Packaging Digest Submission Guidelines

Packaging Digest Submission Guidelines

Lightweight packaging trend must balance eco impact and consumer experience: Gallery

The Bonfire Wines shaped pouch is easy to hold, as well as being a lightweight alternative to the typical glass wine bottle—for considerable weight savings during shipping.

In recent years, food and beverage manufacturers have been placing increasing emphasis on reducing the packaging weight for the benefits of promoting environmental sustainability and reducing costs throughout the supply chain. This practice is known as “lightweighting.”

Conventionally, a package is “lightweighted” in one of two ways:

First, the package material itself can be replaced with a lighter weight alternative. For example, Bonfire Wines, which packages its wine in pouches rather than bottles, has an 80% smaller carbon footprint and stores two times the total wine in one package.

Alternatively, the package material itself can be cut. The water bottles produced by Sidel Rightweight for Water offers a weight savings of 34% versus a conventional commercial bottle, with the use of its Rightweight technology.

Despite the popularity of the practice, lightweighting can be the wrong approach if it results in a package that has compromised the consumer’s experience.


Packaging efficiency model

Instead of focusing on lightweighting, the designers should look toward a model that PwC describes as “packaging efficiency.” According to this model, packaging efficiency can be defined as a more holistic approach that covers the entire lifecyle of a package. It considers five specific areas:

1. The resources used in its creation;

2. Its ability to protect the product;

3. Transport and display efficiency;

4. Its ability to provide a positive customer experience;

5. Its impact at end of life.

If we take the two examples singled out earlier—the Bonfire Wines pouch and the Sidel Rightweight bottle—we can see that as well as being lightweight, they are also efficient. While the model of packaging efficiency does not indicate major compromises, there have been significant gains in the areas of transport, resource consumption and display efficiency, including the ability to transport more packs in the same truck, display more packs on shelf and a design that always faces the consumer on the shelf or in the fridge.

Another example of an efficient solution, this time from the flexible packaging sector is Ella’s Kitchen. It has transformed the baby food market with a flexible pouch that is not only attractive but, by being squeezable, is also useful to a busy parent on the go. This is both an efficient and lightweight outcome.

However, in other cases, the use of flexible packaging can be an inefficient solution, if it compromises the consumer experience. For example, using a lightweight design for larger microwavable products like ambient soups, make the package unstable and can result in the customers burning themselves.

Additionally, some packages, like pouches, present challenges in terms of recycling, particularly when compared to other formats, such as PET containers.

We know from experience that consumers simply will not buy packaging that makes their lives harder. This year, the industry is facing a difficult balancing act—reducing our environmental impact, without harming the consumer experience.  The good news, however, is that by adopting more balanced approaches, such as the packaging efficiency model, it’s possible to lower the environmental impact of our packaging, while at the same time creating products that make our customers happier.

That is a positive outcome for the health of our planet, our industry and our customers.


Ian Lifshitz is the sustainability director for the Americas for Asia Pulp & Paper Group (APP). He is responsible for leading the company's sustainability and related stakeholder engagement programs across Canada, the United States, and South America. Lifshitz is also charged with leading the company's North American CSR activities, translating and communicating many of APP's successful conservation, biodiversity and social community programs to North American audiences.

A twist on multipacking turns up cannery’s capability

A twist on multipacking turns up cannery’s capability

Merrick Pet Care adds patent-pending technology to its production operations that simply, yet elegantly, twists and turns single cans into shelf-friendly 2x6-count multipacks.

Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest, which is why Merrick Pet Care Inc. beefed up its production operations in Hereford, TX, the self-proclaimed cattle capital of the world. It did so using a Holland Engineering multipacker equipped with a unique, patent-pending “New Twist” metering system. Merrick’s New Twist system is the second of its kind in the world; the first was installed at a New York bottler shortly before the 1Q2014 installation at Merrick.

What set things in motion was a directive from Merrick’s marketing department for a new, retail-driven shelf-friendly format: A 12-pack, shrink-wrapped tray of cans that’s only two cans wide. The new 2x6 format would yield the same tray count onto a shelf facing that was one-third less that for the traditional 3x4 multipack. On space-constrained retail shelves, that one-can reduction makes a huge difference, enabling three 2x6 packs, or 36 cans, to be shelved in the same facing as previously housed two 3x4 facings totaling 24 cans.

