Medical packaging, snack bags, and a replacement for polypropylene cat litter pails are among winners of the DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation.
The awards, announced May 25 by Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co., reflect a trend toward increased used of lightweight and bio-based materials as well as the effect of the economic downturn on innovation.
This year, we focused the DuPont Awards program on the essential elements needed to drive breakthroughs in packaging, Carolann Haznedar, global business director of DuPont Packaging and Industrial Polymers, said in a May 25 news release.
The contest recognizes advances in materials, technology and service.
Innovative new developments, along with cost/waste reduction and improved sustainability, are what packaged-goods companies and retailers are seeking to respond to consumer needs, she continued. These winners demonstrate the kind of collaborative innovation that is needed to solve such multidimensional problems.
The 13 winners were chosen from among 160 entries. To no one's surprise, plastics dominated the awards, as it has in recent years.
According to Entropy Solutions Inc., the greatest challenge in shipping temperature-sensitive medical materials is maintaining proper temperature for the duration of transport. Losses due to improper temperatures cost the pharmaceutical industry $3 billion in 2009, the firm said.
Minneapolis-based Entropy developed the Greenbox reusable thermal management system, which features a high density polyethylene outer shipping box. Inside the container, temperatures can be maintained for up to 20 hours through the use of PureTemp, Entropy's bio-based phase-change bags, and Thermal-Lok insulation panels, made using recycled carbon silica and what Entropy refers to as a nanotechnology-based manufacturing process.
Entropy claims that Thermal-Lok panels have insulating values 10 times that of expanded polystyrene, and at the end of life, the Greenbox shell and Thermal-Lok panels are reground for use in new systems.
Traditionally [medical shipping packs have] been a 'one-and done' solution, Entropy President Eric Lindquist said in a May 26 telephone interview. You have the typical EPS or Styrofoam, gel-pack configuration that has limited amount of protection, range and time. The value proposition is that the Greenbox is an entirely reusable system.
Greenbox saves customers 40-65 percent on shipping costs due to reuse, he said.
Metal packaging manufacturers Exal Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio, and Alcoa Rigid Packaging of Alcoa, Tenn., were recognized for the Coil to Can aluminum alloy beverage bottle, which the companies claim uses less material and is manufactured at faster speeds to enable a 40 percent weight reduction at a cost comparable to PET or glass.
Frito-Lay North America Inc. of Plano, Texas, recently rolled out a massive advertising campaign for what it claims is the world's first fully compostable snack bag. The bag is being used for the company's SunChips brand. To achieve compostability of the three-part package while providing maximum product protection, Frito-Lay said it switched to polylactic acid for the outer bag, along with a compostable adhesive and inner barrier coating.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. received an award for replacing virgin PET in some drink bottles with a PET resin containing as much as 30 percent monoethylene glycol-based material. Coke said the new PlantBottle packaging which has been launched in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Japan and Denmark can be recycled with other PET bottles within the existing recycling infrastructure.
Swapping a flexible bag for a PP pail for its Fresh Step cat litter enabled Clorox Co. of Oakland, Calif., to cut packaging by nearly 80 percent while offering sustainability and cost reduction across its supply chain, the company said. Designers were tasked with maintaining consumer ease of use for handling, pouring, resealing and storage equal to the pails that the bags replaced.
Medical packaging manufacturer Degill International Corp. of Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, developed its EZ Fusion two-in-one vial dispensers to store medication and water for injection separately into the upper and bottom air-tight chambers for preservation. An operator twists the cap, gently shakes the vial, and then the mixture is ready for injection. EZ Fusion comes in HDPE and PP versions. According to Degill, the product was developed to combat counterfeiting of pharmaceuticals. It also takes the guesswork out of mixing drugs, so there is less waste and less chance of contamination, according to the company. EZ Fusion is cost-effective vs. traditional glass vials, Degill said.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co. redesigned machinery as well as packaging to enable a switch from wicketed PE bags for its Always feminine products to continuous-flow wrapping technology. The company claims the move reduced the use of PE by 25 percent and created an 80 percent reduction in warehouse space. P&G claims that the new approach enables better pallet fit due to the tighter package and reduced energy use in transportation and in producing pack material, and that the new packaging is more attractive to consumers.
For this project, starting from the innovative idea through to production startup, there was full technical community collaboration to turn an idea into reality. This was accomplished by all collaborators rigidly adhering to a best-value analysis process to define the best option which delivered the goal, P&G spokeswoman Anne Hochwalt said.
