Pack Expo International 2004 to feature latest materials trends

To complement its organic pasta, Italy's Biorigin specifies trays and lidstock based on NatureWorks PLA from Cargill Dow.
Packaging materials continue to be a hotbed of innovation. Representing a critical step in the package design process, consumer goods companies have been inspired by benefits like shelflife protection and extension, retortability and compostability, resulting in some exciting new packaging options.

A range of innovative materials advancements will be featured at this fall's Pack Expo International 2004, November 7-11 at Chicago's McCormick Place. Here's a sneak preview of some of the materials trends and technologies that attendees will be able to examine firsthand on the exhibit floor.

Reverse-printed polyester/foil extrusion lamination from Alcan Packaging includes a heat-sealable film with built-in desiccating properties, which absorbs moisture from the package headspace and as it enters the package through pinholes and exposed edges.

Barrier Selection

Standard packaging resins like polyethylene, polypropylene and polyester don't always offer sufficient barrier properties to protect product shelf life. To reduce transmission of oxygen or moisture through packaging, substrates may be laminated, co-extruded or coated with barrier materials to deliver the requisite protection.

Barrier materials have been around for decades, but today's structures are more complex and targeted than ever before because barring oxygen or water vapor transmission is rarely the only feature the package must provide. Packagers also frequently need barrier combined with durability, sealing and/or peeling along with reduced cost.

While foil is a widely used barrier material, foil laminations can't always be tailored to deliver the exact combination of features required, especially if clarity is a primary concern. A non-foil material under development is an extruded lidstock designed as a replacement for foil lidding on yogurt cups. The printed, multilayer, polyolefin material exhibits a flatness equal to or better than foil laminate lidstock and seals well and peels easily from cups.

Pentapharm® ACLAR® (PA) G03, a three-layer laminate from Klöckner Pentaplast of America, Inc. (Booth No. E-7566), Gordonsville, Va., incorporates a barrier layer of ethylene vinyl alcohol (EVOH) to protect pharmaceutical and nutraceutical products requiring protection from both moisture and oxygen. The moisture barrier is tailored by changing the gauge of the ACLAR fluoropolymer layer, while EVOH provides the oxygen barrier.

"The result is a clear package with extremely good oxygen and moisture barriers," reports Kent Sides, Klöckner Pentaplast's business manager of pharmaceutical films. Compared to foil-based materials, PA G03 can reduce material costs due to the potential for a smaller package footprint and deeper draw. A rigid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) product contact layer ensures a good seal to the PVC lidstock commonly used for blister packages. An ultraviolet (UV) inhibitor can be added to the film to protect UV-sensitive products where it is desirable to have a clear package. The ACLAR/EVOH/PVC structure is inherently non-yellowing with exposure to UV light. With a half dozen customers currently testing the material, there should be several commercial launches by mid-2005.

For situations demanding an extremely high moisture barrier and typically addressed with cold-form foil, Klöckner Pentaplast has developed Pentapharm® ACLAR 400/02, a 4-mil ACLAR UltRx4000 from Honeywell Specialty Films, Morris Township, N.J., laminated to polyvinyl chloride. The clear, non-yellowing film offers good optical clarity, excellent machinability with existing tooling, compatibility with deep drawing and a 25% better moisture barrier after thermoforming than any other clear thermoformable film.

"This type of higher performance material helps ensure successful accelerated testing," says Sides. "Successful test results help drug makers put products on the market more quickly," he explains.

A major U.S.-based provider of retort pouch materials, Sonoco offers traditional foil laminates as well as clear structures with a coated polyester barrier layer.

Retort Pouches

Few applications for barrier materials are as stringent as retort pouches. Although retort pouches have been available for roughly two decades, and have long been used for military rations and niche markets like camping food and disaster relief supplies, it's only now that the flexible packs are beginning to achieve the success predicted for them. Today, pouched tuna is a major success story, pouched pet food is commonplace, and retort pouches are poised to change the rice category.

"Retort pouch products require tremendous attention to detail in the manufacturing and planning process," says Kevin Sands, business development manager for Sonoco (Booth No. E-9700), Hartsville, S.C., one of a handful of U.S.-based retort pouch suppliers.

Since leaks can set up conditions where pathogenic microorganisms can grow in products, retort pouches with faulty seals must be prevented or detected prior to shipment. It's no surprise then that structural design is critical and requires highly specialized, nontoxic adhesives to prevent delamination and insure fail-safe seal integrity.

One adhesive compatible with retort pouch applications, Adcote 577 from Rohm and Haas Co. (Booth No. E-8914), Philadelphia, is designed to join outer layers in polyester/foil or nylon/foil retort pouch structures.

Foil-based retort pouch structures are widely used for military rations, tuna and petfood. However, with consumer demands for convenience driving interest in shelf-stable, prepared food, replacement of the foil barrier layer has become imperative so pouches can be heated in older microwave ovens where foil might cause arcing problems. This has prompted the development of clear barrier coatings of either aluminum oxide or silicon oxide. Applications include pouches for rice and other side dishes and lidstock for retortable thermoformed trays.

The clear retort pouch material Sonoco supplies consists of printed polyester/coated polyester/cast polypropylene (PP) or printed, coated polyester/nylon/cast PP. The clear film offers both product visibility and microwaveability.

Compostable Containers

Another existing packaging concept that is currently experiencing intensified interest is compostable material derived from annually renewable resources. One corn-based biopolymer, NatureWorks PLA (polylactide) from Cargill Dow LLC (Booth No. E-7047, under NatureWorks name), Minnetonka, Minn., is finding favor as a compostable alternative for thermoformed containers for deli products and produce. Converted into film form, it serves as a twist wrap for candy.