“We transitioned our can tray configurations to allow our retail customers the ability to shelve a greater variety of our category-leading Merrick grain-free recipes for their shoppers,” says Mark Sapir, vp of marketing. “We are continually looking for new ways to improve our offerings to customers, pet parents and ultimately their pets.  Our upgraded multipacking capability is another example of Merrick doing what a leader does.”

The change to the new tray configuration began in late February starting with its new grain-free Merrick chunky cans. “The transition is expected to be completed across all our product lines early next year,” Sapir adds.

Responsible for seeing that marketing’s vision became a reality on the Merrick production floor was Michael Myers, cannery plant manager. Myer’s Plan A was to upgrade the plant’s multipacker, a Holland Engineering Vantage Pak V-75 system installed in 2001. That prompted a call to Peter de Hertogh, Holland’s national sales manager, who came to the facility and found that the machine could not be set up wide enough (6x2) or narrow enough (2x6) to run the required format. Based on Myers’ prior experiences with Holland in general and with de Hertogh in particular, Merrick fast-tracked the installation of a new Holland Engineering CM-70T tray packer.

The New Twist-equipped multipacker permits an array of containers and pack patterns in industries such as beverage, canning, health/personal care and industrial products. It also accepts non-traditional shapes at higher speeds such as rectangular, oval, tapered and other container styles.

A timely Texas twister

Merrick’s tray packer is situated about halfway down the first leg of the U-shaped production layout, which starts with unlabeled cans being unloaded from batch retort trays.

That short infeed conveyor takes the cans to a labeler that is a workhorse at this Texas facility. From there, the labeled cans continue for about 20 feet before rounding a 90-deg turn to head straight toward the multipacker on a mass-flow conveyor. At the infeed to the multipacker, the cans are mechanically split into two rows, one on each side of the single-screw New Twist metering assembly.  The New Twist metering system comprises a worm-style feed screw of the type seen in many packaging operations. But in this instance, it’s a smart system that starts and stops to meter the right amount of cans at the right time. With each rotation, it picks up a can in a thread; and once it has six cans on each side it releases that 2x6 grouping to be transferred atop a corrugated tray blank.

The New Twist itself is operated by servos from B&R Automation, which Holland chose “because of its absolute encoder technology,” explains de Hertogh, who is also the inventor of the technology. “Many servos lose their positional memory in an e-stop condition and have to ‘re-home,’ which was not acceptable for our design. The B&R servos always know where the screw position is and instantly resumes the synchronized operation of the screw right where it stopped.”

Integrated into the tray packer’s Rockwell Automation Allen-Bradley Compact Logix controller through an Ethernet IP connection, the B&R system controls things like acceleration, deceler ation and the number of times the screw turns.

Myers is impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness of the New Twist method. “I’ve worked on fillers and have seen other pieces of equipment that use worm screws as feeders,” he says. “Yet I never thought of using one in this way until I saw Holland’s video on YouTube. I was thrilled about it, and wished I’d had the idea to use a timing screw to meter containers like that.” 

Still, there was some uncertainty mixed in with Myers’ enthusiasm. “I had confidence in the theory of this technique working, but you can make a video, put it on the internet and get somebody to bite,” he discloses. “That’s not the reason I purchased it. I purchased it because Peter has always been a good guy to work with and he’s been nothing but a good partner in this whole project. It wasn’t easy to make it all happen on Peter’s part or our part. As with all projects, we were pressed for time with a launch date and had on-going side projects as well. I admit that even I didn’t expect it to come out this nice and this good. The New Twist is interesting technology and it’s pretty slick.”

It’s also patent pending: New Twist’s patent filing—U.S. #20140190126Al—was published on July 10, which describes the invention as “Grouper apparatus for a packaging machine and methods of grouping items for packaging” (see Patent-pending innovation offers a New Twist on product metering).

Capability and speeds improved

The installation went smoothly as well when it was switched out for the old packer.

