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Packaging Professionals Fixate on Two Concerns

Packaging professionals focused on COVID-19 impacts and sustainability in early summer 2020.

Here are the top articles you were reading in June 2020, in reverse order, based on page views.


Modular Labeling Machine Offers Quick-Change Modules

Image courtesy of KHS Group Labeler_KHS.jpg

With its quick-change modules the flexible Innoket Neo Flex labeling machine system masters all standard labeling techniques.


The KHS Group unites the KHS Innoket Neo Flex and KHS Innoket Neo in a single series. This supersedes the previous Innoket SE generation of machines.

Flexibility first.
Thanks to the Innoket Neo’s flexible design the individual modules on this customizable labeler can be freely combined. “In the past, there was a separate machine for each different labeling technique,” said Henrik Kahrmann, product support at KHS. “This was optimized for its specific area of application but reached its limits when customers wanted to expand their portfolio, for example by adding self-adhesive labeling in combination with the classic cold glue method.”

The Innoket Neo can be configured at will thanks to its modular design. The new Innoket Neo Flex goes several steps further when it comes to standardization and meets all customer demands in a single series – regardless of whether with permanently installed stations or as a modular machine. Depending on the machine size and respective requirements the Flex series can be equipped with two to four modules. These are exchanged with just a few manual adjustments performed without tools.

The Innoket Neo Flex also demonstrates flexibility in the choice and size of container. The machine labels both plastic and glass containers and cans in all of the standard sizes. The output totals up to 74,000 containers per hour. Depending on requirements all further standard capacity ranges can also be catered to.

The flexible Innoket Neo Flex can be used as either a single machine or as part of a production line. “Our labelers have been designed so that they can be easily integrated into any existing or planned line,” said Kahrmann.

KHS GmbH, Dortmund, Germany +49 231 569-0

ABB Uses Wizard for Quick Robot Programming

ABB, robots, collaborative robots, wizards, programming, easy programming, automation, small businesses

ABB has created a wizard to program its single-arm YuMi robots. The Easy Programming Wizard is a graphical method designed to enable users to quickly create robot application programs. The idea is to deploy a robot without the need to hire employees with specialized training. “Easy Programming makes robots easier to install, program, and operate without specialized training,” says Andie Zhang, ABB’s global product manager for Collaborative Robotics. “This reduces barriers for first-time robot-users to implement automation.”


The ABB wizard consists of programming blocks that control ABB’s single-arm YuMi robot. (Image source: ABB)

The wizard uses an open-source visual coding method. “The Easy Programming software is built on the concept of Blockly, which presents programming language or code as interlocking blocks,” says Zhang. “By using this simplified approach our Wizard allows users to program and use the single-arm YuMi robot without prior knowledge of any robot programming language.”  He notes that a user can drag and drop these functions on the FlexPendant to adjust the robot’s actions quickly.

The goal is to enable small businesses to experience the benefits of robots without the assistance of a pricy programmer. “We want to help first-time robot users realize the possibilities of automation,” says Zhang. “We’ve reduced the learning curve for new users by simplifying the programming. The idea is to reduce the cost, time, and skills required to implement collaborative automation. This helps companies that lack a dedicated engineering or automation programming resource.”

The ultimate goal for collaborative robot producers is to create automation in the form of a robot that can be put to work by the employees whose work is replaced by the automation. Small manufacturers don’t want to deploy automation to replace labor only to have to hire higher skilled – and more expensive – new workers.

The Wizard became available as a pre-installed application on the FlexPendant device for all new single-arm YuMi robots after its release at the end of March. “The Wizard easy programming software is available for free, and the new software will also be made available to existing YuMi customers in the form of a free add-in that can be installed via RobotStudio to the FlexPendant,” says Zhang.

ABB plans to expand the Wizard Easy Programming to its other robots in the future.

    Flexible Packaging

    3 New Packaging Designs Add Value for Hormel’s Skippy Peanut Butter

    Images supplied by Hormel SKIPPY-group-72dpi.jpg
    New "No Sugar Added" label, a squat jar, and a multi-serve pouch bring convenience and versatility to Skippy Peanut Butter.

    Hormel Foods puts food packaging in the spotlight, using unconventional packaging designs — including flexible packaging — for an assortment of new Skippy peanut butter products.

    In June 2020, Hormel introduced Skippy Squeeze Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Spread, creamy and chunky Skippy No Sugar Added Peanut Butter Spreads, and creamy and chunky Skippy Protein Peanut Butter Blended with Plant Protein.

    Skippy Squeeze Creamy Peanut Butter and Skippy Squeeze Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread are packaged in a 6-oz, easy-to-squeeze pouch. In contrast, the new high-protein product is filled into squat 14-oz jars, and the no-sugar product is packaged in 16-oz jars.

