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Articles from 2019 In August

Label printer tackles variable data and graphics, plus QC

Label printer tackles variable data and graphics, plus QC
Three tension zones separately control unwind, rewind and printing tension to eliminate telescoping and dishing of label rolls.

Printing labels with high-quality graphics plus real-time variable data, such as barcodes, is challenging—particularly for pharmaceutical packaging applications, in which serialized data is essential for track and trace. The new Autonomy IV on-demand digital printer is taking on this labeling challenge, along with quality control (QC) features.

From Weiler Labeling Systems (WLS), a ProMach Product Brand, part of the Pharma Business Line, the Autonomy IV label printer can print most barcode formats and human-readable codes, including serialized data. The ultraviolet (UV)-curing, drop-on-demand (DOD) system can also print color or black-and-white graphics at speeds up to 3,050 inches (77meters)/min.

Packagers can use the system to print real-time variable data on pre-printed labels or perform on-demand printing of the entire label. Many substrates are print-wear resistant, which eliminates the need for a protective top coat.

During development of the Autonomy IV printer, WLS conducted two market studies with 94 large pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical customers. Solutions to issues revealed by the studies included the engineering of “three tension zones for the web handling, to control the unwind and rewind tension separately from the printing tension,” says Ted Geiselman, business development, WLS.

Geiselman explains that this yields improved print quality and better control of the roll unwind and wind characteristics, which eliminates telescoping and dishing (the opposite of telescoping). “In addition, we have created a more user-friendly and simple user interface to help ensure our customers that their operators will not be operating a printing press, so to speak.” In fact, the system’s operators require minimal training.

Benefits of the Autonomy IV printer include quick turnaround, production planning flexibility, multilingual label printing and label-inventory reduction. For quality control, users can add a vision-inspection component, such as the Total Layout Control (TLC) system from Antares Vision.

WLS will introduce the Autonomy IV printer at Pack Expo Las Vegas, Sept. 23-25, 2019, at the Healthcare Packaging Expo (Booth #N-307) and in the Main Hall (Booth #C-3225).

Show attendees can also learn about the system in a presentation to be given by WLS and Antares Vision on Innovation Stage 3 (C-1041) on Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. According to WLS, this presentation will demonstrate how “print-on-demand labeling and whole-label inspections are transforming the packaging market.”

In the meantime, Geiselman answers a few questions from Packaging Digest about the system.

Specifically for the pharmaceutical market, how are print-on-demand labeling and whole-label inspection “transforming the packaging market”?

Geiselman: This project actually began with several of our current pharma customers making inquiries to us about UV-DOD printing and whether we could mount it to one of our label-application machines. They were interested for a variety of reasons, but mostly they needed to print more information on the label at speeds that could not be met by laser or other technologies. UV-DOD generally is information-independent relative to speed—at least for text and barcodes.

Oftentimes, this data was serialized. This is not information that is preprinted on the label, but information that the brand owner must add to the label during production. They did not like the black ablation box required for most laser applications; this was mostly a marketing issue. Reactive coatings for lasers to print black weren’t giving them the quality or permanence they needed. UV-DOD prints beautiful barcodes and text at extremely high speeds. And we usually get grade A or B codes—well above other printing technologies.

As we delved further into the project, we had more requests for color being added to the labels, possibly a company logo or a product identifier. As we evaluated that option, we ran into several customers who identified yet another desire. This was to be able to stock fewer labels by buying a blank label for any products that were the same size, and then printing the whole label, as needed for production, with a combination of fixed artwork and variable data.

Two real case examples: A pharma customer currently manufactures 110million bottles of a certain product each year but in 25 different “flavors”—meaning the contents vary, but the label size and shape don’t. In addition, they have a ton of variable information, including serialized, that must make its way onto the label in real time. The company must inventory 25 stock-keeping units (SKUs) in huge quantities all the time, because they can’t always predict production demand. They throw away 7.7 million labels per year due to obsolescence, changes and such. This technology would allow them to procure just one label for those 25 products and print what they want, when they want it.

Another pharma customer in Europe mentioned that they have one container size for which they inventory 120 different labels—20 products, but in six languages. This approach would allow them to inventory one blank label. So, is the transformation needed? Well, it certainly won’t hurt.

For pharmaceutical applications, is this system validatable?

Geiselman: This is the hardest question to answer. First of all, the customer can buy several configurations. Black-only, four-color printing, no vision (that is, catching mistakes on the labeler), basic vision for barcode reading or optical character verification/optical character recognition (OCV/OCR)—or whole-label inspection using the Antares TLC system that will scan the entire label, pixel by pixel, to do a gold-standard match, as well as decoding barcodes and readable text.

In addition, the customer may be providing fixed data to be printed locally on the printer (such as a lot code) or sending variable data directly to the printer from a network, including serialized data. Or the customer may be sending data to the Antares TLC vision system, in which case the TLC unit sends the data to the printer and then compares it to the captured image of each label and reports back to the customer’s system.

As you can see, validation will mean many different things to many different people. Having said that, the shorter answer is “yes.” We validate all of our label-application machines, which generally have printing and vision on them, as well. That validation is a mix of our own protocols and oftentimes custom protocols provided by the customer. The situation will likely be the same for this unit.

Can you tell me more about the ease of operation of the Autonomy IV printer and the minimal training requirements to operate the system?

Geiselman: We have spent a significant part of the last two years working on the user interface for the customer and more so, the framework behind that interface. The printer utilizes control software and hardware from a mainstream supplier of digital printing presses. So we have an overwhelming amount of capability, as do the presses. But we are trying to make this a simpler unit, so we are working on front-end interfaces that will allow the customer to easily set up label artwork as well as easily request a print job.

The importing of data is linked to the “recipe” for a given label, and the operator will not need to understand how to set that up. Once recipes are available, an operator can initiate a job by just loading the label stock and selecting the recipe and number of labels requested. The printer does the rest. In addition, maintenance consists of a once-a-day purge and simple wipe that takes approximately two to three minutes.

Why doesn’t the printed label need a protective top coat? Is the ink UV cured? What ink options are there for this printer?

Geiselman: Yes, it is UV cured. The issue of a top coat is one that will need to be determined case by case. Although UV-DOD printers can print on a variety of materials, performance varies widely. The best materials give results that appear as though they should pass the Sutherland Rub Test.

Customers will determine that, based on the test parameters they choose to use. In general, the ink, when cured correctly (and we offer two different powered lamps for this), is very durable. When it fails for rubbing off, it seems to be generally the coating underneath that is failing. So, we will continue to work with suppliers to identify the best material solutions for our customers.

The ink is manufactured for us by a large ink supplier that has been supplying the label ink for our Konica Minolta heads for years. They also manufacture a low-migration version for these heads. These are the only two inks that can be used on the printer.

What are the various vision inspection options for the Autonomy IV system?

Geiselman: As mentioned above, we have multiple options. For just barcode or OCR/OCV, we will mount a smart camera from Antares, Cognex, Optel or Systech. For a larger amount of that type of data, we utilize an Antares system that uses a faster smart-camera and additional computing power.

