Light-blocking label film eliminates need for high-barrier containers

Bolstering a package in one area could save significantly elsewhere or overall, if done right. That’s the case with a new shrink label film that protects products from damaging light and, by doing so, lets packaging developers replace high-barrier containers with less expensive options to reduce total package costs.

By blocking light, the new Pentalabel eklipse film from Klöckner Pentaplast helps extend shelf life, reduces off-tastes, protects product colors and safeguards vitamin levels (in dairy products, for example). These performance attributes are useful for a variety of markets, particularly for foods, beverages, health and beauty products, home and garden items, and household goods.

Packaging Digest talked with Chris Frank in global marketing for labels at Klöckner Pentaplast to get more details. The film blocks 99% of light with no need for expensive backside black printing, which saves processing time and money. Yet it offers a high level of whiteness so graphics can pop on shelf—especially compared to current competitive films. Frank also points out that, by not having to print multiple flood coats to achieve light-blocking characteristics, you open up two more colors on a press for your graphics.

According to the company’s press release, eklipse film also delivers “high performing shrink percentages for optimal design freedom.”



Learn about the latest developments in labeling at WestPack 2017 (Feb. 7-9; Anaheim, CA). Register today!


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Hidden gems in food packaging 2016

We take a look back at the food packages that did not crack our lists of the year’s top-performing packaging stories, yet impressed our editors. We think you’ll find these 6 overlooked gems to be of top-notch quality.


The Packaging Digest staff took a look at the top articles posted in 2016 that may not have received the lofty PageViews of others in our year-end best-read lists, but that we felt were worth a second look.

Why? Because sometimes it’s not just about the numbers.

What measures did we use? Some 60 years’ combined know-how covering packaging editorial for the biggest publications in the business. Our picks are presented in no particular order as selected by Executive Editor Lisa Pierce and Rick Lingle, Technical Editor.

We lead things off with this unique perspective selected by Ms. Pierce that looks at how container and material selections are driven by processing. Consumers increasingly demand a safe food supply without sacrificing nutritional content, quality or shelf life of foods they buy. Luckily, many food processing methods are adjusting their operations accordingly. But how do these processing improvements change the product’s packaging requirements?

The man with the answers is Murat Balaban, who has more than 40 years’ research and teaching experience in food processing.


Next: This big cup spreads an ancient snack further than ever.

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Food packaging safety: How to write a guide to meet HARPC requirements

Expert Gary Kestenbaum advises how a Process, Operations and Troubleshooting Guide can help achieve FSMA Hazard Analysis and Risk-based Preventive Controls compliance.


In August, I described how written specifications represent a cornerstone for food packaging safety and provided guidance on subject matter, detail and content.

Similarly, creating and maintaining a comprehensive Process, Operations and Troubleshooting Guide for each of your products, intermediate or finished, is an integral part of your HARPC, HACCP and food safety programs.  

Manufacturers of foods and food contact materials are addressing Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules with a sense of urgency, as key compliance dates are past or near. As with the other food packaging processes and documents that I recommend, the Process, Operations and Troubleshooting Guide (POTG), an electronic manual intended to instruct, explain, document and troubleshoot, represents evidence of compliance with multiple requirements contained within a variety of FSMA rules.

The POTG is the backbone of safe operations.  It describes every step and detail which cross-functional management has determined to be the safe, suitable, accepted and expected procedures to convert and approved safe goods for flow into the U.S. food supply chain. When properly created, vetted and continuously improved, the POTG anticipates and considers every condition, outcome, risk and deviation and in turn provides clear, concise and non-interpretive instructions intended to maintain a safe environment and find, then reject or mitigate non-conforming goods or conditions.

Essentially, the POTG needs to replicate an online recipe and analysis designed for both experts and novices alike, with photos and descriptive language that leaves out nothing and considers everything.

