Technology holds the key to success

14 March 2004 (Last Updated March 14th, 2004 18:30)

The Flexible Packaging Association showcases some of the new forms and functions that have been realised in the packaging industry thanks to technological developments.

The winners of the Flexible Packaging Association's (FPA) 2004 Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards underscore the dramatic impact technology is having on both the form and function of flexible packaging.

In fact, many of this year's winners incorporate ‘first-of-their-kind' technologies, while others have either received or are awaiting patents for their breakthrough processes and/or structures.

Healthcare

Technologically driven packaging solutions in the healthcare industry are offering critical new protection for patients, while delivering effectiveness and security for healthcare providers.

The revolutionary Del Pouch, a single-dose frangible applicator developed by Pechiney Plastic Packaging Inc for Cardinal Health, offers an innovative method of delivering ointments and creams.

The use of frangible sealant technology on the packaging allows Cardinal to seal three of the packaging's four seals at high temperatures. When compressed, the packaging fractures the weaker seal and allows the ointment or cream within the packaging to escape into the foam applicator pad for a sanitary single-dose application.

Another Pechiney innovation comes in the form of a desiccating sealant film moisture barrier lamination, an advanced single-use packaging solution for diagnostic strips developed for Lifescan, a Johnson & Johnson company.

Providing an effective packaging alternative to the traditional high-density polyethylene (HDPE) bottle and twist cap, this patent-pending PET and foil extrusion lamination contains a groundbreaking new desiccating heat-sealable film that helps caulk the packaging edges, seals out moisture, absorbs moisture in the packaging head space and protects the contents from possible moisture incurred through fractures and pinholes.

The HDPE-Allegro®T Packaging Products is a peelable top web, thermoformable bottom web packaging that is used for Sengewald Klinikprodukte's line of sterile surgical gowns, drapes and covers. In contrast to other types of paper-based packaging that emit loose fibres into the sterile operating fields when torn, the HDPE-AllegroT is an all-polymer structure that is completely fibre-free.

Its proprietary coextruded blend of AllegroT sealant is engineered to produce remarkably smooth, consistent peel strength over a very wide heat sealing window. Upon opening the package, the user is assured of a hermetic seal via the bright white tamper-evident seal indicator.

Food and beverages

The flexible packaging industry is breaking new technological ground by providing cost-effective yet consumer-friendly packaging solutions. Bemis' stand-up Slide-Rite® polyethylene surface printed packaging that incorporates a Slide Rite closure system on top.

The pre-made bag, developed by Bemis for Brakebush frozen chicken products, has a fill-through-the-gusset feature that allows it to run on automated equipment which can fill, seal and trim the package, thus lowering both manufacturing and distribution costs.

The Carry-Fresh® produce bag developed by NNZ, The Packaging Network and North State Flexibles LLC is an efficient, consumer-friendly and visually high-impact way to package and brand fresh produce.

Using a block-bottom, rectangular stand-up pouch configuration, the bag is made from a proprietary cross-laminated polyethylene open-mesh non-woven fabric that exhibits superior strength and aesthetics, and machines like film on the Carry-Fresh vertical form-fill-and-seal machine. Finger holes at the top of the bag further enhance consumer convenience.

In the food service sector, the Rapak EvacuFilm bag-in-box for carbonated drink concentrate provides exceptional product evacuation from a bag-in-box structure and eliminates the need for tubes in evacuating liquids from the bag. Developed by Pechiney, the two-ply bag exhibits excellent abuse resistance requirements for liquid filling and distribution. As a result, Rapak has experienced lower material waste and reduced raw material inventory.

Meat products

Flexible packaging is proving vital in the efficient packaging of fresh and processed meat products, offering new packaging solutions that yield results and exceed performance standards throughout the distribution chain. The Cryovac® from the Cryovac food packaging division of Sealed Air Corporation replaces traditional trap-printed laminate structures with a fully coextruded base material that is printed using a proprietary surface printing system.

The resulting film eliminates delamination concerns and creates registered surface print colours that are sharper and more appealing because they are not obscured by a substrate layer. Customer lead times are also significantly improved because the coextruded structure is manufactured in a single pass.

For 22kg or larger cuts of bone-in fresh meat, Curwood's ArmorX™ CBP™ bone-in shrink bag eliminates the risk of packaging punctures that could lead to the dangerous contamination of meat products. The Complete Boneguard Protection (CBP) bag is an alternative to patch bags. It offers a unique two-ply construction for ultra toughness, shrink, clarity and protection.