Then at the highest level is the Antares TLC system, which is a line-scan camera developed into a package to fit onto the Autonomy IV printer. This technology combines what Antares does for printing presses with what it does for serialization. So, it can inspect the entire label for proper printing, as well as decode barcodes and OCR/OCV, and at speeds up to 50 meters per min. The primary benefit, since the system is a roll-to-roll, is that without vision inspection, any defects of consequence would not be found until the labels were used—which could be hours, days or weeks later. Much wasted time and material and money.

What is the benefit of adding vision inspection options to this labeling system?

Geiselman: Vision inspection allows the customer to identify printer, or data management, issues as they arise. In addition, with the proper vision inspection and corresponding processes, the customer could then place the labels onto a production line and forgo additional inspection—other than possibly “label present” inspection.

Paper or plastic? 6 sustainable foodservice packaging options for both

Paper or plastic? 6 sustainable foodservice packaging options for both
Novolex’s expansive foodservice packaging portfolio presents a range of sustainable options using either paper or plastic.

Novolex product lines are seamlessly aligned with the ongoing foodservice packaging shift toward sustainable solutions.

Consumers’ appetite for foodservice convenience at restaurants of all types—casual, quick-serve and takeaway—and for catering services continues. According to a report from Markets and Markets, the overall foodservice packaging market is projected to grow from $62.6 billion in 2016 to $84.3 billion by 2021, a CAGR of 5.2% over the period 2017-2022. In offering heat resistance, preventing the growth of microorganisms and helping extend the shelf-life of the food products, the packaging is designed to maintaining the hygiene, quality, and safety of food products at an economical price.

A key trend is the increase in regulations to ensure that the raw materials used are recyclable, such as plastic, paper and paperboard, and cellulose, the study reports, noting that the challenge is that these sustainable materials are often higher in cost higher than their non-biodegradable counterparts.

Packaging supplier Novolex is at the center of this dynamic and increasingly eco-sensitive market. The company’s Adrianne Tipton, Ph.D., vice president of innovation, is a plastic and paper industry veteran with more than 20 years’ experience in R&D. Tipton serves as a guide through a selection of the company’s portfolio that encompasses recyclable and compostable options in paper- and plastic-based packaging.

First up is a pair of fresh solutions featuring a tamper-evident carryout bag.


A whole lot of food for thought for packaging will be found at PackEx Toronto June 4-6, 2019, where innovative ideas in containers and design, the latest machinery and automation solutions and free education at Centre Stage will be available. For more information, visit PackEx Toronto. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Load & Fold and Load & Seal Tamper Evident Home Delivery Bags

Description In working toward improved prepared and grocery food delivery for third-party delivery services, convenience stores, grocery stores and quick and limited-serve restaurants, Novolex developed products to keep food safe in transport and preserve food quality, while also reducing the amount of waste associated with shipping and handling. The recyclable plastic bags are designed with tamper-evident closures for food safety while maintaining heat and food freshness and integrity.

When introduced Load & Fold in 2018, Load & Seal in 2019

Materials/structure The substrate is customer-dependent for a choice of plastic or white or kraft paper.

Status There have been extensive trials and interest for both products in this line. These are in test with several large- and medium-size foodservice and retail customers. Novolex is also receiving interest from many global customers that request pricing quotes and trials.

Next: Bagasse as a food packaging source…


Description Compostable and post-consumer recycled content foodservice packaging, including cups, plates, bowls, clamshells, cutlery, and more. All Eco-Products items are made with renewable resources or post-consumer recycled content, each with their own environmental benefits. Compostable foodservice packaging is made from renewable resources and can help divert waste from landfills because it allows the consumer to put their packaging and food scraps into one bin – the compost bin (where commercial composting infrastructure exists). The use of post-consumer recycled content diverts materials from landfills upstream and uses them to create new products, thereby giving these materials another life. In addition to selling foodservice packaging, Eco-Products also provides marketing and sustainability services to help foodservice operators implement composting and recycling programs, understand their environmental impacts, and incorporate meaningful environmental messaging into their brand.

Two lines of products are available:

  • GreenStripe products are made with renewable resources and most are commercially compostable. This line includes the newly launched Vanguard line of molded fiber products. Vanguard items are designed to meet updated requirements of the Biodegradable Product Institute for compostability certification that will go into effect on January 1, 2020.
  • BlueStripe products are made with post-consumer recycled content, though not all of these materials can be recycled throughout the U.S.

Materials/structure GreenStripe materials include plant-based polylactic acid (PLA), paper, and molded fiber, such as sugarcane. The Vanguard line is made of sugarcane (aka bagasse). The vast majority of GreenStripe products can be composted at commercial composting facilities and returned to soil, instead of the landfill. BlueStripe items are made of post-consumer paper fiber, polystyrene (rPS), or PET plastic (rPET).

When introduced GreenStripe 2007, BlueStripe 2011, Vanguard 2019

Status Vanguard water- and grease-resistant molded fiber plates and containers are microwavable, suitable for hot and cold products, and are made from sugarcane. Vanguard was introduced in April 2019. Marketing manager Sarah Martinez tells Packaging Digest that what distinguishes Vanguard is that it is designed to meet BPI’s forthcoming requirements for compostability. The Eco-Products Vanguard line uses a proprietary alternative to traditional grease resistance additives, that is not based on fluorinated chemistry and is accepted in the FDA Inventory of Effective Food Contact Substance Notifications. All Eco-Products items are permitted for use in food-contact materials, per FDA requirements.

Available in a limited release, the initial Vanguard line includes a 10-inch round plate, a three-compartment 10-inch plate, a 9-inch single-compartment clamshell and a three-compartment 9-inch clamshell. A select group of customers is currently running trials. More products will be added soon, including bowls and other sizes of plates and clamshells.

For more information, visit the Eco-Products website.

Next: No-foil sandwich wrap options



Description Fully-recyclable food wrap and bags replace aluminum foil used to wrap burgers and sandwiches. Dubl-Shield was developed in response to demand for a recyclable foil alternative. The Novolex R&D team conducted multiple tests to find the right adhesive and product combination that maintains food integrity with the right balance of moisture absorption and heat retention.

Materials/structure Dual-ply paper laminate.

When introduced 2015.

Status Interest in recycled paper and recyclable products is very high among customers.

Next is a bonus of two non-foodservice options worth noting.

Eco-Blend (left above) and Ultra-Post (right) T-shirt style bags

Development of post-consumer content in plastic carry out bags and can liners has been a focus of the Novolex R&D Team; Eco-Blend and Ultra-Post T-shirt style bags are two notable product lines in this area. Novolex also has the Bag-2-Bag program in which more than 30 million pounds of t-shirt bags are collected and reprocessed as part of closed loop and circular economy initiatives.

Materials and structure Ultra-Post contains 40% post-consumer recycled content and is available as  2.25-mil polyethylene.

