FPA Winners Prove Again How to Do More with Less

The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), Washington, DC, presented its 1999 Top Packaging Awards to seven companies for flexible packages that broke new ground in technology, closures, substrates, and source reduction. The official awards were presented at the FPA's Fiftieth Anniversary Annual Meeting, held February 29 through March 3 at the Westin La Paloma in Tucson, AZ.

FPA reports that the winners improved product protection, reduced costs and materials, opened new markets for flexible packaging, and delivered innovations to the consumer, office, recreation, and pet food marketplaces.

John Woolford, interim president of FPA, notes, "More than ever before, customers are realizing that good things come in less packaging. The 1999 Top Packaging Award winners prove that flexible packages can offer the strength and durability of rigid, while increasing convenience and material and transportation cost savings."

The jury panel included Arnie Orloski Jr., VP and editor, Packaging World; Andy Gordon, senior manager, packaging research, Starkist Foods; Jeff Chavez, manager, government affairs, Grocery Manufacturers of America; Dr. Robert Testin, chair, Department of Packaging Science, Clemson University; Michael Zampogna, assistant division chief for classification, US Bureau of Census; and Andrew Mykytiuk, editor-in-chief, Flexible Packaging magazine.

Dog's Best Friend
Cryovac, Duncan, SC, was honored for its Cryovac K-9000 dry pet food packaging. The unique cross-linked oriented polyolefin (COP) and oxygen barrier construction of the package extends pet food shelf life, improves freshness and palatability, and reduces insect infestation concerns.

The COP abuse/sealant layer has elastic memory that allows the material to better resist bumps and dimples from hard, dry pet food. The plastic bag is highly resistant to moisture and grease, providing better protection than the traditional multiwall paper bag.

The COP technology provides tensile strength 3 to 4 times that of a competing PET/nylon/PE laminate and 30 to 40 times that of paper. The EVOH-based oxygen barrier of the new bag-<10cc/M2-day-atm-locks odors and flavors in the bag.

The company notes that consumer focus groups overwhelmingly preferred the new package for superior appearance, better freshness, improved toughness, improved handling characteristics, better stability, and superior opening/reclosing features.

The new bag provides pet food manufacturers with the opportunity to reformulate their foods to take advantage of the oxygen barrier properties. For example, manufacturers could reduce or even eliminate chemical preservatives or try new flavoring ingredients that might not be effective or affordable without oxygen barrier packaging.

Floating on Air
Air Packaging Technologies, Valencia, CA, was a winner with two reusable Air Box entries. The Air Box reportedly reduces the amount of waste going to landfill by 95% with one use and 98% with multiple uses.

The company partnered with Photronics, a manufacturer of semiconductor photomasks, to design the reusable SDS Air Box, a flexible, antistatic/static-shielding inflated bag that lifts and surrounds the photomask with a cushion of air during transportation, handling, and storage. When heat-sealed at the open end, the SDS Air Box also provides a contaminant-free and static-shielded chamber.

"The biggest challenge," says Al Trotter, VP sales and marketing at Air Packaging Technologies, "was the pellicle on the inside of the photomask. It is so sensitive. If you touched it with the edge of your finger, it would blow apart, and when it goes, the photomask is ruined. They average between $5,000 and $10,000 a piece, so they're very expensive. They're designed individually for each chip, so the freight part is extremely important." Compared to its previous shipping method, Photronics saved 97% per shipment in packaging costs and was able to reduce its shipping area by 75%.

The Dental Air Box, a flexible, multi-pocketed inflated bag, was designed for Microdental for the shipment of impressions and restorations between the laboratory and dentist office. The Air Box is much lighter than the corrugated and urethane foam presently used to ship dental parts, saving Microdental substantial dollars in freight costs.

Light Up the Grill
North State Flexibles, Greensboro, NC, created the RhinoTuff Fuel Check Sleeve used to cover Blue Rhino propane gas grill cylinders. The 50-micron (2.0 mil) polyvinyl chloride heat-shrinkable sleeve combines traditional solvent-based flexographic inks, utilizing eight colors, with a gravure-applied ninth-color thermochromatic ink registered downstream.

The PVC sleeves are seamed, and a removable p-s label is applied over the thermochromatic ink, all in-line on a customized converting machine.

These protective covers are designed to keep cylinders clean and rust-free, to extend cylinder life, and to withstand a variety of weather elements because most gas grill cylinders are stored outside.

Because the cylinders are protected from the elements, the need for expensive refinishing and painting is reduced, as are the emissions produced by paint and solvents.

For the consumer, the sleeve incorporates an innovative "Fuel Check" system to determine easily how much fuel remains in the cylinder. The sleeve provides shelf appeal with high quality graphics and is printed with important safety information and directions for use.

Keep on Truckin'
Keystone Business Service Inc., Ogden, UT, took a food-grade film and gave it an industrial application with its Slik-Pak single-use pouch of lubricant for tractor-trailers. The 4x6-in. pouch is made of polypropylene film with a coextruded sealing layer and is printed with water-based inks. The barrier protection of the film stabilizes the shelf life of the product.