Format for a POTG

POTGs are most functional when they combine table and free text (sentence-based) formats. Avoid unnecessary words and include descriptive, universally-understandable nomenclature. Avoid use of in-house, colloquial terms and descriptions which represent folklore (e.g., “the Bosch”); alternately, use factual descriptions (e.g., “line A, Brand B, Model C form, fill and seal unit”) in order to encourage accuracy among future employees. During the many complex steps included in the manufacturing process, needs are variable. Show steps and processes in table format when possible. Add in detailed written instructions, notes, photos or guidance in sentence form or as “figures” or illustrations. Always include a “risk” column or comment for every step or process which explains the potential harm to food safety and quality if the step is ignored, circumvented or improperly performed.

Typical component sections of a POTG

The following contains sub-sections of a POTG which I consider mandatory.  The quality and safety of every food packaging manufacturing or handling process that I have ever been connected with would have benefitted from a POTG that contained these basic subject-related sections. The exact nomenclature may vary based on the exact goods or services, but the concepts are consistent.  Document, explain, reference and troubleshoot every aspect. Link all ancillary (“before and after” manufacture) steps and processes to the POTG in order to maintain connections to procurement, intake, quality/safety, discharge and customer receipt.   

End product description

Begin with the most basic of components:  the packaging material or component description. Describe the item by trade name, generic equivalent and allowable and targeted uses. 

Component Bill of Materials

 List the bill of materials for all components and ingredients, including processing aids and minority ingredients.  Hyperlink each component to its electronic specification file (refer to prior guidance re: comprehensive written specifications) for easy reference.

Process list and overview description

List each process step that the finished item or intermediate product will undergo and create a corresponding descriptive overview. Detailed descriptions of each process and setup will follow. Include an Equipment and Process Description and Flow Diagram.

Process area environmental condition and suitability description

List and describe all area or environmental limits, requirements and conditions which must be satisfied before equipment process and setup begins. Examples include sanitation, decontamination, humidity control etc.  

Operator personal protective or required equipment

List and describe required protective or ancillary equipment needed to complete the production process.  List the “what”, the “why”, the “how” and the risks if not properly applied.


Equipment changeover, assembly, setup, preparation, inspection and suitability verification

Beginning with the initial process, describe equipment setup and criteria for approval.  Explain setups in detail, reference other documents which list details of the setup and explain how to verify successful setup and adjustment completion.   Summarize each process using nomenclature that all operators and supervisors understand and use hyperlinks to equipment adjustment manuals. This assumes that the adjustment manuals are accurate, comprehensive and useful. 

In-Process test methods description

Include a test and/or analysis evaluation for each step in the process as it is listed. Title it “criteria for success”.  Again, use summary language to describe the process and its conclusion and hyperlink test methods for detailed instructions. Add the requisite “risks if not properly completed” section.  

In-Process test methods purpose, objectives and overview

Clearly identify the purpose and conditions under which each test is to be performed, the frequency, number of samples and location where samples are to be acquired.

Testing protocol setup, calibration, expected results and disposition or actions

If applicable, describe setup and calibration of in-process or post-process test equipment for tests that are performed by operators and helpers. Generally describe the test process, possible results (in-specification, marginal and out-of-spec) and reference visual or sensory aids, examples and standard references.

Troubleshooting guides for all processes

Anticipate everything that can go wrong with every process, machine or step. Describe each non-conformance or sub-standard condition or result and describe corresponding corrective or affirmative actions which may return the system to steady state or the production quality and safety back into acceptability.  Explain the non-standard condition, potential causes, risks to quality/safety and methods for adjustment, correction and post-adjustment evaluations.

A glossary of terms, forms and expected performances

Add a section or appendix with a “targeted” glossary of terms.  Include processes, adjustment protocols, safety and quality procedures, equipment and other items contained within each process. This is especially helpful to junior mechanics, operators and other professionals working “off-shifts” and weekends.

Management and oversight of the POTG

Clearly identify the owner and issuing authority for the POTG.  Include a 24 hour phone contact in case of emergency. 


Dates of manufacture and batch/lot numbering

Clearly state the formats for dates of manufacture and lot numbers. Provide an example and describe “where DDD = Julian date and YYYY = year of manufacture” or similar.

