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‘An American’’s stance on global packaging trends’

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Each geographical zone, whether it be Asia, Europe or North America, dictates its priorities based upon consumer habits, the weight of state in the economy and how much the companies invest in innovation.

The packaging industry is no exception ; each zone pushes the industry to progress in specific directions. Often a zone is a trend setter, encouraging its neighbours to follow in its wake.

Innovation on the North American market

Starting with the pharmaceutical area, which is a big part of packaging industry in North America, there is a strong push for unit dose packaging to replace standard high density polyethylene bottles. Wal-Mart had made it very clear that they would like the industry to align themselves with other consumer goods and introduce blister packs containing unit doses.

Staying in pharma, serialisation is also an emerging request, meaning that every package should have a unique code. There is legislation coming out of California that will spread across the whole country. That is an opportunity for any company with an expertise in track & trace and serialisation technology.

Lastly compliance prompting technology and calendarisation are introduced in drugs, meaning that packs remind patients that they did or did not take their medication at the right time.

Generally moving out of the pharma area, stand-up pouches have not been that popular in the States. We have lagged behind Europe. But they are gaining market share as filling speeds are almost matching those of rigid containers.

The applications for stand-up pouches are expanding. The one-quart high density polyethylene bottle for motor oil is now displayed alongside the stand-up pouches in the outlets. For granular products like sugar the pouches can also replace the bag-in-box cartons.

In the controls area, information technology is impacting packaging machinery and complete lines. Real time visibility into packaging operations is becoming crucial. The main goal is asset utilisation. If manufacturers cannot see and get data from their packaging lines in real time they do not know if their assets are properly used. These new software and data acquisition technologies are being pushed heavily.

Full-wrap shrink sleeves are increasingly popular for bottle labelling, largely because of the quality of their graphics. The solution is however encountering a setback. Napcor, the National Association for PET Container Resources, stated in a March 2012 position paper that when the shrink sleeve labels reach the PET reclaimers, the label materials sink to the bottom along with the PET flakes, contaminating them.

As a result Napcor is strongly recommending a switch to stretch sleeve labels, the ones that don’t need to be shrunk at all, because the new materials, many of them PE, float in the float/sink process and don’t contaminate the PET flake when they reach the recycle stream.

The 2012 edition of the Tokyo Pack unveils Asia’s technology focuses

In the field of permeability control for fresh respiring produce, there are new laser technologies that operate at ultra-high speed and accuracy on flexible films. In a separate development, Toyo Seikan introduced a laser technology that instantly eliminates the bubbles off the surface of carbonated drinks such as soda and beer. The presence of the bubbles has always been a drag on filling speeds, so this innovation could pave the way to faster speeds.

Pat Reynolds, Vice President / Editor, Packaging World


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