The technology to produce NatureWorks PLA resin uses a fermentation/separation process to harvest the carbon that grain plants remove from the air during photosynthesis and store as starches. Breaking down the starches into natural plant sugars liberates the carbon and other elements for conversion into PLA.

In Europe, consumers favor food packaged in annually renewable resources and are willing to pay more for it. In a study of 2,400 consumers in Germany, France, Italy and the United Kingdom conducted in August 2003 by Grapentine Co., Inc., Ankeny, IA, 59% ranked the concept of purchasing fresh food in nature-based packaging as "very desirable."

Retailers on both sides of the Atlantic have embraced packaging materials converted from NatureWorks PLA and seen sales rise as a result. Wild Oats Markets, Inc., Boulder, Colo., a national chain of natural and organic food markets, reportedly has experienced a 4% increase in sales since adopting NatureWorks PLA containers made by Wilkinson Manufacturing, Fort Calhoun, Neb., for deli products like fruits, salads, desserts and cheese.

For more information about Pack Expo International 2004, visit www.packexpo.com or contact PMMI 703/243-8555 or expo@pmmi.org.

Editor's note: BevExpo 2004 debuts in September, with Pack Expo International coming to Chicago a couple weeks later. Here are some exhibitors that are a must see for dairy processors.

PIAB
Allied Purchasing is one of the nation's oldest purchasing groups, which started in the dairy industry in 1937. Allied purchasing members include independent dairies, water divisions, and beverage companies. It has created a diversified portfolio that all members can take advantage of regardless of their production base. Allied is a member owned not-for-profit purchasing organization.
800/247-5956
BevExpo booth #1242

MeadWestvaco Packaging Systems LLC, a leading manufacturer of paperboard packaging products will display an interactive machine photo panel, food and beverage paperboard multipacks from around the world, machine manual, machine videos, machine brochures and data sheets.
404/897-6530
Pack Expo booth # N-4920

Modern Packaging Inc. will show a number of it's packaging machines including an eight-lane machine which performs denesty, filling, and sealing, a 2x5 condiment machine to denest, fill and seal with a daisy chain sealing material, and a SR8DC rotary denesting filling and sealing machine.
631/ 595-2437
Pack Expo booth # S-1555

PIAB Vacuum Products, a leading manufacturer of industrial vacuum products and components, showcases its Vacuum Gripper System (VGS™) 3010 at Pack Expo. The VGS-3010 features PIAB's patented COAX™ ejector technology, based on a multi-stage concept for creating vacuum with compressed air.
800/321-7422
Pack Expo booth #4257

For more than 25 years Delkor Systems Inc. has been known for manufacturing one of the best lines of vertical tray and carton forming machinery (formers-loaders-closures). In addition, Delkor has pioneered two important packaging technologies, known by their trademark names Spot-Pak® and Tray-Pak®.
800/328-5558
Pack Expo booth # S-2389

Fogg Filler Co. manufactures a wide variety of fillers and related equipment. Items on display at Bev Expo will include bag-in-box equipment, bottle washing machinery, capping systems, fillers and filling equipment.
616/786-0350
BevExpo booth # 1023

Ecolab, a leader in sanitation solutions, will feature bottle washing compounds, sanitizers, cleaning compounds and chemicals, as well as a variety of cleaning equipment.
651/293-2233
BevExpo booth # 1231

Dyco Inc., offers bottle handling solutions for dairy and other beverage companies. Its exhibit will include a robotic container handling system, and videos and pictures of container bagging and debagging equipment, palletizers, and more.
800/545-3926
Pack Expo booth # S-1482

H.S. Crocker Co., will display its outstanding portfolio of packaging machinery and materials at PackExpo. Items will include converting machinery, cup making plastics, label printing, tamper evident seals, and bands, heat transfer labels and label paper.
847/669-3600
Pack Expo booth # E-9304

ADI Systems Inc., provide on-site industrial wastewater treatment systems. Services offered on a design-build basis. Technologies range from low-rate anaerobic to high-rate anaerobic, the proprietary ADI-SBR and decanters, as well as the newly offered ADI-MBR (membrane biological reactor) in USA and Canada.
03/893-2134
Bev Expo booth # 822

SKF USA Inc. is a leading manufacturer of bearings, gaskets, seals, and conveyer equipment. SKF will exhibit its conveying solutions at Bev Expo.
215/513-4400
BevExpo booth # 817

Fristam Pumps Inc. manufactures blenders, mixers, and centrifugal and positive displacement pumps. New at BevExpo, Fristam's FS Series Shear Blenders for consistent and repeatable blending. Also new, the FPR Series centrifugal pump for standard to heavy duties such as transferring beverages; and the FL II and FKL series positive displacement pumps.
608/831-5001
BevExpo booth # 731

Safeline Inc. is the largest metal detector manufacturer in the world, with operations in the USA, UK and Continental Europe. Safeline provides conveyorized, gravity feed, and pipeline metal detection systems for food, pharmaceutical, chemical, plastics and powder/bulk industries. It is also the technology leader in automated X-ray inspection equipment for pharmaceutical, food and packaging applications.
813/889-9500
BevExpo booth # 1241

Polytainers Inc., a manufacturer or injection-molded and thermoformed rigid plastic packaging, and a provider of award winning custom package/graphic design services will exhibit at Pack Expo. Stop by the see the latest in tubs, molding, conveying machinery and more.
416/239-7311
Pack Expo booth # N-4375

American Fuji Seal manufactures high quality labels for a wide variety of applications including shrink sleeves, plastic insulating foam and plastic in-mold. AFS also offers the highest quality shrink sleeve application equipment and heat tunnels to complement our labels. AFS will exhibit material and machinery for stretch sleeves, tamper evidence bands and other label applications.
800/533-3854
Pack Expo booth # N-4064