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Tell your CFO: Packaging Machinery-as-a-Service Beats the Capex Budget Blues

Photo supplied by Pearson Packaging Systems MaaS-Pearson-featured-web.jpg
Pearson Packaging Systems sells automated case erectors, sealers, cartoners, and robotic palletizers. This photo, like MaaS, shows that the focus is on outcome, not just the asset.

Imagine you’re an engineer or a plant manager at a major consumer goods company and you’ve done all the research to find that a new case packer will offer significant productivity gains and cost savings. But you just can’t get the attention of your purchasing or financial departments. Or maybe you’ve gotten some buy-in, but capital expenditure (capex) budgets are in lockdown due to the uncertain pandemic/post-pandemic economy.

Now, imagine a machine builder called and offered that case packer for zero up-front dollars, and promised to…

• Build, install, test, and commission the equipment in your plant.

• Train your operators, and kick-in maintenance services.

• Provide remote monitoring, reporting and maintenance services beyond your usual preventive maintenance (PM) routines, including spare parts for the life of the machine.

• Charge a fair, negotiated price per-case packed — with no monthly minimum required.

• Require no minimum contract period for the machine.

• Remove it at any time.

• Remove it at any time.

These are terms Pearson Packaging Systems offers today for some of its automated case erectors, case sealers, cartoners, and robotic palletizers. And it’s a prime example of outcome-based pricing — also known as usage-based pricing or Machine-as-a-Service (MaaS).

“We’re trying to provide an alternative to companies who, when determining their capex budgets, don’t have funding for whatever reason — it might be future uncertainty with COVID-19 or in terms of a recession,” says Pearson CEO, Michael Senske. “We can still provide a solution.”

An alternative from the traditional asset sales model, MaaS transfers debt, risk, and operational uncertainty from capex projects to the operational or opex budget. This pure service play tucks the cost of the asset and its maintenance into a line item for the brand’s facility, or brand management spreadsheet, alongside labor, parts, utilities, and other direct and indirect costs.

In such cases, machine builders can be at risk since they carry the financial risk of paying for the machine, labor, and other overhead expenses. They mitigate that risk by offering the service to companies they deem low risk, such as Fortune 500 food/beverage, personal care, and other high-volume packagers. Additionally, contract terms vary, and can be case by case.

For instance, BEX, a robotic integrator and builder of end-of line robotic palletizers, mobile robotic pallet movers, and labelers, offers usage-based pricing as one option of its FLEXX program. “Terms can be different every time,” says Craig Francisco, vice president of strategy. “We work with the customer and figure out what works best. Some might want to pay a portion up front, and others don’t want to pay anything. Based on that, we establish the outcome to be measured and a price per outcome.”

Similarly, ProBrew can-filling systems offers flexible MaaS terms for a unitized can fill/seal system in the speed range popular with craft brewers (90 to 300 cans per minute). Each case is different, the company says, but there’s typically a commissioning charge and a partial capital investment up front, followed by monthly usage-based payments.

A minimum monthly payment could be another contract option, as it was for a food/beverage industry cartoning machine installation that Will Humsi, partner with consulting firm Simon-Kucher & Partners, had a hand in. “The arrangement was similar to an outsourcing agreement,” he says, noting similarities to other operational service agreements, such as vendor-managed inventory. For this unnamed vendor and unnamed food brand, the user made monthly payments for cartons filled, with a minimum monthly payment to protect the vendor’s capital outlay.

Photo supplied by Simon-KucherMaaS-Simon-Kucher-web.jpg

Companies across many industries have bought and sold via outcome-based pricing, sometimes driven by tight capital/economies, according to Simon-Kucher.


The tech making packaging MaaS possible.

It’s only recently that packaging machine builders have offered outcome-based pricing. But the business model is well established in other industries:

• In 1962, Rolls-Royce introduced its Power by the Hour program, which gave airlines the option to pay for the use of jet engines per flying hour — and changed pricing across the aviation industry. More recently, the company reported this strategy quadrupled sales.

In 2018, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen claimed a 70% increase via its printers-as-a-service offering.

Michelin offers vehicle fleets the option to pay for tires by the mile (as cited and well-sourced in a Medium article from a rep with ZkSystems).