Introduced 2016

Status/interest Ultra-Post has been used by many medium and large grocery chains in California. This product is focused on the California market, and Novolex sales continue to grow in this area.

Also, Novolex’s recycling plant works with bag manufacturing plants throughout the region to reprocess plastic scrap from their production lines for the Bag-2-Bag program. The company reports that it also uses post-consumer recycled content from various vendors and customers. For more about Bag-2-Bag, read  Novolex Bag-2-Bag System closes loop for plastic bags, published April 2019 by sister publication PlasticsToday.

For more information, visit Novolex.


Much food for thought for packaging will be found at PackEx Toronto June 4-6, 2019, where innovative ideas in containers and design, the latest machinery and automation solutions and free education at Centre Stage will be available. For more information, visit PackEx Toronto. ___________________________________________________________________________________

Summertime plastic packaging developments for foods and beverages

Summertime plastic packaging developments for foods and beverages

Straw-free plastic sippy cups for adults, PET growlers, BPA issues, leveraging Instagram, compostable coffee bags, digitally printed pouches and more all made news this summer.

Readers turn to Packaging Digest when they want to know what’s going on in packaging, which is why you’re reading this.

Likewise, if you were interested in all things plastic, you’d visit the website of our Informa sister publication, PlasticsToday. That’s exactly we did in compiling the following selection of food-and-beverage-related articles posted this summer (since June 21) found on the Packaging Channel at PT.

As with PD, there’s an abundance of articles about sustainable packaging, including this helpful social-media-leveraging consumer education program from a bottled water brand.

Let’s face it—recycling can be very confusing to consumers. When the plastics industry came up with the chasing arrows and numbering system for the seven most common types of plastics, it probably never expected that consumers would be at a loss when it came to figure out what and how to recycle.

Poland Spring Brand 100% Natural Spring Water has a solution to this dilemma. The company is teaming up with the Recycling Partnership to tackle one of the core reasons for low recycling rates—consumer confusion. Starting this month, the brand is launching an Instagram recycling hotline to answer the common question, “Can I recycle this?” Consumers can post a photo of the item in question on their Instagram feed or in their stories and tag #NotTrash and @PolandSpringWtr to ask for help— Poland Spring and the Recycling Partnership will get back to them with an answer.

For more, read Poland Spring teams up with Recycling Partnership to help consumers identify recyclables.

Next: New study says BPA is…

A new study links bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF) to a potential increase in childhood obesity. Analyzing data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from the NYU School of Medicine discovered that children ages 6 to 19 with higher levels of BPS and BPF in their urine were more likely to be obese than those with lower levels.

The study, "Urinary bisphenols and obesity prevalence among US children and adolescents," was published in the Journal of the Endocrine Society on July 25.

BPS and BPF typically replace bisphenol A (BPA), which has been called an “endocrine disruptor” and linked with health risks in some studies. BPA is found in polycarbonate used to produce water bottles and food and beverage containers as well as other consumer goods. Epoxy resins, which also contain BPA, are used to coat metal containers.

BPA has been banned in baby bottles in the United States and Europe for several years out of concern that it may have health effects on developing minds and bodies. Although BPA has been deemed safe “for currently approved uses in food containers and packaging” by FDA, consumer goods companies bowed to public concern (and sought a marketing advantage) by replacing BPA with other bisphenol chemicals and touting "BPA-free" on packaging. Soon after, however, scientists began warning that the alternative chemicals may create problems of their own.

For more, read BPA alternatives also pose health risks, study finds

Next: Two PET-packaged beer breakthroughs

Amcor has leveraged its leading-edge design technology to develop the first PET bottles for pasteurized beer in Brazil. The company designed custom 600-mL containers for beverage maker New Age Bebidas that feature the beauty of a glass-like, champagne-style base combined with the convenience of lightweight and shatter-resistant PET.

Amcor’s design showcases New Age’s Salzburg craft beer brand and differentiates it from standard glass bottle designs. It features a crown metal cap, replicating the standard glass bottle. The PET containers are a replacement for glass during the filling and capping process, withstanding the internal pressure and high-heat conditions of the tunnel pasteurization process.

Rodolfo Salles, Research and Development Manager for Amcor in Brazil, added, “PET bottles offer design advantages over glass while being lighter weight, more easily and safely portable, and unbreakable, and they provide the required barrier protection.”

Amcor used an oxygen scavenger barrier additive to prevent oxygen ingress and egress, providing up to four months of shelf life. The bottle is compatible with existing recycling streams and is 100% recyclable. The lightweight containers also significantly reduce transportation costs, and lower energy and CO2 emissions along the supply chain.

To read more, see Amcor designs first lightweight PET bottles for pasteurized beer in Brazil

Take-out growler

W. Amsler Equipment Inc., an Ontario, Canada, supplier of all-electric linear PET stretch blowmolders, announced the first commercial sale of 64-oz PET growler jugs to Arch Brewing Co., an independently owned craft brewery in Newmarket, ON. The growler mimics the competitive glass design and provides barrier protection for extended shelf life, said the company.

Arch Brewing will offer the PET growler as an event-safe alternative to its glass growlers, which are commonly sold at breweries and brew pubs as a means to sell take-out craft beer. The significant growth of craft breweries and the growing popularity of home brewing have also led to an emerging market for the sale of growlers.

W. Amsler has focused new resources and expanded its participation in the beer and spirits packaging market. It has provided market-entry assistance to customers like JMS International Packaging (Sherbooke, QC), a packaging solutions provider, in the areas of design, development and pre-production runs.

“This is a major milestone for us in terms of cracking the craft beer industry,” said Marc LeBlanc, owner of JMS International Packaging

Heidi Amsler, Sales and Marketing Manager for W. Amsler, said: “We’re excited about the future prospects of converting glass to PET and creating environmentally friendly barrier packaging for the beer and spirits markets.”

For more, read First commercial application of PET-based growlers for craft beer market

Next: A straw-less sippy cup for adults



Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and the plastic straw bans that are sweeping the nation have inspired Fabri-Kal (Kalamazoo, MI) to develop what it is calling Sip Lids for cold-drink cups. The new Sip Lids are an ideal solution for foodservice establishments looking for straw alternatives, said the company, a supplier of foodservice and custom thermoformed packaging products.

Consumer habits were researched to design a lid that would be convenient for on-the-go customers while preventing liquids from splashing during transport.

Fabri-Kal’s Sip Lids are compatible with the company’s Kal-Clear, Nexclear and Greenware cups. The PET-based Sip Lid fits five popular Kal-Clear PET drink cups and four Nexclear polypropylene drink cups. The new Greenware Sip Lid is made from plants, not petroleum, and fits three popular Greenware cup sizes. Greenware cups and lids are made from Ingeo biopolymer (PLA) and are compostable in commercial facilities, which the company advises in its announcement may not be available in all areas. The products are not suitable for backyard composting.

