Sustainability reigns supreme over demands for new rigid packaging.

Above most other qualities, sustainability rules the day when it comes to rigid packaging.

At least that’s the indication of insiders we contacted and product information being trumpeted by several key suppliers of rigid packaging to the dairy industry. Of course, better graphics, cost savings and freshness are also among the qualities that processors consider when making their rigid packaging decisions. But it looks like sustainability is going to be at the top of the list for a while.

Evansville, Ind.-based Berry Plastics Corp. collaborates with its customers on sustainability options that work best for their products. “We continually work to source-reduce our packaging or to enhance our packaging to allow for less secondary packaging or better filling line efficiency,” says Michelle Schmitt, Berry market analyst. “From an operations standpoint, we are focused on reducing our environmental footprint by using less energy and resin.”

Evergreen Packaging is pursuing a similar course with its paperboard products. “We are committed to developing and supplying sustainable paper and packaging solutions,” says Pam Parris, marketing manager for the Canton, N.C.-based company. “We have certification from the Sustainable Forestry Initiative for certified fiber sourcing and chain of custody. We also are Forest Stewardship Council certified for chain of custody and controlled wood for all facilities.” 

Evergreen is a member of the Carton Council, an organization comprising four leading U.S. carton manufacturers. “The council is proud that our products have among the lowest environmental impact within the packaging industry,” Parris says. “We seek to reduce this impact further by expanding recycling programs across the country and continuously improving our environmental performance.” More information on the council can be found at

DeSoto, Kan.-based Huhtamaki has developed BioWare, which the company described as its “future-friendly” packaging concept. This line, which encompasses products from food packaging to tableware, is made from different compostable raw materials, mainly bio-coated paperboard, biopolymers and molded fiber made from recycled paper.

Huhtamaki’s BioWare range includes bio-coated paperboard packaging for ice cream and chilled dairy products like yogurt.

As an enhancement to rigid cups for yogurt and similar products, LMI Packaging Solutions, Pleasant Prairie, Wis., offers Eco-Lid, a durable cup seal that eliminates the need for overcapping. LMI reports Eco-Lid runs at a 25% lower seal temperature for better energy efficiency; uses individual die-cut and daisy-chain formats that reduce waste compared to rollstock; is recyclable; and is lighter to reduce end package weight.

They’ve got the look

Of course, not far behind sustainability are the perennial demands that customers have for their rigid packaging: Cost savings, more upscale graphics to showcase products. “Many ask for a package with a ‘custom’ look,” Schmitt says.

“Our vast product offering adds value by saving customers time by servicing many needs from one vendor,” she continues. “The Berry Design Center works directly with processors to develop their own package. Through an idea generation session, sketches are developed on site and models can be made that day, depending on the size of the product. The Design Center knows molding and decorating restrictions, so time is not wasted. Design Center personnel have a clear understanding of injection molding and thermoforming, so they are able to create a design that can be efficiently produced, saving both time and money during the design phase.”

Evergreen faces similar demands. “Competition from other types of beverage marketing continues to grow and dairy processors are becoming more open to innovative packaging,” Parris says. “We take the need for innovation in paperboard packaging seriously and are currently developing several new package design options.”

A key area for Evergreen is school milk. “As carton suppliers, we want to provide a carton that students find appealing and are willing and eager to drink from,” Parris says. “Our goal is to provide dairies and schools with an innovative alternative to the regular gable-top carton with a standard opening feature.”

Thus begat Evergreen’s SingleSip. “The one-piece spout features an easy-to-open tab that snaps back for convenient consumption of single-serve beverages,” Parris explains. “SingleSip provides students with an innovative alternative to the current look of the carton and the new spout encourages them to drink more milk and benefit from its nutritional value.”

Parris reports positive student focus-group feedback on the new SingleSip gable-top carton. “In addition to the advantages that encourage milk consumption, the one-piece spout prevents additional litter in schools by eliminating straws and lids from two-piece bottles,” she adds.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin-based Curwood has been having success over the past year with its EZ Peel/Reseal lidstock for reclosable semi-rigid or rigid trays, which also offer enhanced sustainability, shelf life and shelf impact. Ideal for sliced cheeses, EZ Peel/Reseal lidstock features a proprietary resealable pressure-sensitive adhesive layer engineered within the film. This allows the film itself to be fusion sealed to the tray even through contamination, creating a hermetic package with superior barrier. The pressure-sensitive layer is then exposed when the lidstock is peeled back, creating exceptional multiple reclosures with only fingertip pressure.

With Curwood’s EZ Peel/Reseal films, processors can meet cost and sustainability goals in multiple ways. The lidstock is printable and features excellent barrier properties, eliminating the need for costly secondary packaging to deliver messaging or extend shelf life. In addition, there is no need for zippers, sliders or pre-made labels or lids that add material, labor and machinery costs.

Lidstock is printable in up to 10 colors to create a billboard effect. Superior clarity highlights the quality of the products inside, with anti-fog and anti-grease features available to maintain clarity throughout the distribution cycle. The rigid packaging material is available as rollstock or pre-made trays, in clear, pigmented or custom colors to create a unique brand look.

In stock and stacking

Other suppliers offer a wide array of rigid containers to the dairy industry.

Airlite Plastics, Omaha, Neb., offers a broad range of stock containers and lids. With sizes ranging from 2 to 172 ounces and diameters ranging from 300 to 811, Airlite offers more than 100 stock container and lid options. Stock containers and lids are molded in the standard colors of natural or white or, if required, can be molded in a color of choice.

Airlite containers are offered in HDPE, PP and LLDPE. Decorating options include offset printing, applied pressure sensitive labels, in-mold labeling or shrink labeling.

In-mold labeling is the main decoration process at aptly named IML Containers, which features IML on its new “fresh pack” container that includes a hinge and a tamper-evident closure. Containers from Quebec-based IML can be found holding products made by Land O’Lakes, Nestlé and Lactalis.

Massachusetts-based Plastican Inc. has been releasing a stream of new products over the past year, including a line of lightweight, ergonomic plastic pails suitable for liquids or dry foods. The round 4- and 4.25-gallon containers offer easy handling and resealability and contain ergonomic finger grips that are built into each pail. Although light in weight, the rigid containers have excellent stacking strength and are designed for close nesting to maximize the number of units per truckload, resulting in fewer shipments and less product handling and packaging waste. 

Plastican’s new lightweight 5-gallon rigid plastic container offers 19% better weight per gallon of storage capacity than standard 5-gallon pails, the company reports, and also combines excellent crack-resistance, compression strength and environmental sustainability for worry-free stackability and shipping. The 40BL container is available in either high-density polyethylene or polypropylene, with or without recycled content, and the consumer-friendly lightweight lids are designed for easy removal and reseal.

Finally, Plastican’s lightweight 4.25-gallon rectangular containers are designed to provide better cube efficiency and volume packaging. Suitable for liquids as well as moist, dry and frozen goods, these rigid containers tolerate a wide temperature range and offer less product handling, excellent stacking strength and allow for 20% better cube efficiency than a round pail of the same capacity.


Airlite Plastics
Berry Plastics Corp.
Evergreen Packaging
IML Containers
LMI Packaging Solutions
Plastican Inc.