Packaging Awards and the Self-Congratulatory Syndrome

In myprivatebrand  of March 15, 2012, Perry Seelert , strategic partner of united* dsn, a design consultancy in New York and San Francisco, wrote about what he called: The Self-Congratulatory Syndrome.

I freely extract and interpret some of his words:
The Awards within the industry seem to have gotten a little crazy, with all the trade magazines and websites having their packaging of the year and annual package design winners. If these awards were more selective, they would feel more meaningful, but in many cases they are rewarding very mediocre design. Apparently it is a money cow for the organising media.
Through a critical eye, there is still so much potential in transforming the way the industry projects itself, and the push towards more credible marketing and branding. But the visual and environmental language of these shows fight against this if we are to be honest. Too often the agendas are the epitome of the “The Self-Congratulatory Syndrome”: monotonous speakers presenting case studies with innovative “NEW” ideas like” “compare & save” or maybe a new “value tier”. None of this screams “innovation”.
Too much praise, too little critique as of late. A little more critique can spur new ideas, new branding and a new way of measuring our success.

Consumer-Inspired Design Revolutionizes Laundry Experience with Tide PODS Liquid Unit Dose Laundry Detergent by Procter & Gamble

I must say, I fully agree with Perry. There are too many packaging awards and they don’t have any value. However, that said, there are some (too few really) very valuable Awards in the packaging world. Indisputable one of the best is the DuPont Packaging Award. At least DuPont is respected and consequently receives sufficient quality entries to be able to submit a well-founded juror-report. Fortunately the DuPont jurors are not blinded by fancy graphics and shapes, but include proper packaging technology improvements in their judgements. I don’t agree with all of the choices, but at least DuPont comes up, each year, with a fair share of real innovations in packaging. And that’s something you can’t say about most of the packaging award competitions.

DuPont Packaging Awards 2012
Several leading brands, Heinz, Kraft, Pepperidge Farm, Cadbury and Unilever , took home awards in the 24th DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation, the industry’s longest-running, global, independently judged celebration of innovation and collaboration throughout the value chain.

I made a selection of the winners, I think are worth a closer look. In two articles (each one three innovations) I will describe the following winners:
1.    The FreshCase packaging technology for meat.
2.    The Kraft YES Pack.
3.    The Ultra-Freshness Preservation Freezing System.
4.    Sulhwasoo Dahamsul’s cream jar.
5.    The Tide PODS Liquid Unit Dose Laundry Detergent.
6.    And finally the Microcellular Technology of InCycle CPET

FreshCase Packaging for Fresh Red Meats
FreshCase packaging, developed by Curwood, Inc is claimed to be the first-ever, vacuum package for red meat that maintains the meat’s appetizing colour through a found-in-nature proprietary additive in the contact layer of the barrier package.

Traditional vacuum-packaged meat is “purple”, deemed distasteful by many consumers who equate colour with freshness. FreshCase packaging also extends shelf life 10 times longer than store-wrapped meat.
The combination of longer shelf life and more appetizing appearance promises to both reduce food waste and increase the availability of proteins in areas further away from food sources.

As an alternative for modified atmosphere (MAP) and expanded polystyrene (EPS) trays with PVC overwrap that dominate the case-ready meat segment, FreshCase enables 75% less markdowns/waste than store-wrapped meats, less landfill waste and reduces packaging materials up to 75%, compared to other case-ready formats, thereby improving sustainability.
Compared to case-ready EPS/PVC packages that are centrally packed, FreshCase packaging eliminates the aesthetic drawbacks of high-oxygen gas-flushed packaging, such as “black bones.” It also eliminates the appearance of excess packaging common with gas-flushed packaging due to the amount of headspace required in MAP packages.

Vacuum-packed FreshCase packages are hermetically sealed, eliminating the problem of leaky meat packages in the retail case, shopping cart and checkout counter.
FreshCase packaging is USDA-approved for a shelf life up to 36 days for whole muscle beef and 34 days for ground beef.

According to the DuPont Award jurors, FreshCase packaging addresses the important effort to help ensure food maintains its nutritional value and freshness and greatly reduces food waste from spoilage.

Kraft YES Pack, Easy-Open Condiment Package
In November 2010 I wrote on this blog about the Smart Bottle from ExoPack. Exopack’s Smart Bottle features a four sided sealed pouch that is blow moulded into a “bottle”. After filling, the four side-seals form the four vertical corners of a lightweight, semi-rigid, threaded “bottle”, the result of merging different packaging technologies together.

At that time I stated that the packaging was not yet commercially available, but was tested in volume sizes ranging from ½ gallon, up to 5 gallons. It can hold either dry or liquid contents and can be printed on all four sides.
And there it is in the market, introduced by Kraft Foods.