For more, read Fabri-Kal introduces Sip Lids as straw alternative for cold drinks

Next: Two takes on flexible packaging


Skratch Labs, a Boulder, CO-maker of sports nutrition products for endurance athletes, broke away from the typical pack this summer with a special edition design to show support for the EF Education First Pro Cycling team that competed in the Tour de France. A limited-edition lemon & lime Sports Hydration Mix salutes the team jersey, each in a unique design generated with HP (Palo Alto, CA) Mosaic print technology.

The packaging was produced by ePac Flexible Packaging in Boulder, CO, which is owned by ePac Holdings (Austin, TX). ePac produced the resealable pouches using a HP Indigo 20000 Digital Press and HP SmartStream Mosaic automated variable design software that yielded 10,000 colorful pouches, each one unique.

The limited-edition EF Education First packaging was a big success, according to the company: “We received a lot of attention from cycling fans, in fact they went crazy for it! We saw a big spike in social media mentions in particular.”

According to the brand, the project was not without its challenges.

For more, read 10,000 unique Skratch Labs pouches support Tour de France team

Coffee bags = steeped java

Santa Cruz, CA–based Steeped Inc. promises a cure for the guilt you may feel when using single-serve coffee pods for your morning brew. The company’s innovative Steeped Coffee brewing method is similar to making tea: The nitro-sealed Steeped Bags are made from renewable and compostable materials. The new method offers single-serve coffee without the use of plastic pods.

Steeped Coffee earned Best New Product award for its innovative packaging at the Specialty Coffee Expo.

Josh Wilbur, self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur and coffee lover, launched Steeped Coffee to combine the convenience of a single-serve brew method with the premium quality of ethically sourced coffee. He also wanted to redeem the environmental dilemma created by wasteful coffee pods, pointing out that more than 10 billion unrecyclable pods accumulate in landfills each year.

After seven years of experimenting, Wilbur developed a system that promises fresh roasted, pre-portioned, precision ground, micro-batch coffee in customized Full-Immersion Filters. “Premium coffee roasters have shied away from offering their specialty beans in single-serve packaging because it’s been nearly impossible to keep ground coffee fresh, which quickly ruins the taste,” said Wilbur. “With our nitro-sealed bags, oxygen is replaced with nitrogen, so the coffee stays fresh as if it was ground moments ago.”

Notably, the bags are sealed without glue or staples.

For more, read Steeped Coffee promises guilt-free, single-serve cup of joe

How do you measure the value of your packaging supplier?

How do you measure the value of your packaging supplier?
In addition to subjective appraisals, there's a statistical formula you can use to judge the worth and fit of current and potential packaging supplier partners.

With so many packaging suppliers out there, is there a way of measuring and identifying the good ones? Yes, there is! A McKinsey & Co. executive shares a formula for success: Quality of Revenue.

For most of my life, I’ve thought of packaging the way the French government did when it gave 12,000 francs to the inventor of the tin can that helped preserve food for Napoleon’s military. Important but strictly utilitarian.

The packaging industry’s fortunes are changing. Revenues are rising for companies that protect, inform, and promote what they package, the so-called PIP formula. Protection and information are givens. Promotion separates winners from the also-rans.

In the last five years, packaging suppliers and their customers have ushered in an age of intelligent consumer packaging by collaborating on innovation.

Using blockchain for traceability and ever smaller, more affordable sensors, package makers are already becoming more high-tech. For example, premium cognac maker Remy Martin embeds a near-field communication (NFC) chip in its bottles to guarantee authenticity. This provides a new level of safety, one that surely was once seen as unnecessary, and now might be hewing closer to mandatory.

Other trends—such as the continued expansion of ecommerce, sizeable growth in emerging markets like China and India, and new consumer preferences for sustainable materials—all bode well for the future of the packaging industry.

Poised to take off?

Our packaging-solution study found that, until 2013, the packaging industry largely destroyed value. The cost of capital was higher than the return on investment. Since then, margins have expanded. Private equity and the operators themselves have taken costs out of the system. Operating margins have gone from 8.3% to 10.3%. And there’s more growth to come in the next decade.

We used a measure called Quality of Revenue (QoR) to find the successful companies in a fragmented industry where a small number of large companies control about 30% of the market with thousands of midsize and small players divvying up the rest. QoR provides an excellent way to measure value creation in the packaging sector.  

QoR provides an excellent measure of value creation by assessing five factors:

1. The markets the company plays in.

2. The type of customers they have.

3. The company’s position with the customer.

4. The uniqueness of product offerings.

5. The monetization of business models.

The QoR scale ranges between zero and one with one being perfect. Weighting the five areas is a function of the sector, not the company itself. So, the true quality of revenue is different for industrial companies than it might be in the technology sector.

In packaging, the monetization model carries four times the weight of the end customer. If a company can move from one-time revenue to ongoing revenue or a subscription model, its QoR number goes up and the multiples in the sector and return to shareholders rise with it.  Consider that a customer buys one Mach 3 razor from Gillette. But he will buy custom blades for that razor many times.

Selling a piece of packaging equipment is good. Offering a monthly maintenance plan with the sale of the equipment is better. Selling the equipment, a maintenance package and unique materials for the equipment that must be reordered is best scenario because it creates recurring revenue and strengthens customer engagement.

Low barrier to entry

The packaging sector is characterized by low barriers to entry—the cost of capital and intellectual property—is not that high, so many companies are in the packaging business. It doesn’t take extensive IP or technical knowledge to make and sell protective containers made of rigid plastics or paperboard, so we expect new entrants to enter the sector consistently.

The number of companies in packaging will remain the same or might even go up. But the companies able to drive operational improvement north of 15% or higher are going to capture a disproportionately bigger portion of the profits and value.

One way this is happening is acquisition. Our study analyzed 45 large public packaging companies. Each averaged more than three acquisitions per company over the past five years. They went after smaller companies, often to gain access to technologies and innovative approaches. The median transaction was around $70 million.

Less-inspiring companies are going to be around. Some might die and some might survive, but they are not going to be at the top of the heap. You’ll see a constant circular motion at the bottom.

It’s doubtful any packaging company can count on government support. While every country wants to have an auto industry, I don’t know if any country wants to have a packaging industry. One of my clients told me jokingly that packaging companies operate in the basement while all the parties are happening in the penthouse. I thought it was a funny comment, but I think it is true.


MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) is where serious packaging professionals find technologies, education and connections needed to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing community. See solutions in labeling, food packaging, package design and beyond. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.

Freaky Fridays in packaging: Tiny filler-sealer

Freaky Fridays in packaging: Tiny filler-sealer
The PillSuite packaging system from The Grommet comes with a funneled plastic filler, heat sealer and perforated easy-open compostable bags supplied in rollstock.

You can purchase your own heat sealer that runs on AA batteries and fits in your hand for just $39.95 plus shipping from The Grommet.

Tiny is big these days. Consider the popularity of programs including Tiny House, Big Living on HGTV, Little Couple on TLC and more. Reality shows are one thing, but now consider the reality of a tiny packaging machine.

I don’t mean simply compact, but really and truly tiny—it weighs less than a pound, you can hold it in your hand and it heat-seals tiny bags supplied in rollstock.