    Separately, The J. M. Smucker Co. has announced the launch of Jif Squeeze Creamy Peanut Butter, which is packaged in a squeezable 13-oz pouch. That product will roll out nationwide in July 2020.

    “It is exciting to see other brands innovate in this space, and we are thrilled to provide our consumers with a mess-free, convenient squeeze pouch,” notes Jennesa Kinscher, Skippy Peanut Butter brand manager. Kinscher answers Packaging Digest’s questions about the new Skippy packaging in this Q&A.


    Photo supplied by HormelSKIPPY-multi-serve-squeeze-pouch-72dpi.jpg

    This larger shaped flexible package for Creamy and Natural Creamy peanut butter joins the brand's previous single-serve pouch.

    Is the squeezable pouch the first pouch packaging in the Skippy product line?

    Kinscher: Skippy Squeeze Creamy Peanut Butter and Natural Creamy Peanut Butter Spread are the first multi-serve pouches that the brand has used. However, we do sell individual squeeze pouches that have been on the market for about a year.


    Why did Hormel add the multi-serve squeeze pouch to Skippy’s lineup?

    Kinscher: We know consumers love peanut butter. In fact, more than 70% of consumers have purchased peanut butter in the last year. We simply took a product that was incredibly versatile already and made it even more versatile. With Skippy Squeeze Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Spread, consumers can:

    One, have an easy snacking solution for the whole family. This pouch can easily be squeezed by all members of the family to apply to their favorite snacks.

    Two, easily take peanut butter on the go. Whether you throw it in a purse, diaper bag, gym bag, or desk drawer, these products ensure that peanut butter is always within arm’s reach.

    Three, limit the mess! Our new squeeze product allows consumers to use their peanut butter without utensils for a quick cleanup. Furthermore, the 6-oz package design makes it easier for kids to use and removes the need to use a knife when spreading on Skippy peanut butter.


    What flexible material is Skippy’s squeezable pouch made from?

    Kinscher: Barrier polyethylene terephthalate (PET).


    Is the shape of Skippy’s squeezable pouch designed for ergonomic handling?

    Kinscher: Yes, it allows for ergonomics in-hand and squeezing. The pouch style allows for easy kneading and dispensing of peanut butter.


    Photo supplied by HormelSKIPPY-protein-squat-jar-72dpi.jpg

    Hate getting your knuckles smeared with peanut butter when you're trying to get to the product in the bottom of a container? That's why Hormel is offering this new squat jar.

    What consumption event is the squat jar targeting, and why is a smaller package desirable for the added-protein product?

    Kinscher: Skippy Peanut Butter Blended with Plant Protein can be consumed like any other Skippy peanut butter or peanut butter spread. The product still delivers the smooth, roasted flavor that consumers love and have come to expect from this brand. These two products, creamy and chunky, can be used as traditional spreads, with a favorite snack, or added to a smoothie.

    The 14-oz squat jar helps solve a consumer need in the peanut butter category. Commonly known as “peanut butter knuckles,” this issue arises when consumers are trying to scrape every last bit of peanut butter from the bottom of a jar and inevitably end up with peanut butter on their hands. By using a squat jar with a wider mouth, we help ensure that our consumers can limit waste and enjoy every last bit of delicious Skippy peanut butter.


    Photo supplied by HormelSKIPPY-no-sugar-label-72dpi.jpg

    The Skippy logo shrinks a bit to make room for the easy-to-see/read "No Sugar Added" claim on the front label of Skippy Creamy and Chunky peanut butter jars.

    In the label design for Skippy No Sugar Added, the brand’s logo is smaller on the front of the package than it typically is on jars of Skippy Peanut Butter. Why did you make that design choice?

    Kinscher: The Skippy brand logo is smaller than on our traditional jars, as we wanted to ensure that the product attribute, in this case “No Sugar Added,” is very clearly visible on the label. The Skippy brand logo is still very front and center, and we believe the brand equities still shine through with this design.


    How are the new packages or labels printed?

    Kinscher: Using flexo.


    Can you mention any of the packaging suppliers?

    Kinscher: ProAmpac laminated, printed, and converted the squeezable pouch.


    How have consumers reacted to the new Skippy products?

    Kinscher: Although these products have not been out long enough to solicit reviews or consumer feedback, we went through countless rounds of consumer-centric research before launching. We know that each one of these products is helping to solve a need that is not being fully addressed with the products currently available.

    • Skippy No Sugar Added Peanut Butter Spreads: affordable and approachable protein, made with only three simple ingredients.

    • Skippy Peanut Butter Blended with Plant Protein: We know consumers are more conscious about what they put into their bodies, and they expect their food to work harder for them. With 10g of protein per serving, this product delivers more than 42% more protein than traditional peanut butters.

