months in, I’ve noticed three things:

1. I’m willing — eager even! — to work at recycling so my waste has as much of a chance to actually be reused as possible. That means I make sure the recyclate is clean (rinsed out cans, for example). And I separate packages of different materials. For example, I remove the cap (including the tamper-evident ring) and the glued-on film label from my 2-liter 7UP bottles even though both require scissors. I do this because: (1) I know PET is the most recycled plastic but … (2) I also know that most recyclers are still not collecting polypropylene for recycling (hence the cap and TE ring removal), and (3) the film label could contaminate the PET recycling process so let’s just rip that off and make it a non-issue. I’m thinking about asking 7UP’s owner, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, to add a green tint to the product and switch to a clear PET bottle. Is that overkill? Or leave the product clear and switch to a green shrink label with a vertical perforation for even easier scissors-free removal.

2. I can’t figure out why our weekly trash is still the same amount (two bags), even though we FILL our recycling receptacle each week. I’m guessing this might be COVID-19 related: Because my husband is now also working from home, we’re generating more trash that used to be thrown away at his company’s building. I’ve set an informal goal to reduce even more now that I’m more aware of how much waste+recycling we generate but I’m not sure how to get there. What should we do differently? It’s just the two of us, so buying in bulk isn’t a good option. We don’t want to unduly increase our food waste.

Photo by Lisa PierceRecycling-bin-5-web.jpg

We're lucky that our waste hauler accepts a lot of different types of materials for recycling.

3. Our garbage now consists mostly of food waste (such as vegetable peelings, fruit pits, used tea bags, and chicken bones) — and flexible packaging. Ouch.

I’m well aware of the sustainability of flexible packaging at various stages in the manufacturing and consumption supply chains. But now I see (visually and emotionally) the uphill battle this packaging material has with consumers. End of life is the most important aspect of a package to consumers because that’s where the burden is on them, and this is where flexible packaging is weakest. Many people are working to fix this — thank you — but the longer it takes, the harder it will be to reverse the packaging’s negative eco impression. Can you hurry, please?

The most surprising thing to me is how invested I am in improving my household’s environmental footprint. I’ve got decades to make up for (gulp!). But I’m on it now.


Packaging Design

What Beautiful Packaging: Arctic Blue Gin Carton

Metsä Board Arctic Blue Gin

Did you catch comet Neowise? Maybe you saw some of the jaw-dropping photos posted online. About a week ago in I was mesmerized after spotting it in a moderate-sized telescope at low power as a fuzzy ball with a bright core and a faint, but discernable tail. It was a big-time must-see of a fleeting event.

Arctic Blue GinI’m an occasional, yet passionate-when-I-do stargazer who owns two telescopes and a giant pair of binoculars. While this explains my instant and strong connection to a drop-dead gorgeous carton of Arctic Blue Gin, the appeal is universal for all who appreciate nature, outstanding imagery or exceptional packaging design.

Admirers include The Association of International Metallizers, Coaters and Laminators (AIMCAL), which named Northern Lights Hologram Package the 2020 product of the year in the group’s annual packaging design competition in April.

The award was presented to Hazen Paper Company for custom holography on a transfer-metallized carton. The custom holography creates the illusion of northern lights and is printed on Pro FBB Bright paperboard by Metsä Board, which created the concept, structure, graphics, and embossing specifically for the US market on behalf of Finland-based Arctic Brands Group. 

“We wanted to convey an image of a clean, crisp, winter night, highlighted with northern lights rippling across the Finnish sky,” says Mark Beamesderfer, Packaging Services Director Americas of Metsä Board. “The imagery really stands out and provides exceptional visual elements for maximum brand enhancement.”

AM Packaging printed and converted the package with the exceptional registration required to deliver optimal visual effect and functional result.

The technical details are impressive as the result.

Hazen incorporated a PMS spot-color green plate to highlight some detail in the package. As the viewing angle changes, the holography makes it appear that the aurora moves like an animation across three panels. The optical effect is created with a sub-micron embossing grid in the transfer-metallized layer. An ultra-thin coating layer provides the visual impact typical of much thicker structures.