Does that get your packaging juices flowing? It did mine. I think the PillSuite filler-sealer  that’s designed to be totally practical and easy to use is also innovatively cool.

I came across it when opening an email from The Grommet, “an online marketplace and product discovery platform for consumer products from maker culture, inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses” founded in 2008. The email featured the PillSuite, which in industry lingo would be considered a semi-automatic filler-sealer. It comes with a separate 7-section plastic sorter with built-in funnel to conveniently accommodate a week’s worth of daily pills or more to be filled with each cycle. That plastic hybrid pill box/infeeder seems the equivalent of a hand-sized multihead filler (it can be seen in the image below).

Users can arrange daily, weekly or monthly doses by filling and heat-sealing those portions into air-tight unit packs that are easy to store, transport and use. It’s intended for “active seniors, travelers, caregivers, athletes, and commuters” who want to organize their medications, vitamins and supplement pills and capsules into a tidy and tiny “unit dose” bag.

The PillSuite been available at the site for about three years, though it was brand new to me. And unlike any other filler-sealers readers may be familiar with, this one comes complete with four AA batteries to power the diminutive 3.5-inch x 3-inch x 3.25-inch unit's heat sealer.

It’s not just the machine, it’s sold as a system that includes packaging materials that consist of two rolls of 200 pill bags; a 400-bag refill can be purchased for $8.95.

These aren’t just any tiny bags that will work, the PillSuite's bags demonstrate a thoughtful packaging development process with the user in mind including do-it-yourself personalization: the food-quality plastic bags are printed with a soy-ink panel for users to hand-print their own custom information.

A feature customers rave about

Another aspect that I pointed out as impressive to my contact from The Grommet: the bags have a convenient perforated opening strip.

It turns out that I was not alone in my assessment.

“That’s a feature our customers rave about!” enthuses Alessandra Hankinson, senior discovery associate, about the easy opening feature.

The bags are also on-trend with sustainable packaging initiatives. “This type of bag uses biodegradable materials made with a corn derivative," Hankinson points out. "The bags have been biodegradable since we first launched them in 2016, which I believe is shortly after the Pillsuite was invented. Customers can dispose of them in their composting bin.”

According to Hankinson, PillSuite was one of many hundreds of submissions made and accepted through the site’s Citizens Gallery, a portal at where “any maker, entrepreneur or inventor can submit their product for consideration to us. We receive hundreds of product submissions every month and it was one that really stuck out to us and inspired further review to be considered.”

The products' reception and reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, says Hankinson.

“We’ve had reviews ranging from those with dexterity issues praising its ease of use for their weekly pill management to those who were just tired of their pill boxes spilling open in their purse! Our eco-conscious customers also comment on how happy they are that the sealable baggies are biodegradable, which was an aspect of the product that is important to us as well. We are glad that the PillSuite resonated with a diverse audience.”

What packaging professional wouldn’t want one? I’d expect they’d already have an advantage over an average Joe or Jane for a quickly successful startup.

For those interested, click here to view the PillSuite's product page at The Grommet.

Dasani’s next 5 steps to greater packaging sustainability

Dasani’s next 5 steps to greater packaging sustainability
The largest sustainability initiative in the history of the Dasani brand involves hybrid plastic/bioplastic bottles metals cans and bottles, and a foodservice dispenser that dispenses with prepackaged water.

The water brand unveils a quintet of initiatives to align with parent company Coca-Cola’s goal of packaging containing 50% recycled material by 2030 as part of a circular economy.

August 13 was a watershed day for Dasani when the water brand unveiled a five-component salvo of sustainability initiatives aligned with parent company Coca-Cola Company’s global “World Without Waste” goal to make packaging with 50% recycled material by 2030.

“Today’s announcement is the largest sustainability initiative in the history of the Dasani brand,” said Lauren King, brand director, Dasani. “It’s rooted in providing sustainable options for our consumers, while doubling down on our commitment to minimize our impact on the environment. Over the last decade we’ve been on a journey to make Dasani more sustainable through new package design and innovation, and we are now accelerating these efforts in support our company’s ambitious goals to significantly reduce packaging waste around the world by 2030.  While there is no single solution to the problem of plastic waste, the additional package and package-less options we are rolling out today mark an important next step in our effort to provide even more sustainable solutions at scale.”

The news centered on five parallel initiatives involving hybrid bottles from renewable resources, a major entry into highly recyclable aluminum, package weight reduction research, recycling-enhancing labeling and packaging-reducing dispensing for foodservice outlets.

The day of the announcements Packaging Digest interviewed Sneha Shah, group director, packaging innovation, Coca-Cola North America, who discloses details and reasoning behind these initiatives.

1. The debut of the HybridBottle, the next generation of the PlantBottle

The HybridBottle is Coca-Cola Company’s first package in the United States to be made with a mix of up to 50% plant-based renewable (PlantBottle) and recycled PET (rPET) with the balance virgin PET.

Rather than a tidy 50/50 split of the sustainable content constituents, the sustainably enhanced bottle a mix of around 30% recycled (rPET) content and 20% renewable (PlantBottle) content with the remaining balance virgin PET.

Along with recycling efforts, the HybridBottle promotes renewable resources such as sugarcane and corn.

The PlantBottle, the company’s current sustainably enhanced benchmark standard, is mix of 30% renewable and 70% virgin PET, meaning that the HybridBottle will remove an incrementally larger amount of virgin material from the brand’s portfolio.


Shah identified three key considerations for this development:

Sourcing of recycled content. While tapping its current suppliers, Coca-Cola is also bringing on six additional mechanical processing rPET suppliers in 2019 to ensure consistent quality of materials and performance of food-grade material sourced for use in the HybridBottles, though Shah declined to identify them by name.

Quality of the material. Those requirements included it being food-grade material with proper coloring/clarity.

Packaging performance. This includes the entire supply chain through to the consumer experience and with overall scalability.

“This is going to accelerate our use of recyclable and renewable resources and is an industry-leading solution for the market in North America,” Shah states.

Anticipating a mid-2020 national launch as a 20oz bottle, the HybridBottle’s composition matches perfectly with the company’s 2030 target for 50% recycled content in packaging.

In related news from early 2019, the company made the PlantBottle technology available to all interested companies, including competitors. Currently, only a limited number of suppliers produce the type of biomaterial used to make PlantBottle resin, which adds complexity and cost to the production process. By encouraging more use of bioPET by companies both inside and outside the beverage industry, Coke hopes to scale up demand and drive down pricing.

“This is very exciting news for us because we want more companies in all food or beverage markets to participate and leverage the technology,” Shah told Packaging Digest.

Aluminum cans enter the packaging mix in three ways


2. The introduction of new 12- and 16-ounce aluminum cans and new 16-ounce aluminum bottles

Although Coca-Cola has a lengthy history in aluminum packaging for carbonated soft drinks and sparkling waters among other products, it’s making a major new move into metal cans and bottles for Dasani still water.

