Take-Away Points
by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek

Portable packaging gets hipper, cooler and greener.
How do you package healthy dairy products in portable snack sizes?    Maybe you customize your packaging by matching caps to the bottle, or use more colors on the carton to strengthen brand identity. Or maybe it’s in the unique tamper-evident seal.
Most important is that the products themselves be easy and convenient to tote around, making it easier for consumers to get their 3-a-day of dairy.
“Health and wellness, convenience and customization is a continued trend,” says Michelle Schmitt, market analyst, Berry Plastics Corp., Evansville, Ind., a manufacturer of injection-molded packaging including thermoformed and tamper-resistant packaging. “Like other segments, sustainable packaging — Wal-Mart’s recent focus on the sustainability and the environment has shifted the focus to ‘greener’ packaging.”
For even more convenience, consumers ask for bundling of products, such as drinkable milk and cereal, and shelf-stable packaging for product freshness, Schmitt says. Consumers demand packaging that’s easy to open without sharp implements and easily resealable should they want to save their snack for later. They desire “ease of use, since some older closures on the market can be very difficult to open,” says Jay Martin, vice president of operations for IPEC, New Castle, Pa., a supplier of plastic closures and equipment used in the dairy industry.
Martin says that because children are the target market of many single-serve dairy products, much more of the focus has turned toward ease of use. “Because of the convenience of a better-functioning closure,” he says, “larger-size bottles are also following suit.”
He points to drop-lock style closures being widely used in the dairy industry as they have been in the water and soda markets. “There’s a more intense focus on tamper evidency and continued focus on smaller bottle packaging,” Martin says.
Bold, exciting graphics are another way to set products apart. “There is more of a focus being placed on packaging graphics than in previous years as marketers are focusing on doing what it takes to grab the consumers’ attention so that the consumer will grab the package, says Murray Bain, vice president of marketing, Stanpac Inc., Smithville, Ontario, Canada.
Canton, N.C.-based Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc. developed a multi-dimensional campaign called Milk Rocks! that brings colorful graphics to redesigned school milk cartons.
Dairy processors want to sell more milk and build their brand in a positive way. “Let’s face it, milk cartons have been pretty ‘uncool’ looking in the past, but are now becoming more fun and interactive,” says Pam Parris, director of marketing for Blue Ridge Paper Products’ packaging division. “Milk Rocks connects the carton, the milk and, most importantly, the student to a fun, exciting, cool world while incorporating positive messaging around good nutrition and healthy living.”
Carrying Kids
DairyPak, a division of Blue Ridge Paper Products, claims to provide gable-top cartons to more than half of the schools in the nation. The company points to industry studies such as the Improved School Milk Test in St. Louis that showed school milk sales and consumption and could grow up to 34 percent by combining appealing milk carton graphics with great flavors and simple marketing.
“Over the past two years, more than 75 percent of the dairies we serve have redesigned their school milk cartons, boasting more color and student-friendly graphics,” Parris says. “Kids must find something interesting about milk and the gable-top package before they will pick it up and drink it.”
The Milk Rocks program gives school milk in paperboard cartons added value, Parris says. “Dairy processors want to sell more milk and build their brand in a positive way. Milk Rocks allows dairies to do both, all in a cool way for students and their schools,” she says. “Over the past several years, dairy processors and school foodservice directors have been led to believe that the only way to increase school milk sales was by packaging it in a plastic bottle. Now they know that is simply not true. The carton provides much more branding space and fun, exciting graphics that students find appealing without the added cost of plastic bottles.”
Consumers want more and more convenience with no compromises in quality, says Nils-Erik Aaby, vice president, Elopak Inc., New Hudson, Mich. “They are attracted to great graphics and new packaging concepts, but accept newness more readily when the innovation is associated with a well-known, trusted package like the gable-top carton.”
Aaby, whose company is a global supplier of gable-top paperboard cartons, filling machines, caps and materials handling equipment, says Elopak’s new Diamond™ carton makes the traditional gable-top carton more portable than ever. Adding two curved panels — one on the side, for a more elegant and slimmer appearance and enhanced graphics, and one on the top to allow a larger pour spout and cap — gives the carton a more modern look.
These cartons are available in standard and mini cross-section and can be formed and filled on most Pure-Pak® filling machines with a simple mandrel modification. All Pure-Pak filling machines are available with on-machine cap applicators or downstream post applicators.
Elopak continuously updates its form-fill-seal equipment, and the PH90UC “ultra clean” machine runs is 9,000 cartons per hour. The PS120UC machine for quart and fractional sizes has been updated to fill products with particulates and triple-fill, capable of filling simultaneously three products into a carton.
“Processors want clean, reliable, cost-effective packaging systems,” Aaby says, “and they want packaging that sets them apart from competitors, attracts the attention of shoppers, and keeps those shoppers coming back. When they can get all of this without capital investment or training people on new systems, they can implement faster and stay ahead of competition.”
Complete Package
Dairy processors want complete package implementation, Martin says, and are adding additional filling lines or converting existing lines to handle the higher speed single-serve lines.
“Dairies must select the best total package for them, including what closure, bottle, and label they will use as well as the conveyance, filling and capping equipment,” he says. “They usually have to accomplish this with their current staff, with limited interruption to current business and ensuring that they continue to run their operations efficiently in today’s very competitive marketplace. This is an extremely difficult task to accomplish without the support from a partnering supplier.”
IPEC structured itself to have the industry’s highest ratio of technical service specialists to accounts in the country, Martin says. “We assist dairies in selecting the best overall package, working with in-house blow-mold department or external bottle supplier, as well as help in designing the most value-added equipment line for your needs. We will then assist in the building, installation and trouble shooting of the line to ensure that the retail customer is receiving the quality package that they deserve. With our service, we can ensure that the dairy accomplishes this with the shortest lead time and the least disruption to current operation.”  
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field.