This year's Pack Expo Intl. show in Chicago offers plenty of options for industry professionals interested in flexible packaging. 

The Zipbox combines the attributes of folding carton and pouch packaging to create an easy-opening package that also recloses securely.


Manufacturing companies must contend with shrinking margins, globalization, and shifts in consumer needs. Remaining profitable requires delivering innovative and value-added products and reducing environmental impact. It also requires keeping aware of new options. Attendees at PACK EXPO International 2010 (www.packexpo.com) use packaging to accomplish these objectives. Amidst the wide spectrum of packaging on display at the show, flexible packaging professionals will find plenty of developments of interest. Flexible Packaging has selected some highlights for your consideration.

Paperboard-pouch Hybrid

Some of the newest packaging designs meet demands for both shelf impact and environmental attributes. “Sustainability has to be part of the conversation today,” says Neil Kozarsky, president of T.H.E.M. (www.them.net, Booth 4330). The Zipbox from T.H.E.M. is a good example: The pouch/folding carton hybrid combines the cube efficiency and stable, upright stance of a folding carton with the easy-open and -reclose and freshness-preserving features of a zippered pouch.

The process is compatible with a variety of materials including poly-coated paperboard and poly/foil/paperboard laminations for the carton and heat-sealable film with zippers for the pouch portion.

“Phase one targets grocery and convenience store applications in the less than 5-pound range while club store packs of products like pet food or other dry products in the 8- to 10-pound range appear to be right around the bend,” says Steve Belko, T.H.E.M. vice president.

The Zipbox also offers sustainability benefits: Its rectangular or square shape fills gaps found between canister or pouch packs to allow at least 30% more product on a pallet than those formats.

“We’re still collecting data, but with some Zipbox designs it may be possible to reduce or even eliminate corrugated distribution packaging,” Kozarsky predicts. 

In-mold labeling produces a combination of graphic appeal and source reduction, such as this award-winning IML container for Llyod's Barbeque Pork, Chicken and Beef from last year's Pack Expo Selects competition.

Many brand owners are transitioning from round to non-round containers to meet sustainability objectives and demands for “greener” products from retailers like Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. “Non-round containers cube better, permitting more product to fit on the pallet and on the store shelf,” explains Jackie Kuehlmann, marketing manager at Inland Label (www.inlandlabel.com, Booth 8126), a supplier of several types of labels including two styles of injection-molded labels (IMLs), traditional cut-and-stack and roll-fed. Relatively new to the United States, roll-fed IMLs are cut just prior to being positioned in the mold and to streamline the IML process. Roll-fed IMLs also possess an enhanced environmental profile because the converting process requires fewer finishing steps and generates less waste. 

Hormel has adopted an E-Z Zip stand-up pouch from Ampac for a club store pack of bacon pits. The tear strip/dual-track zipper combination, suitable for preformed or form-fill-seal pouches opens cleanly, leaves the header intact, and recloses smoothly.

Pouch Improvements

Sometimes product differentiation involves a new silhouette or greater functionality. The E-Z Zip stand-up pouch from Ampac Flexibles (www.ampaconline.com, Booth 2919) delivers easier opening/reclosing. The E-Z Zip combines tabbed tear strip opening with a dual-track zipper reclosure. Pulling the tab opens the front panel of the pouch. “The tear strip is integral to the zipper material so the outside of the pouch is never compromised until the tab is pulled,” explains Sal Pellingra, innovation and marketing director for Ampac.

On the filling line, the E-Z Zip design claims that it eliminates problems with closed zippers as well as product-contaminated zippers. Leaving the header intact increases the package’s post-opening billboard and presents a more finished looking package through multiple openings and reclosings. 

Originally introduced on preformed stand-up pouches, the E-Z Zip reclosable zipper now may be used on certain horizontal form-fill-seal hf-f-s equipment.

The E-Z Zip zipper/tear strip is compatible with two- and three-layer pouch materials including those with foil or metallized layers.

Cleaner opening is also the goal behind Torayfan TreaTear PP directional-tear sealant films from Toray Plastics (America), Inc. (www.torayfilms.com, Booth 2935), a supplier of PP and PET films, including metallized structures. Designed as a drop-in replacement for cast polypropylene (CPP) and low-density polyethylene sealant webs, the clear films offer high seal strength and tear-straight opening of retort and non-retort gusseted and non-gusseted pouches. Because the films are stiffer than CPP, there’s potential for downgauging and cost reduction using yield-enhancing film as thin as 30 microns (1.2 mil). It can replace a layer such as oriented nylon in some instances.

“Combining precise straight directional tear with seal strength for retort applications is a significant development in the evolution of flexible packaging,” says Matt Brown, operations manager, Toray Plastics (America). “Converters benefit from improved pouch performance, greater production efficiencies, potentially better yields and sustainability advantages.”

It is available in two versions, one for retort pouches that require 100% ink coverage and another for retort applications that require high strength as well as high clarity for product visibility. Applications include seafood, chicken, rice, prepared entrees, Meals Ready-to-Eat military rations and pet food.  

Clear Lam's PrimaPak is a stackable flexible package that maximizes shelf efficiency.

'Greener' Packaging

Source reduction, a popular way to increase sustainability, is one reason why Zip-Pak (www.zippak.com, Booth 1902) developed the downsized Slider Advantage zipper. The new design, which is compatible with virtually any form-fill-seal or pre-made pouch/bag holding up to about 2 pounds, is about 60% smaller than the original Slider design, which is still available for larger packages. “At about 2.5 cents for a 12-inch pouch, the Slider Advantage zipper costs about 50 percent less than its larger predecessor,” says Robert Hogan, director international sales and marketing for Zip-Pak.

Clear Lam Packaging, Inc. (www.clearlam.com, Booth 213) advocates use of renewable materials and offers a variety of EarthClear flexible packaging materials created from modified Ingeo polylactic acid from NatureWorks, LLC. (www.natureworksllc.com) One structure with over 90% plant-based content debuted in April 2010 for three flavors of Organic Pretzel Sticks from Snyder’s of Hanover.

Another concept from Clear Lam, the PrimaPak, is a flexible, stackable package produced from a single roll of film with a rigid fitment that acts as a reclosable feature. The f-f-s pack is designed to replace heavier rigid packaging such as glass jars and aluminum cans, which eliminates the issue of transporting empty containers to packers, cutting costs for manufacturer and consumers. Compared to glass or PET jars or composite cans, the PrimaPak provides enhanced stackability for optimum merchandising and increasing shelf utilization up to 32%.

StreamTwo, a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) lidstock from Rollprint Packaging Products, Inc. (www.rollprint.com, Booth 8118), is designed to seal to HDPE cups and trays to create more easily recycled monomaterial packages. The coextruded or extrusion-coated all-HDPE multilayer material joins StreamOne, an all-polyester lidstock. Rollprint’s Allegro L sealant provides a wide sealing window and smooth peeling performance.

Rollprint also plans to showcase its transparent aluminum-oxide-coated ClearFoil X and ClearFoil Z polyester. The clear materials not only provide product visibility, but also exhibit a higher barrier at a thinner gauge than barrier materials relying on aluminum foil laminates.

To register for PACK EXPO International 2010 or obtain more information, visit www.packexpo.com or contact PMMI’s Show Department: phone: 703-243-8555; fax: 703-243-8556; e-mail: expo@pmmi.org.