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The era of feel-good packaging

The era of feel-good packaging
Crest’s “Be” line of toothpastes invites consumers to pick a flavor that defines them (or defines who they want to “Be”): Inspired, Adventurous, Dynamic.

Brands are telling consumers how they will feel if they buy their product—and are doing it front and center on their packages.

Maybe it’s me, but it seems like everywhere you look these days, there’s bad news: war, domestic shootings, political unrest, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (okay, so that was a false alarm, but still…). With headlines like these, is it any wonder that people are grasping for positivity wherever they can find it? Not surprisingly, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” song is the anthem of 2014, the one that got Meryl Streep dancing in the aisles at the Oscars. Pharrell is proud to tell everyone that he’s happy, and you should be too, dammit.

Pop songs have no problem telling you how you should be feeling, and now brands are following suit by staging end benefits front and center on pack. A recent trip down the supermarket aisle proves how brands are leveraging this strategy. Several can be seen using a strong end benefit to make the consumer believe they need to buy these products to feel better about life. To feel refreshed, optimistic, energized and—you guessed it—happy. Instead of human behavior driving brands, as they once did, it now seems that brands are the ones driving human behavior.

And when I say they are “on pack,” I’m not saying that these messages are simply tertiary copy buried beneath a brand, sub-brand or claim. In many instances, the end benefits are promoted prominently, and have even become part of the brand name.

Crest recently launched a new line, “Be,” that lets consumers define themselves based on the products they are using. Forget about getting clean teeth and fresh breath—now, you can recalibrate your psyche with just one brush! Be INSPIRED, in a Vanilla Mint Spark flavor, is for those who feel their dental routine is a little, well, underwhelming. Be ADVENTUROUS, in a Mint Chocolate Trek flavor, takes your mouth on an exhilarating ride. And Be DYNAMIC, with its unusual Lime Spearmint Zest combination, tingles the senses with bold and unexpected flavors. The thing that gets consumers’ attention is the prominent sub-brand “Be”; and the end benefit that follows reinforces who and what they should be (inspired, adventurous, dynamic). Crest believes that the emphasis on the potential of what one could be will ultimately drive sales.

Dietary supplement brand, Neuro, prominently features its end benefit front and center on its bottles. In fact, this benefit is so much larger than the actual brand name that you might think that SLEEP (with the tagline “Sweet Dreams”) is the brand, rather than a sub-brand. With this approach, Neuro is trying to lure consumers who are looking for an end benefit, not a specific brand. It’s a great strategy because who wouldn’t be attracted to a product that has the ability to change one’s behavior for the better? Hell, any drink that would help me sleep more soundly is one I’d happily give a shot.  

I have to admit, there’s something incredibly appealing about a brand trying to enhance my well-being. But I also can’t help but wonder: Is it realistic to expect a brand to make us feel a certain way about ourselves? Most people would say no, but in a time when books like “The Happiness Project” put a premium on feeling happy, I guess my response is: Why not? After all, Coca-Cola, Apple and Betty Crocker—three of the biggest brand names of our time—have been asking us to feel and behave in certain ways for years, but have limited the use of these messages to their advertising campaigns.

“Have a Coke and a Smile”—a slogan that embodied Coke’s M.O. to spread happiness around the world—has appeared in Coke ads and on promotional collateral for years but rarely on actual bottles. Ditto for Apple, who used “Think Different” in its groundbreaking ad campaign, and put the letter “i” before its product names. (They claim the “i” stands for “interactive,” but there’s no question it also references the individual who puts his/her own stamp on whatever Apple device they are using.) For years, Betty Crocker inspired consumers to “Bake Someone Happy.” What heartless soul wouldn’t bake a dozen cupcakes to make their kids smile?

So, at the end of the day, I wholeheartedly welcome this movement. It’s a lot easier and cheaper than paying a therapist $200 an hour to have you vent about your emotions or complain about why you’re not sleeping at night.

I can’t wait for the day when I can buy a shampoo that will make me feel more creative or use a deodorant that not only helps with perspiration but also makes me feel like a better parent. Soon, we might not even need to analyze how we’re feeling at all—the brands can just do that for us. And singers like Pharrell, of course.