To use the package, a trucker just puts the pouch on the fifth wheel and drops the trailer onto the plate. The weight ruptures the pouch, spreading the lubricant over the surface. The plastic subsequently disintegrates as the plates rotate on each other, leaving no waste to dispose of in a landfill.

The pouch replaces 55-gal drums of grease, giving truckers the advantage of lubricating vehicles in remote locations where a drum of lubricant is simply too large.

As Dennis Spiers, president of Keystone Business Service, explains, "Our focus was to maintain the environmental aspects of the product with the water-based inks, still be able to put it on the single-layer film, and have the film become a contributing property to the lubrication. We got our fingers pinched a couple of times when things

didn't work out too good, but we never lost focus, and we were able to overcome those minor problems. It runs extremely well on the machines, it looks good as a final product, and it works well out in the open field. The other thing that we found is that it's universal in the world economy. Our sales are just skyrocketing in Australia. People don't have a hard time perceiving what the product is and how it's used."

Pouch Converts to Puppet
Pechiney Plastic Packaging, Chicago, IL, helped build brand identity for Keebler Co. with the Ernie Pouch, which is a three-dimensional, die-cut, stand-up pouch that can be reused as a hand puppet once the product has been consumed.

Pechiney ships the rollstock to Specialty Films & Assoc., Erlanger, KY, which makes the rectangular pouches and then die-cuts the deep contours of the hand puppet shape.

The pouch has a recloseable zipper and is said to offer excellent film stiffness to ensure machinability and functionality of the puppet.

Advanced sealant technology minimizes leaks and improves zipper application. The pouch is reverse-printed polyester film that is extrusion laminated to a sealant film. The material structure provides the necessary barrier to meet the product's shelf-life requirements. An eight-color gravure press provides high-quality graphics.

The unique package design differentiates the Keebler Elf Grahams from other brands on the shelf, and the puppet keeps the Keebler name in the house after the cookies have been consumed, influencing the next purchase decision.

Linda Moreschi, Pechiney Plastic Packaging account manager for Keebler, says, "We have an excellent working relationship with Keebler, which helped us capitalize on our expertise in contoured stand-up pouches."

Jane Dirr, president of Specialty Films, says, "All of us have taken a personal interest in this project because we think it's very exciting, both for the consumer and the packaging industry."

Wave Wrap Wins Green Globe
Judges gave Phoenix Packaging, Maple Grove, MN, the Green Globe Award for environmental achievement to honor the Wave Wrap package for frozen, microwavable sandwiches.

For ConAgra's Healthy Choice Bread Stuffs Wave Wrap, Phoenix ran metallized PET through a demetallization line to remove some of the metal to enhance cooking performance. Paper is laminated to the partially demetallized PET, and the laminate is flexo printed (one color) with a water-based ink. A registered release lacquer is applied to the back side.

This material is said to run extremely well on standard horizontal form/fill/seal equipment and to eliminate the need for the peripheral loading magazine required with paperboard susceptor sleeves.

The one-part Wave Wrap package offers source reduction by replacing the two-part system of a rigid paperboard susceptor crisping sleeve and OPP overwrap. This one-part system is easier for the consumer to use, notes Phoenix, and with the larger surface area for graphics, instructions are printed right on the wrapper. In contrast, when a crisping sleeve is used, the consumer must retrieve the folding carton for cooking instructions.

The technically advanced flexible wrapper not only provides product protection but also interacts with the product itself in the process of cooking.

Jeff Laney, national accounts manager, says the Wave Wrap "was a good fit with our customized converting machinery. Most of our presses are set up to print six colors, laminate, apply adhesives and coatings to the front and/or back of the web in register, and slit. It's all done in one pass. The demetallization line is a separate step. Our equipment was well suited to the product."

Ream Wrapper Is Recyclable
Xerox Corp., Webster, NY, was rewarded for a cost-effective recyclable ream wrapper. Traditional ream wrap uses a plastic overlay between layers of paper that acts as a barrier against moisture and adds strength and durability. Due to the plastic, however, the wrapper cannot be recycled. This new wrapper is 100% repulpable and recyclable with corrugated waste.

Innovations in the food-packaging industry--the replacement of wax-containing coatings on poultry and meat boxes with repulpable moisture-proof barrier coatings-led to the concept of applying the new repulpable coatings to paper to produce a recyclable ream wrapper.

Application of the coating and printing of the ream wrap is accomplished in one step. The ream wrap provides the necessary strength and moisture barriers of traditional ream wrap and offers the added advantage of being recyclable, notes the company.

The individual reams have several key attributes that impact the end-user: The wrapper is clearly marked that it is recyclable with corrugated waste; the company name and logo are prominently displayed to enhance brand recognition and awareness; and the type of paper held within the wrapper is stated in a concise manner.

A recyclable label is placed on the end space (where most people open a ream of paper) that provides the end-user with additional information such as paper size and weight, recommended equipment, and reorder number.

For more information contact:

Flexible Packaging Association
1090 Vermont Ave. NW, Ste. 500, Washington, DC 20005;
202/842-3880; flexpack.org

Subscribe to PFFC's EClips Newsletter