Packaging BOM

Create a BOM of each of the packaging components (film bags, sleeves, hub locks, cases, crates). Create hyperlinks to the specification file as with the product components.

Storage and shipping descriptions

As with the other sections of the POTG, add specific instructions and descriptions for how and under what conditions the goods are to be packaged, stored and shipped.

Defective and non-conforming goods  

In the event that a defect does escape the processes documented in the POG, it is best to create and implement a redundant safety verification process (“plan B”) intended to identify defects which might slip by a primary safety plan.  Examples of safety defects include physical defects (metal, plastic, erroneous or missing required alphanumeric text), chemical defects (components, adjuvants or substances unsuitable, excessive or violative in the end product) or microbiological defects (organisms or pathogens known or expected to harm humans, animals or cause the end product to become unusable, unsuitable or violative.

As with specifications, Process, Operations and Troubleshooting Guides are expected to serve two primary functions in the event of safety and quality problems:

  • They function as a “how to” and “what to” guide for every employee at the facility, at its highest value on “a Sunday night at Midnight”, that is, a skeleton crew with limited maintenance and management support.
  • They function as evidence to regulatory authorities that written plans, instructions and all related documents and accessories are in place and were created to consider, mitigate or address food safety hazards before they enter the supply chain. If properly written and maintained, the POTG can be seen and used as an integral component and evidence of an effective Food Safety and Hazard Analysis plan (prerequisites and line, hazard or product-specific control points) as defined in FSMA.
  • Redundant control systems and troubleshooting suggestions represent proof that safety or quality non-conformances were anticipated, considered and mitigated through the use of prerequisite plans, testing, observations, oversight and comparison to expected and in-spec outcomes.



In my experience, a comprehensive and well maintained POTG can be a manufacturer’s savior when dealing with regulatory agencies, customers, the press and the public. Training, corrections, additions, continuous improvements and auditing are critical components of the process. The POTG represents standardization, documentation and explanation.


Gary Kestenbaum has 40 years’ experience in the food and packaging industries, 6 as a supplier with National Starch, 18 as a product developer with General/Kraft Foods and 15 as a packaging engineer and developer with Kraft. As senior food packaging safety consultant with EHA Consulting Group, Kestenbaum provides guidance on packaging safety and suitability-related projects for raw material manufacturers, converters and associated supporting professionals. He can be reached at or 410-484-9133. The website is

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7 lucky new packages of 2016

From packaging designers and developers to engineers and executives, everyone involved in packaging likes to see the final product of their peers. Which new commercial packages gained the most interest of—and perhaps the respect of—our packaging community this year?

We continue our year-end review of top articles, based on page views at, with a seven-step buildup of lucky new package launches to get to our No.1 packaging design of 2016.


7. Diageo’s Cannonball-themed package is the bomb

Drink up, me hearties! Pirate or not, any rum drinker will appreciate the intricate detail in Diageo’s Captain Morgan Cannon Blast package, from the round cannonball-shaped container and the textured shrink label that feels like an authentic rough cannonball to a red closure that mimics a blast cap and a hidden skeleton revealed under ultraviolet light. The consumer’s experience with the package touches multiple senses.


NEXT: Libby’s vegetables grow sales in stand-up pouches



Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at WestPack 2017 (Feb. 7-9; Anaheim, CA). Register today!

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Let’s make packaging great again

E-commerce. Food waste reduction. Sustainable Materials Management. The Circular Economy.


What a great time to be in the packaging business! Pick just one of these paradigm shifters to focus on and your packaging R&D and design folks would be overjoyed with the possibilities. Put four major disruptors on their plates and they’ll be comatose with constant collaboration and commercialization opportunities.


I realize that many of your management, financial, and production folks are taking a “batten down the hatches” approach to much of this potential change. Don’t fall for it! These are the times when innovation is most needed and appreciated, offering huge competitive advantage opportunities to those who reach for the brass ring.