The Kraft YES Pack, which stands for Yield, Ease and Sustainability, is an environmentally friendly flexible gallon dressing package. Yes Pack is designed to help Foodservice Operators manage costs and improve back-of-house efficiencies with improved dressing yield of up to 99% (compared to rigid gallon jugs). The dual handled design allows for easy carrying and the smaller spout provides precision pouring.

In comparison to the production of the rigid gallon jug, the company claims, that the YES Pack is made with: 50% less energy, 60% less plastic, and 70% fewer CO2 emissions from transportation.

The Yes Pack is a stand-up pouch, made from a flexible nylon-polyethylene blend film, with dual handles, and a rigid screw cap closure that replaces the traditional rigid plastic container for salad dressings.

“We have eliminated 70% of the inbound transportation required to produce our salad dressing containers by no longer having trucks deliver empty bottles to Kraft”, the company stated. “Now, we manufacture Yes Pack at the same location as where our dressing is produced”.

Kraft partnered with PE International, a sustainability consulting company, to conduct a Life Cycle Assessment, which quantified the environmental benefits of the Yes Pack. The Life Cycle Assessment is a standardized method of evaluating environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of a product from raw material production, manufacturing and use, all the way through disposal.

The packaging is more compact than rigid jugs, and flattens when empty, which can provide easier disposal and lower waste-removal costs. When it comes to recyclability, the original rigid bottle is actually easier to recycle, as the Yes Pack may not be accepted for recycling in all areas. Kraft stated while the original rigid bottle is more accepted by recycling programs the recycling rate was low.

As of now, the Yes Pack is designed only for Kraft’s foodservice salad dressing portfolio.

Electro-Conductive Packaging Helps Keep Frozen Food ‘Fresh’
The Ultra-Freshness Preservation Freezing System, using high “Electric Potential” and Electro Conductive Packaging, is developed by Mutsumi Chemical Industry Co Ltd, in collaboration with Sun Electric Company Ltd and Enshu-Kasei Co Ltd, all from Japan.
The combination of rapid freezing and the innovative electro-conductive bag preserves food taste and texture, reducing the amount of edible food thrown away.

The Ultra-Freshness Preservation Freezing System uses technology proven in the electronics industry to ensure food quality and increase both shelf life and appeal. This rapid-freezing system uses both alternating and direct current, high “electric potential”, at the same time to rapidly cool the product without oxidization, reducing the size of ice crystals that form in food cells. This process relies on a unique package design that includes an electro conductive bag made of Linear-LDPE and DuPont Entira AS.

The electro conductive bag needs a bit of an explanation.
Antistatic, electrostatic dissipative (ESD) and conductive additives are migrating antistats which diffuse to the polymer surface over time, creating a thin layer that attracts water molecules. The water molecules provide a conductive pathway that prevents build-up of static electricity. Antistatic additives reduce a polymer’s surface resistivity to the range of 1010 to 1012 ohms/sq., providing a slow static decay rate that prevents charge accumulation.
Antistats are used widely in packaging such as film, thermoformed containers, and PET bottles, in which they help surfaces separate during production and reduce dust attraction for short-term cosmetic improvement.

Inherently dissipative polymers (IDPs) form a conductive polymer matrix or interpenetrating network within the base polymer, offering non-leaching, permanent static dissipation at a faster static decay rate than migrating antistats typically 108 to 1012 ohms/sq. surface resistivity, depending on amount and dispersion of the additive in the polymer. Unlike migrating antistats, most IDPs operate nearly independent of relative humidity, although surface resistivity will be slightly higher (less conductive) at low moisture levels. IDPs are colourable and non-sloughing, giving them an advantage over carbon blacks.

DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers family of high-performance modifiers impart specific desired properties to a wide variety of polymers. The first product in the DuPont Entira line to be introduced globally was Entira AS. Developed by DuPont-Mitsui Polychemicals Co Ltd, a joint venture between DuPont and Mitsui Chemicals Inc, Entira AS offers excellent antistatic properties, high frequency weldability and high moisture permeability.
DuPont’s Entira Antistat IDP is based on an ethylene ionomer, which makes it compatible with polyolefins as well as other polymers like ABS and polystyrene. This compatibility results in transparency and a smooth surface for polyolefin packaging and blow moulded containers. Because it does not migrate, Entira AS does not interfere with film sealing properties.

Entira Antistat SD 100 has food contact approvals and maintains resistivity of 107 to 1012 at low relative humidity levels (down to 12-15%), but is limited to lower processing temperatures.

These were the first three winners of the DuPont Packaging Awards 2012. Next article about the Sulhwasoo Dahamsul’s cream jar, the Tide PODS Liquid Unit Dose Laundry Detergent, and as last the Microcellular Technology of InCycle CPET.

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