Thursday, November 1, 2012

Where the Food Packaging Market is Going: Edible Packaging

The packaging market is continually evolving, but while most other industries focus  on the most advanced taping machines and carton sealing machines, the food packaging is taking a different, somewhat surprising, direction. The latest in the food packaging market is something called ‘Wikicell’, an edible form of food packaging invented by David Edwards, a professor at Harvard University.
WikiCell works a bit like skin; it can protect any liquid, foam, or solid food that it holds. To make this possible, the material has two layers. The first is like a soft skin made from tiny food particles taken from natural sources such as fruit, nuts, chocolate, and seeds, as well as a nutritious ion-like calcium, plus a natural molecule, which can either be chitosan or alginate. The result is a layer of electrostatic gel that can hold water or other beverages inside.
The second layer, on the other hand, is the outermost layer and serves as a harder shell around the first layer. There are two kinds of this edible shell. The first is the edible type, which is made of a kind of sweetener called isomalt. The other kind is not edible but is completely biodegradable; it is made of either tapioca or baggase, which is the substance left over when sugar is removed from sugar cane.
So depending on the kind of WikiCell packaging used, the shell can be eaten or peeled off and thrown away. Either way, there is no need to worry about solid waste. Even if the outer WikiCell shell cannot be eaten, since it is made from natural ingredients, it is completely biodegradable and is certainly a better option compared to plastic or carton packaging.
What’s truly interesting about WikiCell is that it can not only be used to hold solid food, but also beverages. There are two ways to consume drinks that are encased in the WikiCell. The first is when the WikiCell is small enough, so all you have to do is toss it into your mouth. The second is when the WikiCell is far too large to be consumed like a grape; in this case, you can actually use a straw.
The WikiCell is now in its latter stages of development and sooner or later, you might be able to enjoy ice cream wrapped in WikiCell. The good news is, once the other shell is removed, the ice cream, which would still be wrapped in the inner WikiCell layer, will not melt in your hands. But here’s the best part yet; since the soft skin can also be given flavor, it is no longer just a packaging, but actually becomes part of the food product. So if you’re eating vanilla ice cream, the skin could be made to taste like chocolate fudge. It is also possible to include some vitamins and minerals in this soft inner skin, which can even make food more nutritious.
Currently, WikiCell packaging can be produced by a single machine, which is capable of producing 50 to 100 WikiCells per hour. This new packaging material gives us a clue as to the future direction of food packaging. For one thing, it can give food sellers and marketers lots of great marketing ideas gunning for all-around convenience. After all, what can be more convenient than simply eating your food without having to remove its outer package?
WikiCell is now being produced by WikiCell Designs Inc., a company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and Paris, France. Just recently, the company was given the prestigious Special Jury Award for Innovation at the SIAL Paris, a leading global food industry conference. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pack Expo International 2012: The Latest in Packaging Brought to the Spotlight