The result is as close to an actual Northern Lights flare as printed materials can accomplish. While the press release imagery is impressive, I can only imagine how much better the carton looks.

That’s the magic of the Arctic Blue Gin carton, which reminds us of the beauty of our world and the possibilities of packaging.

Plastic Ready-Meal Trays Market Sees Obstacles, Opportunities

TMR Plastic Ready Meal Trays

Plastic ready meal trays are gaining traction of various end-user industries mainly due to key features that include durability, versatility, and convenience.

This results in remarkable sales opportunities for growing demand from restaurants, food producers and processors, food courts, and catering services. Additionally, increased industrialization and hectic lifestyle of major worldwide population centers fuels online food delivery to further spur growth

In addition, players in this market are also expected to focus on rolling out alternative solutions that are ovenable and microwaveable.

However, the ongoing pressure from the government as well as consumers has increased the demand for cost-efficient, plastic-free food packaging. Thus, plant and fiber-based ready meal trays are likely to gain considerable traction. Apart from large-scale companies gradually shifting from plastic to other alternatives, a host of startups have entered the fray that are aligned with nonplastic packaging.

COVID-19 has influenced most every industry globally. Strong actions taken by countries include sealing off their borders, which disrupts distribution channels.

Consumers desire plastic ready-meal trays that provide extended shelf life, which means manufacturers are optimizing barrier properties.

According to analysts from Transparency Market Research, the plastic ready-meal trays market will witness somewhat sluggish growth in the upcoming two quarters of 2020. However, the market for plastic ready meal trays market will manage to gain traction of end-users in the upcoming period.

In summary, the global plastic ready-meal trays market is expected to grow and reach $700 million at a moderate CAGR of 4.6% during the forecast period 2020-2028.

Key findings.

  • Among the various key materials, polyethylene terephthalate (PET) led the plastic ready meal trays market with more than 60% in 2020;
  • Of the various molding technology analyzed in the study, thermoformed molding witness widespread preference over all others; lower tooling cost and the design freedom key to popularity;
  • Of the two major types, multi-cavity plastic ready meal trays are the most popular; the segment to account for more than 70% share in plastic ready-meal trays market by 2028;
  • Regionally, Europe projected to be a mature market;
  • Asia Pacific and the MEA markets have high revenue potential.

A sustainable focus.  

Plastic ready-meal trays are manufactured using a various plastic types such as crystallized PET (CPET), polypropylene, and others including high-impact polystyrene (HIPS), recycled PET (rPET), amorphous PET (APET), and high-density polyethylene (HDPE).

The drive toward increased environmental friendliness has prompted vendors to respond through research and development. A case in point is the announcement last October by supermarket chain Asda, which announced plans to move all the company’s brands in the fresh ready-meal portfolio to naturally colored PET plastic packaging; the move involves taking about 775 tonnes of black plastic out of circulation that may end up in a landfill.

For more information, see the report, Plastic Ready Meal Trays by TMR.

Ecommerce/Supply Chain

2020 Sustainable Packaging State of the World

Proxima Studio/Adobe Stock Adobe Stock 323710885 Sustain Green Hands holding Globe

As a long-time packaging journalist, I’m just smart enough to know a little about a lot of things across such an expansive market. It’s the industry professionals who make their careers in a segment of the market who are the Subject Matter Experts.

Thus, when I wanted to check the pulse of sustainable packaging halfway through a tumultuous 2020, I reached out immediately to Robert Lilienfeld, an SME in sustainability. I’ve known Bob now for about half of his 40-year career as an author, photographer, TV commentator, and recognized expert in the areas of waste prevention, environmental trends, and packaging. He remains as reliable as ever as a go-to resource stretching back to his early days managing the Use Less Stuff Report. In fact, Bob’s far more knowledgeable now than then, as this Q&A attests.


In packaging, what's the Sustainable State of the World in 2020?