Canned Dasani will debut in a 16oz size later this year to be followed by a 12oz size, which will be joined next year by resealable aluminum bottles to bring on-the-go portability and multiple consumption occasion format to Dasani.

Dasani’s sparkling waters have been in beverage cans as have other of the company’s brands including teas and lemonades.

Rather than moving the brand away way from plastic bottles in reaction to public concerns, Shah positions it as a move to leverage opportunities in aluminum packaging for consumers and for the brand.

“This meets changing consumer preferences in creating a format choice also paired with consumer recycling behavior,” Shah says. “Both PET and aluminum have value in the recycling market, and aluminum’s higher recycling rate helps with our overall World Without Waste goals. We want to inspire consumer behavior to recycle to help get the entire value chain working towards that goal as part of a circular economy—aluminum plays a key role in that bigger picture.”

The canned version will first be introduced into foodservice outlets in the Northeast in targeting “certain drinking occasions where customers have higher preference to enjoy or choose that aluminum package.”

While it is not needed for sparkling beverages, will nitrogen dosing be used for the still version?

“We’re looking at that, which we use for a lot of our beverages before sealing,” she responds. “Whether we use it or not, it would not have any impact on the taste profile or performance of the pack.”

While losing literal transparency that’s important to some consumers preferring plastic, aluminum represents “a little more of a premium drinking experience,” Shah notes, that will appeal to a different consumer segment than PET bottles.

Shah acknowledges that the addition of cans will impact production operations. “We’re considering modifications to our lines and capabilities at multiple plants to support a national launch starting in the Northeast in late 2019.”

Dasani embraces weight loss


3. Continued lightweighting across the Dasani package portfolio

This tried-and-true method to source reduction supports Dasani’s overall efforts to reduce the amount of virgin PET plastic procured by the Coca-Cola system.

Now Coca-Cola is leveraging new technologies in taking a closer look at packaging design to reduce weight gram by gram.

"It's part of our new design process where we are challenging to maintain or evolve the performance aspects and maintain beverage quality as part of a holistic package system." Shah explains. "We don’t want to take so much weight out that we have to add somewhere else instead as balance perspective as to what makes sense for that particular package."

Lightweighting R&D is all encompassing, according to Shah. “The closure and entire neck finish contribute to bottle design and lightweighting. Really everything affects the total weight so we assess at the whole system of bottle, closure, label, secondary packaging—with the closure an enabler of the whole lightweighting program.”

Shah says that they will first take a look primarily at the 500mL bottle before turning to other sizes starting with the 20oz size. “We are prioritizing those two sizes because they are critical components of the portfolio,” Shah points out.

What do you think of KHS’ "Factor 100" bottle that brings the weight of a 500mL bottle down to an incredible five grams?
“That’s an incredible development,” agrees Shah. “We have connected with KHS and all OEM suppliers of bottle manufacturing systems—we’re supportive of all their work in using new technology for lightweighting.”

To read more about the Factor 100 technology in a June 2018 report published by PlasticsToday, click here.

“Glass barrier” PET bottles

As an aside and because we were speaking with the company's lead in packaging innovation, Packaging Digest also asked Shah about KHS’s Plasmax technology that coats small 250- or 300-mL bottles internally with a silicon oxide (SiOx) “glass” barrier layer, a technology that was commercialized recently by Coca-Cola Canada (shown in above image).

“Plasmax coating tech is something we took a leadership role in,” Shah emphasizes. “In fact, we launched that type of package in Asia four or five years ago and are now using it in Canada as an enabling technology that’s part of our ‘toolkit’. While that specific bottle is not in the U.S. market today, the technology provides excellent shelf life characteristics to the bottle and reduces overall weight, which is sometimes a problem in smaller packages.”

Is there a particular range of bottle sizes where the tech is optimized?

“We take a look at each bottle,” responds Shah. “The tech itself might have some limitations, but we would assess using it case by case looking at the design of the package, the environment it will be in and the shelf life that’s needed…there are a lot of lot of dimensions to consider. However, overall there’s a strong case for the technology because of the amount of material you’re able to reduce in the bottle.”

According to a June 2019 report in PlasticsToday, Coca-Cola Canada was able to achieve a 30% weight reduction while blowmolding both size bottles from the same 14-gram preform.

 Labels for recycling, packaging-free Dasani and smart design

4. The addition of How2Recycle labels to all packages.

This will help educate and encourage consumers to recycle after use and will be rolling out on all Dasani packaging starting this fall (sample image for a generic plastic bottle is shown above).

“How2Recycle is being adopted by industry and we are looking at it from a North America Coca-Cola perspective and applying it as opportunities arise,” says Shah. “We believe this is a great step forward in consumer education—consistent messaging can go a long way in increasing the amount of recycling behavior we see. Our package itself is an important piece of real estate and a key touchpoint with consumers. While consumers may be familiar with recycling for aluminum and PET, we still want to progress towards more. Our goal is to collect an equivalent of every package we put into the market. We are looking at applying the How2Recycle label across the Dasani portfolio.”

5. The expansion of package-less Dasani PureFill water dispensers

In deploying 100 PureFill units across the country beginning in fall 2019, the only non-packaging aspect of these initiatives aims to reduce the amount of prepackaged bottled water that consumers use while making it more convenient for them to enjoy the brand.

According to Shah, the additional units are a smaller footprint evolution of the successful Coca-Cola Freestyle platform, and garner more efficiencies and scale than the previous test version of PureFill. It’s a compact countertop unit with a smaller that features the proven microcartridge technology loaded with flavor ingredients. Consumers can drink Dasani as-is piped and filtered from local water supplies or enjoy the brand flavored in still or sparkling versions.

Shah says it can be used by a lot of different types of foodservice outlets. “Operators need only a water supply and power,” she adds, “and consumers might have refillable container to use.”

Another benefit of the units is that they provide the company with consumer information about flavor preferences and how they use the system.

A foundation built on smart design

A common thread that guides and supports these five sustainably-focused endeavors is what Shah calls smart design.

“Designing our packages to reduce the amount of raw materials used and incorporating recycled and renewable content in our bottles to help drive a circular economy for our packaging is an important part of our commitment to doing business the right way,” she says. “We are working diligently to continually reduce our overall environmental footprint through smarter package design, procurement of recycled and renewable materials while continuing to deliver exceptional consumer experiences.”

Shah identifies the three components of smart design:

1.            Consumer or customer focus design. We want packages that are convenient, compelling and easy to use.

2.            Sustainability. It is really at the center of things. We want each of the packages we launch to incorporate recycled content, are recyclable and maximize the materials we leverage for that package or design.

3.            Leveraging our scale and efficiencies. It's the only way we can bring that package forward into the market.

“When we can maximize each of those, we have what we call a ‘winning package’,” she tells Packaging Digest.

Midwest packaging expo, conferences supply ideas and solutions

Midwest packaging expo, conferences supply ideas and solutions
Attendees can find medical packaging and other solutions at MinnPack 2019.

