Winners of the 30th Packaging Innovation Awards Share Insights about their Inspiration

Award Winners

Packaging innovation takes many forms, from technical advancements to environmental responsibility to an enhanced user experience. And sometimes it’s all of the above! An independent panel of global packaging experts judged the 2018 30th Awards for Packaging Innovation to identify the best and brightest breakthroughs in the packaging world against those criteria. To highlight the wealth of forward-thinking packaging solutions represented in this year’s awards, IN spoke to the creative minds behind four award-winning innovations and where consumers might soon see them being used.

Air Assist Liquid Packaging Technology from Procter & Gamble (P&G)

Driven primarily by the pursuit of more sustainable packaging, Procter & Gamble set out to “reinvent the bottle.” The project was led by a team that included P&G Research Fellow Ken McGuire, who spoke to IN about the invention of Air Assist Liquid Packaging Technology.

Traditional soap and shampoo bottles are ubiquitous because their functionality is extremely effective. In order to design a new soap-dispensing bottle that consumers would actually use, McGuire and his team couldn’t sacrifice performance for added sustainability benefits. Their product had to reduce plastic and material use while performing better than traditional bottles. The team’s journey to reinvent the bottle was a huge challenge and took a full five years to achieve.

After experimentation and prototyping, the team discovered that compressed gas was the ticket to delivering the best aspects of a sustainable pouch and a rigid plastic bottle, all in one package. By starting with the “squeezability” and resilience of flexible plastic films, engineers could then use compressed gases like nitrogen to target the precise places where the bottle would need to be rigid for structure.

Yet, the advanced design also featured a surprise sustainability and usability twist. One look at Air Assist and it becomes apparent something’s missing — the cap. Swapping it for a one-way valve and vent that only dispenses when the bottle is squeezed made for better one-handed use. It also translated to a significant drop in overall plastic use. As it stands now, the application uses 50% less plastic than traditional rigid bottles, all while providing cleaner dispensing, more controlled dosing and more convenient one-handed use than your average pouch.

So, what’s next for the minds behind Air Assist? According to McGuire, P&G is developing a process called Pure Cycle technology that returns hard-to-recycle plastics, such as multi-layer film, to their virgin state. With this potential breakthrough, they hope to avoid common issues linked to downcycling.

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CleanPouch Aseptic Spouted Pouch System from Scholle IPN

When Scholle and IPN combined in December of 2013, Scholle’s aseptic technology and the IPN’s pouch capabilities came together under one roof. Seeing an unmet need to provide convenient in-pouch food that’s both shelf-stable and enables peak freshness, an international team developed the world’s first commercially available, pre-made, aseptic spouted pouch system.

To lay the scene of this breakthrough, Chad Mueller, PhD, vice president and chief technology officer at Scholle IPN noted sterilizing food is only half the battle. A shelf-stable package itself also has to be sterilized, and done in a way that doesn’t leave its contents open to contamination — or alter their flavor.

Take traditional hot-fill processing. The food’s already sterile but its packaging isn’t. This method keeps the food at high temperatures long enough to sterilize this package, which can alter the taste of the food in the meantime.

Starting with neither food nor package sterilized isn’t necessarily a better approach. This is known as retort processing. The food is put in the packaging, and both are subjected to pressurized steam at the same time. If the high temperatures seemed lengthy with the hot-fill method, it’s even longer for retort.

So, extreme heat seems necessary, but how could Mueller’s team use it for less time? Thanks to some clever engineering, they found a way to sterilize both food and package separately and combine the two thereafter. The key is an innovative combination of spout, plug and cap.

The CleanPouch lives up to its name and is sterilized before receiving its contents. When the package moves down the assembly line, its plug can be plucked from the spout. Then after sterilized food has been filled, that same plug can be resealed hermetically. Later on, a cap is combined with the plug to make it a tamper-proof, consumer-friendly item.

