Changing consumer needs and expanding supply chains mean that modern packaging has to do much more than simply protect a product in transit. As well as extending the shelf life and usable time for a product in a consumer’s home, it must inform, engage, secure and authenticate, as well as brand a company and be easy to dispose of once used. Finding the right material to perform all these tasks is a tall order, but fortunately a challenge that brands are up to. Matthew Rogerson looks into the latest packaging launches, which include major changes in material use from across the CPG market.
Of the latest packaging launches, it is no surprise that plastics dominate the major packaging material innovations of 2017. In the past few months alone, there have been hundreds of new launches. Within this article, we will take a closer look at those that made the biggest impact, starting with Francesco Rinaldi Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, which has just been launched in the US. Packed in a patented injection-stretch blow-moulded clear PET jar with silicon oxide barrier coating, the product has a two-year ambient shelf life.
When exposed to the high temperatures of hot filling, the neck finish of a traditional PET container can undergo deformation, which makes the use of a lugged vacuum closure, seen on this pack, difficult. However, the process to create this jar is said to alter the molecular orientation of the PET resin, resulting in thermal stability above 300°F and 50% greater side-wall rigidity than standard PET. This means that a vacuum closure with the familiar pop-up safety button can be used.
The PET jar is fully recyclable, despite the use of a nano-thin silicon oxide barrier coating, and can be run on existing filling and capping machinery, eliminating the need for high-level capital expenditure. This PET jar is reported to be 89% lighter than the equivalent glass jar, resulting in a reduction in transportation costs and a lower carbon footprint.
Another food launch of note in the US comes from GoodFoods with its ‘Tableside’ range and the newly released Chunky Guacamole with tortilla chips. This is a chilled dip packed alongside tortilla chips, and consists of PET in a thermoformed tray and interlocking teardrop-shaped trays snapped together.
The guacamole is cold-pressured; it is preserved using high-pressure processing. Other examples of chip-and-dip type products (all ambient) include: Colonel & Co Chip ’n’ Dip from India, Mediterranean Snacks Tapaz 2 Go and Tostitos Dip-Etizers from the US, and Dip ’n’ Bite from Belgium.
The packaging converts into a bowl for a convenient ready-to-serve snack. In addition, using plastic means that it can stack easily for retail stocking and hold its form better than if it was made from paper or metal. Furthermore, it eliminates the threat of breakage during transit, which was the potential issue raised by the company regarding glass.
Another area of increasing materials innovation is in the home-care sector, where Procter and Gamble has been increasing its sustainability credentials with its new Febreze One fabric and air refresher, described as ‘a first-of-its-kind air freshener that contains no aerosols, no dyes and no heavy perfumes’.
The dispensing system is based on Afa’s revolutionary Flair technology platform and is described as an all-plastic solution. The technology works by bringing a small, metered amount of the liquid under pressure at the moment of use, releasing a very fine consistent mist-like spray, offering a spray performance comparable to that of an aerosol can. Flairosol is free of volatile organic compounds (VOC) for an improved environmental performance, and provides safer, non-pressurised packaging as no propellant gases are used. An additional benefit of the platform is that the costs are lower compared with traditional aerosol packaging.
According to the pack supplier, the dispensing system results in very little wastage with almost 99% of the product being dispensed. The inner bag containing the liquid collapses as the product is used. This pack format is suitable for a variety of consumer applications in the personal-care sector, for food products such as oil sprays, household cleaners and more.
While plastic might have the upper hand when it comes to transportability and lightweight strength, it is not the only option available to brands. Glass has recently seen a bit of a renaissance and is seeing increased use in higher-end consumer healthcare products, as GSK has shown in its Flonase Allergy Relief Nasal Spray launch. GSK claims the product delivers full prescription strength, non-drowsy, 24-hour relief of itchy and watery eyes, nasal congestion, a runny and itchy nose, and sneezing. It is also scent and alcohol-free. Packed in a small amber glass bottle with a metered-dose closure, it allows the product to be transported and stored over a longer period of time without the active ingredients being damaged by light or oxygen contact. Some of the benefits claimed by the product include that it creates an improved sensory experience through a lower-intensity mist and spray, it is supported by the innovative closure that allows a fine mist to distribute the dose evenly and effectively in the nostril, and is consistent every time. A fill-level indicator window allows consumers to see how much product is left in the bottle, and its wavy shape adds a nice visual touch to the pack. The cap design prevents contamination from dust when the product is not in use and seals the nozzle to prevent drainback. According to the manufacturer, it also minimises the need for repriming after periods of non-use.