The Midwest’s premier packaging event, MinnPack, will bring the latest equipment, technologies, automation systems and other attractions to Minneapolis on Oct. 23-24.

Located in the Minneapolis Convention Center, MinnPack is co-located with four other events, each focusing on a different aspect of the manufacturing supply chain: MD&M Minneapolis, ATX Minneapolis, Plastech Minneapolis and Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis. Informa, the organizer—the parent company of Packaging Digest—anticipates approximately 5,000 industry professionals will come view the more than 500 exhibits, attend seminars, and network during the two-day conference and exposition.

Here are some event highlights:

MD&M conference program

Centered around medical products and devices, the co-located expo and conference for Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) is celebrating its 25th anniversary with special dedicated events on the expo floor.

Amid the festivities, though, serious learning is planned. Attendees can choose from one of three MD&M conference tracks:

• Track A: Research and Development—presentation topics include fostering innovation, the future of bioelectronic medicine, and opportunities in exploratory technologies.

• Track B: Product Development—events in this track center on miniaturization of medical devices, project management best practices and other key topics.

• Track C: Quality & Manufacturing—sessions include talks on improving manufacturing quality, risk management, and more.

Medtech Central Theater

Sessions at the Medtech Central Theater (Booth 1947) will cover a range of topics involving medical technology and processes. Presentations will touch upon common medical technology design challenges, connection between manufacturing and patient safety, and more.

Engineering HQ Theater

Located in the expo hall (Booth 744), this theater will cover current and emerging packaging technologies. Presentations include a talk on robotics, the influence of new materials on 3D printing, sensor advancements and more.

For a complete look at presentations during MinnPack, read “Medical, packaging and smart manufacturing sessions tackle trends, issues.”

Networking and other show features

MinnPack organizers have put together a list of events designed to help attendees form connections with colleagues and make the most of their time at the show. These include an afternoon booth bar crawl and happy hour, lunch and learns, and a Wednesday morning networking breakfast.

Additionally, on Thurs., Oct. 24, visitors can participate in Career Zone (Booth 330). Four sessions—designed to help attendees learn about trends that influence career paths, as well as explore job opportunities—will take place consecutively from 10:30 a.m. through 2:30 p.m. Attendees can learn about job forecasts in the region, how to hone their interview skills and talk with recruiters.

Register for MinnPack 2019 today.

High-quality DIY color label printing made easy

High-quality DIY color label printing made easy
The QL-120X color label printer delivers premium quality 1200 x 1200 dpi labels as narrow as 0.5 in. or as wide as 4.2 in.

Simple to install and easy to use, the QL-120X produces premium 1200 x 1200 dpi color labels for short or long production runs and will be on display at MinnPack 2019 October 23-24.

Do-it-yourself homeowners may sometimes be interested in saving money at the expense of a less than professional-quality job, but the compact QL-120X color label printer gives users the benefits of dramatic cost savings while delivering high-quality results when creating and printing their own on-demand labels.

Built on the pioneering Kiaro! QL-120 color label printing platform, Quick Label’s  QL-120X delivers premium quality 1200 x 1200 dpi color labels as-needed in a cost-effective manner. It can print labels as narrow as 0.5 in. or as wide as 4.2 in. while printing labels at a savings of up to 35% over pigment-based color labeling technologies to deliver significant cost savings over the lifetime of the printer. It comes with an industry-best two-year warranty for the assurance and reliability customers need to produce color labels in-house to fulfill users’ product labeling needs without compromise.

The X in QL-120X signifies the eXtended life from the new second-generation printhead technology allows three times more labels than the original QL-120. The efficient laydown process and four individual and economical snap-in, user-replaceable color printheads permit rapid onsite changeover in minutes using extended life parts.

Key benefits:

  • Simple to install and easy-to-use and with a function-rich Windows operating interface;
  • Highest throughput available in a desktop color label printer with print speeds of up to 60 feet per minute (12 inches/sec or 305 mm/sec) and up to 10,000 labels per hour;
  • Network-friendly printer configuration and operation;
  • Exclusive image processing and color matching for exceptional color accuracy;
  • Built-in automatic cutter with user-specified intervals;
  • External printer control and status monitoring for high-level integration with automatic label applicators and other production systems;
  • Compact, desktop design constructed to easily fit inside small production cells.

It’s tailored for packaged product markets from food and beverage to hardware and from e-liquids to cosmetics and more.

In short, the QL-120X provides the ultimate peace of mind backed by AstroNova’s decades of effective and reliable label printing solutions to meet a wide variety of business needs.

For more information visit QuickLabel in booth #515 during MinnPack 2019 October 23-24 in Minneapolis.

Inverted pouch trend upends food packaging: Chobani

Inverted pouch trend upends food packaging: Chobani
First Daisy for sour cream and now Chobani for squeezable yogurt: the growing market for inverted pouches provides ease-of-use to consumers and incremental growth for brands.

A consumer-convenient packaging format that provides source reduction and improved product evacuation for less waste overall is turning the market for condiments and other foods upside down as exemplified by brands like Chobani.

Something’s afoot with inverted pouches for food products, a trend that was apparent at Pack Expo with examples found scattered throughout several of the halls. So what’s that all about?

The evolution can trace its roots as far back as 1983 when Heinz introduced a squeezable ketchup bottle.

The next step occured when the orientation of food packaging first took a 180 degree turn when those upright squeezable bottles for ketchup and other condiments—which themselves had replaced glass or rigid plastic jars and bottles—were designed to be inverted so they could remain stable resting upside down on enlarged caps. The benefit to this is that the product was always conveniently ready to dispense and, again, it seems that Heinz also pioneered this format when it introduced the inverted squeezable ketchup bottle in 2001.

The top-down orientation also serves another function for certain products vs. standard top-up positioning: it prevents water from rising to the top and discharging first when inverted and squeezed.

After all, who wants watery ketchup with their fries?

The next innovative leap occurred three years ago with the introduction of the paramount in squeezable convenience with the breakthrough inverted pouch for Daisy brand sour cream. As a replacement for plastic tubs, the Daisy pouch not only matched what squeezable bottles could do, it upped the ante with additional benefits: the 14-oz squeeze pouch shrunk in size as more product was evacuated. That not only saves a little space, more importantly it increased ease of use, reduced product waste and can help extend shelf life (see Daisy adds flexible packaging to its sour cream line-up, published October 2015).

Inverted pouches are now poised to turn a larger world of foods upside down, because what works for sour cream also works for a range of condiments and products. And this newfangled package type comes with yet another bonus: it can leverage new consumption uses to squeeze out incremental growth for brands.

The power of packaging

That’s the reasoning behind this summer’s launch of Chobani Savor Greek-style yogurt in a squeezable, easy-to-use resealable pouch in two varieties, whole milk and low-fat milk. It was the next step for the brand in flexibles following the yogurt company’s entry into flexible packaging three years earlier with user-friendly yogurt pouches for kids (see Chobani debuts yogurt in pouches and tubes, published February 2015).