It all comes together for a gentler filling process, with a pouch that’s convenient to use and maintains the contents’ taste — even with foods high in protein where flavors have been harder to maintain. IN raises a glass…er, a pouch to that.

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Dual Hoop Catheter DISK from CleanCut Technologies

CleanCut Technologies’ has been making a name for themselves, for almost two decades, in the medical device industry with the company’s innovative medical device packaging products and services. The company is the originator of the unique catheter dispensing system called the “DISK”. The DISK is a packaging solution that combines a patented CleanCut Clipless Catheter Dispenser with an HDPE Pouch Card. It is designed to dispense a single catheter or guidewire along with procedural items all in one kit.

When CleanCut was presented with a challenge from a customer to enhance the DISK to accommodate multiple catheter wires, the company’s design team jumped at the opportunity. Their efforts resulted in the award-winning, innovative “Dual Hoop Catheter DISK”.

In addition to asking CleanCut to design a DISK that could retain and protect multiple catheters, the customer requested that the footprint of the original DISK not be increased. According to Brian Whalen, Director of Sales and Marketing at CleanCut, the Dual Hoop Catheter DISK is the most efficient packaging solution available today for catheter or guidewire based medical devices. The design lets multiple catheters and guidewires of varying sizes – along with any procedural components – to be packaged in a convenient, all-in-one system. Gone are the days of opening and assembling extra pouches, instructions for use, labels, shelf cartons or corrugated shipping boxes for each individually packaged component.

The design of the Dual Hoop Catheter DISK reduces packaging waste by 20-30%, translating to cost savings for medical device manufacturers. The design also allows surgical teams to unpack and use equipment quickly – giving more efficient care by reducing patients time under anesthesia.

CleanCut is now looking to take this seamless solution even further by better understanding what automated systems their customers use within their manufacturing plants. Whalen noted that, in the end, it’s all about finding “packaging solutions that address these issues while still delivering long-format medical devices safely and securely to the end user.”

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StealthWrap™ from Sealed Air

E-commerce helps save shopping time, yet on-demand delivery isn’t always environmentally friendly. Buy shoes online and they’ll show up on your doorstep in not just a shoebox, but a shoebox inside a larger box, sometimes surrounded by cushioning materials to prevent damage. Dr. Natarajan S. Ramesh, a senior engineering fellow in Product Care Development and Innovation at Sealed Air, saw this as a dilemma their company could help address. “The strategy was, how do you rethink the box?” he said. “And the end result was you don't need it.”

StealthWrap uses plastic film layers to do the work of all that bulky packaging. Imagine that same shoebox being encased in a film that shrinks and adheres to the shoebox’s dimensions, creating a shell packed with billions of particles that maintain the wrap’s strength, toughness and protective properties throughout the entire shipping process. And with 99% opacity, no one can see through to the product, giving customers the privacy they expect.

On its surface, StealthWrap is a paradox. It’s incredibly thin, yet almost completely opaque. It’s extremely flexible and easy to open, yet tough enough to withstand the rough handling of global shipping. All of this is possible because of a combination of two sciences: multilayer plastic film production and nanotechnology. The 29 microlayers of polymers used to produce the film impart both strength and flexibility, while billions of nano-pigments are added to provide opacity without disrupting the structure of the plastic.

Dr. Ramesh said their “goal is to solve customer problems with innovative solutions that will have a positive impact on the planet and the people around the world.” One roll of StealthWrap film can eliminate the use of 1,000 corrugated boxes — which helps eliminate packaging waste by as much as 90%. Plus, because a StealthWrap package is smaller than the box-in-a-box method, it reduces billable weight by up to 18%.

Dr. Ramesh noted they’re not done innovating around sustainability concerns. His team is currently fine-tuning sugarcane-based polymers as a renewable, plant-based packaging material. By specifically using renewable materials with low greenhouse gas emissions, his company hopes to reduce the amount of packaging waste that goes into landfills.

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