Rick Barrack, chief creative officer/partner, is the lead creative force and one of the founding partners of CBX (www.cbx.com), where he is responsible for inspiring, directing and motivating the company’s creative teams to develop powerful design solutions. He has about 20 years of experience in corporate identity and consumer brand identity design. Contact Barrack at rick@cbx.com.

Real-time hot-melt inspection assures proper application

Real-time hot-melt inspection assures proper application
Robust inspection uses thermal and visual imaging.

Valco Melton’s award-winning PackChek System uses thermal and visual imaging to provide quality assurance of proper hot-melt application in real time.

Valco Melton’s ClearVision PackChek System provides hot-melt inspection for end-of-line packaging that goes beyond visual inspection of each glue bead. PackChek also uses thermal imaging by evaluating the heat signature of every package to ensure hot melt glue has been applied to the correct locations.

To date, PackChek is the only vision inspection system of its kind utilizing thermal and visual imaging. Benefits include real-time feedback on faulty product and the ability to log defect and analyze long term performance.

The ClearVision PackChek System has been named the Gold winner in the 11th Annual International Business Awards in the “Best New Product or Service of the Year - Industrial Products & Services” category.  The International Business Awards is a premier, global business awards program. All individuals and organizations worldwide – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small - are eligible to submit nominations. The 2014 IBAs comprised entries from more than 60 nations and territories. The awards will be presented to winners at banquet at the Westin Paris – Vendôme Hotel in Paris, France on October 10. 

LiquiForm reduces bottle forming and filling to one step

LiquiForm reduces bottle forming and filling to one step
Pressurized liquid instead of compressed air is used to form plastic containers.

By using a consumable, pressurized liquid instead of compressed air to form plastic containers, LiquiForm technology combines the bottle forming and filling processes to simplify the process and cut costs.

New technology in blow molding bottles doesn't come along every day, which is why when something revolutionary is brought to the forefront, industry takes notice. LiquiForm (Ann Arbor, MI) has introduced what it calls a breakthrough blow molding and filling manufacturing technology that promises to bring significant energy and cost savings, as well as other benefits, to liquid packaging producers worldwide.

By using a consumable, pressurized liquid instead of compressed air to form plastic containers, LiquiForm technology combines the bottle forming and filling processes into one step. Ann O'Hara, president of LiquiForm, commented to PlasticsToday that the industry has been heading in this direction over time. "There is already the trend of connecting the blower and filler, which got us closer but that was still two steps, not just one."

The actual birth of this technology began in brain-storming sessions in 2004 and 2005, in a drive toward simplification and cost savings by "thinking more innovatively," O'Hara explained. "A few people came up with the idea but like many innovative ideas, it required the equipment to make the technology work. Initially, they took an old machine and retrofit it using spare parts to accommodate the technology at an Amcor facility," she said. "To their great pleasure, they got it to work.”

You can read the full article at PlasticsToday.

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Niagara Bottling takes control of light weighting to reduce costs: Gallery

AGR’s Process Pilot Automated Blowmolder Control System has been instrumental in generating a 10% to 15% improvement in the consistency of Niagara Bottling’s new lighter-weight bottles. (Photo courtesy of AGR International)

Take an inside look at how this bottler that blow molds billions of bottles a year uses automated monitoring to tighten tolerances to take control of its packaging costs and meet sustainability goals.

In its role as the leading provider of private-label bottled water in North America, Southern California’s Niagara Bottling, LLC, is engaged in an ongoing lightweighting effort. Previous lightweighting initiatives produced the company’s flagship 500mL PET water bottle, and now Niagara is forging ahead in the quest for additional weight reduction to sharpen its competitive edge.

Recently, corporate R&D and manufacturing teams joined forces to investigate the latest technologies to advance the lightweighting process. Their collaboration spawned a new approach to bottle-making, a “paradigm shift,” in the words of Niagara’s Sid Khanna, manager, manufacturing solutions. The shift emphasizes bottle consistency to assure robust downstream operations and maximize production efficiencies throughout the plant.

