EXCLUSIVE WEB VERSION
A Little Bit Of Everything

by Shonda Talerico Dudlicek
Contributing Editor

Bottles, jugs and cartons cover almost every dairy packaging need, and there's no shortage of thoughts about them.
Bottles, jugs and cartons — what can one deliver that the others can't? We invited several suppliers of packaging and related components to weigh in on this broad topic.
Q: What does your company offer? What new products or equipment have you developed?
Richard Szyperski, technical product manager, Evergreen Packaging Equipment, Cedar Rapids , Iowa : Evergreen Packaging Equipment is a U.S.-based manufacturer of gable-top, bottle and cup filling equipment for the dairy, juice, liquid food and water industries. Gable-top product line offerings include standard machines, along with extended life machines. Bottle fillers range from those for standard gallon and half-gallon jugs to extended life dairy and juice products packaged in PET bottles. We also have a line of aseptic bottle and cup machines that are in the process of being filed with the FDA for low-acid production. A complete line of shrink-sleeve equipment complements our bottle and cup filling lines.
As part of Evergreen Packaging Inc., we also manufacture packaging materials for gable-top machines. Various structures are available to meet the individual needs of our customers.
We continue to develop new packaging machines to serve our customers in various markets. Recent developments for the gable-top market include the CQL-80 which forms, fills and seals up to 8,000 standard quart/liter cross-section cartons per hour. The N-8ESL, providing additional carton sanitization features, was also recently introduced packaging 340 Eco-Pak® cartons per minute. Rotary bottle fillers with various fill systems are designed specific to a customer's application. Different models handle an array of bottle sizes including 8 ounce up to one gallon, and fill at varying speeds from 30 up to 800 bottles per minute, depending on size.
Kelly Rosvold, general manager, Portola Packaging Canada Ltd., Richmond , British Columbia : Portola provides a “total package” concept, in which we provide container design and testing, cap and bottle integration, and technical service and support. We manufacture containers, caps, capping equipment and blow-mold machines and parts. In addition, our equipment division rebuilds and converts blow-mold machines; and manufactures custom molds, mold and head tooling and provides a mold repair and re-furbishing service.
Nils-Erik Aaby, vice president, Elopak Inc., New Hudson , Mich. : Elopak is a leading global supplier of gable-top paperboard cartons, filling machines, caps and materials handling equipment. Our new Diamond™ carton makes the traditional gable-top carton look more modern. It adds 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.
Emilio Llosa, marketing manager, food & beverage, Owens-Illinois, Perrysburg , Ohio : As the leading manufacturer of glass packaging in the world, O-I has the added benefit of supplying one of the most green and sustainable packages available. The company serves the food and beverage industry as well as the beer, wine and spirits market.
Murray Bain, vice president of marketing, Stanpac Inc., Smithville , Ontario , Canada : Stanpac is a manufacturer of packaging for the dairy industry. Our products include ice cream cartons and packaging for fluid milk.
Vickie Vermeire, marketing manager, food packaging division, Solo Cup Co., Owings Mills, Md.: Solo Cup Co. stands for quality products and innovative, customer-focused solutions with a wide range of paper, plastic and foam disposables as well as filling equipment.
Brian Glasbrenner, global business development manager, polymer/bottles, NatureWorks LLC, Minnetonka , Minn. : NatureWorks LLC produces a plastic resin from a renewable resources: corn. The resin is used to produce a variety of plastic packaging articles including bottles used by dairy processors for fluid milk and fresh juice. NatureWorks LLC produces the first world-scale plastic not made from depleting resources.
Pam Parris, director of marketing, packaging division, Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc., Canton , N.C. : DairyPak, a division of Blue Ridge Paper Products Inc., headquartered in Canton , North Carolina , is a major producer of gable-top cartons used for milk, juice and many specialty products.
John Theis, market segment manager, Sonoco, Hartsville , S.C. : Sonoco produces multi-layer blow molded bottles suitable for aseptic and retort applications. This creates the possibility for the dairy product to be shelf-stable.
Q: What do consumers want in bottles, jugs and cartons? Has this changed much from previous years?
Rosvold: Single-serve containers have shown the largest increase in sales. Customers seem willing to pay the extra cost for the convenience. Other features that consumers are looking at are cap features, “easy open,” etc., as well as recyclables.
Aaby: Year after year, quality and convenience are the key buying factors, whatever the package. Once upon a time, consumers would accept less of one for more of another. But today's shoppers are more value-conscious than ever and want maximum convenience plus maximum shelf life.
Llosa: Consumers are concerned about the safety of the product they are buying from a flavor preservation perspective and tamper resistance. Additionally, consumers want to purchase a product in a container they believe is pure and will not contaminate the product it contains.
Bain: Consumers are looking for convenience; they are also becoming more in tune with the recyclability of packaging materials.
Vermeire: Consumers are looking for manufacturers to take the lead in providing environmentally friendly packaging. This need was always present but it is growing in importance as consumers are increasingly aware of environmental issues.
Parris: In previous years, dairy processors viewed school milk more as a commodity than anything else. Now we realize that kids are very discriminating consumers. Other beverages have gained popularity in schools, simply by applying very basic marketing, making the package fun and visually pleasing. Students are the ultimate customers and they must find something interesting about milk and the gable-top package before they will pick it up and drink. 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. Paperboard cartons block 96 percent of light transmission, whereas plastic bottles or jugs do not. Light transmission speeds the process of vitamin breakdown and off-flavor. Children should get the benefit of nutritious milk in a package that protects the vitamin content.
