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Innovate or perish in today's economic climate!

Food processors know consumers want cool and fancy new products, but buyers don’t want to spend any more for them. Yet, coming up with innovative products isn’t the only issue facing manufacturers. According to Foster-Miller Senior Vice President Edward Goldman, “Trends from sustainability to risk avoidance are changing the business environment as we know it.” He adds, “Consumer product goods companies must adjust their product development strategies from concept creation through packaging design so as not to impede innovation.”

Goldman points out steps companies can take to capitalize on or overcome current business trends. Some of these concepts may not be so obvious.

One of the biggest buzzwords of 2008 has been sustainability. Several companies have put an intense focus on sustainable practices and the production of environmentally friendly practices that place pressure on product design and development efforts. But, study after study shows consumers and businesses are not willing to pay extra for sustainable products.

To capitalize on this trend, processors should combine sustainability with added perceivable consumer benefit, such as increasing the shelf life of food products. Enhancing sustainability by reducing product waste provides a tangible consumer benefit.

Concerning innovation, the current economic situation threatens creativity by causing fear of pushing big ideas due to risk of failure, says Goldman. Lack of out-of-the-box thinking leaves companies with me-too products and non-compelling improvements to existing products. To remedy this situation, Foster-Miller recommends adopting a direct innovation strategy where efforts are focused on solving an existing market need with a revolutionary solution. In short, companies must develop a culture of smart risk-taking with collaboration, team support and rewards for new ideas.

It’s too easy to cut costs because the dire economic situation seems to warrant it, but an all-encompassing focus on enhancing productivity can erode innovation-enhancing efforts. Also, competitors can more easily copy productivity gains than innovative products. Therefore, Goldman recommends processors focus on creating breakthrough products for sustainable market leadership and not expending energies on “sweating the assets.”

Finally, Goldman suggests employees need to be retained. Many employers no longer view jobs as lifelong careers but as stepping stones, and this short-term outlook can adversely affect product design and development projects. Market-leading products often require long-term projects requiring vision and development. Processors need to create employee incentive plans to reward longevity.

Secondary packaging reductions remain challenging

While consumer goods packagers are facing an economic impetus to reduce packaging, secondary packaging proves to be a challenge for packagers, says a study from PMMI entitled, Secondary Packaging Plays a Primary Role.

Large retailers demand more shelf-ready cases for merchandising products. Growing Internet sales mean more items shipped directly to consumers, and an increasing number of goods manufactured in Asia are finding their way to the US. These new avenues of distribution are creating a new market in secondary/transport packaging, and companies must deal with it.

The PMMI study defines secondary packaging (also called transport packaging) as the packaging used to directly consolidate and protect the retail product when it’s moving through the distribution channel. While 70% of packaging companies list sustainability as a goal in improving secondary packaging, it is not their top driver.

The leading driver of change in secondary packaging by far is cost reduction. More than half of the participants (55.2%) in the study called cost reduction their primary motive for change, and 89.5% listed it among their top three reasons.

Methods to reduce costs include weight reduction (cited by nearly 90%) as the clear leader, followed by size reduction, product protection and board strength improvement.

No discussion about secondary packaging would be complete without a look at the changes in primary packaging because the two are interlinked. For example, as one packager notes, the proliferation of flexible primary packaging has put a greater burden on secondary packaging for product protection in the supply chain. Several packagers say they have increased the strength of primary packaging to avoid upsizing corrugated, regular slotted containers.

The PMMI report was produced by DDR Communications, LLC. Fifty food and beverage companies participated in the study as well as 15 electronics companies and three paper companies. For more information on the study, visit

SERCOS III gets packaging profile

The SERCOS vendor organizations have announced the development of a Pack Profile for real-time Ethernet-based SERCOS III. The profile defines a subset of the SERCOS interface functions for packaging machinery to ease implementation of the standard and improve the multi-vendor interoperability of servo controls and drives.