• Additional applications have hospitals paying per-surgery for robots, utilities paying per volume of water treated, and logistics ports paying-off vendor’s financial investment in cargo-handling crains per container moved.

In these cases, the number of both suppliers and buyers is low, so even before digital connectivity was possible, the metrics for outcome-based pricing were easy to track relative to environments characterized by fast-moving products and packages.

Now, it appears a silver bullet has been developed that adds Internet of Things (IoT) data access for performance monitoring and financial accounting in an objective, immutable ledger of transactions visible to both parties, but that none can modify. Developed by SteamChain, this apparent first-of-a-kind solution is specifically designed to provide a “ready-to-roll full technology stack from machine data to the cloud, into the actual clearing of the financial transactions, in a single, automated tool,” says CEO Michael Cromheecke.

Incidentally, it’s the platform that has been adopted by Pearson, RōBEX, and ProBrew.

“Without the IoT/blockchain ledger,” RoBEX’ Francisco says, “we wouldn’t have a way to track the outcome, and we’d struggle with contracts. It takes away any issues where we’d have disagreement over the performance of the machine. It’s a clean way for us to build a very high level of trust with customers.”

Photo supplied by RoBEXMaaS-RoBEX-web.jpg

Outcome-based contract terms “can be different every time,” says Craig Francisco (pictured), robotic integrator and packaging solution builder, from RōBEX.

Before finding SteamChain less than two years ago, Pearson’s Senske reports spending roughly a decade testing and proving the pricing model with a “handful” of outcome-based pricing agreements that represented a “toe in the water.” But data collection and billing methods didn’t allow scale-up to a larger marketplace: Service technicians would visit customers’ plants to get machine PLC readings. He implemented SteamChain last year, which “is what makes this all possible,” he says, and the technology is unobtrusive, delivering via IoT gateway machine performance monitoring data and the exact, actual usage data needed for accounting in the third-party.

Cromheecke says his company’s financial solution was 20 years in coming. Working as a Rockwell Automation engineer servicing customers of robotics and servos, he spent 200+ days a year on the road servicing many packaging original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end users. He became fixated on overcoming the “it’s not my fault” game that prevented customers and suppliers from solving technical problems first, and then worry about who pays. And that’s what led him to reconsider traditional business models that prevent a “partnership” from going beyond marketing and into operations. 


Financial accountability redefines partnership.

“What we do with MaaS is not about investing in a machine. It’s about investing in a result to allow users to make better, more informed decisions. And their partner, the OEM machine builder, has an aligned interest in the performance of their business,” says Cromeecke.

What this means is that for both parties, machines that are well-maintained and producing more product are more profitable, and machines that are down are not. This is true down to the real-time minute, measured in performance and dollars. That’s different from leasing, where the end user owes the bank whether or not the machine is running. Likewise, it’s different from the traditional capex purchase in which the vendor gets paid in increments and milestones through final commissioning. After that, when things go wrong, customer-supplier friction often gets bogged down in trying to future out who’s going to pay for a repair.

Photo supplied by SteamChainSteam-Chain-graphic-web.jpg

This software screen from SteamChain illustrates the tracking of packaging units completed, along with potential faults/downtime events, as well as conversion from units to dollars.


That’s an old model that led to SteamChain’s creation. Even as technology has moved into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, most machine purchases are still based in the first industrial revolution, carried out the same way as a century ago. By turning real-time operational data into a financial tool, Cromheecke wants to help suppliers and their customers “navigate and negotiate the management of risk and the exchange of capital between those business partners. That’s really the concept behind Machine-as-a-Service.”


Risks and rewards.

In summary, here are a few things to consider about MaaS:

Flatten the budget: The desire to eliminate unknowns pervades every aspect of buying, running, and maintaining plant assets. For instance, a key aspect of financial planning is to flatten unpredictable budgetary peaks and valleys, which is a key selling point for outcome-based pricing.

Do faster financial analyses, innovation: Large organizations conduct complicated asset procurement calculations — such as hurdle rate or internal rate of return, minimum acceptable rate of return, and net present value. Paying for outcomes instead of assets simplifies valuation risk/cost factors, such as machine performance, long-term maintenance, and skills.