“Once we had the old machine unplugged and pushed off to the side, we put wheels on this one and moved it right in,” states Myers.

Since the start-up of the New Twist system, the cannery’s production capabilities have taken a sharp turn for the better, not only to meter cans effectively into the required 2x6 tray format, but also do so 25% faster.

Although the system is capable of numerous pack patterns, Merrick runs the 2x6 multipack format exclusively to meet demand across three size formats. The day of our visit the plant was packing 13.2oz cans of Classic Working Dog Stew.

Merrick purchased an option to have a direct internet connection to B&R Automation support specialists using an optional “eWON” remote access for the A-B PLC.  It allows Holland’s technicians to go online and see the machine operating in real time and diagnose and correct issues remotely. As this editor found out, getting to and finding the plant located south of Hereford is no easy task. Holland claims that eWON is a resource that usually saves the customer the expense and lost time of traveling and is available at a list price of $2,000.

Onerous changeovers corralled

The change to the new Holland packer is like night and day. “This technology is all hand-screws and countersink buttons,” explains Myers. “I watched the operator make a change yesterday and she just removed one New Twist screw assembly and put on another size. We’ve got a timing mark on it so that it feeds the right amount of cans.”

The changeover of the New Twist metering assembly is about two minutes, Myers notes.

On the tray blank section of the tray packer, an operator cranks hand knobs to the length and width needed. “It has a little counter gauge on there so for a 3-oz size can tray, you run it up to that size tray marked on the counter, and that’ll be the exact size that you need,” says Myers. 

According to Holland, machine changeovers are an eight-step process. All items requiring adjustment are either calibrated, color coded or have fixed stops. With the exception of one wrench to change the vacuum chamber, changeovers are tool-free. Holland’s newer models are completely tool-loss.

The changeover for one operator is now no more than 15 minutes. “We went from 40 to 15 minutes,” observes Myers. “That’s pretty good.”

While Merrick aims to run one format daily, they have made as many three changeovers during a shift that cumulatively saved 75 minutes’ time vs. the previous setup.

As with most production line upgrades anywhere, the bottleneck shifts to another machine. Myers has his sights set on alleviating one upstream of the multipacker along with several other line improvement projects—but that’s a piece down an ever-winding road.

B&R Automation, 770-772-0400

Holland Engineering, LLC, 860-259-5020

Rockwell Automation, 414-382-2000

The first all-electric medical tray sealer is introduced

The first all-electric medical tray sealer is introduced

Atlas Vac Machine, LLC, Cincinnati, OH, will unveil the industry’s first medical tray sealer with an all-electric press at Pack Expo/Pharma Expo 2014 for total and precise control of dwell times and temperatures. 

The Atlas Vac electric press medical tray sealer is suitable for packaging of medical devices, medical disposables, pharmaceuticals and other precision packaging, which require validation of package sealing protocols to ensure package aesthetics and integrity. 

The servo-drive operation applies, measures and controls direct-force output far more accurately and with greater repeatability than pneumatic systems that control air pressure and attempt to equate it to downward force.  The resulting down-force “signature curve” reaches full down-force application quickly and is held extremely constant throughout the entire dwell time setting.  Packaging engineers can match the accuracy of dwell time and temperature controls with a down-force result unattainable by other systems. 

System highlights:

  • Available in single or dual shuttle configurations;
  • The operator can engage the entire sealing cycle with the push of a button rather than having both hands on the safety sensors;
  • A heavy heater section and a Teflon-coated seal platen distribute the thermal energy evenly, even in high-package cycling;
  • PLC controls are available from Mitsubishi or Allen-Bradley, with validation protocols, recipes, passwords, operator screens, alarms, data acquisition and other tools of the trade available in standard or custom configurations;
  • Safety is ensured using a light-curtain system that automatically detects any interference within it by ceasing motion until the unit is reset. 