Products from various vendors that conform to the profile will provide plug-and-play functionality for packaging machinery. The Pack Profile specification is being developed in consultation with users and suppliers of packaging machinery and will be available in April 2009. A conformance test is being developed in response to ensure interoperability.

SERCOS III’s Pack Profile dates back to SERCOS II. The original Pack Profile for SERCOS II was defined in response to a request by the OMAC Packaging Machinery Working Group (OPW) in 2005. For more information, visit

Sunny location aids distribution center's sustainability efforts

This distribution center gets a large portion of its electricity from the sun.


Cover story: How green was my factory

Renewable energy is becoming a factor in all types of food facilities, though it’s only one part of a wider drive toward green building design.

Rising energy costs modify the site selection landscape

Energy costs, logistics, sustainability and workforce issues cause processors to rethink location, location, location.

Dry Processing Technology: Ingredient processor's own design ups efficiency and increases product quality

An effective screener makes a big difference in a bag dump station. A showcase of dry processing products follows the lead story.

People, Plant and Industry News

Campbell Soup Company appointed Sean Connolly president, Campbell USA, and Irene Chang Britt as president, North America Foodservice. Connolly will be responsible for Campbell’s $3.7 billion US Soup, Sauces and Beverages business.


Lars Olofsson, executive vice president in charge of strategic business units, marketing and sales, will leave Nestlé at the end of November. During his 32 years at Nestlé, Olofsson was general manager of France Glaces Findus, head of the Nordic markets and head of Nestlé France. Werner Bauer, executive vice president and chief technology officer, will take interim additional responsibility for strategic business units, marketing and sales.


Greg McKelvey was appointed to the newly created position of EVP and chief strategy and transformation officer of Dean Foods.


Tree Top, Inc. completed an agreement to acquire Sabroso Co., headquartered in Medford, OR. Sabroso provides single-strength and concentrated fruit purees, dried fruit flakes and fruit preparations to the ingredient and foodservice channels. Tree Top is a grower-owner cooperative and also operates Northwest Naturals, LLC of Bothel, WA.


Nestlé opened a new research and development centre in Beijing, underlining the company’s commitment to R&D in China, as well as to Chinese consumers. The opening was attended by Zhao Fengtong, vice mayor of Beijing; Lin Fusheng, head of Haidian District; Nestlé CEO Paul Bulcke and CTO Werner Bauer; and Market Head of Nestlé China Patrice Bula.


Chuck Gougler was promoted to marketing manager at Staco Energy Products.


Tim Warning was named president of OPW Fluid Transfer Group, part of Dover Fluid Management, a division of Dover Corporation.


Estrella Maarud, Norway-based manufacturer of salted snack foods, selected Lawson QuickStep Food and Beverage to help streamline the company’s business processes and simplify the daily activities of approximately 160 users.


Kettle Cuisine, Inc. of Chelsea, MA named Ken Johnson vice president of retail sales.


The Baumer Group, a worldwide supplier of sensor solutions, motion control equipment, vision technologies and process instrumentation, merged four existing, independent divisions into a newly created entity, Baumer Motion Control. The four groups include Baumer, Baumer Hübner, Baumer IVO and Baumer Thalheim. 


K-TEK, a manufacturer of state-of-the-art instrumentation for level measurement, integrated ASI Instruments and its line of dry bulk solids level detection and measurement instruments into K-TEK Corporation. ASI Instruments will become the K-TEK Solids Level group and focus on dry bulk solids level detection and measurement devices.


The Cognis esterification plant at the Nutrition and Health Competence Center in Illertissen, Germany received the certificate of quality ISO 22000:2005 from the certification body, DQS GmbH. The worldwide standard for food safety places rigorous demands on all process levels and along the whole chain of food production.


Waters Corporation published a rapid method for the detection of melamine in infant formula and liquid milk as outlined by requirements of China’s Ministry of Science and Technology (M.O.S.T.). The detection method can detect melamine contamination as low as 1μg/kg (ppb) with an achievable sample throughput better than one sample every 15 minutes.