Now and Later
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek
Reclosable packaging makes dairy products easier to tote.
Every time I snap open a single-serve bottle while driving my SUV, I end up spilling chocolate milk because the tamper-evident cap doesn’t easily detach from the reclosable lid. And while the shape of an ice cream scround may be well suited for easier scooping, I’m often dismayed when I open the container days later to find nasty freezer burn has set in.
In spite of these minor mishaps from my daily life, overall dairy products have become easier to reclose and reseal for later consumption, due to packaging that continues to do a better job ensuring safety and freshness.
Tamper-evident seals are now a way of life that consumers and dairy processors have come to expect from packaging and, when combined with resealable features, create a value-added package. For fluid milk, tamper evidence is commonplace. Many gallon jugs, for example, include both a snap-off ring and foil seal.
Murray Bain, marketing vice president at Ontario-based Stanpac Inc., says ice cream manufacturers are seeing the benefits of tamper-evident packaging. “Many are seriously considering tamper evidence a feature,” says Bain, whose company provides closures for refillable packaging and tamper-evident ice cream packaging.
The company has been focusing on improving some of the features on its closures for glass bottles. “Consumers are very happy with the tamper-evident features that we introduced over five years ago. However, they have told us that they also find tamper-evident closures hard to remove,” Bain says. “Tamper evidence and ease of removal are always a balance. By changing some of the features in the closure, Stanpac has made significant improvements in the reseal/removal of the closures for our glass packaging.”
The latest packaging technology and trends have focused on tamper evidence, says Roy Robinson, marketing vice president at Portola Packaging, San Jose, Calif. “We have seen a great increase in the demand for single-serve resealable packages, particularly for drinkable yogurt and flavored milk. Reclosable packages for milk in fast-food restaurants are another new trend. Our resealable 38-mm DB closure can be found on the single-serve Milk Jug packages being served at McDonald’s in place of the old-style paperboard cartons, which were not reclosable.”
One of Portola Packaging’s newest innovations is the SCIII, a two-piece, tamper-evident snap-on closure consisting of an inner pull-ring seal and a resealable screw top overcap. The SCIII seals HDPE and PET bottles of dairy and juice products. To open the package, the consumer unscrews the easy-to-open plastic overcap, removes the inner plastic seal by pulling the pull-ring, and can reseal the bottle with the overcap.
“The SCIII provides the consumer with the perceived freshness and security benefits of an induction foil seal but is easier for the consumer to open and for the bottler to apply. Several consumer studies have shown that three out of four consumers prefer the SCIII to regular snap or screw caps,” Robinson says.
Portola Packaging manufactures plastic closures, bottles and equipment for the dairy, non-carbonated beverage and food industries. Equipment is manufactured by its Portola Blow Mold Technologies division and consists of capping equipment and blow-molding machines for high-density polyethylene jugs.
Indianapolis-based Alcoa introduced Dairy Lok, a 38-mm lined closure that provides maximum initial sealing integrity, ease of consumer resealability and operational efficiency, says marketing manager Scott Cheek. “This closure is perfect for single-serve applications,” Cheek says. “It also can be run within multiple types of filling options such as cold fill, hot fill, UHT, ESL, etc.”
Alcoa provides closures, capping equipment and experience in beverage closure operations. The company offers a wide range of closures including stock and custom offerings.
In the area of equipment, Alcoa has developed the series 125 capper, which provides excellent quality with low maintenance, Cheek says. “We also support our customers with service to help not only train personnel on the machinery, but also to help with any other issues that would improve our customers’ profitability,” he says.
Adding Value
Cheek says Dairy Lok answers one of two major issues that plague the dairy industry: leaky packages; the other is branding.
“Given the growth of single serve within dairy, branding has become more important now as it ever has been,” Cheek says. “Competing for share of stomach, milk producers are now competing with soft drinks, juices, teas, water, etc. These categories have been dominated by brands for years. As dairies look to differentiate their offerings from the rest of the market, custom closures reinforce their brand equity which enables a premium price to be charged.”
Price is always the biggest issue when it comes to improved features and packaging. “However, the benefits of offering products that reseal are becoming more required by retailers and consumers alike,” Cheek says. “Dairies that are providing quality products that meet consumer needs are requesting resealable packaging.”
Bain agrees. “Dairy companies want what the consumers want,” he says. “However, they do not have room for extra equipment in their production area and pricing pressures make it difficult for them to justify paying a premium for improved features.”
Robinson concurs: “Dairy processors are primarily asking for a package that does not leak and that meets other consumer needs.”
In order to better compete with soft drinks, juices, teas and water, portability is absolutely necessary. Regardless of the cost, “this is not even an option as it is required for all single-serve applications,” Cheek says.
“Multi-serve, gallon and half-gallon fluid milk may not have as much importance in portability, but resealing is becoming much more important as retailers and consumers are beginning to push back on products that leak and do not deliver a reseal benefit,” he says.
Single-serve containers are in great demand, Robinson says, reflecting consumers’ desire for portability. “Consumers want an easy-to-open package that is also easy to reseal and that does not leak,” he says.
Freshness and Safety
Zip-Pak resealable packaging features a simple-to-use zipper profile that can be quickly sealed with a slide of the fingers. And it makes the original packaging a reusable storage container. With Zip-Pak, items like shredded cheese, tortillas, deli meats and pet foods can stay fresh in their original container until their next use.
The newest offering from Manteno, Ill.-based Zip-Pak is a retort resealable package, which has all the benefits of the traditional can with portability. Meanwhile, the Zip-Pak Slider offers a shrouded zipper-and-peel seal that provides convenience and tamper-evident protection. The tear-away header protects the product in the store, but is easily removed when the consumer gets home. Zip-Pak offers a wide range of zipper styles, including the Slider, Flexigrip Flanged Zipper, Webless or String Zipper, UltraSeal, TopZip Transverse Direction Zippers and Perf Cap Zipper Tape.
Consumers are demanding that their dairy products be portable, easy to open and reclose. But what about the product inside the package? How safe is it to eat or drink?
Yes, the nagging issue of food safety.
Many suppliers, such as Portola, have provided tamper-evident closures to the dairy industry for decades, but general awareness about food safety has increased in the last few years in the post-9/11 era.
“Consumers are looking for the assurance of tamper evidence. They want this feature to be visible at point of purchase and they want to be able to get into the product without effort,” Bain says.
“Food safety is a concern for everyone that supplies consumable products. Dairy is no different,” Cheek says. “Tamper-evident closures should not only be present, but they should work. Consumers do not like the appearance of a tamper-evident band only to find out that it does not function. Also, the band should perform in such a way so it does not fall off into the product.”
Next time, maybe I’ll snap open my milk bottle before pulling away from the fast-food drive-thru.
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.