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Water-soluble pouches dish up convenience for Cascade

Water-soluble pouches usually contain powdered or dry product ingredients that effectively dissolve in water or other liquids in order to function properly. But Procter & Gamble, Cincinnati, has managed to find a way to combine a water-soluble pouch with both a concentrated, dry-powdered detergent and a liquid grease cutter in one water-soluble package, with the market launch of Cascade 2 in 1 ActionPacs(tm).

Introduced in August, 2003, the mini dual-compartmented packets for automatic dishwashing detergent are made with a water-soluble film rollstock from MonoSol LLC (www.monosol.com). The cold-water-soluble film packets hold concentrated, powdered Cascade automatic dishwasher detergent in one compartment and blue, liquid Dawn® grease cutter in the other, providing consumers with one product that does the work of multiple products and the convenience of a single unit-dose packet.

Showcasing the inner packets is a 20-count, secondary package comprising a bright green standup pouch made of a polyethyelene terepthalate/linear-low-density polyethylene laminate. The standup pouch has a gusseted bottom, a zippered reclosure, a transparent base and a transparent film window on the front panel that allows the product to stand out visibly on shelves. P&G says replacing large, bulky jugs and boxes with the small lightweight standup pack helps to maximize shelf space.

The cold-water-soluble film inner packets containing the automatic dishwasher product provide the cleaning benefits of both a powdered detergent and a liquid grease cutter, encapsulated in a single, easy-to-use premeasured dose. Thus, existing water-soluble film technology has moved a step further in packaging powder and liquid together.

MonoSol provides film rollstock for the packet, a customized cast-copolymer film based on DuPont's Elvanol® polyvinyl alcohol (PVOH) and MonoSol's M-8630, the latter of which was modified for P&G's requirements, including Kosher certification. The film itself dissolves completely in the dishwasher, without leaving residue or waste behind.

Precisely how the water-soluble, biodegradable packets can contain both a powder and a liquid without dissolving is the main reason the ActionPacs won an award. The process continues to remain a mystery, as P&G will only say it manufactures the dual-phase ActionPacs at an undisclosed plant in the U.S. using three webs of identical MonoSol water-soluble film rolls and a horizontal form/fill/seal machine that uses standard sealing technology.

MonoSol uses what it calls a solution-casting process to produce the filmstock for the 2 in 1 ActionPacs. Completely transparent, the packets allow the Cascade brand's white, powdered detergent and bright blue liquid grease cutter to show through, which adds sales appeal and invites inspection. The combination of cleaners starts to dissolve as soon as the dishwasher begins its wash cycle.

In this case, the technology goes a step further in the challenge of using the film in packaging applications for a commercial product like this one. Christian Rath, director of new business development at MonoSol, says that several years ago, MonoSol was asked to conduct studies to find water-soluble film package that could contain liquids. Today, MonoSol has a group of products that can successfully be used to package liquids including homecare detergents and cleaners and dish and laundry detergents, but not to package water.

So while the use of water-soluble packaging film isn't new, Rath points out that some products have been successfully packaged in MonoSol's water-soluble materials, including agrochemicals, detergents and some industrial chemicals. However, they were all single formulations. "The Cascade two in one ActionPacs combine powder and liquid in one product," he says.

One challenge with the P&G application was to ensure compatibility between the water-soluble film and the two products—the composition of the powder and the liquid are very different, P&G says. "MonoSol was able to meet the challenge," says Denise Savas, associate director of research & development at P&G. "Everything from solubility and compatibility to machinability and mechanical properties as well as the cost of the film were important to us. MonoSol met our needs for ActionPacs on both commercial and technical points of view with a film that met all of our criteria."

The product dissolves quickly and completely inside the dishwasher. Consumers not only love the product's performance, they say it's fun and easy to use.

Several issues existed, Rath says, including chemical compatibility of the product, the value-in-use of the packaging and the difficult handling conditions of the film (given its variability in different heat and humidity conditions). At the time of development, there were single-phase, water-soluble products on the market but no two-phase wate-soluble products. A new process was needed.

The research team kept plugging away. "We knew what transformations we needed from our equipment and film to make the product," Savas says. "In addition, we knew what in-trade conditions the product would experience. From this, we were able to screen the water-soluble films available. We had experience with MonoSol's water-soluble films from our Ariel Liquitabs product sold in Europe and utilized that experience to aid in the development of this product from a film point of view."

MonoSol's customers can utilize the company's in-house product-compatibility testing services and, by working with contract packagers that can convert the film from rollstock, they can ensure they're getting film pouches that dissolve completely, leaving no trace of film residue.

Cascade 2-in-1 ActionPacs have been a big hit with consumers, and customer demand for the product is high," Savas says. "With ActionPacs, there's no unwrapping, and the product dissolves quickly and completely inside the dishwasher. Consumers not only love the product's performance, they tell us it's fun and easy to use. We have the number-one automatic dishwashing brand in North America and are constantly looking for ways to innovate by offering new benefits like those with ActionPacs," she notes. "When consumers see something that sparks their interest and offers new benefits, they want to try it. That's what makes this category right for continued innovation."

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