Speed plant improvements: Another risk, called “opportunity cost,” amounts to the losses of choosing an asset acquisition path filled with delays while your competitor may be stealing market share through their own innovations. Instead of getting bogged down in capex procurement and approval complications, companies can gain new, more efficient automated packaging assets to speed more and better products to market without delay.

Compare overall costs: Buying a packing machine can be cheaper than any other option in terms of pure dollars if the cost of capital is low. On the other hand: “If you’re not thinking about performance or the risk of long-term maintenance costs, or whether or not the machine is going to be able to achieve the result you want with the team you have in your facility, then you’re missing easily 50% of the opportunity cost connected to the valuation of that investment,” says SteamChain’s Cromheecke.

Negotiate end date up front: Once the vendor’s break-even is reached, they profit, just as the user does once a loan or lease is paid off. A September 2019 Bain & Co. analysis indicates this takes roughly six years. Packaging OEMS report that five to eight is common. Rather than worry about draining operational expenses indefinitely, the solution for buyers is to address this at the negotiating table.

Focus on core strengths: Variously, outsourcing financial burdens, labor, and maintenance is well-established in existing contract packaging, vendor-management inventory, and maintenance service contracts. External partnerships allow brands to better focus resources on core competencies, such as product development and brand marketing.


What will the future bring?

MaaS isn’t only a financial decision, but the money part is probably the most important.

“It’s really tough to predict the future,” Humsi says, for alternative pricing strategies in the packaging industry. As he sees it, the initial mad scramble by brand packagers get plants running and to backfilling orders will eventually “trail off” as consumers continue to drive demand for more packaged goods with more at-home and to-go eating vs. restaurant dine-in meals. “There is such a long tail of converters and customers, and their needs are so diverse,” says Humsi. “But the feedback we’ve been getting is that, coming out of COVID-19, the industry is definitely going to need to consider its revenue models.”

Created by Packaging DigestHumsi-quote-web.jpg

In turn, purchasing, financial, and legal departments may find value in considering this new purchasing model as they absorb the shock of the current economic crisis. Along the way to re-forecasting cash flows and seeking ways to attain cash liquidity amid capex budget impediments, they maybe more receptive to requests for MaaS coming from operations.

If plant operations and engineering leaders are able to crack to code of getting attention from the front-office, adoption could come sooner than the “many years” machine builders expect, for a few reasons:

Cybersecurity. Vendor managed inventory, maintenance, enterprise resource planning (ERP), data analytics, and, more recently, SCADA applications are now up and running on cloud-based platforms. Fear within the four walls of manufacturing is real, due to legacy systems. However, current-day gateways separate legacy systems to make IoT connections more secure. (See “3 Packaging Lines Improved by IoT Data.”)

New leasing rules. After years of off-balance-sheet accounting for lease expenses, a new rule from the US Financial Accounting Standards Board — Accounting Standards Codification Topic 842 (ASC 842) — will close that loophole after December 15 for public companies and 2022 for private companies, according to a rep at the Equipment Leasing and Finance Association, who said further implementation delays (there have been many) are “not likely,” adding that any such considerations would be “purely speculative.”

Big CPG deals in the wings. More and more machine builders are investigating MaaS, even if they’re not admitting it yet. In researching this topic, I learned that at least a “handful” more of the largest machine builders and global consumer goods brands are in various stages of investigating and possibly implementing this newly upgraded usage-based pricing model. As for the size, product category and type of organization MaaS best fits, speculation varies.

Longer term, Francisco from RoBEX believes the new generation of IoT-connected MaaS will change the way relationships are formed between solution providers and users. “What we’re bringing to the table is so different: a relationship that’s set-up to be a win-win from the beginning to the end. So, I see within two years, 30% to 40% of our business being part of our RoBEX FLEXX program. I see it being phenomenal.”

“The value has been proven out in many other markets,” says SteamChain’s Cromheecke. He adds, “We feel like we’re on the front end of a major market shift.”

Even longer term, an industry-wide blockchain standard could emerge as a standard clearinghouse and create pull-through as well as push-through. Once banks see the benefits, they may want “in” on the outcome-based game, too.

