Aaron L. Brody

Here are some “packaging revelations, observations, and forecasts for the year ahead”” paraphrased from Bill LeMaire, soon-to-be-retiring editor of Packaging Strategies newsletter and a long-time responsible and intelligent analyst of the commercial scene.

• Aluminum Beer Bottles. Beer packaging in Japan might not be just in polyester, but also in extruded one-piece aluminum bottles, complete with narrow necks and screw caps for reclosure. The 400-mL bottles (cans?) from Daiwa Can will be used by both Kirin and Sapporo, and so, on your next visit to Japan, or to your local Asian grocery store, look for these interesting throwbacks to a previous era.

• Aseptic for Extended-Shelf-Life Refrigerated Foods. Already on the scene for flavored milk and extended-shelf-life juices and other fruit beverages, aseptic technologies will expand into a host of other food and beverage products. Upsetting the conventional thinking, aseptic technologies under the cloak of nomenclatures such as “clean room” and “ultra clean,” or even “quasi aseptic” have slowly been permeating into beverage and vegetable plants to deliver packaged products whose refrigerated shelf lives have been significantly extended as a consequence. IFT’s Food Packaging Division has organized a symposium on this subject at the Annual Meeting in Dallas this June.

• Stand-Up Flexible Pouches. If you believe all of the supplier publicity, stand-up flexible pouches will take over the entire world of cans, bottles, cartons, and pillow pouches by the end of this prediction period. If suppliers were not optimistic, who would support some of these far-reaching developments? In 1999, we witnessed stand-up flexible pouches being applied to retorted cat food, refrigerated soups, and hand puppet–shaped cookie packages. With the concept well entrenched for candies, snacks, crackers, and even fruit beverages, can anything else not be far behind?

• Reclosable Pouches. The end of the last century was witness to a major move of many, but hardly all, flexible packagers into reclosable pouches, most of which are the groovy type. And then came the zipper slider and its ease of use and positive closure, coupled with cost.And now comes Velcro® materials and their thrust into package reclosure. Whatever is next can only serve to increase the application of reclosability on flexible pouches, thus further increasing the growth of this class of packaging at the expense of cans, bottles, jars, and cartons.

• Digital Printing. In case you haven’t noticed, what with consumer segmentation and targeting, food package converting runs have become shorter and shorter. The long production runs of mass marketing are virtually history, as companies try to satisfy each individual consumer group. And behind this thrust, among other resources, is the ability of packaging converters to print short runs. They, too, have been realizing the future and have begun not to retire all their high-speed rotogravure, flexographic, and offset presses, but to supplement them with digital presses capable of producing as few as one copy of a package—if that is what the food packager wants. Computer-driven printing in whatever design and colors desired by the marketing departments, and in whatever number, is no longer solely for promotional packaging.

• On-Line Shopping. No one, not even Bill, can predict the future for on-line food shopping or for packaging that would be used, but one certainty is that the traditional cartons and pouches will be supplanted for this new distribution system. Food scientists and their food packaging technologist colleagues must begin to address the complex issues that will inevitably arise as e—commerce intrudes further into our daily lives.

Packaging at Food Expo
Packaging companies that are exhibiting at Food Expo are emphasizing bulk handling of ingredients that have been processed in a variety of ways for additional safety and convenience in use. As companies use more just-in-time delivery options, and more bulk ingredients that are sized for specific sized batches or for continuous addition, collapsible systems and easy emptying containers gain favor. Some packaging systems have removable panels, others have removable lids. Some are recyclable, and may have liners that are disposable. Prepackaging was easy when ingredients were scaled for specific sized batches, but in-line addition for continuous systems is also under development Bag-in-box systems are especially interesting: the inner bag can generally be disposed of easily, and the outer carton is recyclable. By developing packaging systems that use combinations of materials that are used as separate structures, both recyclability and disposal is simplified. In estimating total cost for packaging, the cost and convenience of recycling and disposal must be included in the cost. Because a visit to Food Expo provides a peek at the future, the packages that are seen there suggest that food processors are moving toward still more bulk systems, to prepackaged sizes of ingredients, and toward easier disposability of packaging materials.

Bag-in-box systems hold up to 330 gal., are available as collapsible systems for bulk packaging of ingredients or finished products. Company also supplies filling and discharge equipment. Check with A.R. Arena Products, Inc. at Booth 7458.

Cryovac Sealed Air Corp. provides films made by coextrusion technology, allowing shrink wrapping for demanding packaging operations, particularly in fresh and minimally processed applications. Visit Booth 5709.

Self closing valves for dispensing quantities of liquid products from flexible packaging as bag-in-box packages. The valves have a stay-open option for dispensing large quantities easily. See Liqui-Box Corp at Booth 1029.

Bulk paperboard containers hold 39-220 gal of nonhazardous liquids. The containers can be recycled as corrugated waste material. See Booth 7343 for Longview Fiber Co.

Four thousand gal. in an easy opening bag will be featured by Scholle Corp., a pioneer in bulk bags and bag-in-box developers. The Scholle bag systems are provided in sizes from 1 liter to 4,000 gal., and can be used in boxes, crates, drums, totes, tanks, and a variety of other shipping containers. Also featured is Scholle’s hot-fill and cooling systems, and units that are used for aseptic systems. See Scholle Corp., at Booth 7824.

Super-strong, seven wall strength cube boxes allow for three tier stacking. The liner is a 275 gal. high-density blow molded bottle. Package measures 45 in cubes, allowing two-high and three-across stacking in overseas containers. Other sizes include 110 gal. to 330 gal. plus a 1.000 liter size for export. Visit Spacekraft Packaging at Booth 2009.

Contributing Editor