One of the key elements supporting Niagara’s new strategy was the deployment of AGR International’s Process Pilot Automated Blowmolder Control System. The results of the first system start-up indicate that the Process Pilot’s blow molder management capabilities have proven instrumental in generating a 10% to 15% improvement in bottle consistency.

“Lighter bottles demand more precise operations, especially in handling,” Khanna notes. “Our research and manufacturing teams huddled and looked for new ideas to overcome line issues. Through trial and error with our new bottle designs, we learned that AGR’s process monitoring is the best tool available today that is compatible with all leading blow molding equipment to assure we make the most consistent bottles we can for our downstream process.” 

That success led the company to install  20+ more of the systems.

Photos above show the operations at Niagara Bottling. For the complete story, see Niagara Bottling roars past lightweighting obstacles

Note: All photos courtesy of AGR International

Niagara Bottling roars past lightweighting obstacles

Niagara Bottling roars past lightweighting obstacles
Niagara Bottling’s Process Pilot Automated Blowmolder Control System has proven instrumental in generating a 10 to 15% improvement in bottle consistency—and why the bottler ordered 20+ more of the systems.

Automated systems permit the bottler to tighten packaging tolerances by 10% to 15% in a light-weighting initiative driven by cost-cutting and sustainability goals.

In its role as the leading provider of private-label bottled water in North America, Southern California’s Niagara Bottling, LLC, is engaged in an ongoing lightweighting effort. Previous lightweighting initiatives produced the company’s flagship 500mL PET water bottle, and now Niagara is forging ahead in the quest for additional weight reduction to sharpen its competitive edge.

Recently, corporate R&D and manufacturing teams joined forces to investigate the latest technologies to advance the lightweighting process. Their collaboration spawned a new approach to bottle-making, a “paradigm shift,” in the words of Niagara’s Sid Khanna, manager, manufacturing solutions. The shift emphasizes bottle consistency to assure robust downstream operations and maximize production efficiencies throughout the plant.

One of the key elements supporting Niagara’s new strategy was the deployment of AGR International’s Process Pilot Automated Blowmolder Control System. The results of the first system start-up indicate that the Process Pilot’s blowmolder management capabilities have proven instrumental in generating a 10% to 15% improvement in bottle consistency.

“Lighter bottles demand more precise operations, especially in handling,” Khanna notes. “Our research and manufacturing teams huddled and looked for new ideas to overcome line issues. Through trial and error with our new bottle designs, we learned that AGR’s process monitoring is the best tool available today that is compatible with all leading blow molding equipment to assure we make the most consistent bottles we can for our downstream process.” 

Sustainability and costs

Niagara Bottling was founded in 1963 by Andrew Peykoff, an enterprising route driver who sensed opportunity as he saw southern California’s Inland Empire transform from dusty desert to industrial hub. Headquartered in Ontario, CA, the company today is under the second-generation leadership of Andy Peykoff II, president & CEO. By the time it celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, Niagara had built up a network of 13 plants across the U.S., from California to Florida, producing billions of bottles per year.

The vast majority of this output is filled in the 100% recyclable, 500mL (16.9 oz) Eco-Air Bottle. Typically configured in 24-count packs, the water is sold under the Niagara label or private brand to Big Box and club store customers. Five other pack sizes, from six to 40 bottles, are available, along with eight-ounce to one-gallon bottles, but the 24-pack, 500mL format is the company’s “bread and butter,” says Khanna.

Niagara’s lightweighting initiative has widespread implications for two important company goals, sustainability and low cost. It has an essential role to play in shrinking the bottler’s carbon footprint, first by reducing raw material consumption, and then by cutting down on energy resources and other utilities necessary for production.

Lightweighting also has a significant impact on two of the biggest cost drivers of the business, resin quantities and transport. “Reducing the amount of resin in each bottle is the biggest thing we can do to keep costs down,” says Damon Choate, manufacturing technology specialist. “Given our economies of scale, every time we go a half-gram lower in weight while sustaining the same volume of bottles, we generate considerable savings.”

The progression downward is not without obstacles. “All tolerances have to be tighter for lighter bottles,” Choate comments. To maximize control, Niagara has incorporated all functions in a vertically integrated production model. Individual plants fabricate their own preforms, bottles and caps. The accelerated pace of production is demanding, often with less than one hour from preform injection to filling.