The Pack Expo International 2012 was held in Chicago last October 28 to 31 in a four-day record-breaking event. The event was hailed as the largest packaging and processing trade show in the world for 2012, thanks to the myriads of packaging and processing professionals that made it to the exhibit.
The exhibit covered an area greater than 1.1 million net square feet as up to 1,965 companies agreed to join. This was more than 6% higher in terms of space occupancy and up to 7% higher in terms of the number of exhibiting companies compared to the Pack Expo International 2010. These companies provided innovative packaging and processing solutions for every market, such as automotive, food and beverage, chemical and industrial, cosmetics and toiletries, dairy, electronics, fruits and vegetables, hardware and tools, meat and poultry, seafood, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, household products, toys, crafts, and many others. The exhibit included on-site demonstrations and product launches, with promises of new possibilities, improved security, higher cost savings, and sustainability.
The McCormick Place in Chicago, Illinois was packed full of exhibitors and attendees, which also broke records. Pre-registration alone recorded a 10% increase compared to the last Expo. The final attendance numbers, however, was not as high as expected due to the unprecedented East Coast storm that hit during the scheduled dates. Despite this unexpected hindrance, up to 45,300 attendees still came, which recorded a final 3% increase over the 2010 attendance. The increase is attributed to the 8% increase in the number of attendees from abroad.
Despite the effects of the storm, the Pack Expo organizers still concluded their largest exhibit since 2006, and according to Charles Yuska, the president and CEO of Pack Expo, the exhibits who signed up for the event were very pleased with the leads that they received.
Those who missed the event can check out some of the exhibits presented during the expo on YouTube where some of the companies themselves have uploaded video presentations of their packaging products and demonstrations during the event.
Looking Forward to Pack Expo 2013
Now, the noise in the packaging industry has not died down, and the same exhibitors who were at the Pack Expo International 2012 are again aiming for yet another exhibit: the Pack Expo Las Vegas, which the organizers have announced will be held on September 23 to 25 in 2013. Preliminary updates state that there will be almost 560,000 net square feet of exhibit space in the Las Vegas event, which means the 2013 event is expected to be over 20% larger in terms of space occupancy compared to the 2011 event. Reservations for booth space have began, and Pack Expo organizers are quite confident that next year’s event in Las Vegas will be their largest yet.
There is another implication of this continuous increase in terms of size and attendance in one of the most important exhibiting bodies in the packaging industry. These positive developments, such as the growth in the number of exhibitors, all point to the fact that the whole packaging business is really on the rise. Every year, more and more companies are attending the events to showcase their latest packaging technologies. And every year, attendees from all over the world come to the exhibits with the intention of seeking potential packaging technologies that might be of use to their respective businesses.  This is also a good time to check out what's the latest trend in the packaging industry particularly in taping machines, case sealers and other packaging machines that can boost a business.

Friday, October 26, 2012

QR Codes in Your Product Packaging – Maximizing the Magic of Interactive Packaging

QR codes or Quick Response codes have been in use since 1994 when they were first developed. Now, Nielsen has revealed that 31 percent of mobile users have a smartphone that can read QR codes and that this number is continuously growing. In fact, based on market estimates, this percentage is expected to grow by a third over the next two years.
The market has responded eagerly to this development. The ability to push quite a lot of information – any kind of information, in fact - by adding a small, simple code that is basically free to generate is like a Pandora’s box of benefits to marketers.  You can now incorporate this outside the box just like a label.  Once the box passes through the taping machine, these codes will eventually be visible to the eyes of the consumer.  This will create a lot of open doors for marketing.  
In other words, it’s too good a technology to pass up. As a business, you should start creating QR codes of your own, and one of the best places to put them on is your product packaging.
How Creative Can You Get?
The best thing with these codes is that they are highly versatile, thus allowing marketers to use them flexibly. The possibilities are just endless, and you can match them even with your most specific marketing needs. So if you’re thinking of using QR codes in your product packaging, don’t just use them to give your customers a link to your website. Although effective and useful, this is actually the most old-fashioned way of using these codes.
Here are some more creative suggestions to help you get started.
  • Use QR codes to store discounts, freebies, and prizes as a way of giving back to customers who support your products.
  • Use QR codes to store instructions manuals; as an additional incentive, you’ll be helping save paper too.
  •  Use QR codes to give your customers directions to your stores or to your service centers.