Another fan of glass as a packaging material is Revlon, the Crème Eye Shadow of which uses a blow-moulded clear glass jar with the applicator brush stored in the closure. Revlon has been very busy with material and product innovations this year, including their 2-in-1 Compact Makeup & Concealer, and Shadowlinks in interlockable cases. In this case, glass helps to accentuate the premium feel of the product and protects the product quality, allowing it to be used over its entire life cycle and stored in optimum conditions.
While plastic has been a consistently leading player in packaging materials, it has been dwarfed by the growth of pouches, which continue to address consumers need for easy-to-transport, lightweight packaging with excellent barrier properties for protection. ConAgra has taken advantage of the cost and material reduction available through pouch packaging for its Hunt's Recipe Ready Tomato Paste in pre-measured pouches.
Billed as ‘non-BPA’ packaging, each sachet contains two tablespoons of tomato paste – just the right amount for many family-sized recipes. Single-portion sachets offer a convenient packaging solution that helps to reduce food wastage. Typical pack formats for this product include cans, glass jars and foil tubes, with leftover paste often being thrown away if it cannot be used within the recommended period after opening. Pouch format makes it possible to squeeze out the entire product, minimising residual wastage, and the pour spout helps channel the paste for easier dispensing.
Another company maximising the benefits of the pouch format is Kimberly Clark, which has recently launched its Ultra Soft Kleenex Go-Anywhere pack in a printed plastics film flow wrap ‘pouch’. The pack holds 30 tissues and is marketed as containing ‘three times more tissue’ than other Kleenex on-the-go products, with a typical pocket pack contains ten tissues.
This new format is marketed as a ‘go-anywhere pack’ that is ideal for using on the move. The plastics eyelet in the top seal is strong and rigid to ensure that the hanging hole lasts throughout the lifetime of the pack and can withstand the rigours of extended storage, travelling or being pulled on by small children. The pack format is somewhat similar to the flexible packs used for wet wipes, with the thermoformed lid offering a lower cost, yet stylish alternative to an injection-moulded dispensing closure. It can also be easily streamed for recycling after use.
An alternative option for companies looking for a lightweight and strong packaging is to use metal. It has the added benefit of being 100% recyclable and highly sustainable, as well as being an excellent barrier to light and moisture, and being able to heat up or cool quicker than other materials.
Bayer Healthcare has used this to develop its Coppertone Water Babies Sunscreen Lotion. Free from fragrances, parabens, PABA, colours and oils, Bayer claims it is also water resistant for 80 minutes. Sunscreen in an aerosol format, delivering a mousse-like product, is a novel approach to sunscreen which is regularly a source of frustration to consumers who find it sticky and messy to use and carry. In this case, a lockable closure prevents accidental dispensing if the pack is carried in a bag and a click is audible as the closure is unlocked. Another click is heard as it is switched to the open position, and likewise when releasing it again and locating into the locked position.
Lidl has recently launched a range of fast food inspired meals that can be easily made at home. It has developed a beef burger that comes chilled and pre-cooked in a ready to use microwaveable pack. There is a similar concept available in France for the CharalSnack hot dog that can be put in a microwave at 600w for 90 seconds to cook. There is a whole range of burgers sold by Lidl in this pack format, including Big One, Royal One, Pulled Pork and Beans Bacon.
Two round paper pads absorb moisture inside the pack and prevent the bun becoming too soft as a result of steam building up inside the pack during microwaving. Use of a board makes the pack easier to handle once it has been heated. Food can be consumed straight from the pack and does not require any utensils or cutlery. Board gives a good-quality print surface. The glossy and bold-coloured finish reflects the light and attracts consumers’ attention. It also provides a large area for marketing communication. Packaging components can be separated for waste disposal, as only small amounts of glue have been used to fix the plastic tray inside the board one, so they are easy to separate. However, once again, this in not advised anywhere on the pack. Microwave format is quick and easy to prepare and enables the consumer to conveniently enjoy food often only available through fast food outlets. This type of packaging can be applied to almost all kind of food products: seafood, snacking, deli, for example. Board outer trays are also useful for food that does not look very appealing at first glance – consumers do not see the burger unless they microwave and open the pack.