Adapting to variables

In this high-volume environment, where the blowmolders operate at some of the fastest rates in the world, consistency is paramount—yet variables abound at almost every step of production. Super-light bottle-making is especially sensitive to even minor shifts in the environment or process. Lighter preforms not only have a different center of gravity, requiring gentler handling, but they also demand a complex mix of heat settings on the blowmolder.   

“With lightweighting, you have the question of heat retention,” Choate explains. “It’s harder to maintain heat in a lighter preform, so it is more challenging to form. The absorption rates are different, and the number of oven lamps you use is different.”

Further downstream, the thinner bottle walls that result from lighter weights present challenges for both high-speed filling and labeling. To compound the potential obstacles, bottles produced on different blowmolders often wind up on a single filling line.

“When bottle consistency and performance vary from blowmolder to blowmolder, it can wreak havoc with the filling operation since it is optimized for specific bottle attributes,” Choate continues, pointing out that as the bottles lighten, this becomes even more of an issue.

“Bottles that fall over or cause jams interfere with operational efficiency downstream,” Khanna adds. “The biggest metric we use for efficiency is overall equipment effectiveness, or OEE. When a critical machine stops, the line stops making money. It is very costly when bottle inconsistencies cause disruptions to our other line equipment.  When the OEE drops, we cannot not serve our customers on time.” 

Automating blowmolder adjustments

As bottles get lighter and line speeds accelerate, the operating window “decreases significantly,” according to Choate. More attention must be paid to process changes and the surrounding environment.

The AGR Process Pilot gives Niagara the ability to pay granular attention to increasingly stringent operating parameters. Installed within the blowmolder, the system combines powerful interactive software with a series of high-precision sensors that take extremely accurate measurements at one-half-inch increments along the bottle sidewall. Sophisticated algorithms analyze minute changes in material distribution, using the feedback to adjust critical blowmolder settings so proper thickness specifications are maintained uniformly across all bottle output.

“Pilot is constantly monitoring blowmolder operation and continuously making micro changes to adjust for process variation,” Choate says. “I’ve found that this monitoring gives us the foresight to head off a potentially larger issue. Then we can start investigating and troubleshooting—did the blender start working incorrectly? Are we feeding just virgin material into the injection molder? Sometimes, when a label skews, the technician might think it’s a labeler malfunction, but it could be that the sidewall of the bottle is actually thinner and more pliable than desired. Process Pilot is a proactive tool so we can quickly investigate potential problems that could disrupt downstream functions and cause line stoppages.”

“We operate at such high speeds that manual corrections can’t be done fast enough,” Khanna emphasizes. “When an operator monitors and manages the blowmolder, he has to analyze a set of data before making any major change. It’s not nearly as efficient.”

“I see the Process Pilot as a multiplier,” Choate points out. “If I had to do my own section weights on a complete round of bottles, it would take half an hour, but the AGR system does it in less than 30 seconds. It multiplies our skill set—freeing up our process engineers from closely monitoring the blowmolder to do other things.”

Evaluating the initial process pilot

Equipment configurations vary among the numerous production lines Niagara operates. The lines are comprised of equipment from world-class suppliers including Husky, Sidel, Krones and AGR International.  

When it came time to confirm Process Pilot capabilities, Niagara installed the system on a filling line fed by two identical blowmolders, each with 20 blowing stations. One blowmolder was managed traditionally, with the operator making manual corrections for environmental issues and process drift, while the Process Pilot controlled the other blowmolder automatically. 

Niagara found bottle-to-bottle consistency to be much better for bottles produced on the blowmolder equipped with the Process Pilot. Choate reports a 10 to 15% improvement in consistency in bottles under Process Pilot control. The standard deviation improved from 5.89 sigma to  6.2 sigma.

The advance in performance is reflected in downstream efficiency. “When we are able to control the consistency of bottles from line to line, blowmolder to blowmolder, we are more consistent downstream,” he says. Especially given Niagara’s high volumes, the cost savings that result from the efficiency improvements—reductions in labor, energy, and scrap—are significant. Furthermore, according to Khanna, “Lightweighting is a constant evolution. We have never stopped and never will. Every year we are looking for opportunities to reduce gram weight and make sure we keep our resin and transportation costs in check.”