How the Big Brands Are Doing It
Before QR codes found their way to the market, the story all began in Japan. These small but powerful codes were developed by Denso-Wave, a Japanese automotive components manufacturer, who used it for distribution purposes.
The rest of Japan, however, quickly caught on, and before long, marketers were showing the codes on TV to allow viewers to link to company websites. Soon, McDonald’s in Japan began putting the nutritional information of their bestselling burgers in QR codes.
Eventually, renowned company Marks & Spencer adopted the technology in the UK. M&S was more creative; they placed the codes on their juice packaging and filled it with jokes and other information about their products.
Since then, a lot of other companies have taken up the technology, with Pepsi even launching an entire ad campaign to publicize the appearance of QR codes on its Pepsi Max packs. In Pepsi’s case, the QR codes contained video clips and free mobile games.
Some Last-Minute Reminders
Before you start printing QR codes in your product packaging, beware of these pitfalls:
  • Linking to websites that are not mobile optimized. Most consumers scan QR codes with their mobile phones and access the content directly on the same device. If your code is linked to a website that is not optimized for mobile viewing, it will just frustrate your customers.
  • Using codes that are only readable by certain devices. Many QR codes these days can only be scanned by iPhones or BlackBerry devices. Unfortunately, the Android and Windows smartphone markets are also growing, so make sure to create a more versatile code if you don’t want to make your customers feel alienated.

This smart guide to using QR codes in your product packaging is enough to get you started. As you go along, you’ll certainly learn how to be more flexible and creative with these codes.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Packaging for Your Online Business: How to Package Your Products for Shipping

Whether you are in the manufacturing or the retail business, you probably already have an idea how much impact a neatly wrapped and properly packed product can have on your customers. But now that more and more people are shopping online, the products they buy have to go through other delivery channels before reaching customers’ hands.
In many cases, the products don’t get to the customers in the same pristine condition as when they were shipped. Sometimes, the products get damaged, which can cause major repercussions for your e-commerce business, such as the need to replace the product just to satisfy your customers. And sometimes, boxes get torn and opened in transit; just imagine how your customer would feel to receive a dilapidated package. Whether you like it or not, these things will reflect badly on you, not just on the courier.
So if you’re selling your products online, take time to package your products for shipping, which is far more constrictive than regular product packaging. If you can get away with just using bags in your stores, when it comes to packaging for shipping, using properly and thoroughly sealed boxes is the best option.
Given this, you may want to consider investing in automated packaging solutions, such as carton sealers or taping machines, as these can help you pack your products properly and more speedily so they can be shipped in excellent condition.
Packaging Investment Suggestions for E-Commerce Businesses
There are several types of packaging equipment that can help streamline the packaging process for the benefit of your e-commerce business. If your products need to be protected from moisture, such as books, stretch wrapping equipment will be handy. If your products break easily especially when exposed to physical impact, shrink wrapping ‘bubble wrap’ machines are certainly a must. If your products come in large sizes, such as electronics, case sealers and case erectors are important investments as they can really make a huge difference in protecting your products. And most importantly, since all your products have to come in sealed packages, a taping machine should be one of your first investments.
If you want to go the extra mile to impress your customers, you should also consider investing in your own labeling equipment. This will help you build a brand identity, something that is harder for online businesses to do. You may not have a storefront to display your brand name and logo in, but you can at least leave labeled boxes in your consumers’ homes. They will certainly help make a more lasting impression and thus provide added marketing benefits.    
And before you forget, if you ship items that are breakable, make sure to label all packages with ‘fragile’ to provide additional protection for the items inside.
Going All the Way
Now, even if you’ve invested in packaging machinery and do your best to present your products properly to your customers, you won’t leave a positive impression if your securely and neatly packed product does not get delivered on time. So as an added tip, make sure to choose the right courier service to deliver your products; nothing can ruin a perfectly good product than poor service. Unfortunately, in the e-commerce business, the service of your courier has a huge effect on you. 
As an e-commerce business, shipping is part of your product distribution process, so you can’t just deliver your products to the courier as is. You are still responsible for it until it gets to your customers. Since you don’t have to worry about the overhead expenses that go into maintaining an actual store, you can at least invest in better, more secure packaging for your products. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Question of Convenience: How the Fast-Paced Lifestyle Has Changed the Food Packaging Industry

