The Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) has announced the FPA 2023 Student Flexible Packaging Design Challenge winners. This year’s first winner was a student from California Polytechnic State University, and the second-place winner was a team of students from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. There was also one honorable mention award for the 2023 competition, also from the University of Wisconsin–Stout.

FPA’s annual Achievement Awards competition recognizes innovative flexible packaging from across its membership. The industry also believes it is important to encourage and recognize students who are working to become the next generation of packaging designers.

The first-place winner was Caroline Powell from the California Polytechnic State University under the direction of Joongmin Shin, Ph.D., Associate Professor. “The FPA Student Design Competition is a valuable opportunity for students to highlight their creativity and innovation. It is also a great way for students to network with industry professionals and learn about the latest trends in flexible packaging. As one of the schools that offers packaging degree programs, I want to give my students a chance to compete against the brightest packaging students in the U.S.,” states Shin. “I am so proud of Caroline for winning the FPA student design competition. This is a prestigious award for many talented students in packaging education programs. I am grateful to FPA for providing this opportunity for our students.”

In discussing her biggest challenge with her entry, Powell noted, “The biggest challenge I faced with putting together this package was figuring out the watering and drainage of the pouch. Because the pouch was inspired by a classic plant pot, I needed to incorporate drainage features into the flexible pouch. This was important to ensure the quality of the product and prevent waterlogging and root rot. However, I had to design the drainage in a way that kept the package air and water-tight during shipping so that the drainage holes were an active feature after the product was purchased. This problem was solved by adding adhesive pull tabs that the user removes upon purchasing to activate proper drainage.”

A packaging concept for puppy chow was the second place winner, a team of students from the University of Wisconsin – Stout. Olivia Leipnitz, Elaina Marxen, Annabelle Meyer, and Ella Stelter, under the direction of Gary Borges, Associate Professor, designed a flexible packaging solution that reduces packaging waste, food waste, minimizes the use of utensils and dishes, and creates a new storage method with their Puppy Chow Kit concept. “Winning second place in the competition means a lot as my group members and I put in many hours thinking of ideas, designing everything, making the prototypes, and putting together the videos,” states Marxen. “It shows that our hard work and dedication worked out for us and that we have the skills needed for our desired career paths.”

According to Meyer, “Success in the competition means that I was able to apply the knowledge that I have learned from packaging courses at UW-Stout successfully. Going from a late-night idea to a finished product over the course of 3 weeks shows that hard work truly does pay off.”

Commenting on the competition as a whole, Borges notes, “Having packaging students at Stout work on the FPA Student Design Challenge enhances their education by providing a team project where students are required to participate and develop as a TEAM; provides an ideation project to develop creativity; provides an example where you have to present and sell your idea to management or perhaps a customer; provides an opportunity for students to grow their self-esteem; provides content to add to their LinkedIn profile; and provides an opportunity to interact with an industry mentor creating important industry contacts.”

FPA’s Emerging Leadership Council (ELC) oversees the Student Flexible Packaging Design Challenge and judged this year’s competition. The ELC judges for the competition included:

  • Evan Arnold, vice president, business development, Glenroy Inc.
  • Kasie Fairbarn, vice president of sales, Windmoeller & Hoelscher Corp., ELC Co-Chair
  • Abbey Phillips, senior product development engineer, American Packaging Corp.
  • Jonathan Quinn, director of market development & sustainability, Pregis, ELC Co-Chair

For the 2023 competition, FPA received 62 concept outlines from some of the top packaging design programs across the United States. From the concept outlines submitted, 21 were selected to continue to the development phase.