AGR’s Process Pilot has demonstrated the ability to reduce process variation, which should translate to overall line efficiencies. A tighter process will enable Niagara Bottling to further lightweight with less risk of increased scrap. The total cost reduction potential provided by AGR’s Process Pilot in labor, energy, scrap, and material looks to provide for rapid payback and offers a competitive return on investment.

In addition, Process Pilot features like mold/spindle correlation facilitate proactive maintenance practices, Khanna points out. “It keeps us performing our maintenance activities on time so we don’t go into massive breakdown. Especially in the summer when our lines are the busiest, we can’t afford stoppages.”


20+ more systems ordered

With the goal of making “the lightest container in the world,” Niagara has just ordered 20-plus additional Process Pilot systems, to be installed at various plants around the country over the next year as part of a phased roll-out of the technology.

“The AGR tool really positions us to experiment with bottle design,” Choate relates. “It supports our manufacturing team in producing bottles with the right material distribution. It tracks data and pinpoints developing trends, so we can make predictions about blowmolder and bottle performance. It’s almost like being able to view the future.”

As bottled water continues to claim a larger share of the beverage consumer’s stomach, rising almost two points, to 16.6% , from 2008 to 2013 (according to preliminary data from Beverage Marketing Corp.), the competitive pressures of the business will only intensify.

Slender margins in the water industry heighten the importance of driving down costs. Additionally, with the improved ability to reduce bottle weights, Niagara will use less energy for processing and shipping. The cumulative savings across Niagara’s multi-billion bottle output can be a significant number, and the company’s focus on lightweighting is not about to change.

“We will always be asking how to push the envelope to come up with even more cost savings,” Khanna concludes.

AGR International, 724-482-2163

agrintl.com

Nicole Zaro Stahl has been writing about successful equipment applications in food processing and packaging plants for the past 20 years, pursuing stories internationally for print and online media. Reach her by email at prconsortium@gmail.com or by phone at 650-714-1802.

See related slideshow of in-plant images here.

ConAgra cups and Kellogg branding add value to dairy packaging

ConAgra cups and Kellogg branding add value to dairy packaging

An enlarged pudding cup and a fresh take on the two-in-one, cup-on-cup yogurt snack format distinguish a pair of packaging developments for convenience-driven dairy products. 

Dairy Package #1: There has been much ado about package “shrinkage” the past few years as consumer packaged goods companies worked to hold the line on product pricing by downsizing the packaging. ConAgra Foods Super Snack Pack pudding runs counter to that trend by introducing snack cups that do that in two ways: the 5.5oz cups are 60% larger than regular 3.25oz Snack Pack cups and are available as a 6-pack rather than a 4-pack.

Perhaps the company is going after bigger/older kids and adults with these larger-sized, shelf-stable products?

By the way, Snack Pack was introduced in 1968 as a shelf-stable pudding in single-serve aluminum cans and was the first brand in the category to introduce—30 years ago in 1984—pudding in plastic cups.

Cross-branded partnership

Dairy Package #2: Maybe this was inevitable, but the crunch of Kellogg’s cereal and the creamy smooth goodness of yogurt are combined with the introduction of YoCrunch Cereal Bowls in five SKUs.

The packaging expands the common theme of an overcap-topped yogurt cup that in the past has seen the likes of granola and other crushed bits (Chips Ahoy!, anyone?) that add crunch, texture and a fresh flavor profile to conventional yogurt.

In this cereal-ized revision of that theme, both of the stacked cups are close in size and sealed together. The products are available in: Special K (two cereal varieties, each paired with Greek yogurt), Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Krave. 

“This powerful brand partnership and unique new design will drive further growth for our customers by expanding both categories" says Steve Platt, YoCrunch CEO. YoCrunch was acquired by Danone in 2013.

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Discover inspiration at this year’s mega-show

Discover inspiration at this year’s mega-show

There’s something for everyone at this year’s Pack Expo International, where ideas and solutions cross over from one industry to another.