Corona Beer Through the Pandemic: Tweets Tell the Tale

Twitter Corona Beer empty shelves Tweet

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the world, affecting lives, business, and essentially disrupting our way of life. But woe to any company that has the misfortunate of having a brand associated to the coronavirus.

Such was the case for Modelo’s Corona beer, a product I happen to like. However, the brand was a sizable target that served as a lightning rod that for the collective angst consumers looking for a target to vent their frustration. Or relieve their stress for those with a wry sense of humor.

A search today for “Corona beer coronavirus” yielded 270,000,000 hits in .55 seconds on Google. That’s one for every person living in Indonesia, the fourth largest country by population in the world.

For example, about three months ago we read this amusing wording on a marquee fronting a popular German restaurant in our area: “Open to carryout and delivery. Corona sucks, drink German bier.”

Here’s a string of Tweets on Twitter that traces the various viewpoints since March. If there's no such thing as bad publicity, Corona may be a case study example. 

More recently, favorable humor appeared amidst the occasional jabs, such as this one...


This Tweet looked to turn the tables in a bizarre conspiracy plot twist.

For a number of weeks I was feeling sorry for the unfortunate brand, but there was one last surprise in store for me:  It turned out that Corona got the last laugh and was doing just fine — social-media-driven backlash had no effect. In fact, the brand's sales were flourishing.

Cheers to some sense and sensibility during a period of pandemic. 

Healthcare Packaging

4 Steps for Error-Free Coding on Pharmaceutical Packages

Photo supplied by Domino Gx350i-on-line-close-up-featured.jpg
Automated coding solutions can enable manufacturers to manage label distribution across multiple printers from a single location.

Validation is a major component of pharmaceutical manufacturing, ranging from production systems, packaging equipment, and computer programs. The packaging printer is a critical element in the validation process, with its output — the label or code — key to compliance. 

With today’s just-in-time production, pharmaceutical organizations need robust processes to ensure error-free coding. This is necessary not only to achieve compliance, but to maintain high-speed output.

Here is how pharmaceutical organizations can use automated product coding solutions with code validation to mitigate production risks while maintaining productivity and quality.


Achieving risk-free compliance.

In 2018, more than a million medical devices were recalled because of printing errors on packaging labels. An error in a stray label or Instructions for Use (IFU) can cause a product recall. A trivial issue like a faulty print ribbon, for example, can lead to missing, unreadable, or misinterpreted content. Products pass through various stages of the supply chain and, if undetected at any stage, can multiply the level of risk by tenfold each time. An unidentified product moving through the supply chain can cause regulations to be breached and put patient safety in jeopardy — a risk no organization wants to face.

On production lines that handle multiple products for consumers worldwide, accuracy is crucial. Organizations need to robust mechanisms in place to assure batch integrity. Many organizations don’t realize their printing systems aren’t compliant until regulators come knocking.

So how can you ensure that what is required in the User Requirement Specification (URS) is delivered risk free, without any errors? Follow these four steps.


Step 1: Assess your risk.

The first step is to conduct a thorough risk assessment: A testing strategy will be planned and supported with standardized documentation; and training protocols outlined. A dedicated, GAMP V trained expert will know what is needed to achieve validation in a pharmaceutical production environment, including validating any additional systems’ integration — such as a labeling or enterprise resource planning (ERP) system — and will provide the validation pack to accompany this.


Step 2: Replace manual coding with an automated system.

The second step towards reducing coding or labeling errors is to simplify or reduce the need for manual data entry on production lines by switching to an automated system to coordinate your product labeling.

At the most basic level, by using coding automation and label design software, manufacturers can populate product labels and manage their distribution across multiple printers — reducing the number of touchpoints present on a line, and thereby reducing the chance of errors occurring.


Step 3: Establish good label/code management.

The next step is to establish good label management. With the simple application of Internet of Things (IoT) methodology, you can integrate automated coding solutions and automatically populate labels from a central database and help prevent mislabeled products arising from issues in label creation. 

Integrated label management solutions can be anything from a simple barcode scanner set to select data from a Universal Product Code (UPC) or product order, through to full integration with an existing manufacturing execution system (MES) or ERP system — enabling label creation directly from a centralized product database.

Populated labels can then be automatically pushed through to a printer without any manual intervention. This mitigates the risk of errors and helps ensure efficiency on production lines. 