Lilienfeld: Thanks to the pandemic, the Sustainable Packaging Union is in flux. Concern for health and safety, and the value that packaging delivers in this regard, have clearly moved the social needle in a positive direction. No one recognizes the value of hidden benefits until those benefits are no longer hidden, and that’s the case right now.

Economically, historically low oil and natural gas prices have driven down the cost of a great deal of plastic packaging. This is all to the good, as far as virgin materials go.

It’s the environmental component of the sustainability stool that now needs work. The rather ambitious 2025 recycled content goals set by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and committed to by many global consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies no longer look feasible (if they ever did). That’s because the cost of virgin material is too low to make recycled materials look attractive. Further, the subsequent reduced demand for recycled materials, and the fact that the pandemic is crimping municipal solid waste budgets that have been used to subsidize recycling, are producing a double whammy regarding the collection and use of these materials.


Give us the bad news first: What’s your biggest concern?

Lilienfeld: My biggest concern has little to do with packaging. It has to do with global consumption. Packaging is a trailing indicator of resource use and waste generation. To truly understand this, take the greenhouse gas and solid waste generation of all the packaging used in the world and multiply it by 20. The real issue is how to generate sustainably high qualities of life across the planet, and do so with significant reductions in habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and resource consumption.


We can all use good news...what can you tell us?

Lilienfeld: Obviously, it’s good that the media and the public are recognizing that packaging is a major line of defense regarding the safety of the products that are purchased. This holistic view of packaging and product is exactly the way in which sustainability should be measured. To me, the ultimate sustainable package is the one that delivers 100% of the value that consumers pay for, and does so with the minimum amount of waste needed to do that job.


What’s the most common thing about sustainability that the public gets wrong?

Lilienfeld: The key thing that the public doesn’t understand is that sustainability requires behavior change, in terms of what they buy and how they buy it. Instead, we have allowed people to think that recycling and compostable/biodegradable packaging are all that’s needed to solve the problem. The public has been led to believe that the only change they have to make is to decide which bin they should toss their used packaging. As I’ve said above, nothing could be further from the truth.


What do packaging professionals get wrong?

Lilienfeld: Professionals in packaging have been put by their marketing folks in the unenviable role of delivering on these consumer perceptions, rather than meeting the reality of the situation. My advice is simple: Fight back for what you believe and what science tells you to be true. And drag your top management into the fight as well. Encouragingly, companies like P&G, Unilever, and Nestle are already listening and using their leverage with both consumers and retailers to try new things in the quest for true sustainability.


What advice do you have for plastics industry professionals?

Lilienfeld: If you’re a plastics industry professional, don’t let the current wave of packaging acceptance deter you from the longer-term course of delivering more value with less waste. And, if you’re not willing to get involved by helping your customers, their customers, and consumers to reduce, reuse, and recycle, you will not be on the playing field in 20 years.

PS: I’m specifically speaking to those of you who believe that chemical recycling is a silver bullet, and all you need to do is “build the plant and they will come.”


What’s the most interesting thing you’ve come across recently?

Lilienfeld: There are two trends that I find interesting, and both relate to supply chains.

The first trend is a move towards shoring up the sustainability of product delivery during palletization and transport (see The Sustainable Packaging Evolution: Rapid Bander’s Stretch Wrap Solution, published April 2020 in PlasticsToday).

The second is the retail rationalization that the pandemic is causing. For example, Coca Cola is significantly reducing its number of SKUs. This will, in turn, enhance efficiency and reduce the economic burden that is placed on mass market brands, which generally must subsidize the unprofitability of niche products.

For example, if it weren’t for Porsche’s Macan SUV business, there would be no new Porsche 911s on the road. Ditto for Leica, which can only design and market its higher-end photographic products because of the cache and demand they generate for their lower priced equipment.


Anything else you want to mention?

Lilienfeld: Thanks for asking! I’ve just completed a series of papers on critical thinking, that can serve as primers in the quest to make better decisions. The papers are on Reasoning & Logic, Sound Science, Statistics, and Risk Assessment. They’re at


Click here for a list of Lilienfeld’s articles at Packaging Digest

Click here for a list of Lilienfeld’s articles at PlasticsToday