Ready, Willing and Able
By JENNIFER ZEGLER
Secondary packaging trends demand durable,
marketable and sustainable options
six-packs, Fridge-packs, club-packs — none would be possible without
secondary packaging. From carrying aids to containers with added function,
manufacturers are expanding options with consumers in mind. Consumer and
retailer conservation concerns also are shaping the category’s
future, as sustainability becomes an important issue.
Ready to carry
Carrier handles for single, double and multi-packs continue to be widely used. PakTech’s
TwinPak and UniPak are some of the Eugene, Ore.-based company’s most
popular options, according to Amie Thomas, marketing manager. Thomas says
the TwinPak handles are available on a wide variety of 32-, 48-, 64- and
96-ounce beverages in club stores, while the UniPak is popular for
gallon-size beverages in both club and retail outlets. Its 3Pak and QuadPak
handles are common for 1.5- and 2-liter products as well.
The latest innovation from PakTech is its can handles
with dust covers. The new handle innovation completely covers the top of
beverage cans for added safety and cleanliness. The handles are injection
molded to cover and unitize the cans and the covers can be implemented with
many of PakTech’s handles as well as on automated applications.
“Our ‘dust cover’ handles and canned
beverage handles have provided innovative alternatives for beverage
processors,” Thomas explains. “The dust cover handles basically
have a thin layer of HDPE molded across the tops, such that the tops of
cans are protected from the elements. This is in response to consumer
Carrying aids also are on the innovation list for
flexible packaging company Exopack, Spartanburg, S.C. As Mark Pfeiffer,
national account manager, explains consumers often use the opening in the
sides of shrinkwrapped packages, or bullseyes, to carry the packages.
Exopack is “looking into alternative carrying methods,”
As PakTech has experienced, the pull of club stores
has affected secondary packaging. The popularity of these retail outlets,
which specialize in bulk items, have led manufacturers to create materials
that will withstand hefty loads.
“We’ve had many customers looking for
larger case counts in their packaging, such as 24- and 32-packs for club
stores,” Exopack’s Pfeiffer says.
For Exopack, the requests require shrink-wrapped cases
durable enough to hold 18 to 20 pounds of products. In addition to
sturdiness, retailers want the packages to be immediately ready for
display. To comply, the company is continuously developing stronger films
to hold the multipacks.
On the innovation front, Exopack is looking into
easy-open features and ways to dispense the bulk packs. Pfeiffer says
methods for breaking a bulk package into smaller packages or easily
dispensable options are in the pipeline.
Also accommodating 18-, 20- and 24-packs is
MeadWestvaco’s award-winning Duodozen carton with reinforced
SturdiGrip handle. The package design received three awards at this
year’s Paperboard Packaging Council’s competition, including
the Innovation Gold Award for the multi-piece Duodozen corrugate
replacement and Excellence award for the Duodozen Maxi-Pack.
Duodozen can accommodate up to 24 packs of glass or
PET bottles and currently is being used by Anheuser-Busch, the company
says. Another innovation by Mead-Westvaco under the Duodozen brand name is
the Ice-Pack carton, which features a special lining and design to
accommodate seven pounds of ice to chill the 12-pack inside.
For instant consumer appeal, manufacturers have created printing innovations.
Exopack has integrated high-speed inkjetting onto its shrinkfilms for
unique codes as part of loyalty programs and contests. Zumbiel Packaging,
Cincinnati, has the capability to create a special-edition package nearly
eight hours after the conclusion of a big event. To catch the eye of
consumers, Graphic Packaging International, Marietta, Ga., debuted
As part of gaming, contests and brand loyalty
programs, Exopack has the ability to print mass amounts of individual codes
on its shrinkwrapped packages. Exopack’s lines are outfitted with
high-speed inkjets to print codes for such marketing programs. In the
marketplace, “Consumers receive a code from the package and enter it
on the Web site and receive points for their purchases, in which different
sized packages receive higher point values,” Pfeiffer explains.
At Zumbiel, the need for speed can be dictated by a
big sports game or other event.
