Bending to Demand

October 1, 2006
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Bending to Demand
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Flexible packaging means convenience, portability and shelf impact.

When it comes to flexible packaging, consumers want it all.
By its very definition, it must be easy to hold, convenient to store, convenient to use. It should include easy-opening technology, like tear notches or directional tear systems. For multi-serving products, consumers also want packaging that reseals and stores easily — that applies to both the closing technology and the package format.
A zippered stand-up pouch, and a tray with an easy-open, resealing lid are both examples of packages that are easy to reseal and store. If there’s preparation involved, the package needs to make it easier, possibly by keeping the ingredients separate until they need to be mixed.
And finally, consumers want packaging that’s environmentally sound. Flexible packaging fits that bill well — as the Flexible Packaging Association says, it delivers “less waste in the first place.”
Go Go Go
Consumers lead busy lives, and when they want their cheese or yogurt or milk on the go, they want it now.
“Consumers demand fast, economical, portable snacks and meals,” says Dennis Burian, director of marketing cheese and dairy, Curwood Inc., a division of Minneapolis-based Bemis Co. “Because of this increasing trend, packaging that is easy to open, providing quick access to the product, is in high demand.”
For on-the-go concepts, Curwood developed films and technologies including EZ Peel®, EZ Peel/Re-Seal®,  FancyCut®, IntegraTear® and IntegraScore®. All function to make Curwood’s packaging more consumer friendly, Burian says.
Beyond takeaway foods and packaging, consumers expect packaging that will help make their lives easier, says Shanna Moore, global market manager, DuPont Packaging, Wilmington, Del. “We are all looking for shortcuts to prepare our meals and that is evident in the variety of new products hitting the shelves to give us a decent meal in a short amount of time,” she says.
Dairy processors and packagers will see opportunities with the 79 million Baby Boomers in the United States, Moore says. “The first of them turn 60 this year. We will start to see arthritic hands that can’t open complicated packages. We need to design with these folks in mind by keeping the package easy to open and easy to reclose,” she says.
DuPont has developed a variety of products to give strong, consistent seals, but still peel open easily — whether the material is sealing to itself or to a different product such as a yogurt or other dairy cup, Moore says. Appeel®, the product for peelable lidding, is designed to be extrusion coated onto the desired substrate.
Baby Boomers, like other demographics, are looking for ways to help with portion control. Flexible packaging can help, providing outlets for dairy processors to develop healthy, single-serve products.
“By developing the packaging in a single-serve format, it provides the consumer with a convenient package to control their portions to a healthy, one-serving size,” Moore says.  
Making an Impact
The dairy industry continues to realize the importance of shelf impact, particularly for single-serve containers and flavored milk products. This has fueled additional growth of shrink-sleeve labels on these plastic containers to respond to this demand for high visibility on the store shelf or refrigerated dairy case, says Terry Copenhaver, marketing manager, Alcoa Packaging, Richmond, Va.
Alcoa supplies shrink sleeve labels to the dairy industry, and its product offerings include PVC, PETG and OPS shrink-sleeve labels. Alcoa’s patented process for seaming provides high-quality labels with exceptional seam integrity, Copenhaver says.
Dairy processors are constantly adding new flavors and product variations to their flavored milks and yogurts. New product offerings are hitting the shelves and dairy manufacturers need a way to differentiate their products from the multitude of competitors, Copenhaver says. “The high gloss of a shrink sleeve label can make a huge impact on shelf presence. Plus, bright, colorful inks will catch the consumer’s eye as they use just a few seconds to make their decision on product choice.”
Copenhaver points to Alcoa’s shrink-sleeve printing on the Neilson Dairy Ultimate Chocolate Milk. “The rich chocolate colors are accurately reproduced with the gravure printing process and the PET shrink film conforms tightly to the curves of the container. The entire packaging presentation entices the shopper to purchase the container for instant chocoholic satisfaction.”
Improved ink technologies with fluorescent and metallic pigments allow graphic designers a wider array of possibilities for label design, Copenhaver says.
“In addition, if clear bottles or containers are used, the designer can allow a clear area in the label to allow the consumer to see the product. The ability of shrink labels to conform to unusual shapes, with shrink up to 75 percent, allows the dairy processors to choose very unusual and attractive container shapes for increased shelf impact,” Copenhaver says. “In addition, the shrink label will cover the entire container, giving a 360-degree billboard for brand graphics and, if the label is designed to cover the cap or closure, tamper-evidence. Other labels are unable to provide this large amount of coverage on the container.”
Flexible packaging is being used more than ever to differentiate the product on the shelf, Burian says. “Dairy processors want flexible packaging to convey a message to the consumer that their product is more convenient.”
When Sorrento Lactalis sought a different look for its Precious fresh mozzarella packages, it turned to CL&D Digital for digitally printed tray and cheese ball labels and tray and paperboard wraps.
Digital printing helped Sorrento get to market fast and first, which can provide a competitive edge, says Bob Scherer, vice president of CL&D Digital, Delavan, Wis.
“It’s all about building products to meet the needs of your customers – not building products and hoping your customers will buy them,” Scherer says.
Typically, Buffalo, N.Y.-based Sorrento Lactalis Inc. uses digital printing for small packaging runs and initial new product testing.
Before the product launch, household penetration of the category was at 4 percent, Sorrento reports, and the new product packaging launch was supported by advertising and promotional efforts that directed consumers to the dairy section to find the product.
Packaging challenges included incorporating the Easy Peel opening system, achieving a good seal with a wet product, printing graphics on relatively small packaging and using adhesive tape to secure the wrapped cheese ball product within the sleeve.
“Our objective for packaging our new fresh mozzarella was to have different packaging than currently available for this type of product,” says Alan Stock, Sorrento Lactalis trade marketing manager. “We wanted to gain better in-store awareness and to be seen from a distance at the store, and to communicate the fresh cheese as an upscale, premium product.”
Peace of Mind
Dairy processors want to deliver on consumer needs at the most cost-effective way possible, Moore says. “They want packaging that is going to protect the product, but is also convenient, safe and easy to use. Safety is very important today and having a product that is sealed tightly is important to prevent tampering.”
Convenience technologies such as adhesive seals and peels often found in flexible packaging not only provide easy access to the food product, but assure the package’s barrier is not compromised.
“Food safety is a concern for consumers today, and tamper-evident packaging can provide them peace of mind that their food product is protected,” Burian says.
Moore says consumers are paying more attention to the environment and reducing dependence on foreign oil. “One very important fast-emerging trend is in the area of renewable materials,” she says.
DuPont’s Appeel provides tailored peel force and replaces solvent coatings. DuPont has developed environmentally friendly products such as Biomax®, a compostable PET; Sorona®, a partially renewable material; and Biomax® Strong, a toughness modifier for the corn-based plastic PLA.
“If we can make a change that doesn’t significantly affect our wallet, then we’ll switch to a product that is better for the environment,” Moore says. “The rise in materials that are either from renewable materials or are compostable will enable this to happen.”
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.

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