For 21 years—longer than many food packaging technologists have been practicing the profession—DuPont has been sponsoring one of several major packaging competitions. Without diminishing in any way the Institute of Packaging Professionals’ AmeriStar contest, the World Packaging Organization’s WorldStar Awards, the Flexible Packaging Association’s Achievement Awards, or the National Paperboard Packaging Competition, it may be observed that the DuPont Awards have the highest profile in the industry.
The theme for this year’s competition was sustainability. An independent, international jury panel evaluated more than 120 entries on seven innovation factors. The panel chose 10 award winners in the packaged goods category and cited eight notable accomplishments. The list of honorees included a number of food packaging innovations of particular interest.
Putting Pasta Sauce in a Pouch
Among the most significant achievements from my perspective are the Bertolli pasta sauce pouches, which substitute for heavy, breakable glass bottles. Not to be “outglassed,” however, Bertolli employs glass-coated barrier laminations from Amcor Flexibles (www.amcor.com) in its stand-up flexible retort pouches.
The weight of the filled pouches is about 1/25th that of filled glass jars, which allows for major energy saving in the distribution process, not counting the absence of hazardous broken glass. And since the product is thermally processed in a package with a high surface-to-volume ratio, heat for sterilization is reduced, and quality and nutrient retention are much higher than with traditional jars.
Making Cans Resealable
Ball’s (www.ball.com ) resealable retort can, a new convenience for today’s perpetually busy consumers, was among the products cited by DuPont as a “notable accomplishment.” Introduced in Germany and the United Kingdom for high-power energy drinks, the aluminum closure is double seamed to an aluminum body. Integrated into the aluminum can end is an opening mechanism topped with a pivoting, injection-molded plastic fitment.
The consumer may open the can, drink a portion, and then close the opening by rotating the plastic fitment. At long last, we might infer, the conventional can (not the aluminum bottle, which has been reclosable for years) may be reclosable and thus compete more effectively with the polyester bottle. But watch out, because carbonated beverages are now appearing in 12-oz polyester bottles with screw-cap reclosure, of course.
But back to the competition’s top honorees. Here’s a brief description of the remaining 2009 Dupont Award winners in the food and beverage category.
• Whole Foods baked goods packaged in Sealed Air’s Renew-A-Pak™. Leading natural products retailer Whole Foods is using the Sealed Air (www.sealedair.com) technology in compostable bakeware from Biosphere Industries. The dual-ovenable baking tray is fabricated from 100% renewable, compostable materials. This package substitutes for two forms of packaging—the aluminum trays used for baking and the transparent plastic trays used to display baked goods in the store.
• Ecolean lightweight packaging. An innovative approach to design and use of materials in this new aseptic beverage packaging from Ecolean (www.ecolean.com) cuts package weight by 50%. The handle design eliminates the need for a separate rigid pouring holder.
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• ConAgra packaging trays. The company is using a blend of about 40% recycled polyester with virgin PET for its dual-ovenable trays for Marie Callender’s, Healthy Choice, Banquet, and Kid Cuisine frozen dinners. The trays were developed and produced by Associated Packaging Technologies—U.S (www.aptechnologies.com).
Reflections on a Packaging Pioneer
Once upon a time, long, long ago on a planet near and dear to us all, DuPont introduced cellophane, the first of the major synthetic packaging materials that launched the flexible packaging era. And not so long ago, under the quiet stewardship of the brilliant Nat Wyeth (the less-well-known brother of the recently deceased Andrew Wyeth), DuPont invented and licensed the injection blow molded polyester bottle, the package that launched a $60-billion package industry and changed the way we drink water and dab ketchup.
Dig deeper into the DuPont archives to learn about the late, great Nelson Allen, who devised the packaged red meat concept, still the dominant packaging approach in the meat industry, regardless of the assaults by case-ready packaging.
You might casually count the number of plastic packages generated annually by DuPont’s magnificent pioneering efforts. You might also wish to postulate the number of lives spared, extended, or enriched by our ability to better protect foods in distribution as a result of that which has emerged from Wilmington, Del. These statistics would be staggering as would the derivatives from polyethylene, nylon, Tyvek® spun-bonded polyolefin, polyester film, and so many more innovations that are matter-of-fact components of our daily lives.
We might ponder if DuPont’s obsession with sustainability today is a sort of guilty response to literally giving birth to and nurturing the plastic packaging era, or an opportunistic thrust, or a self-recognition that the company is no longer the dominant innovator that it was from the 1930s through the 1970s, or an altruistic action, or a true drive into 21st century needs. I, for one, need not reflect, because, to me, DuPont will always stand as the first, and in its time, the best and most dynamic organization—the standard bearer for packaging research and development and the home of the greatest array of packaging talent ever assembled for the human good. For that alone, we should all be grateful. DuPont deserves to give itself the top award for packaging innovation.
Marcy has been a teacher and academic researcher for a long time, and also was employed by Mead Packaging during the company’s years of developing one of the singular food packaging achievements of the century, the Crosscheck aseptic packaging system for high-acid fluid foods. This system is now the technology of choice for beverages and sauces packaged on deposit/fill/seal and thermoform/fill/seal systems for long-term ambient-temperature distribution. Marcy has also been the leader in a series of programs on hermetic sealing of plastic packaging necessary for protection of contents of high water activity/low pH foods stabilized by thermal or even nonthermal processing methods.
Here Bruce Welt (left), chair of the Food Packaging Division, presents the Riester-Davis Award to Marcy.
Aaron L. Brody, Ph.D.,
President and CEO, Packaging/Brody Inc., Duluth, Ga., and Adjunct Professor, University of Georgia