Step 4: Integrate automated vision control.

The final step towards error-free coding is in establishing a validation system to ensure that all information on product labels is present, correct, and readable.

Today, high-speed manufacturing environments have made manual inspection nearly impossible — integrated vision control systems should instead be used to validate a product label, and further reduce the risk of the product reaching a retailer with wrong information. 

Integrated cameras and vision control systems, set up alongside coding systems, can verify information against production orders or shift codes to eliminate labeling mistakes, and ensure that the label being produced meets the quality standards of the product being produced.

By checking label quality, a vision system can also ensure that preventive actions are being taken during manufacturing. Each printer station has a reject system (pusher) and a reject bin. When the vision system identifies a machine-readable code check (grading) on a product as being C-grade or lower, an alarm will be triggered. If the issue isn’t resolved, the line will automatically stop.

In this way, vision systems are an extremely effective quality control tool, which provides an almost immediate return on investment, by ensuring that labeling mistakes and quality issues are found and addressed before mislabeled product enters the market and causes a problem. 


Avoid catastrophes.

If validation protocol and processes are not followed for pharmaceutical products, manufacturers could potentially face regulatory fines, or loss of brand reputation. Another possible repercussion could be a temporary forced shutdown of production. This could be catastrophic to any business.

Pharmaceutical manufacturers should work with a coding and marking partner that can conduct a thorough risk assessment and provide the necessary validation documentation, as well as offering automated product coding and vision systems. This supplier partner can also work together with other companies and integrators easily and efficiently.

With such a partner, you can readily mitigate the risks of modern production processes and maintain productivity and quality to ensure compliance.


What Packaging Career Advice Do You Have to Share?

Photo credit: fotogestoeber – Idea-board-AdobeStock_102884177-featured.jpeg
When you share an idea, the ripple effect could be quite profound.

The best way to learn is through experience, right? Well, not always. Some people would say it’s better to learn from other people’s mistakes, to learn from their experiences. Either way, we’re sure you have stories to tell, regardless of how long you’ve been working in the industry.

To counter the negativity that seems to flood the world today, let’s think positively about how we can help others in the global packaging community.

Please share the best career advice you’ve ever received — or ever given.

And, because sometimes the best advice is what not to do, we also want to hear the worst advice you’ve ever heard and, hopefully, ignored.

What challenges have you overcome and how?

What do you find most satisfying about your job?

Share your gems in this short survey.



Packaging Design

What Beautiful Packaging: Aqua Carpatica Bottled Water

Aqua Carpatica bottled water

While grocery shopping, have you ever purchased something because of the packaging even if you didn’t need the product?

Aqua Carpatica bottled water
Aqua Carpatica's alluring design.

I confess an instant infatuation with a bottled water, found on a trip to a local Pete’s Market in the Chicago suburbs. My infatuation grew the more I got to know it.

I'd been walking the lengthy packaged water aisle and there it was: The classy AQUA Carpatica among a myriad of SKUS of different sizes, labels, designs, formats, and formulations. The product was available in several sizes of the same design scheme.

The beautiful design seemed to flow naturally and possessed several elements and aspects that worked in concert synergistically, holistically, and perfectly.  What I love about it:

  • The atypical squarish design with beveled corners;
  • The aesthetically pleasing pressure-sensitive front label including where the printed green trees are watered by raindrops in the pattern of pines (the photo doesn’t do the silvery droplets justice);
  • The black cap that echoes the black brand logo positioned dead center on the front panel;
  • The branded debossing details on the side panels;
  • The ps-back-label present text with icons of key callouts such as “20 years of natural filtration…”
  • Lastly, it’s bottled at the source, Bajenaru Spring, Vatra Dornei, Romania. The fact the spring is in the legendary Carpathian Mountains adds a splash of mystery and intrigue. It’s also a country where I spent an unforgettable week exactly 15 summers ago. This personal connection seals what was already a package deal.

And here it stands a foot away from me on my desk, unopened.

Yes, it’s a single-serve plastic bottle of water that’s seen as being sustainably unfashionable, but in defense it’s made of 100% recyclable PET, which could be recycled in greater numbers if everyone helps pitch in to make that happen.