Merrick multipacker slideshow


  1. Merrick’s multipacker with New Twist technology for metering cans into tray packs was installed in early 2014.
  2. Cans arriving on a mass-flow conveyor are split into two rows just head of the New Twist device.
  3. Each rotation of the servo-driven New Twist “smart” feed screw metering system adds another can to the grouping; after six rotations, a retail-friendly 2x6 grouping is released and another group is started.
  4. Trayed 2x6-count trays are released for shrink wrapping downstream done by a refurbished system.
  5. It was critical that the new multipacker be capable of creating the space-saving 2x6 tray pack (shown lengthwise) that replaces a standard 3x4 trayed pack.

5 astonishing new facts about packaging

5 astonishing new facts about packaging
1. Incredibly, the contract packaging business has more than doubled since 2008—even through the Great Recession. It’s been a win-win scenario: Brand owners are seeing multiple benefits from working more collaboratively with their contract manufacturing and packaging partners.

Every so often, I see info about the packaging industry that makes me go, “Whoa!” Like these recent growth stats:

1. Incredibly, the contract packaging business has more than doubled since 2008—even through the Great Recession—according to the Third Edition of The State of the Contract Packaging Industry report conducted by independent research firm SAI Industrial LLC on behalf of the Contract Packaging Assn. Consistent demand for their services, and a healthy profit margin in 2013 (26% to 31% on average), contributed to the exponential growth. It’s been a win-win scenario: Brand owners are seeing multiple benefits from working more collaboratively with their contract manufacturing and packaging partners, as industry veteran Bob Scalia wrote in last month’s article “Contract manufacturing: A new era”.

2. This male-dominated industry is seeing a steady and increasing influx of females. Just take a look around you. Need more evidence? Gayle Roubos, undergraduate academic specialist at Michigan State University’s School of Packaging—which has the largest packaging curriculum of all schools—lays out some numbers that support this: “There are 833 undergraduates in the [packaging] program, 27 Masters students [not including online Masters students] and 17 Ph.D. students. There are 320 female undergraduate students (38%), 12 Masters students (44%) and 7 female Ph.D. students (41%). In the 2013/2014 academic year, 43 females graduated out of a total number of 148 graduating students (29%). This year’s incoming class has 86 students in it (68 new freshmen, 18 transfers). Of those incoming students, 43 are female, giving us a true 50/50 split.”

3. The 2014 Pack Expo International show will be the largest one yet, with more than 2,200 exhibitors vying for the attention of the 50,000+ expected visitors (see p.54 for a show overview and p.56 for a preview of some new products you’ll see there). What’s driving the growth? Jim Pittas, vp, trade shows with show owner/organizer PMMI, says, “We’ve been pleased with the support the industry is showing for Pack Expo International 2014 and Pharma Expo. The Pack Expo shows are all about encountering innovations in technologies and solutions, and this combined event will take that to the next level. I’m certain attendees will enjoy having the opportunity to attend both shows, and the cross pollination of ideas that occurs as a result will be beneficial to the industry at large, as well as to individuals and their companies.” I know I wouldn’t miss it for half the chocolate in a Hershey’s warehouse. Will you be there?

4. Nearly half (48%) of healthcare packaging professionals have worked at the same company for at least 10 years, according to the 2014 Salary Survey from Pharmaceutical & Medical Packaging News. The article goes on to say, “And about half (49.5%) are satisfied with their current position; an additional 19.8% are very satisfied.” Knowing that they help people who need it could be one incentive. Here’s another: The average annual salary is $115,000, boosted by an average raise of 3.5%. Certainly nothing to sneeze at.

5. Packaging as a marketing aid will become even more über important for food in coming years—fresh and processed. OK, so maybe I’m pushing it too far to call this a “fact,” because it’s more of a prediction. The “The Future of Food: How our eating habits will change” article in the Aug. 15-17 USA Weekend section of my local paper talks about how processed foods will take a backseat to fresh produce in the next five years. But branding will be key to help sell more produce, which will help lower prices, making these foods a more affordable choice for consumers on a budget. Processed food companies will not concede any ground without a fight, though. And preventing food waste, which is much more prevalent with fresh items, will undoubtedly be part of the conversation. All of which bodes well for packaging activity in both sectors.

Inventive tray-style display package is reclosable

Inventive tray-style display package is reclosable
Tray pack is stable, reclosable and economical.

This packaging alternative to sealed thermoform, clamshell or blister packages from Display Pack uses a top portion that slides along a channel in the package to provide reclosure.