If you’re a food entrepreneur, you may want to keep yourself up-to-date with the latest trends in the food industry, particularly those relating to packaging.
Any entrepreneur in the food business knows that food packaging can be especially challenging as more factors, such as the cleanliness and freshness of food as well as cost should be taken into consideration. Thus, it’s not just enough to invest in carton sealers and taping machines. Coming up with the perfect food packaging is a lot more challenging than that, especially now that ‘convenience foods’ such as fast food and processed foods are on the rise.
‘Convenience foods’ refer to food products that are designed to be consumed quickly. Thus, aside from the usual considerations, business owners also have to check on flexibility and the ability to stay intact during transport.
If you are looking for the best and most convenient food packaging options, here are the top technologies you can use.
Polyester and Other Types of Plastic Containers for To-Go Beverages
In the beverages department, it’s obvious that if you are aiming for convenience, you should not use glass, which is very fragile. This is how plastic bottles became popular. Over time, plastic bottles have also changed. In the past, they were mostly made using PVC or poly-vinyl chloride. This material, however, was eventually banned, and this prompted the industry to look for other alternatives, such as PET or polyester, polycarbonate, polypropylene, and polyethylene.
Due to the large role of plastic in the world of food packaging, it is hard to completely get rid of it. But since plastic is not biodegradable and with concerns regarding environment-friendliness growing, packaging manufacturers are designing plastic containers that are recyclable. Although these still use plastic, they help eliminate waste by allowing repeated uses. 
Tetra Pak and StandiPacks: On-the-Go Snack Pouches
Aside from plastic containers, you can also consider using the all-too-useful Tetra Pak. This, unfortunately, is not a reasonable option for small businesses, and using Tetra Pak requires a significant investment due to the high manufacturing costs it involves. One excellent alternative is standipack, a special food pouch which is designed to stand by itself.
You can also try using retortable pouches, which are made using no less than five layered laminates. These also have sealable polythene on the inner walls. These pouches, or tubes, are most commonly used for paste products such as mayonnaise.
Carton Packs and Trays: On-the-Go Meals
Carton packs have become the norm for to-go food products, and some of these are designed like trays so they can hold complete ready-to-eat meals.
AMPET: Temperature-Resistant To-Go Packaging
AMPET, or amorphous polyethylene terphathalate is a relatively new packaging material that boasts of excellent barrier properties. Its most significant improvement over other packaging materials is its ability to withstand sterilization temperature. This is interesting to note for entrepreneurs whose products require some heating prior to eating.
Agronit Bags: Fruits to Go
Fruits are great to-go food items as they are highly nutritious but are easier and quicker to consume. However, they are also challenging to package as they can easily lose their freshness when not properly packed. Thankfully, Agronit bags, also known as mesh bags, offer the ideal packaging material that can preserve freshness for longer periods and allows you to see through to check on the quality or ripeness of the fruits the bags contain.
If you are selling food to go, you should definitely give your packaging a lot of thought. Additional packaging features that make the consumption process more convenient can go a long way in differentiating your brand and products from competitors.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Cold-Seal Adhesives - Ushering In A Better World for Medical and Dental Packaging