Positioned as a healthier alternative to sour cream with 50% fewer calories, 75% less fat and twice the protein, the pouches are an easy dispensing pack for topping baked potatoes, tacos, soups and more—and a highly functional alternative to rigid plastic tubs.

Available at stores including Kroger, Publix and Meijer, samples of the Chobani Savor pouch were seen on display at Pack Expo in the stand of American Fuji Seal. The packaging was developed in a complex project that involved five vendors—one each for film, pouch, spout, cap and filler, according to an in-booth contact.

Packaging Digest subsequently learned that the filler-sealer used for Chobani is a made-in-France Thimonnier SF102 installed at the Greek yogurt maker’s Twin Falls, ID, plant.

“This new market for pouches that are inverted really demonstrates the power of packaging,” said the American Fuji Seal contact.

Packaging Digest couldn't agree more, which is why this series will continue next time with a close look at another application.

Freaky Fridays: An alien (head) full of vodka

Freaky Fridays: An alien (head) full of vodka
How freaked out would you be if these eyes were looking at you?

In a twist on the trend in the spirits market to create eye-catching bottles in the shape of heads or skulls, Outerspace Vodka gets its packaging inspiration from another, more extra-terrestrial source. Green coating and aluminum black eyes make this bottle of clear vodka look even more alien (think “little green men”).

This package really is freaky! Like Rick Lingle’s first Freaky Fridays installment, I, too, have a personal story to share. I came across Outerspace Vodka’s “alien head” bottle in 2016 and had it sitting on my desk in my home office. One weekend when my grandkids came over, my five-year-old grandson pointed to it and asked what it was. I told him it was something for work. JJ nodded, and we went back to playing. But a few minutes later, I saw him go back to my desk and turn the head around so the eyes weren’t looking at him because it freaked him out! Ha! Kids!

Since its U.S. introduction in 2015 in two sizes, 50 ml and 750 ml, Outerspace Vodka has expanded into several new markets. It is now also available in the U.K., Canada, Korea and Australia.

Company co-founder Jim Denoon gives us an autopsy of the package.

The industry standard 750 ml size, with two loops on the chain holding the tag.

How did you come up with the idea to use the shape of an alien head for a bottle of vodka? Why this particular shape?

Denoon: Over the past decade, there’s been a small but growing category of head-shaped liquor products coming to market. For example, Kah Tequila—another skull (albeit painted and based around the popular Mexican “Day of the Dead” theme)—has been reasonably successful.

Observing this progression made me think that there’s probably scope for more. The advantageous thing about these radical shapes is that they are self-marketing and very good at gaining that all-important first engagement with customers. That is to say: they stand out sufficiently to get consumers reaching for a bottle off the shelf. Vital, especially when you’re new.

Did you come up with the Outerspace name first and then create the package?

Denoon: No, it was very much pack led. Initially, it wasn’t immediately clear what “head shape” I should develop. Human skulls were a well-trailed concept, so I had to think further afield. I also knew it was important to create something that had broad consumer appeal—or, in the very least, recognition—the world over. It dawned on me that the notion of little green men from Outerspace was a familiar concept to most. And I wondered if I would be able to transpose those characteristics into a bottle.

It is of course a work of fiction, but I have attempted to translate (what I think) is peoples’ common conception of an alien’s appearance into the pack. And done a pretty reasonable job. At least, so far I have had 100% success rate when asking people to identify what it’s meant to be!

Why use a glass container?

Denoon: Most spirits packs are glass, and this is where my experience lies in terms of development and production. Moreover, glass is an infinitely aesthetically superior material to work with, so it was the obvious choice for the brand.

Why have two sizes?

Denoon: 750ml is the standard SKU [stock-keeping unit] in the world of spirits. Most brands have a 50ml SKU as a promotional item, too. I think it was particularly important in our case, as people do seem to find the baby aliens (baeliens), “cute.”

The "cute" 50 ml size.

Are both size containers identical in shape?

Denoon: Yes, pretty much. Glass is a difficult material to work with. It still boggles my mind to think that (literally) no two pieces are alike. Upon mold release, glass remains slightly molten and is prone to creep as it cools. The degree to what extent depends on a number of factors, but overall size is a factor. Some of their slight differences can be attributed to this phenomenon.

Any design issues with either of the sizes?

Denoon: No, not really. It’s quite a complicated shape so we had to work quite carefully concerning the mold’s relief. It’s often the challenge in modelling a new pack—being able to release it from the mold easily.

Who is your container supplier?

Denoon: We make the pack in Asia. Don’t really want to go into more detail than that if you don’t mind(!).

The closure on the smaller size is different, a screw on. Why a different closure?

Denoon: For a couple of reasons;

One, TPE/alu [thermoplastic elastomer/aluminum] stoppers like this are expensive and it’s harder for us to absorb the cost on the miniature version.

Two, TPE stoppers can be vulnerable on smaller packs. Much more secure to have a BVS cap. [Editor’s note: BVS indicates a specific glass finish.]

Are you adhering the aluminum eyes by hand or automatically?

Denoon: It’s done by hand.

Green coating is applied to the outside of the container. Is this done by the container supplier or is this a separate step?

Denoon: It’s an organic green spray applied and baked onto the container by our supplier.

Any concerns with recycling because the eyes are aluminum and the glass is coated?

Denoon: I don’t see a great deal of these bottles going to waste. Consumer behavior to date suggests that they are keeping them. Which is good and bad at the same time, obviously.

Tell us about the labeling. Are they the same for both sizes? There seem to be three pressure-sensitive labels: one on the cap that also goes down the back of the bottle; one (film, correct?) on the front in the center of the forehead; and one on the back with the product and regulatory info, as well as the bar code.

Denoon: All the labels are the out of necessity, rather than by choice. They exhibit the mandatory information and we have used these labels in the hopes that consumers will opt to remove them to leave a much cleaner finish.

Why have the cap label continue down the bottle? Is this a paper-based label?

Denoon: Yes, it’s paper based, as a destructive seal. We have a double whammy though as we also have a plastic shrink sleeve. In later products, we’ve have an embossed alu-cap. See below.


How are each of these labels applied? The back label looks challenging to get a smooth look because of the shape of the head. Any insight into how you determined the size of this label?

Denoon: Yes, it started a bit big. It’s adjusted on further iterations of the product.

I run a philosophy of continuous improvement. Never going to be right first time. Always room for improvement. Do you remember the first iteration of Facebook?

There’s also a clear shrink neck wrap. Is this for tamper-evidence?

Denoon: Yes. With the new embossed cap, we only have this.

Do both sizes also have the hanging neck label?

Denoon: Yes, the only real difference is that the 750ml has two-wraps of chain. Although we may change this as some people don’t realize that and just put one around. Best laid plans…


MinnPack 2019 (Oct. 23-24; Minneapolis) is where serious packaging professionals find technologies, education and connections needed to thrive in today’s advanced manufacturing community. See solutions in labeling, food packaging, package design and beyond. Attend free expert-led sessions at multiple theaters around the expo.