This invention seems to be from the “Why didn’t I think of that?” school of thought. Instead, it was Display Pack Inc., Grand Rapids, MI, that saw a need for a more stable, reclosable and economical package as an alternative to sealed thermoform, clamshell or blister packages that may be damaged when opening the package.

The patent describes the invention as having a tray, a panel and a cover that slides along a channel formed by the tray and panel. Depending on the design, the cover can slide into the tray or it can be snap-fit into place into a channel.

The package allows a potential customer to inspect the packaged article(s) at the point of sale and can easily be opened and closed by a consumer. From a production standpoint, it is claimed that the package can be initially loaded with product and assembled without the need for expensive sealing equipment. The components are stackable to optimize storage space.

Among other options, a pressure-sensitive sticker can provide a tamper­-evident seal.

Read the patent filing for more information.

Patent-pending innovation offers a New Twist on product metering

Patent-pending innovation offers a New Twist on product metering
Graphic of the New Twist technology is shown in a patent drawing (top) and as seen in the real world in the photo of cans as they are metered into a 2x6 grouping at Merrick Pet Care.

Every once in a while a packaging development comes that is as revolutionary as it is simple, a combination of elusive qualities that is a rare bird indeed. Such is New Twist, a patent-pending metering system that comprises a worm-style feed screw of the type seen in many packaging operations. But in this inventive use, the feed screw is a servo-driven smart system that starts and stops with precision to meter the right amount of cans at the right time. With each rotation, it picks up a can in a screw thread; and once it has reached the preset amount of cans on each side of the screw, it releases them as a group.

The system can handle a numerous range of product shapes and packing configurations.

The New Twist patent filing published July 10 (and viewable here summarizes the invention as “Grouper apparatus for a packaging machine and methods of grouping items for packaging.”

The publication date was especially timely for me as an editor because I had already made a visit two months earlier to one of the very first installations of the New Twist technology by patent-holder Holland Engineering LLC for its Model CM-70 tray packer. The detailed case study for Merrick Pet Care centers on the cannery’s use of the New Twist technology to produce a space-saving, retail-friendly 2x6 pack that will be featured in the September issue of Packaging Digest and will be revealed next week at

At Merrick, the New Twist screw portion can be changed out for a different can size in two minutes and the entire multipacker in 15 minutes in what is essentially a tool-less process. Merrick’s previous multipacker took 40 minutes to changeover.

While multipackers including Merrick’s are the first applications of the New Twist technology, Peter de Hertogh, Holland Engineering’s national sales manager and New Twist inventor, tells PD that “we have plans to offer this technology for shrink wrappers in 2015.”


Improved label designs on the menu for Barilla

Improved label designs on the menu for Barilla

As the global leader in the pasta industry, Barilla makes it its mission to celebrate the lifestyle, culture and cuisine of Italy. The family-run company that started as a bread and pasta shop in Parma, Italy, back in 1877 now has more than 1,500 brands in 100 different countries and its not slowing down anytime soon. Barilla aims to double its business by 2020 while at the same time increasing its sustainability efforts by reducing its environmental footprint.

However, to attain this impressive goal, the pasta company needs to be able to continue to lure in shoppers who are subjected to hundreds of products when going into a shopping market. Also, today’s consumers are busier than ever as they quickly scan shelves and more than likely reach for the most recognizable brand without thinking of other alternatives. This goes to show just how vital packaging is to a brand and its sales.

“Consumers face so many choices,” says Marco Rossi, IT business process support director, Barilla. “Packages are the first thing consumers come in contact with. They must not only find them appealing, they must find important information such as the product’s ingredients, nutritional information, suggestions for preparing and accompanying the product—and more technical information such as expiration date, storage and package recycling advice.”

Rossi adds. “We only have a few seconds to make a difference so we strive to make our pasta, sauces, cereals and breads, as attractive and as informative as possible.”
As a result of how important it is to attract the consumer, companies like Barilla invest significant time and money in reviewing, crafting and overseeing their packaging art and language. However, more often than not, despite the time spent doing this they are not achieving the type of yield on their investment. That’s because the process is highly collaborative as these global companies need to pay attention to cultural differences as their products hit shelves in other countries where label requirements may be different. Also, the labels need to achieve a uniform look across all the brands, which can be a feat in itself.

