Resources:
Coco-Cola Co., www.thecoca-colacompany.com
Clorox, www.clorox.com
Degill International Corp., www.degill.com
Entropy Solutions Inc., www.entropysolutionsinc.com
Exal Corp., www.exal.com
Frito-Lay, a div. of PepsiCo - USA, www.fritolay.com
Proctor & Gamble, http://www.pg.com/

This year’s winners in the 22nd DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers Awards for Packaging Innovation showed “collaborative innovation across a wide array of market segments,” according to the judges. The DuPont competition is the industry’s longest-running, independently judged global awards program honoring packaging materials, technology, and service innovations.

“This year we focused the program on how companies need to emphasize the essential elements needed to drive breakthroughs in packaging. Innovative new developments, along with cost and waste reductions and improved sustainability, are how packaged-goods companies and retailers are seeking to respond to consumer needs,” says Carolann Haznedar, global business and market director at DuPont Packaging & Industrial Polymers, Wilmington, Del. Here are the Diamond and Gold Award winners:

Diamond Winner - How can you possibly update a bottle? Engineers at Exal Corp.. Youngstown, Ohio, discovered one way: by using “Coil to Can” (C2C) technology to make aluminum bottles. The process uses recycled aluminum and, for the first time, gives companies the option of using stylized aluminum bottles for large-scale beverage applications. C2C, a hybrid process, combines the speed of standard beverage-can manufacturing (drawn and ironed) with a proprietary shaping technology previously restricted to thick-walled containers. And C2C bottles, despite being thinner than impact-extruded aluminum bottles, withstand more force before deforming or bursting. The process consumes less material, so there’s a 40% weight reduction. And the process takes between one-half to one-quarter of the time needed with the current method of making aluminum beverage containers. All this makes the cost of finished C2C bottles comparable with PET and glass. They are also 100% recyclable.

Diamond Winner - The greatest challenge in shipping temperature-sensitive materials such as pharmaceuticals or blood supplies is maintaining the right temperatures during transport. In fact, losses due to temperature-related damaged cost the pharmaceutical industry $3 billion last year.

So how do you get temperature-sensitive products, including human organs and blood, delivered safely?
To solve that problem, engineers at Entropy Solutions Inc., Minneapolis, developed Greenbox, a reusable thermal-management system made up of a reusable polyethylene box, insulating panels, and PureTemp phase-change materials (PCM). The PCM are renewable-based, nontoxic materials which keep the contents at a specific temperature (anywhere from –40 to 70°C for more than 120 hr.)

When phase-change materials melt or freeze, they absorb or release a significant amount of latent heat at relatively constant temperatures. For example, a properly designed PureTemp cup could be filled with coffee brewed at 82°C. The PCM in the cup would transform from a solid to a liquid, cooling the coffee to around 57 to 60°C, and storing the heat. But once the coffee cools below that range, the PCM begins releasing the captured heat and keeping the drink in the optimal range for up to 60 min.

While most PCMs are petroleum based, Greenbox uses materials derived from vegetable fats and oils, making them more environmentally friendly. The materials can also be reused.

To bolster the PureTemp technique, the company insulates the recyclable shipping box with Thermal-Lok panels. They contain no air, so heat has a difficult time moving through them. Tests show that the panels have 10 times the insulating value of expanded polystyrene. Both the panels and the shipping box can be ground up for reuse in new boxes and panels.

Gold Winner - As part of its zero-waste strategy for packaging materials, The Coca-Cola Co., Atlanta, will be using bottles made of a PET resin consisting of up to 30% plant-based renewable material. The new PlantBottle material has been launched in Brazil, Canada, Denmark, and Japan, and can be recycled with other PET bottles. It is said to be the first plastic beverage bottle from renewable sources compatible with the existing PET recycling infrastructure.

Gold Winner - Package designers at Clorox, Oakland, Calif., replaced the polypropylene pail used to package and dispose of cat litter with a flexible bag. The switch cut material used for packaging by nearly 80%. It also reduced the costs and energy used across its supply chain — everything from inbound freight, to storage and warehousing. And consumers get a package that is said to be just as easy to handle, pour, reseal, and store as the pail it replaced.

Gold Winner - Counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a tremendous problem, particularly in some parts of the world. That’s why designers at Degill International, Taiwan, developed EZ Fusion two-in-one vials. It lets consumers easily determine whether a drug is authentic or not and lets them mix it with water for injections. The single-use package also takes the guesswork out of mixing drugs with water, so there is less waste. There is also less chance of contamination and it provides a safer, cost-effective alternative to traditional glass vials.
The overall package has two compartments, one for drugs and the other for sterilized water. A central spacer inside the cap forms the two independent airtight chambers. Twisting the bottle cap displaces a spring spacer and lets the materials in the upper chamber drop down and mix with contents in bottom chamber.

Gold Winner -- Proctor & Gamble, Cincinnati, packaging experts went so far as to redesign the machinery as well as packaging material when they made the switch from wicketed polyethylene bags to continuous-flow wrapping for Always feminine products. The changeover reduced the amount of polyethylene used by 25% and shrunk the warehouse space needed to store packaging materials by 80%. The new approach makes for a smaller, tighter package that stacks more efficiently and safely on pallets. Also less energy is used to make the packaging material and transport the finished product. And the new design is said to be more attractive to consumers.

Gold Winner - Packaging for chips and other snack foods often end up as litter or in landfills. To help ensure that doesn’t happen to its snack packages, Frito-Lay North America, a division of PepsiCo, Dallas, developed a bag for Sunchips snacks that can be composted. To make the three-part material both environmentally friendlier and capable of protecting the product, the company switched to polylactic acid for the outer bag, along with compostable adhesives and inner barrier coating. The result is a bag that uses renewable materials and allows for a new disposal option — composting.

Packaging Innovations that changed the way we eat
Over the years, the DuPont Awards competition has honored many innovations that are now part of our culture, here are just a few:
1986 – All-plastic microwavable, reheatable food packaging, and prepackaged fully cooked meat available in the supermarket
1989 – First breathable packaging for fresh produce
1991 – First oven-safe bake-in-the-bag for turkeys
1995 – 100% natural fruit juices in single-portion flexible pouches
2001 – Easy-open vacuum-sealed pouch for tuna replacing metal cans
2002 – Soup on-the-go in sippable cups
2003 – Tear-open, zip-packed shredded cheeses
2004 – Ready-to-drink, reclosable nutritional supplements
2006 – Reclosable, resealable cookie packs
2009 – Replacing glass jars with stand-up pouches that use 70% less material

© 2010 Penton Media, Inc.