“Let’s say you have a big ballgame going
on, such as the NBA finals, we have the ability to immediately go to press
after the game is over and create a unique package with the box score, star
of the game or anything custom,” says Tom Zumbiel III, director of
marketing for the company’s beverage division. “We’ll be
able to deliver that package eight hours after the game is over.”
The packages allow specific market penetration and
custom memorabilia with a short turnaround, Zumbiel explains. The company
also has an alternative to holographic printing that is at least two times
less expensive and sustainable compared to traditional holographic
printing, he says.
Also implementing holographic processes is the maker
of the Fridge Pack, Graphic Packaging International. The company used
three-dimensional graphics for packages for Miller Brewing Co.’s
six-pack as well as Coca-Cola’s holiday line, which were
well-received, says Franck Vidal, manager of product development.
In addition, the company is working on technology that
will increase interactivity with brands.
“We are working on a technology embedding
invisible digital watermarks in the graphics readable by cell phone
camera,” Vidal explains. “Interactive packaging will add
another media for the younger consumer to interact with its favorite
Innovations in options and printing methods aside,
many companies emphasize their sustainable practices as well. Whether
it’s consumer or retailer dictated, concern for the environment, or
just good business, many of the companies are incorporating sustainable
For some companies it’s been part of their
business mission for a long time. PakTech’s Thomas says since the
company was founded more than 15 years ago, its handles have offered a
“low-waste, recyclable alternative for bulk secondary
packaging.” The company also recently joined the Sustainable
Packaging Coalition and continues to innovate.
“In the past few years, we have been reviewing
and implementing design options to ‘lightweight’ our parts and
testing non-petrol based material,” Thomas says.
The pressure from retail chain Wal-Mart was a main
motivator for Graphic Packaging International, Vidal explains. The company
has fit its Fridge Packs, which have debuted for wine, premium tea, juice,
dairy, energy and sports drinks, on a disappearing pallet standard to
eliminate tertiary packaging. Inspired by international packaging
trends, Graphic Packaging International also is working on paperboard wraps
for multipacks that use less board than a fully enclosed package.
“Hybrid” has become a catch word in Earth
consciousness and Graphic Packaging International is working on creating a
packaging option called Hybrid, which is a mix of film and paperboard
packaging, for small packs. Vidal says this may “bring the
convenience and billboard of the printed carton while reducing cost using
In addition to the package minimization featured on
its Z-Pack and Z-View options, Zumbiel Packaging uses Forest Stewardship
Council-certified board. According to Zumbiel, the company is the first in
the beverage industry to use FSC board, which it imports because no U.S.
company produces it yet. As well as being environmentally friendly, the
material is lighter and stronger than traditional board, Zumbiel says.
Lighter weight board offers another advantage, “When you’re
using a whole lot less board it means you’re hauling less stuff and
using less fuel,” he explains.
At Exopack, sustainability efforts have resulted in
“lightweighting” of packaging. “Replacing a paperboard
beverage carrier with one made from shrinkfilm provides for a source
reduction and improves transportation efficiency,” says Paul Kearns,
director of sales and technology for consumer paper.
Lightweight packaging is just one of the ways Exopack
is looking at sustainability. “Beyond lightweighting are renewable
and recyclable material options,” Kearns says. “We’re
looking into bio-resins and other materials that are derived from something
other than petrochemicals, which is a big focus of sustainability. We also
are trying to find better recyclable or compostable materials for flexible
Recycling is another part of Exopack’s
sustainability plans, he says. “As
members of the Flexible Packaging Association and Sustainable Packaging
Coalition, we are actively working on a systematic approach to get
post-consumer materials back into products,” he explains. “The
glass and aluminum industries developed model solutions to which we aspire
Overall it’s an important issue, Kearns sums up.
“One thing my customers relay is how important sustainability is to
them. Retailers are pushing the issue hard. As a supplier, the requests
come back to us and it’s something that’s on the front burner
and is very, very important to the future of Exopack.”