Mondelēz International discusses new approach to packaging development

February 27, 2013

Atlanta - While the Oreo brand recently turned 100 years old; its owner is considered a newborn.

Kraft Foods, the maker of popular food and beverage brands including Cadbury, Jacobs, Nabisco, Oreo, Tang and Trident, changed its name to Mondelēz International, after spinning-off its North American grocery business on Oct. 1.

For Mondelēz International, 2013 will be its first full year as a "new" $36 billion snacks company.

"I'm here to introduce a new company to the packaging industry - Mondelēz International," Tom Clark, associate principle engineer
 at Mondelēz International, told the audience at The Packaging Conference (Feb. 4-6; Atlanta, GA). "The name roughly translates to 'delicious world.'"

Clark is currently leading an effort within Mondelēz International to better define product requirements, optimize package performance and speed package qualification protocols. Clark was the technical lead on Planter's recent glass-to-plastic conversion for their peanut jar, which was accounted for 27% of Kraft's 5-year, 100 million lb packaging material reduction goal.

Going forward, Mondelēz is looking to expand its geographical presence with a particular focus on BRIC countries.

"We do realize that developing markets have different needs and there are different consumer preferences," Clark said.

From a packaging viewpoint, that means assuring product quality and developing packaging innovation to its customers and consumers, which will allow the company to grow in new markets across the globe. 

North America represents about 19% of its revenue, Europe is 37%, but developing markets, which include Latin America, Asia Pacific, Russia, the Middle East and Africa, represent about 44%.

To deliver on its goal of expanding its global presence, Clark said the company is changing how they work with suppliers to design packaging. And to do that, they need to shake up how packaging development takes place.

Clark said the traditional packaging development runs in this cycle: businesses ask for more productivity, packaging developer solicits supplier, supplier produces three to five film packages, packaging developer runs trial at plant, test with sensory panel for 6-12 months, and then the final decision - yes or no on the package. This entire process is often repeated in 1-5 years.

There are many issues that can arise from what Clark called a "time consuming approach." For instance, the new package may be overdesigned, which he said is especially challenging for glass-to-plastic conversion.

He suggest that when it comes packaging design, companies should adopt a methodical approach that "can improve speed to market, while migrating risk and still capture more value."

"The methodical approach identifies a failure mode or limiting factor, for instance; what is keeping us from making a cheaper package?" he said.

In addition, the method requires developers to benchmark current package performance, develop accelerated testing and utilize shelf-life models to scope future projects.

Biscuit film development case study

While Clark didn't give the name of the brand, he did give an example of using this methodical approach to the recent development of a biscuit film package.

He said the goal was to reduce film cost, improve performance and help achieve longer shelf life. They first started with internal benchmarking the current package and compared it to the competition. This helped them identify productivity opportunities.

For the biscuit packaging, the company found that while high barrier resins were advantageous, an added expense came from a "tough" layer that they found was not justified. They then established the ability to balance structure and thickness with cost, while also having the potential to extend the shelf life.

The new biscuit film-qualification protocol produced a more rigorous qualification of films, which allowed the company to make data-driven decisions and leverage statistical analysis and focus on the average and variation. 

Due to the new film-qualification process, the company was able to reduce testing time from 6-12 months to 3-5 weeks. As well as isolate actual product failure modes; develop optimum specifications, and link data to individual film layer contribution.

The company's film supplier called this project "one of the best they have worked on."

Clark said they are using this approach for many new developments including new packaging formats, justifying equipment changes and to answer both competitive and consumer claims.

This "renewed packaging" focus allows the company to better understand its product requirements, Clark said.

"It's about doing it right the first time," he said. 

The company wants to partner with suppliers who can help explore novel designs and approaches to traditional problems. Clark said the suppliers should tell a complete "story," such as modeling and prototypes, demonstrate technology expertise and offer transparent pricing. In addition, a global presence is helpful.

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