A collective effort
To better achieve efficiency and reduce lead time Barilla adopted Dassault Systèmes’ Perfect Package industry solution to drastically reduce packaging development times and costs. The pasta purveyor went ahead the first semester of 2013 with the solution; the ramp up of adoption proceeded in the months following.

The Perfect Package, which launched in 2013, is a consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail industry solution experience that enables brand manufacturers, design agencies, packaging suppliers and artwork studios to generate innovative designs by swiftly repeating new designs from initial concepts to validated designs on a single platform.

This drastically cuts down package design cycles, reduces packaging material costs and eliminates the chance for recalls. It turns what has been a serial development process plagued by multiple rounds of rework that results in sub-optimal designs into a synchronized end to end design process bringing together internal and external organizations to create breakthrough packaging in record time.

“In the world of fast-moving consumer goods companies, some succeed, some fail and some make an impact on society. This impact is mostly due to a perfect match between the actual product and the way it is delivered: the packaging,” says Monica Menghini, evp, industry and marketing, Dassault Systèmes. “Packaging is a key component of any brand’s equity. It is, essentially, the first and most important advertising for that product. This is what inspired us to create Perfect Package. Creating a perfect consumer experience requires more than just a nice design tool. Our 3DExperience platform allows them to embrace the design experience need of today’s marketers.”

“Creating package labeling is a collective effort of external art agencies and our research and development, purchasing, legal, marketing and sales divisions. All these stakeholders must have their say to ensure that the look and content of our labels adhere to international regulations and to consumer expectations,” says Rossi. “We needed order and consistency, which was only possible if we transformed our way of working.”

Built off the 3DExperience Platform, the Perfect Package gives Barilla’s stakeholders a dedicated labeling solution with secure digital access to its most up-to-date product information. No longer is it necessary to send paper samples back and forth, which helps drastically reduce the labeling creation time. Design is accelerated along with the approval process and quality is improved while label creation costs are lowered. The application also ensures designs and intellectual property that previously was handled by third-party agencies allowing Barilla to bring this back in-house.  

“With the 3DExperience Platform, all our stakeholders can collaborate from idea generation to validation of the final Barilla package using a digital representation of the same master label,” says Rossi. “Whereas the old way to communicate designs was to physically send paper samples from one department to another, now all stakeholders can concur from idea generation to validation of the final Barilla package using a digital representation of the same master label. No more working on outdated samples and making decisions that have to eventually be rescinded, consequently driving our costs up and our response time down. With the 3DExperience platform, we can digitally exchange ideas, which is faster, more intuitive and results in few to no packaging recalls.”

Alberto Maldino, IT business process support senior manager at Barilla, adds that they now have the potential to guarantee data consistency for their entire ecosystem and to facilitate collaboration between all Barilla sites in the different countries, as well as with their external partners and suppliers. They expect this to significantly shorten packaging development time and to improve compliance of their labels with local regulations.

Lessons learned
When asked what challenges were encountered during the implementation, Rossi says that the concept to move digital implies particular attention to change management/behavior. Most of the challenges were clearly known at the beginning of the process, even that minor evidence came in the roll out, relating to discipline in the process step and in the collaboration involvement with external providers.

At the end of the day though, Rossi says the process change was really impactful, specifically within the external collaboration relationship. A positive surprise was that the endorsement of the solution from the external agency provider was much higher than what Barilla was expecting.

The Perfect Package has been rolled out at 80% of Barilla’s sites around the world and is currently in the process of bringing all intellectual property under one roof.

Growing companies invest in future

Growing companies invest in future
Sidel has created a new services business unit that aims to deliver greater value to the beverage products, installed Sidel equipment and bottom line of beverage producers globally.

This summer Packaging Digest has noticed a trend in expansion and growth as the press releases have been flooding in heralding about reinvestment and new technologies. We've decided to showcase a few of these standout companies that are expanding into the future with state-of-the-art facilities as well as investing in packaging optimization.