Giovanna Prestes Lemos, marketing and communications manager , Tetra Pak Inc., Vernon Hills , Ill. : When it comes to choosing packaging, from options such as glass, metal, plastic and aseptic, consumers identify protection as a key factor in influencing their selections.
Q: What are dairy processors asking for from bottles, jugs and cartons?
Rosvold: Increased shelf life, container cost reductions through light-weighting of the bottles. Just-in-time deliveries.
Aaby: Fundamentally, processors want to give consumers what they demand for the lowest possible cost. Ultra-clean, or extended shelf life, meets this need because it lets processors give their customers an extra measure of quality without a big investment. Other processor hot-buttons are high throughput and minimal downtime.
Bain: They continue to look for products and packages that will reflect the image and perception that they are trying to achieve.
Vermeire: Dairy processors are looking for a strategic partner, not just a supplier. This type of relationship makes inventory management, new product development, promotional planning and overall communication easier. In the past year, we've worked to offer custom solutions that don't require expensive tooling and lengthy development times. By simply adding a unique color resin to a translucent plastic cup or adding a fun swirl pattern into ice cream through filling modifications, processors maximize their differentiation without breaking the bank.
Lemos: Aseptic packaging of dairy products requires the highest performance levels from hygienic and aseptic technologies to ensure the most demanding standards of food safety and quality are achieved. This is even more challenging in flexible or high-speed applications, and here low acid dairy applications are at the leading edge of technology performance compared to high-acid categories such as juices, nectars and still drinks.  
Pressure to improve performance levels come from all sides of the value chain — from consumers, from competition in the dairy industry, from retailers and from legislators. 
Tetra Pak is continuing to develop innovative and cost-effective processing and packaging solutions that protect our customers' investment and help them meet the ever-changing needs of the market place.
Glasbrenner: Sad to say, but what the majority of processors continue to ask for is the most cost-effective package. High-density plastic used in the vast majority of fluid milk bottles is one of the least-expensive plastic packages available for fluid milk. The difference of a few pennies makes a difference to the bottom line for processor already working with tight margins.
Q.: What will be the next generation of bottles, jugs and cartons in terms of shapes, ergonomic design, etc?
Szyperski: Ease of handling, opening, reclosing and convenience are the most important factors when looking into the future. Eye-catching graphics and a unique shape will have greater shelf appeal and help to promote the sale of the products.
Rosvold: Bottles will have larger label panels to accommodate new labeling information requirements. Colored bottles may increase. There is already a broad range of shapes in the market and changes would be variations of these existing designs.
Aaby: The next generation of cartons is already here: the Curve and Diamond gable-top cartons from Elopak.
Llosa: For the dairy market, there is a focus on single-serve, on-the-go containers. And, there is an equation between size and cost. Consumers are willing to pay more for convenient, on-the-go packages.
Bain: We will continue developing products that address food safety while focusing on enhanced graphic appeal to ensure our customers' products are the ones that get picked up and put in the shopping cart.
Vermeire: Dairy processors are always looking for ways to increase the consumers' ease of use. We anticipate an even greater shift toward portability as consumers spend more meal time in their cars.
Lemos: We see a big demand for closures. With more than 20 different closures, Tetra Pak has the largest range of caps and closures available for both the aseptic and chilled packages. These include both recloseable caps, such as the Tetra Pak ReCap™ family, which are glued on to our packages with a PullTab opening, as well as re-sealable caps, such as ™, StreamCap™ and SlimCap™.
We are currently working on a next-generation closure, which will reduce cost for our customers by almost 30 percent and provide a significant improvement in convenience for consumers.
Glasbrenner: We have seen significant changes to dairy packages in the last 10 years. The impact of the Dean Foods Milk Chug deserves credit for much of this change. The dairy industry is notoriously slow to change and the effect of the single-serve plastic bottle has been a significant change throughout the industry. Ergonomically friendly packages that are easy to grip and drink from or pour will continue to evolve and change. We believe these changes will continue to affect bottles and jugs the most; cartons, while still being used, are an ever-declining portion of dairy packaging.
Parris: We continue to make strides to improve our cartons. I look for some very interesting specialty carton uses within the next year or two.
Q.: What's the buzzword in bottles, jugs and cartons?
Szyperski: Shelf appeal and shelf life. The more attractive the package, and the longer the shelf life, the better opportunity to promote the sale of the product.
Rosvold: Make it as inexpensive as possible.
Aaby: Today's consumers make choices based on perceived value. They naturally place the highest value on the products that best meet their top priorities — quality and convenience. Extended shelf life milk in exciting new packaging, like the Curve™ and Diamond™ cartons, helps processors deliver this value.
Llosa: Anything associated with pure, healthy products is popular. And, there has been a major trend toward the organics market.
Vermeire: Eco-friendly, easy-open.
Glasbrenner: We hope it is PLA, at least in bottles and jugs.
Parris: Milk Rocks!
Shonda Talerico Dudlicek is a freelance journalist and a former managing editor of Dairy Field .