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Conserving weight, space earns praise for flexible

Bags and pouches demonstrating innovation in reducing waste and increasing cost effectiveness were rewarded with top honors by judges for the Flexible Packaging Association's Top Packaging. Awards. The 10 winners were honored last month at the FPA's annual meeting.

A total of 10 companies received 11 awards for outstanding achievements in flexible packaging in the 1994 Top Packaging Awards sponsored by the Flexible Packaging Association, Washington, DC.

Judges selected winners for innovations in technologies, printing, closures, substrates, and advances in source reduction. The winners improved product protection, reduced costs and materials, opened new markets to flexible packaging, and delivered innovations to the consumer, distribution, institutional, and scientific marketplaces.

The winners, listed alphabetically by Converter company, are:

* American National Can Co., Chicago, IL, Food-Service Retort pouch.

* Bell Flexible Packaging, Columbus, CA, Child-Resistant Recloseable Easy Open (CRREO) bag.

* Com-Pac International Inc., Carbondale, IL, Valu-Loc TarnishGuard bag.

* Cryovac Division, W. R. Grace & Co., Duncan, SC, TBG bag for vacuum packaging bone-in pork loins.

* Graphic Packaging Corp., Wayne, PA, Jergens Lotion Stand-Up Refill pouch.

* InterFlex Group Inc., Ashland, VA, Cuddy Family Farms Fresh Boneless Turkey Breast Tenderloins.

* James River Corp., Milford, OH, double award winner, 9-lb. Ortho Dursban Lawn & Garden Insect Control Recloseable bag, 1-lb. and 3-lb. Nine Lives Meaty Morsels.

* Paramount Packaging Corp., Chalfont, PA, Tide and Cheer Refill bags.

* Printpack Inc., Atlanta Georgia, Ben & Jerry's Peace Pop flexible package.

* Rollprint Packaging Products Inc., Addison, IL, ClearFoil Pouch for protection of cesium iodide block.

Winners were honored during the FPAs Annual Meeting on March 1-3 in Naples, FL. Descriptions of the winning packages, as provided by the FPA, follow.

American National Can Co.

The food-service retort pouch for the food-service industry could prove to be the first commercially viable use of retort packages for low-acid foods outside of the military. It was a technical challenge to create a proprietary foil-containing flexible material that could withstand the requirements of retort, hermetic sealing, heating to 250 [degrees] F, and meet FDA's requirements.

By designing the bottom web of this 12.5 x 13-in. package to draw to approximately 1.5-in. deep, American National Can created a cavity large enough to hold the same amount of food as the No. 10 can it replaces. This solution catapults the package into real commercial possibilities by allowing it to be filled on existing form/fill/seal equipment at conventional filling speeds. Past attempts to fill flat 12 x 15-in. bags, presealed on three sides, failed due to unacceptably slow line speeds. The untilled pouches weigh 75% less than the cans, and a case of six filled pouches takes up 20% less space than a case of six cans.

Bell Flexible Packaging

The CRREO package drew high praise for its multiple innovative, consumer-friendly features. The challenge was to replace a rigid canister for packaging numerous individual, water-soluble pouches of hazardous materials, such as pesticides and herbicides.

The easy-to-open package boasts a child-resistant feature that requires no special manual dexterity or strength, only the ability to read and follow directions. The bag and the child-resistant feature are recloseable.

The flexible package takes up 77% less space than its rigid precursor. It uses 66% fewer packaging components, which increases filling-line speeds by approximately 22%. It costs 57% less to transport, and overall the package costs 25% less to manufacture than the previous canister. The packaging structure uses foil for moisture vapor protection laminated to Valeron for its puncture resistance. It requires a multiple-pass laminating and printing operation. The bag is fabricated with three seals, then filled in-line and heat sealed on existing equipment. The linear low-density material in the film allows the bag to heat seal easily. Using flexography, the graphics are reverse printed on the polyester layer to protect the print from the damages of wind, rain, and abrasion.

The finished bags meet a laundry list of requirements, including child resistance as defined under the Poison Prevention Act of 1970, moisture transmission, seal strength, tear testing, and product compatibility.