What puts the final touch on this particular packaging affair is that I just now checked the product website and had to smile: The tagline is “Taste the Water that Loves You Back.”

How did it know?!

Solvent Ink Technology Drives Plastic Cup Innovation

The specialty inks experts at Colorado Springs-based Chromatic Technologies Inc. (CTI) invented a new suite of color-change technologies using solvent inks including temperature-activated thermochromic inks, sunlight-activated photochromic inks (see the example below), glow-in-the-dark inks, and “reveal technology” wherein the ink reveals a message after the cupped product is consumed.

Previously, solvent-ink printers were forced to use water-based inks that slowed down manufacturing operations. The new solvent-specialty inks eliminate the operational hurdles of water-based inks.

The inks are also socially active. CTI’s consumer research found that the color-change technology is a tool for brands to drive content on their social media platforms that gets consumers to share that story with on social media.  And the bottom line is increased sales.  

“Consumers have their phone in their right hand and a Starbucks, Coke or Coors Light in their left hand,” explains Patrick Edson, former vice-president of consumer insights for Coors Brewing Company and, since 2012, the chief marketing officer for CTI. “In brand mapping exercises, we call this challenge ‘getting the right hand to talk to the left hand.’ If you can create an experience or start a story with your product in the consumer’s left hand; they in turn will share that experience on their phone in the right hand. Brands realize that the color-change technology is more than just creating an experience on a cup, it’s a new form of content for digital marketing.”

For more than a decade, brands such as Coors Light have used thermochromic inks to turn their mountains blue to deliver on the promise of Rocky Mountain Cold Refreshment. CTI reports that the program helped boost the brand’s sales incrementally by $450 million.

CTICTI photochromic inks.

Coca-Cola ensured a cold promise for 7-Eleven consumers with its “Ice Cube” 16-oz. can.  Cheetos used photochromic technology in Mexico for their “Where’s Chester?” promotion on chip bags. Oreo supported the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with Glow-in-the-Dark packaging. 

“Color-change technology is now affordable for cup printers and they offer a tremendous innovation tool for printers to help drive new margin for their customers in quick-serve restaurants and convenience stores,” notes Lyle Small, founder of CTI.

The company now offers in-house design services to help cup printers and brand owners develop concepts that can be quickly tested with consumers.

New Conveyor Optimized for Plastic Blowmolding Machines

Dynamic Conveyor of Norton Shores, MI, announced on July 23 a new model designed specifically to effectively close the blowmolding process loop. The latest model in the Hybrid line of conveyors is intended to increase plastic container and bottle molding efficiencies by addressing four major requirements of the ideal blowmolding conveyor have been included in the design:

High Temperatures:  Purging the melt onto the conveyor happens and cannot be avoided, thus all contact surfaces on the conveyor are made of high-temperature resistant nylon material to withstand the molten plastic at temperatures up to 310° F. 

Small Footprint: The conveyor is designed to fit into the tight space constraints that often accompany a well-designed blowmolding machine. The molding machine dimensions are taken into consideration so that each conveyor partners well with the chosen brand of blowmolding machine.

Separation: The most efficient blowmolding processes are automated closed loop systems.  In these closed loop systems, the Hybrid conveyor will act as a separator in addition to conveying the blow-molded parts. The Hybrid blowmolding conveyor will separate the tips and tails, away from the bottles, and convey them to a scrap grinder. 

Ease of Repair:  The Hybrid conveyor includes a plastic link style belt that can be repaired quickly and easily without specialized labor. Damaged sections of plastic link style belts can be replaced within minutes without the need to replace the entire belt.

Introduced earlier this year, the Hybrid specialty line of conveyors will meet the most demanding conveyance objectives that include limited space; high speeds; heavy loads; high impact; abrasive and/or hot and cold products is overcome. Conveyor widths range from 2 to 120 inches to accompany lengths to 100 feet. Sidewall heights include low profiles as short as 1 inch.  Unlimited angles and geometries allow the creation of precise inclines, declines and lateral turns to fit into the most precise spaces or match perfectly with other equipment.

Top 5 Food and Beverage Packaging Stories: 2020 Halftime Report

As tumultuous as 2020 has been thus far, the quantity and quality of ongoing food and beverage packaging and developments have been typical of most years. Specifically, from the editor’s desk, the stream of announcements about new products and packaging appears unabated.