Winning recognition for Scope Outlast mouthwash packaging were P&G; blow and injection molder Alpla Inc. (a unit of Alpla-Werke Alwin Lehner GmbH & Co. KG of Hard, Austria,); molder Tech Group of Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Webb deVlam Industrial Designers. P&G worked with its collaborators to create a new bottle shape and closure when launching what has been dubbed the Genie bottle. According to P&G, the new design which contains 20 percent less PET than previous bottles has received outstanding feedback from consumers.
Three PE-based packaging designs from Sealed Air Corp. of Elmwood Park, N.J., were recognized with DuPont Awards:
Cryovac Grip & Tear vacuum-shrink bags for multiple applications, featuring an easy-open feature.
Cryovac Mirabella case-ready, modified-atmosphere packaging. The patented tray lidding system for meat uses less space by reducing tray height by about 40 percent on average, the manufacturer claims.
Ethafoam High Recycled Content plank made with PE foam that contains a minimum of 65 percent pre-consumer recycled content. It was designed in collaboration with Austin Foam Plastics of Pflugerville, Texas, to create a high-performance transport-packing application.
Our approach has always been that, within sustainability no matter what the economy is like the product has to perform and add value to the customer's bottom line, said Ken Aurichio, Sealed Air's director of corporate communications.
* Created by the Ideo international design firm, ConAgra Foods' Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers single-serve meals use clarified PP packaging. The package consists of an outer tub holding specially formulated dry pasta or rice, an inner soft tray containing sauce, a perforated lid and a flexible label over the perforations for a sanitary seal until the time of use. Berry Plastics Corp. of Evansville, Ind., molds the outer tub and green-pigmented strainer lid, and London-based Rexam plc supplies the sauce tray.
* Inspired by wine packaging used aboard French bullet trains, Copa Di Vino of The Dalles, Oregon, and 1/4 Vin of SolliÃ¨s-Pont, France, developed a single-serve PET wine bottle to replace a similar glass container for recreational and outdoor venues. According to the companies, wine is bottled into the 187-milliliter, barrier plastic wine glass. The product has a one-year shelf life. The firms claim that 50 percent of packaging waste is avoided, and carbon footprint is reduced due to the 30 percent lighter weight of the plastic vs. glass.
Mexico's Coca-Cola FEMSA SA de CV and Sosa Tech Advisors LLC of McAllen, Texas, were honored for a new inside injection foaming process that replaces wood industrial pallets with recyclable PP shippers. The pallets have an expected six-year lifetime, compared with three years for typical injection molded PP pallets or two years for wooden ones.
Kellogg Co. of Battle Creek, Mich., and Positive Packaging Industries Ltd. of Mumbai, India, developed for the Indian market an odorless barrier laminate for cereal liners to address moisture issues due to high humidity. Moisture in the pack is pulled into a PP sealant. The companies said the product allowed them to stop importing their previous packaging, which reduced costs and complex logistics.
The Polish business unit of Slough, England-based Reckitt Benckiser plc developed the award-winning Finish Quantumatic dishwashing detergent dispensing system. The concept, which includes PET blister packs, automatically releases product for 12 washes without refilling. The blister packs are made with 70 percent post-consumer recycled material.
The judging panel for the contest, which recognizes advances in materials, technology and service, included:
* John Bernardo, president of consultancy Sustainable Innovations LLC in Hartford, Conn.
* Peter Clarke, founder and CEO of design firm Product Ventures Ltd. in Fairfield, Conn.
* Sara Hartwell, an environmental specialist with the Environmental Protection Agency's office of resource conservation and recovery.
* Ray Germonprez, chief technology officer of packaging manufacturer Bemis Co. Inc. of Neenah, Wis.
* Frederick Renk, vice president of external technology at packaging manufacturer MeadWestvaco Corp. of Richmond, Va.
* Gail Tavill, vice president of sustainable development at ConAgra Foods Inc. of Omaha, Neb.
DuPont has sponsored the packaging awards for more than 20 years. For the 20th year, it narrowed the focus to honoring innovations that improve sustainability.
This year, we broadened back to innovation, plus sustainability and cost reduction, Haznedar said in a May 26 e-mail. Companies are up against the need to differentiate their brands, to cut costs and to improve their sustainability footprint.
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