The packaging pros are continuously working on new ways to package medical and dental products, and this has been a continuing challenge for them. Although they don’t have a problem rolling out carton sealers and taping machines for the consumer industry, the unique nature of medical and dental products and applications keep the packaging design engineers on their feet. One specific area they’ve had a tough time with is finding the right material and adhesive combination.
Cold Seal Adhesives – Medical and Dental Packaging’s Best Option
But now, design engineers are veering towards cold-seal adhesives. The cold seal technology has so far been known for its low cost, high bonding rate, and low temperature – three factors that make it a promising alternative to traditional sealing technologies. But engineers also found that this new technology solves several design problems in medical and dental packaging.
Cold-seal adhesives are made using a combination of synthetic rubber and a variety of adhesive components. In the past, natural latex rubber was used for this process, but this was banned from medical packaging back in 1999 due to the allergens commonly found in natural latex.
These adhesives feature a special type of pressure-sensitive adhesive that can form a very strong bond despite requiring very slight pressure at normal room temperature. But what’s unique about them is that the base polymer they use bonds only to itself. This means they will not bond with other substrates, which eliminates several problems in storage and assembly. Thus, they can be used without liners and without causing damage to the sensitive medical and dental products they house.
Cold seal adhesives come in different types. They are currently available in paper film, transparent carrier film, transparent plastic film, and other paper and plastic combinations. They also differ based on sealing forces, which range from 0.5N/15mm to 4.0N/15mm.
Assembly and Labeling – Other Important Considerations
After the design, however, comes another challenge: assembly. This is another common challenge for the medical and dental packaging industry, where factors such as antimicrobial protection come into play. The common assembly process used in cold seal adhesive packaging is ultrasonic welding, which provides a strong effective seal without using heat. Ultrasonic welding is also a top option for antimicrobial packaging as it minimizes seal contamination, minimizes rejects, and streamlines production.
Ultrasonic welding is a process that uses high-frequency, low-amplitude vibration to heat the area between the materials that need to be joined. The process is fast, clean, and can be used even for small objects.
After assembly, important considerations have to be made when it comes to labeling medical and dental products. It is crucial that the labels be tamper-evident and pressure-sensitive.The packaging design process is challenging enough as it is, with common concerns such as production efficiency and cost effectiveness, but the stakes are even higher in the medical and dental industry. Thankfully, design engineers continue to strive for new developments that help enhance production and eliminate the common challenges in packaging. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Smart Interactive Packaging – Packaging that Breaks Boundaries

If you’ve been following packaging technologies, then you’re probably already aware of just how far they’ve come. But if you haven’t, then you’ll be surprised that it’s no longer just about the fastest and most advanced taping machines and case erectors. These days, we’ve come as far as interactive packaging – or packaging that is ‘alive’, for lack of a better term.
Perhaps the race to attract the consumer faster through innovative packaging has become so competitive that the packaging industry is now breaking boundaries in terms of packaging design. And this has led them to the creation of interactive packaging options.
Pioneers of Interactive Packaging
One packaging technology innovator has recently come up with a special coating that, when added to the packaging of a product, can deliver a certain scent upon handling. This opens up many possibilities for food packaging. Imagine how the supermarket would smell like once this new packaging breakthrough makes it to the mainstream market.
Then there’s liquor brand Coors, who began using thermochromic inks that told consumers when the beer is still cold. Since coolness is key to the beer drinking experience, this packaging technology definitely gave Coors a unique advantage in the market.
Other liquor brands such as Smirnoff and Bailey’s have also joined the bandwagon and have begun using electroluminescent labels complete with a graphic equalizer display.
And in yet another display of packaging prowess, vodka brand Medea has come out with limited-edition bottles equipped with a programmable scrolling LED. This allowed consumers to display personal characters on the bottles as long as they use 255 characters or less.
In the UK, one store has come up with a smart packaging technology that tells consumers whether avocados and other fruits are already ripe. In fact, the package changes color gradually from pink to green to show the level of ripeness of the fruits. Since the skin of avocados is quite thick, it is quite difficult to tell whether they are ready for consumption. This smart new packaging technology, however, provides the perfect solution to this problem.
In another milestone in fruit packaging technology, a special packaging for bananas have been designed to help slow down the ripening process of bananas. Bananas are some of the fastest fruits to ripen, and when stores are unable to sell all their stocks in time, this leads to a lot of food waste and trash, not to mention a lot of wasted money. But this new technology can help minimize the amount of over-ripe bananas that get thrown away rather wastefully.
QR Codes and More
Before all these new technologies came about, packaging experts mostly relied on QR or ‘Quick Response’ codes to interact with packaging. These are still in use, although their effectiveness and usefulness in packaging has not been maximized.
Manufacturers have mostly used QR codes as a marketing medium that leads consumers to their contact information or to their websites. But there are still so many more useful ways to make use of these codes that have not been unearthed yet.
Clearly, the packaging technology still has a long way to go. As technology continues to advance, it becomes more and more important for entrepreneurs like you to start investing in automated packaging systems and start thinking of ways to make your packaging more in tune with the times.