In fact, if there’s anything different at this point it’s that the topics that drew the most attention from readers’ over the past six months have gone beyond the typical focused emphasis on “sustainable” and “packaging design” stories to reflect broader, more balanced interest.

Our slideshow gallery presentation begins on the next slide with a familiar brand of protein products in novel packaging optimized for ecommerce distribution.

Coca-Cola European Partners Invests in Circular Economy for PET

CuRe Technology pilot plant
R&D testing for recycling of PET will be conducted at CuRe Technology's pilot plant.

Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP), the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottler, has taken an important step toward achieving its goal of 100% recycled PET (rPET) for its plastic bottles by funding CuRe Technology, a recycling startup that seeks to provide a new life for difficult-to-recycle polyester waste. The funding will enable CuRe to accelerate its “polyester rejuvenation” technology from pilot plant to commercial readiness. Once the technology is commercialized, CCEP will receive the majority of the output from a CuRe-licensed greenfield plant.

CuRe funding from CCEP Ventures builds on existing strategic investments by the Coca-Cola Co. to explore and support the scaling of enhanced full depolymerization recycling technologies in order to make a circular economy for PET a reality. Once operational, CuRe has the potential to support CCEP’s ambitious goal to eliminate virgin PET from its PET bottles within the next decade. This will contribute to removing a total of more than 200,000 tonnes of virgin PET from CCEP’s packaging portfolio a year and support the transition to a circular economy for PET packaging.

CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerization process, shortening the polymer chains just enough to allow the removal of many impurities and to convert food-grade PET to high-quality rPET.  This process can be less energy intensive than full depolymerization by offering lower associated CO2 emissions. It’s like pressing a ‘reset’ button to partially break down PT into its component building blocks to produce a high-quality rPET, explained the company. Due to the modularity of the process, the longer term ambition for this technology is to upcycle all polyester waste streams, including carpets and textiles.

CuRe Technology resin
CuRe Technology uses a partial depolymerization process to give new life to difficult-to-recycle polyester waste. All images courtesy CuRe Technology/CCEP.

“CuRe [has] transformational potential, making it an ideal investment for CCEP Ventures,” said Joe Franses, Vice President, Sustainability, at Coca-Cola European Partners. “Our investment in CuRe underlines our commitment to supporting innovations that have the potential to drive growth in our business and our sustainable packaging goals. It also offers us the potential to access vital rPET volumes that will help to accelerate delivery of our 100% rPET ambition for our PET bottles.”

Josse Kunst, Chief Commercial Officer at CuRe Technology, added, “Polyester is one of the world’s most reversible plastics and should not go to waste. In the pilot plant phase of the CuRe process, we were supported with a subsidy from the European Union and three northern provinces of the Netherlands. Now our ambition to create an energy-efficient solution for product-to-product polyester transformation will be accelerated because of this funding. The support of CCEP Ventures will enable us to start with opaque and difficult-to-recycle food-grade PET and take the first step toward our ultimate vision of recycling all polyester, again and again.”

9 Things to Know about the Reusable, Foldable, Plastic Origami Bottle

There have been a number of variations on the reusable water bottle over the years. These range from glass, to metal to plastic structures that aren’t even bottles – think pouches.

The Origami Bottle is a new concept that appeals in both form and function. Here are 9 things to know about it.

1. The intent is to revolutionize the packaging industry.

Inventor Petar Zaharinov DiFOLD’s design technology aims to introduce reusable packaging solutions that are both highly compact when folded and highly stable when unfolded, i.e., erected.

2. The concept was sparked by flexigami semi-folded patterns.

Zaharinov was exploring transformable structures and happened across these accordion-like structures in 2016.  His research uncovered the surprising fact that none had thought to  consider the geometrical principles when they’re completely unfolded. It was an untapped area for subsequent patents that he that proceeded with filing patents while looking at the product applications of this technology. DiFOLD was born from the collapsible design technology.

3. Collapsible bottles and packaging can reduce the volume of empty containers by 80-90%.

This radically optimized in logistics and lowers fuel usage and CO2 emissions. It can be highly beneficial for new emerging zero-waste shopping models such as Terracycle’s Loop Store where packaging ownership moves from the end consumer to the brand and the back again in a reverse logistics that employs washing and refilling facilities.

