Serac's Roll N Blow technology is a World Dairy Innovation Awards winner.
BY GAIL BARNES
After a streak of record-breaking years, Pack Expo Las Vegas is celebrating its 20th anniversary on an upward trend. As ever, the show represents the absolute latest innovations and leads the trends in the processing and packaging industry.
This year the show features a number of interactive venues for attendees right on the show floor, including industry-specific lounges, resource centres and the innovation stage, where educational sessions are presented throughout the day.
Pack Expo Las Vegas starts today, 28 September, with nearly 2,000 exhibiting companies offering processing and packaging solutions. They will be connecting with nearly 30,000 industry professionals from 40 vertical markets on an 800,000 net square feet exhibit floor that buzzes with technologies in action.
With so many exhibitors to choose from, here are some trends to watch out for, based on topics that have resonated recently on FoodBev.
Packaging manufacturing innovation
The winner of best dairy manufacturing or processing innovation at the 2015 World Dairy Innovation Awards was the Roll N Blow, a bottle thermoforming machine from Serac.
Vertical thermoforming technology was also on the agenda of the education sessions at the recent International Dairy Show in Chicago with a session entitled “how packaging can impact nutrition: innovative thermoforming technology increases kids’ milk consumption,” which described the significant potential reduction in the cost of plastic bottles when manufactured with this technology.
Since vertical thermoforming technology could save 30–50% in material over traditional extrusion blow molding, it was proposed that its use could put plastic bottles within reach of more United States’ school milk programmes, giving kids more access to milk in the packaging format that they prefer, with the result of maintained or increased milk consumption.
Once an unknown entity, 3D printing is quickly becoming the most talked about thing in the industry. With many companies exploring the next thing to print, a lot of discussion has surfaced surrounding the potentially revolutionary capabilities of 3D printing. With some claiming it could transform the way food is accessed and created in the future, to those who believe its application is limited, there is no dispute that the technology is raising questions about the who, what, where, when and why of food production.
A UK firm has beaten competitors to the development of the first 3D food printer to reach consumer retail, and has plans to roll the concept to retail in early 2016.
Magic Candy Factory from Birmingham-headquartered Katjes Fassin takes around five minutes to print a sweet weighing between 15g and 20g, beating prototypes in other sectors that Katjes Fassin has said “can take almost an hour to do the same”. The technology is based on fused deposition modelling and uses a special blend of natural ingredients, which are heated and then extruded to create a variety of complex shapes and unique combinations.
When it launches, UK consumers will be able to customise their own confectionery with shapes that include hearts, frogs or octopuses – plus 20 different designs with different choices of colour, flavour combinations and finishings.
The healthy beverage shopper
According to the EcoFocus Trend Survey released earlier this year, the healthy beverage shopper possesses $5.8 trillion in buying power and includes 46% of all grocery shoppers! Consumers in the healthy beverage shopper category make a strong connection between their personal health and the environmentally friendly choices they make.
The intersection of personal health and environmental responsibility is a new dimension of wellness for shoppers. When choosing what to buy, healthy beverage shoppers say they always or usually think about health reasons (90%) and environmental reasons (71%), with the result that recycled and renewable packaging are priorities for healthy beverage shoppers.
More fresh foods and beverages are a priority for healthy beverage shoppers. According to an industry publication, “the fresh department is the entry point for consumers who want healthier products. Shoppers want to make choices based on their beliefs, wants and needs.”
Compostable flexible packaging
According to a new Canadean report, the global flexible food packaging market is set to reach close to 800bn pack units in 2018. An article on the report in an industry publication states that, “as consumers start to favour innovative products such as pouches over traditional glass, paper and metal packaging, an estimated 786,095m units of flexible packaging will be consumed within global retail food markets in 2018. This means flexible packaging is set to expand its share in the food packaging market even further, reaching 53.1% in the next three years.”
The predicted growth in flexible packaging will exacerbate what has been described as the “plastic packaging industry’s greatest challenge,” since the source reduced nature of flexible packaging makes it extremely difficult to deal with in terms of traditional recycling, leaving landfill as the only end-of-life alternative.
With the increase in consumer awareness of composting, and implementation of more and more composting programmes by major municipalities such as New York City, San Francisco and Seattle, composting flexible packaging with food or kitchen waste seems to be an idea whose time has come.
A study has identified cannabis beverages as one of the five trends for the future of the food and drink industry. According to a summary of this study in FoodBev, “a wave of marijuana legalisation in the US has freed beverage startups to experiment with tetrahydrocannabinol infusions, as well as non-intoxicating hemp concoctions. Nearly three quarters of consumers surveyed across the millennial, generation X and boomer generations agree that marijuana will be as socially acceptable as alcohol over the next decade.”
Packaging currently being used for legal cannabis-containing drinkables and edibles is – for the most part – similar to packaging being used for conventional beverages and edibles, but as this new category gains scale at the same time as packaging innovations come to market, a possible scenario for cannabis drinkable packaging might be packaging-based on renewable products, such as 100% bio-based cartons from Tetra Pak, bio-based PET bottles, recent US introductions such as the Tetra Top paper bottle, or innovations such as the Paper Water bottle made from a special blend of organic material including sugar cane, bamboo, bagasse, and wheat straw designed by inventor Jim Warner.
For edibles, the development of state-of-the-art compostable bio-sourced flexible pouches and films, such as those from Tipa Corp, comes at just the right time and is in line with a strong movement towards composting in both western states such as Washington and California as well as in Colorado and New York.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2019