Com-Pac International Inc.

This breakthrough bag protects sensitive and precious metals, jewelry, and fine art pieces from corrosion, eliminating the need to repolish. Made of TarnishGuard, a proprietary material which neutralizes corrosive gases before they can react with precious metals, the Valu-Loc bags will last 15 to 30 years.

Previous technology used oil-based volatile-corrosion inhibitors, which had numerous drawbacks. The VCIs didn't neutralize corrosive gases, instead they absorbed them. They worked by coating the contents with an oil which then had to be removed by solvents, and their shelf life was as little as six months. This new technology can be used with numerous resins. Bags are produced with a low-density polyethylene-based structure. Solid-state nonvolatile pieces of material are bonded into the polymer chain at the atomic level. By successfully protecting precious metals, this innovative technology opens this market to manufacturers and consumers alike.

A manufacturer can print on the outside of these bags without compromising the bag's integrity. The bags incorporate a patented double-track, interlocking zipper to help protect the contents and make them easy to use and reuse. The bags can also protect sensitive manufacturing parts more easily and much longer than VCI technology.

Cryovac Div. of W. R. Grace & Co.

This package helped in making sales increase by 400%. For the first time, bone-in pork can be successfully vacuum packed, extending its shelf life from one week to three weeks. Cryovac used special coextrusion technology to create a high-abuse barrier and laminated a puncture-resistant layer to that to create a film that can withstand the extremely sharp bones in pork.

In the process, this package reduces weight over the old gas-flushed packages by 86.7%, and it reduced the package-failure rate from 50% to less than 1% throughout the distribution chain. It fit seamlessly into existing packaging, distribution, and store-handling systems, and it reduced product loss by maintaining the meat's fresh color and reducing purge and trim loss. Now, grocers no longer need to maintain zero inventory with daily deliveries, and consumers won't find the product sold out.

Graphic Packaging Corp.

The Jergens Lotion package is the first stand-up pouch on the market designed to hold and protect hand lotion. The proprietary combination of resins and barrier films creates a chemical-barrier web that prevents the product from discoloring the package and seeping out. End user Jergens proudly proclaims on the front panel that the 12.5-fluid oz. pouch reduces package weight by 75% over the 10-fluid oz. bottle.

The pouch was process, gravure printed and offers an improved billboard effect over the cylindrical bottles. It sports an easy-pour corner, releases its contents more quickly and easily than a refill bottle, and is resealable.

InterFlex Group Inc.

Changes to the packaging structure reduced the amount of film used and extended the shelf life for this Cuddly Family Farms turkey product by 60%. The paperboard sleeve was removed, and the original single-layer stretch nonbarrier film was replaced with a shrinkable five-layer coextruded barrier film. The package was flexo printed and hermetically sealed.

The new package eliminates wet package syndrome, the most common complaint of American meat purchases. Replacing the film and eliminating the sleeve reduced the package's volume by 83% and its weight by 57%. It also provided better product visibility, easier opening, and saved resources. It reduced material costs by 35%, eliminated one operation that cut labor costs by 46%, reduced storage space requirements by 80%, and transportation fuel costs by 80%.

James River Corp.'s Stand-Up Pouch

This stand-up pouch holds an impressive 9 lb. of Ortho Dursban product, offers a zipper closure and a handle for consumer convenience, easily withstands the rigors of display in the outdoors, and makes pesticide look classy. It's made of a new multilayer composite which includes reverse-printed polyester, metallized polyester, and linear low-density polyethylene.

The metallized polyester provides a cost effective, excellent long-term barrier against changes in moisture level. The polyester-print web prevents heat distortion during sealing. The liner low-density polyethylene inner layer provides the seal strength required to maintain package integrity throughout distribution and handling. Its tough plastic construction helps prevent actual ruptures, at the store and long after the consumer's purchase, more effectively than the paperwall bag it replaces.

Stunning shelf impact comes from the billboard effect of a 9-lb. stand-up pouch and the eye-catching graphics. The art was flexo printed, using photopolymer-printing plates, in six colors. Special heat-resistant inks were used to prevent blistering and delamination during sealing. The printed polyester is laminated to the metallized polyester with white polyethylene to better showcase the graphics.