DiFOLDDiFOLD Origami Bottle Folded and Unfolded

4. The revolutionary Origami Bottle is a design platform to replace single-use plastic bottles.

Radina Popova, Co-Founder of DiFold, has developed the collapsible, fold-flat design over the past two years. It folds like origami, can fit in a consumer’s pocket and saves 100grams of carbon dioxide emissions with every refill, she says.

The design can be applied far beyond water bottles.  “We aim to help other industries become more sustainable by replacing disposable containers with collapsible, reusable containers including logistics containers or reusable refillable liquid bottles,” she informs Packaging Digest. “With increased plastic waste from COVID-19, this has never been more important.”

5. How its different and how it works.

What makes DiFOLD’s patent-pending folding technology distinctive is the reduction of the polygons along the circumference of the tube, which have been reduced to four, essentially a series of a basic triangular pattern that allows folding in just three steps. This makes the product extremely practical and compact and at the same time keeping a very minimalist and stylish design.

It works like a classical rigid origami mechanism in a folded and semi-folded state, enabling the bottle to perform like a round structure when unfolded.

The structure is changed by pressing particular spots along the creases.

DiFOLDDiFOLD Reusable Packaging Concepts Concentrate

6. Additional shapes are possible.

The advantage to this is design can work not only with cylindrical shapes but also with conical ones and mixtures between them. Practically almost every shape and container can become a collapsible one using this concept.

7. The bottle had a resoundingly favorable launch June 16 on Kickstarter.

It debuted on the entrepreneurial portal for $30 and can be seen at this link.

“We’ve had an amazing launch of our crowfunding campaign,” Popova says. “It was fully funded in four hours and now we’re 380% funded.”

[Updated 7-28-20: A total of $136,789  was raised by 2,913 backers, making it 911% overfunded.] 


8. The bottle is produced using a very high-end, durable thermoplastic.

The Origami Bottle is made of a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), specifically Arnitel brand TPE from DSM and the bio-based version, Arnitel ECO, both from DSM Elastomers (Heerlen, Belgium). It’s produced using the injection molding process.

Designed for five year’s use, the material can then be recycled multiple times without significant loss of quality and has been granted a Cradle To Cradle certification in 2013. It is also food-safe, BPA-free and has an operational temperature range from -30°C to +100°C.

DiFOLD plans to establish a closed-loop recycling system whereby it will old out-of-service bottles through its future distribution channels and turn them into new products.

[Updated 7-28-20: "We conducted extensive research and considered many material options," Popova says. "The criteria were in several directions: mechanical properties, thermal properties, food safety, renewable content or the possibility to introduce renewable content in the future, and also closed loop recyclability. The fact that Arnitel ECO was granted Cradle-To-Cradle certification in 2013 played a major role in choosing this material as the most preferable option.

"Also, FDM/FFF 3D printing was the main way of prototyping before investing in a prototype injection mold. 3D prototyping was driven by two main reasons, that it is very affordable and easily available, and that we could 3D print directly with the material we will use for the real production."]

DiFOLDDiFOLD Reusable Packaging Concepts Drum Barrel

9. It's now poised for the next step.

Over the last two years, the DiFOLD team has been working on the creation of the Origami Bottle. This included the entire research and development from conceptualizing, 3D-modeling and prototyping to injection-molding and preproduction testing. With the auspicious launch on Kickstarter last month, the Origami Bottle is now ready to set the stage for the bigger ReUse-ReFold Revolution.

[Updated 7-28-20: "We're starting production of all of the molds in August, moving the Origami Bottle into industrial production and working on delivering to the Kickstarter backers their Origami Bottles by December 2020. In the meantime, we’ve moved the campaign to IndieGoGo In Demand for pre-orders," Popova tells Packaging Digest. "We’re also considering doing a crowdfunding campaign in Japan where our Origami Bottle has a great fit with the Japanese art and culture. Overall, our goal is to get the maximum from crowdfunding at the moment, while we’re also doing a seed investment round that will drive Origami Bottle international expansion and opening doors for co-development with brands for the reusable packaging applications."]