In the retail sector, the Hormel premium lunch meat packaging from Pechiney features an aligned laser scoring method that allows the incorporation of a slider zipper into a two-web horizontal form-fill-and-seal packaging.

The Carl Buddig Snack-Buds™ lunch meat packaging from Curwood Inc features a patent-pending film structure that reduces costs by allowing register printing of the forming film. This, in turn, eliminates the need for the application of adhesive labels containing nutritional information to the back of the packaging.

For mail order shipping, Exopack LLC has developed a honey-baked ham metallised shipping pouch to withstand the rigours of vacuum packaging, flash freezing and frozen distribution of the bone-in ham. Exopack incorporates a reclosable zipper onto the shipping pouch for additional consumer convenience.

Added consumer appeal

Technology is playing a vital role in the futuristic look and feel of several new flexible packages for various consumer goods such as chocolates, socks and electronics. The stunning appearance of Toblerone's tiny stand-up pouch from Amcor Flexibles is created through a revolutionary new in-line demetallisation process that does not remove the substrate metal, but rather uses demetallising agents that react chemically with the metallic layer to create triangular transparent windows on the bag.

The efficient and environmentally friendly process eliminates the need for dirty wastewater and significantly reduces waste as the demetallisation is immediately visible during the printing process.

North State Flexibles' striking silvertoe gear® stand-up pouch for women's socks features a consumer-friendly reclosable zipper, reduced packaging, enhanced graphics and a dynamic retail presence thanks to a structure of PET and clear linear low-density polyethylene, which renders a crisp, rigid look and allows the printing inks to be buried for glossier, scuff-free graphics.

The Digital Innovations hermetically sealed MP3 pouch from Specialty Films & Associates Inc has reawakened merchandising in the electronics market. Combining flexible packaging with an SBS sleeve, the high-tech and high-end semi-transparent appearance of the custom-metallised laminate features high-quality reverse printed rotogravure graphics that are positioned on the finished pouch to accent the printed image on the inner SBS sleeve.

The packaging also offers tamper-evidence as it hermetically seals the inner package of expensive electronic components. Moreover, it includes a convenient tear notch for further consumer confidence.

Outstanding shelf appeal

When it comes to visual vitality and marketing muscle, flexible packaging remains in a league of its own. Intricate and realistic graphics, high-gloss finishes, metallised effects and crisp packaging configurations are raising the bar across the entire retail spectrum, resulting in knock-out packaging solutions such as the Scott's Miracle-Gro Potting Mix bag from Exopack, the Fafard Seed Starter Potting Mix bag by Genpak LP, the Great Outdoors Hickory Chips bag from American Packaging Corporation, the Breeder's Choice Pinnacle Dog Food edge seam bag and the Precise® Plus™ Canine Adult Formula stand-up pouch from Exopack, the Kirkland Four Cheese Ravioli pouch from Nordenia USA, the Kroger Private Selection Chocolate Squares bag from Amcor Flexibles, the Ritz Chips Square Bottom stand-up pouch from Printpack Inc and the Press Pass Stealth 2003 overwraps from Amgraph Packaging Inc.

Another visually compelling package is the Curwood Clear-Tite® Surround™ shrink bag with EZ Peel® opening feature, which features 360° surround print as a result of a patent-pending process where the shrink tube is slit open, allowing the substrate to be printed as a flat film, not a tube.

Flexible packaging is also helping established brands expand into new market segments, as evidenced by the individually sized Heinz Premium Condiment stand-up pouches from Pechiney for the hotel industry.

Entering new markets

Among flexible packaging's most novel uses is the M-16 Rifle preservation bag from Heritage Packaging and the Valeron Strength Films, which preserves and protects US weaponry from damaging corrosion.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the decorative packaging for the floral industry developed by Highland Supply Corporation offers an environmentally conscious and attractive alternative to the crinkled foil normally found around disposable pots of seasonal plants and flowers.

The wrap is printed using the company's safe, water-based inks that reduce harmful volatile organic compounds and hazardous air-pollutant emissions, and eliminate hazardous process waste.

All these innovations are present in the recipients of the 2004 Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards and clearly demonstrate why flexible packaging is in a league of its own.