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Four innovative plastic packaging examples from PackEx Toronto

PackEx four pack combo collage PT SQ
An exclusive selection that includes a thoroughbred bin, barrier portable Coke bottles, new-to-market recyclable pouches and textured neoprene-sleeved bottles with a custom touch.

PackEx 2019 is an anchoring section of the five-in-one semiannual Advanced Design and Manufacturing tradeshow held in Toronto June 4-6 that’s part of our parent company Informa’s event portfolio that involves packaging and plastics; EastPack is being held this week in New York City.

I attended PackEx for the fourth time and this year my first booth visit a few minutes into day one of show proved to be a highly auspicious beginning. I’d stacked the odds in my favor by choosing a conveniently located vendor that proved a fruitful resource in the past; I was not disappointed with what I found there this year.

This first of four examples of plastic packaging innovation can be called a true container thoroughbred.

IPL (Saint Damien, QC, Canada), a supplier of injection-molded rigid containers that specializes in in-mold labeling (IML), displayed a nifty, full-featured custom premium rectangular bucket with rounded edges done for Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (Arden Hills, MN). The premium packaging matched to a premium food supplement for horses offers the following value-added features:

  • The all-polypropylene 30lb/6.5-gal container and plastic carrying strap-handle are molded in a color-matched Purina red and the lid is black;
  • The lid is hinged for easy access and stays open for scooping;
  • The Purina name and the brand's checkerboard is embossed on the front of the container and stamped as a larger checkerboard  on the top of the lid.

It’s a workhorse container that replaces a bag-in-box format that came up short in use.

“The new plastic container replaces BIB packaging where the corrugated portion could not withstand the weather and rigors of the barn environment,” according to Daniel James-Vigeant, the company’s marketing coordinator.

Rather than the individual panel labels shown in the photos of the in-booth prototype, the to-market version will offer a single, photo-quality printed IML wrapped label.

The project has an international aspect, with the molds developed in Canada used to mold the containers in the United States.

The newest and largest member of the IPL InPack container family is available for other customers with either a plastic or metal handle along with other options.

Next: Big breakthrough from small Coke bottles

One of the largest challenges in carbonated soft drink (CSD) packaging is to have more barrier for smaller bottle sizes than larger, a result of the fact that the higher a bottle’s surface-to-volume ratio (that increases as size decreases), the more protection is required to retain the carbonation and prevent quality-reducing oxygen entry. Besides the technical challenge, there’s also an economical hurdle to achieve the higher per-unit barrier in a cost-effective way, which effectively doubles the complexity of the task.

Coca-Cola Canada sought to solve the problem over a two-year development timeframe to commercialize on-trend, on-the-go 250- and 300-mL barrier PET bottles that provide consumers a portion-control option. The solution proved so successful including with other advantages that the innovation was recognized by PAC, the Packaging Consortium, in the rigid container segment of the organization’s annual awards program held the first night of PackEx.

The secret ingredient? The bottles are internally glass-barrier (silicon oxide, SiOx) coated using technology supplied by KHS. Key features:

  • The barrier permits a 30% weight reduction;
  • The barrier allows distribution across the country from a single facility;
  • The thin clear barrier coating enables consumer-pleasing transparency;
  • Both bottle sizes are blowmolded from the same 14g preform;
  • The bottles are 100% recyclable as SPI #1 PET.

The convenient-sized bottles promote portability, are resealable using a standard cap as the larger bottle sizes for high drinkability and offer a low price point—suggested retail pricing is 99 cents.

Next: Recyclable pouch designed for a circular economy

Tempo Plastics Limited (Innisfil, ON, Canada) has added a strong sustainable alternative to its portfolio of flexible packaging that stretches back nearly 50 years: a recyclable structure available either as pouches or rollstock material derived from a single polymer, high-density polyethylene, that can be recycled in the #2 polyethylene stream.

Promoted as “Guilt-Free packaging,” HARMONYPack was created for a circular economy while exceeding market criteria for cost, durability and other key performance measures of desirable packaging, according to Leonardo Giglio, vp marketing & product development. “Our philosophy behind HarmonyPack is to build the circular economy by designing packaging to be easier to recycle.”

He believes the timing is perfect for this type of packaging.

“More than ever, the push to eliminate waste is at the forefront of mainstream media and the consumer’s mind,” he explained. “Major companies are making commitments to reduce their packaging waste to landfill. We see this as an opportunity to help our customers achieve these goals. In fact, sustainability seems to be a daily conversation among customers. We want to both educate and help our customers find these solutions.”

His remark about the timing proved prophetic: in debuting HarmonyPack at PackEx, Tempo Plastics was pleased to display the first customer application in the booth: pouches of Dainty brand rice in three varieties from Les Aliments Dainty Foods. Inc., which has locations in Montreal and Toronto.

The monolayer all-HDPE film structure marks the introduction of the brand’s new organic products line. Rather than the regular products blue-hued packs, Dainty chose green as the dominant color to message the pouches’ sustainability capability as recyclable. The pouches are surface-printed flexographically in six colors.

A How2recycle label will be issued for the packaging, Giglio pointed out, requiring that brand owners wanting to use the logo on the HarmonyPack will have to enter into a membership agreement. “We can help facilitate that process at the start of the design process,” he added.

HarmonyPack is applicable for products from small snack food sizes to large-format dog food bags. Markets include pet treats, confections, lawn and garden, nuts and seeds, coffee, frozen foods, bakery and snack foods.

For more on HarmonyPack, see Recyclable stand-up pouch is circular-economy ready, published May 2019 by Packaging Digest.

Next: From diver suits to custom sleeved bottles

My familiarity with thermoplastic elastomers is limited to knowing that one form of TPE is as neoprene, a soft, insulating rubber used for diving and scuba suits. However, there’s also a packaging angle when it’s turned into a “coozie” sleeve to help insulate cold beverages while keeping the chill off your hands. I have a couple of them, printed with two of my favorite sports teams.

I came across an application deeper into packaging with a strong custom aspect: neoprene sleeves can be used as distinctive, form-fitting sleeve “labels” for glass or plastic bottles of wine and champagne. What caught my attention is that not only is neoprene an excellent canvas for custom graphics, it’s also a canvas with depth: it can be turned into a work of art complete with intricate 3D dimensioning to produce a sleeve with incredible visual and tactile appeal.

That was an unexpected bonus pointed out by Céline Vandevoorde during a visit in the booth of the unusually named CeltheQ (Drummondville, QC, Canada) company (hint: the company brand starts with the first three letters of her name), which is the exclusive distributor of PDC Europe stretch-sleeve equipment in the Americas.

Called Skin Evolution, the sleeving service relies on patented equipment and offers sleeves that can be tailored to be soft and jelly-like or hard and rigid in either transparent or colored forms. The process produces a pressure-sensitive 1.5-mm sleeve that adheres to the bottle like a label.

Customers work through CeltheQ, which coordinates the project with and in the name of EOS-Innovation in France, their well-established partner in the champagne, spirits and cosmetics market. For larger volumes, the customer may send the bottles to CeltheQ for contract packing.

If volumes are very high, the equipment is available to customers for lease or purchase, PlasticsToday is told.

 “The sleeved bottles are suitable for special occasions like anniversaries, weddings and corporate events,” she suggested.

How custom is it? Orders start at just 10 bottles, she said.

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