Experience community, collaboration, learnings and laughs with tens of thousands of your peers at Pack Expo International 2014. The show is back in Chicago this year (McCormick Place; Nov. 2-5), where it will be co-located with the new Pharma Expo.

The event is expecting to welcome 50,000 packaging and processing professionals, and most will consist of brand owners from consumer package goods and other markets. Also, PMMI, owner and producer of Pack Expo International 2014, predicts more than 2,000 exhibitors will display their latest products and services in 1.1 million net sq ft of exhibit space.

Community

As part of the Pack Expo Partner Program (PEPP), which is designed to strengthen industry connections, PMMI is opening its doors to more than 30 processing and packaging associations from nine different countries. They will be located in the Association Pavilion on the Grand Concourse at the North Hall entrance.

The co-location of Pharma Expo strengthens the potential connections even further, according to Jim Pittas, vp, trade shows, PMMI.

“The Pack Expo trade shows are about bringing the industry together—the entire packaging and processing supply chain—to spur innovation. With 50,000 attendees expected at Pack Expo International and Pharma Expo, Pack Expo partners will enjoy the opportunity to network with packaging and processing professionals and other like-minded associations,” Pittas says.

Pitta adds that PEPP is a clear example of how the packaging and processing communities come together at the Pack Expo shows. PMMI knows the value of association partnerships to furthering industries and missions. The partnership program opens the door to building and strengthening those partnerships.

Collaboration

Presented by PMMI and the Contract Packaging Association (CPA), the new Contract Packaging Association Sourcing Center will showcase the capabilities of contract packagers. It will be located on the Grand Concourse adjacent to the Association Pavilion.

“In addition to the CPA members who will exhibit there, the Contract Packaging Association Sourcing Center will feature a display of innovative packages alongside experts who can speak to the benefits of using contract packagers,” says Charles Yuska, president/CEO, PMMI. “It will be a tremendous resource for both Pack Expo and Pharma Expo attendees.”

“The opportunity to collaborate with PMMI is very exciting. Pack Expo consistently attracts top-level brands and buyers, and they are the target market for our messages about the role contract packagers can play,” says CPA president Chris Nutley, who is also president of MSW Packaging. “This gives us a chance to present a full spectrum of contract packaging solutions and knowledge at the most comprehensive packaging and processing trade show in North America this year.”

Learnings

Education has always been a strong component of Pack Expo, for pupils in all stages of their careers. This year, a number of activities are scheduled:

• PACK Solutions Challenge is a student contest that has colleges and universities compete against one another in creating a packaging solution to a complex problem. A panel of industry professionals will judge the popular contest.

• First Robotics brings togetherseveral Chicago-area high schools that bring the robots they’ve built and demonstrate how each works. At Pack Expo Las Vegas 2013, one team’s robot threw Frisbees and then retrieved them. Attendees get to watch these exciting demonstrations and ask questions of the students and their instructors.

• Clemson University Packaging Emporium is back due topopular demand with its fascinating and revealing biometric technology in a special exhibit, the Clemson University's CUshop. Make sure to get the opportunity to try out their eye-tracking technology, virtual reality and packaging insights testing while you’re there. During a walk-thru in a simulated store, the technology will aggregate participant data to determine the impact of packaging on attention.

• Education Pavilion unites students and professors from colleges and technical schools with packaging programs as they come to Pack Expo to talk about their classes and career ambitions with one another and walk the show floor to learn from exhibitors and attendees. Many of these students participate in the Amazing Packaging Race and PACK Solutions Challenge.

Laughs

Making its debut for the first time in Chicago, the 2014 PACK gives BACK charity event will be presented by Jay Leno—Live! Kick back and unwind with some drinks and hors d’oeuvres and enjoy some good laughs while benefiting a great cause. A portion of ticket proceeds will support K9s for Warriors, an organization dedicated to providing service dogs to military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress as a result of conflicts and war following 9/11. PACK gives BACK will be held Nov. 3, in the Grand Ballroom (S-100) of the South Building of McCormick Place. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. and Leno will take the stage at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 each, and only available to Pack Expo International and Pharma Expo 2014 registrants. Tickets are on sale at packexpointernational.com.