James River Corp.'s Refill Bags

This recloseable bag for Nine Lives Cat Food brings a new level of sophistication to retail packaging. These stand-up pouches are perforated for easy opening and boast a zipper closure to preserve freshness and prevent spills after opening. When used in lien of the traditional folding carton for the 1-lb. size, this package represents a 70% reduction in packaging weight.

After successful test marketing, the bags will be made using automatic-horizontal form/fill/seal packaging machinery and the zippers will be applied in-line. The special laminate provides the grease resistance required to maintain normal distribution channels. The flexible material creates a moisture and oxygen barrier superior to the alternative cartons and bags for this product, and the hermetic seal reduces any chance of insect infestation which can plague those packages as well.

The eight-color design is rotogravure reverse-printed on 48-gauge polyester, giving it excellent gloss and scuff resistance. The white linear low-density sealant web provides superb opacity and whiteness to back up the bold design. Rotogravure printing provides outstanding reproduction of the graphics, and gold-metallic ink adds sophistication. Both sizes can be displayed standing for the fullest billboard effect or on their sides, since the bottom panel is fully decorated.

Paramount Packaging Corp.

These bags for Tide and Cheer detergents use 80% less packaging than the carton alternative, and that message is printed on their front, just under the product's name. They also incorporate 25% postconsumer-recycled content and can be recycled as low-density polyethylene. Holding a hefty 9.5-lb. of granular detergent, they fill to a basically square form that allows them to be stacked easily on store shelves.

The eye-catching bold and bright colors are achieved by trapping approximately 80% fluorescent-ink coverage within the laminate structure. Buried gravure printing eliminates scuffing or abrasion problems. An additional challenge was the control required over the postconsumer recycled-content material to secure a clean smooth finish to the surface.

Printpack Inc.

As the first super premium ice-cream novelty to shed its folding carton, Ben & Jerry's Peace Pops make a strong statement for source reduction. They do so right on the package, with a bold graphic saying "Less is Best." Extended copy explains that using bags instead of individual boxes for this product alone will net a 165-ton savings to the landfills in one year.

The package was switched from a paper wrapper and folding box to 48-gauge polyester, flexo-reverse printed and adhesive laminated to a 1.5-mil white low-density polyethylene and Surlyn. The laminate also provided a better printing surface, allowing for bolder and brighter graphics.

Rollprint Packaging Products Inc.

This singular package is one of the first commercial uses of glass-coated film in the US. The silicon-oxide-coated polyester laminate protects radioactive blocks of cesium-iodide crystal in a manner that allows them to be visually inspected while still in their package. The crystal blocks attract and absorb high amounts of moisture and therefore require outstanding moisture barriers. The ClearFoil reduces water-vapor transmission rates to less than .02 grams/100 sq. in. every 24 hr.

Providing visual inspection through the package eliminates the need to unpackage and repackage the product regularly, thereby reducing the risk of accidental exposure to radiation. Rollprint created this package for Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Fermi uses more than 3,000 of these crystals as building blocks to form a solid wall, against which scientists collide sub-atomic particles at nearly light speeds in experiments on the nature of matter.

The competition was chaired by Robert W. Heitzman, editor-in-chief, Packaging Digest. The judges included: Mona Doyle, president and founder, Consumer Network Inc.; Terry Grogan, Waste Reduction and Management Branch chief, EPA; Noel Grove, freelance writer and co-founder, Society for Environmental Journalists; David McFarlane, McFarlane & Associates packaging industry consultant and FPA WEB Society member; Edward L. Rzepecki, author and professor, University of St. Thomas; and Graham A. Stoner, president, Agtrol Chemical Products.

FPA has sponsored the Top Packaging Awards since 1956 to honor outstanding achievements by flexible-packaging converters.

As the trade association representing converters and suppliers to the packaging industry, FPA has served as its voice since 1950. Its members manufacture 85% of the flexible packaging produced in the US, according to the FPA.

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