Food Engineering

Space: sustainability's final frontier

January 1, 2011
Container lightweighting and recycled materials are all well and good, but the real action today is in squeezing more units into less space.

Tamper-evident tabs and a skirtless flange are among Trustpack’s functional improvements, but developers expect the space-optimizing shape to be a major draw in winning converts from pails. Source: IPL Inc.


Containers that are lighter or perform better are still staples of packaging innovations, and plenty were on display at November’s PACK EXPO show in Chicago. But even when other functional benefits were promoted, shape and the efficient use of space often were the background benefits that translated to the most sustainable savings.

Sacramento, CA converter Interpress Technologies collaborated with MeadWestvaco (MWV) Corp. and machine-builder Paper Machinery Corp. to develop a skive and hem process to hermetically seal the seam of paper container linings, making them suitable for foods with moisture or grease levels that otherwise would allow migration out of the container, as well as applications where a reasonable oxygen barrier is necessary. Polyethylene and polypropylene offer varying degrees of integrity, but the best protection comes from MWV barrier board, which weighs half as much as comparable composite materials, according to MWV’s Douglas Reid, marketing director at the Richmond, VA paper supplier.

Response to the innovation “was beyond our expectations,” relates Sandy Jaquish, Interpress vice president-sales and marketing. Packagers of cereal, chocolate products and frozen entrées are in the first wave of converts, most of which previously used spiral wound, vertical-wall containers. Those products demanded more atmospheric protection than Interpress was able to provide with its tapered, fiber-based containers, and the improvement enables the manufacturers to leverage Interpress’ key advantage: nestable containers.

“Depending on the particular shape, you’re often looking at a 10:1 ratio in space savings,” says Jaquish, which translates to a 90 percent savings in shipping costs for empty containers. The greater savings is on site, not only in storage but also when staging the containers for filling.

Tamper evidence was the main design criterion for Trustpack, a new container from Canada’s IPL Inc., Pintendre, QC. A breakaway tab in each corner of the lid provides a clear visual cue once the container is unsealed. A skirtless flange eliminates the potential for contaminating the lip while filling, an issue with a flanged pail, the vessel IPL hopes to replace. But it was the container’s square shape that garnered the most attention when IPL introduced it at the show. Stacked seven layers high, a 40- x 48-in. pallet holds 294 units, compared to 210 2.5-liter pails, according to Jean-Pierre Simard, IPL’s chief marketing officer.

“We can get 40 percent more units on a truck compared to cylindrical pails,” adds Simard. The firm debuted a pail with a tamper-evident flange in 1993, but he expects the new shape to replace many of those applications wherever practical. The pails are particularly strong in foodservice, but the ability to do in-mold labeling with high-quality printing should make the squares an attractive option for retail.

For more information:
Sandy Jaquish, Interpress Technologies, 916-929-9771, sandyj@iptec.com
Jean-Pierre Simard, IPL Inc., 418-789-3651, jpsimard@ipt-plastics.com
Douglas Reid, MeadWestvaco Corp., 804-444-7909, douglas.reid@mwv.com