Take e-commerce, for example. Many of today’s typical consumer packages are designed for on-shelf stability, eye appeal, and sturdiness. In the world of e-commerce, there’s no shelf to sit on or compete over, and the shipping container does much of the product protection work. Thus, the job of the primary package should change to maximize brand value reinforcement and product ease of use. And, because of the reduced need for durability, it can probably be downsized and/or light weighted as well and where once a box was needed, an envelope or pouch may now fit the bill.


If we wait for direction from the public and legislative communities, the odds are we won’t like the new rules or playing fields that will be created for us. Let’s take this rare opportunity to optimize packaging to fit these coming changes now, before we’re forced to sub-optimize when well-meaning, but most likely misguided, policies are imposed on us.




What do you think? Please comment below.


Missed one of Bob’s blogs? Read them here.


Robert (Bob) Lilienfeld has been involved with sustainable packaging for more than 20 years. He is currently editor of The ULS (Use Less Stuff) Report, a marketing and communications consultant to AMERIPEN and other organizations, and is a professional photographer.



Increase your sustainable packaging understanding at WestPack, February 7-9, 2017, in Anaheim, CA.




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Top 5 packaging gifts of November 2016

Walmart’s new sustainable packaging strategy, a boatload of new technologies from two recent industry tradeshows, trends in flexible packaging and premium package design advice made November a month to remember…and to review.

One at a time, we unwrap the most popular articles on for the month of November 2016 based on page views, starting at the bottom of the list and working our way up to the tip top.


5. Digital package/label printing gains attention by losing color

At Labelexpo 2016, “white ink seemed a white-hot ticket for digital printing of labels and flexible packaging,” reports technical editor Rick Lingle. “Why is interest in white ink heating up?”

Four industry experts tell us:

“It is not as much about the color white as it is about the opacity capability. This is needed when using a clear label or clear film for a bag,” says Mike Ferrari, printing expert and industry consultant.

“White ink allows a user to enjoy the look of expensive screen-printed product packaging for a fraction of the cost of screen printing. Now, almost any product can have a perceived, premium look,” says Mark Sullivan, label systems manager vertical markets, Allen Datagraph Systems Inc. (ADSI).

“Demand for clear and metallic films is the result of the overwhelming need for white ink. UV ink in particular offers a very bright saturated color, which is good for many branded products on coated films and papers,” says Mike Pruitt, SurePress product manager for Epson America Inc. But he cautions: “There are many tradeoffs using white ink.”

“The whole process market is predicated on a white substrate,” says Jim Lambert, vp and general manager for INX International Ink Co. “Thus, if you have any other substrate color or metallic, it is absolutely critical to apply white as an underlying color. It’s gaining in popularity and we are now seeing spot white being used more often in clear label substrates.”


NEXT: 4. Performance enhancements give flexible packaging a boost



Learn what it takes to innovate in the packaging space at WestPack 2017 (Feb. 7-9; Anaheim, CA). Register today!


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Top 5 sustainable packaging trends and news of 2016

Walmart’s new Sustainable Packaging Playbook, key developments in flexible packaging recycling and more captured the attention of packaging professionals during these last 11 months, as sustainable packaging continues to be one of the most popular topics with our global packaging community.

In reverse order—to keep you in suspense!—here are the top articles about sustainable packaging on in 2016, based on page views:


5. Why are pouches becoming the go-to package format?

Have you noticed? It seems like brand owners are putting just about every type of product in flexible packages these days. TerraCycle CEO and regular Packaging Digest contributor Tom Szaky shares a few insights about why in his popular article The ‘pouch-ization’ of the world.

Is it because of better packaging performance? Consumer convenience? Environmental reasons? Yes, yes and yes.

But wait! There will be more because, as Szaky says, “Pouches continue to push enhanced functionality and convenience in excitingly fresh ways.”


NEXT: Is the search for the Holy Grail of sustainable packaging over?



Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging at WestPack 2017 (Feb. 7-9; Anaheim, CA). Register today!


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