    • Skippy Squeeze Peanut Butter and Peanut Butter Spread: convenient, mess-free peanut butter that can go anywhere.

    The New Color of Recycling for Sustainable Plastic Packaging

    There are new solutions to mixed material recycling challenges including film-sleeved bottles.

    New technology sorts through the recycling complexities of PET, HDPE, PP, and shrink-sleeved bottles to establish a pathway to improved identification and recovery. 

    Single-use plastic packaging has had its day and organizations around the world are now increasingly focusing on optimizing how to extend global plastic packaging production and the all-important after-use value chain.

    Not everyone is on the same page, however.

    By unanimous industry agreement in Japan there are no colored PET bottles and so recycling targets are easier to reach. However, other countries around the world struggle with an attachment to colored PET bottles. The same recycling constraints can be seen in other forms of colored high-density polyethylene HDPE and polypropylene (PP) packaging.

    PP is a dominant part of the packaging stream with about 300,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) used in packaging out of a total of 700,000tpa.

    About 70% of this (210,000tpa) is food-grade packaging, yet currently no food-grade recycled PP is available for use in new packaging.

    Unlocking the value in used PP packaging to deliver high quality recycled PP resin back into new packaging promises to be key — and new technology is now available to do this.

    However, if we are to overcome the current stalemates in today’s plastic’s economy, we are going to need everyone to pull together.

    What brands can do.

    Brand owners need to take additional transformational steps when it comes to their packaging design. The current attachment to colored bottles means having to separate the main colors such as natural plastics and white plastics. This is achievable, though it does mean that the bulk of the remaining materials are composed of various colors that create a new natural “self-colored grey” color once blended and extruded to granules.

    It’s unlikely this “eco-echoing” self-colored grey will appeal to brand owners that are keen to maintain unique brand-design cues.

    That leads us to seek other solutions if sustainability goals are to be reached, which brings us to plastic shrink-sleeve.

    This is not the first time the ubiquitous film sleeve has surfaced as a potential solution to brand-owners' styling dilemmas. Up until a few years ago the shrink sleeve’s 360-degree design capability seemed to offer the perfect solution, but there were serious “teething” issues with cradle-to-cradle recovery.

    Today’s shrink sleeves are better.

    Today’s new shrink sleeves are vastly improved versions of these earlier counterparts. They have double perforations that are easily seen and provide consumers with simple removal from the bottle. Also, we are entering a new era of improved identification and sorting.

    These sleeves have the potential to increase recycled content and save on masterbatch costs. They also go a long way towards preserving the original brand and design identity of the bottle to ensure consumer recall. 

    In fact, all the initial design benefits brand managers enjoyed when they first started using plastic sleeves are still present. Any visible part of the bottle would communicate to consumers that recycled plastics are being used, something that will be seen as a positive for the brand owners and consumers.

    Improved recycling processes now enable both sorting and recycling with the sleeves in place on bottles. This is the case for PET sleeves on PET bottles, although the recognition of PET sleeves on HDPE bottles might seem more challenging.

    Even in this scenario, however, there are potential solutions.

    Some recyclers already use bottle de-labeling machinery to remove labels and external contaminants so that bare bottles continue to the automatic near-infrared (NIR) sorters.

    Nextek PRISM technology

    Nextek's PRISM technology uses "invisible barcode" fluorescent markers during recycling for bottle polymer identification.

    Modern methods provide better options.

    Today’s sorting equipment can detect both the sleeve and the underlying polymer if the sleeve is thin, for example 50 microns. This would allow the identification of the combined signal and enable the classification of the bottles into the designated categories for recycling.

    The ability to identify the bottle under the sleeve and therefore guide it to the correct recycling stream offers brand owners the added assurance their packaging would be properly recycled without relying on consumer input.

    This is where markers, such as the PRISM fluorescent markers we explored in an earlier article — ‘Invisible barcode’ tech enables recycling of PP food packaging, published January 2020 — come into play, ensuring that sleeved bottles are properly identified during sorting.

    This kind of technology spells out a new potential future for sleeved bottles as it allows brand owners to maintain their strong design appeal whilst upping their recycling factor. It’s also the catalyst behind NEXTLOOPP, a multi-client project drawing in a number of brand-owners, converters, recyclers and machinery companies that is due to launch in late June that focuses on recycling PP into food-grade material.

    In the current environment where there is clearly “no away” and Producer Responsibility needs to come to the forefront; self-colored grey is set to represent the new normal color of sustainable packaging that is continually recovered and recycled.

    The opportunities for innovation via sleeves and labels are vast and could help both brand owners and consumers meet their targets and expectations for recycled content. Making it technically possible for all our plastic packaging to be reused or recycled will go a long way towards boosting the plastic recycling sector and establishing a stronger circular economy, something NEXTLOOPP is aiming for.

    Stay tuned for further developments!