Valvoline’s new motor oil package addresses users’ pain points

To make life easier and less messy for drivers who change their own oil, Valvoline Inc. has redesigned its 5-quart, retail motor oil packaging. The packaging design makes do-it-yourself (DIY) oil changes as quick, easy and clean as possible, with consumer-friendly features built into the bottle, closure, spout and labels.

A foil seal across the mouth of Valvoline’s Easy Pour Bottle incorporates a pull ring for easy removal, and an internal Anti-Glug Tube lets air into the bottle while pouring. The tube assures a smooth pour, and the package’s spout has been redesigned for precise pouring and clean cut-off. The bottle’s easy-to-grip, no-slip overcap has a threaded, snap-lock design for secure resealing.

Additionally, Valvoline has redesigned the product’s labeling system to make shopping easier. Product benefits and oil grade appear on the front label, and a comparison chart is on the back label. Color-coded bottles and spouts help shoppers quickly identify the product they need for a specific vehicle.

Michelle Allen, director of retail marketing at Valvoline, provides insight into the redesign of the package.


Who is the target customer for Valvoline’s Easy Pour Bottle? Does gender matter?

Allen: Our target consumer is the do-it yourselfer (DIYer) who likes to change his or her own oil but is desiring a more optimal pouring experience in the garage.


Do DIY oil changers, regardless of gender, value no-glug, mess-free pouring?

Allen: Yes. We tested with both males and females in focus groups, and the bottle was very well received by both genders. They put a tremendous amount of value on the cleaner, easier experience.


How much does the filled Easy Pour Bottle weigh?

Allen: The bottle weighs approximately 9.5 pounds.


What percentage of Valvoline’s sales are for this large package size? Why focus on the 5-quart size for packaging innovation?

Allen: The average crank case holds around five quarts, and more than 80% of Valvoline’s retail sales are in a 5-quart container, which is why Valvoline decided to innovate beyond formula and innovate its packaging.


Tell us about the consumer research and feedback that went into this package design. What research did Valvoline conduct, and what did the results show?

Allen: We tested multiple iterations of the bottle design in both quantitative and qualitative research to ensure we were launching a version that would meet consumers’ needs. The results showed that the redesign was worth the investment from Valvoline, to help differentiate our brand from the competition and provide a game-changing experience for consumers.


Why do you need an easy-grip/no-slip feature on the overcap, if this package delivers mess-free pouring?

Allen: Changing your oil can be a messy job from start to finish. Pouring oil is only part of the process, and beforehand, it is very likely that consumers’ hands will be messy after draining the oil prior to replacing with new oil. This no-slip overcap that locks back into place is intended to be one more added benefit to the experience and to eliminate one of the pain points in the process.


Was it difficult to develop the anti-glug feature?

Allen: The anti-glug functionality was not an easy task, as we were trying to maintain our existing footprint to not cause a pain point for retailers. We went through multiple design iterations to get the perfect pour.


Did your packaging suppliers contribute to the redesign?

Allen: We partnered with suppliers that were subject matter experts and could bring this expertise to the table to design an innovative new bottle alongside Valvoline, delivering a value-added experience for consumers.


The spouts are color-coded for the product. Isn’t it expensive to have different stock-keeping units for the spouts?

Allen: Color is an important element for consumers to understand that there is a formula/flavor change occurring across our portfolio. We approached the color-coded shrouds (spouts) similarly to our cap approach in our old bottle, to help consumers shop the category. For example, red has been an important color to indicate a high-mileage product within our product line.


Tell us more about the new, simplified label design. Was this done in-house, or did Valvoline work with a design firm?

Allen: We partnered with an agency to develop the new, simplified label to help consumers shop our portfolio. We tested multiple designs with thousands of consumers, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to net out on a label that improved shoppability in the category. Using these insights, we have optimized our approach on both front and back labels, which have been well received across the trade.


How are the packages color-coded?

Allen: The packages are color-coded by using colored shrouds and label accents to highlight product family. For example, red equals high mileage regardless of synthetic-blend or full-synthetic formula.


When did the new packaging launch into the market?

Allen: The new package rolled out across our major retailers in September 2017 in our synthetic line. The rest of the portfolio will be phasing into the market over the first half of 2018.


Where is it sold?

Allen: The package will be sold in all major [motor oil] retailers across the country—for example, Walmart, AutoZone, O’Reilly and Advance.


How has consumer response been so far?

Allen: It is still early in the rollout phase, and we are pushing out old inventory currently within the supply chain. Based on the consumer feedback we have gathered along the journey, we anticipate an extremely positive response in improving the experience of the DIYer.


Valvoline has quite a lot of information about the new packaging on its website. Why would consumers would be interested in so much detail?

Allen: The information was designed for consumers to go and learn more, because the website is our call to action on all our media executions and point-of-sale tactics. Many consumers will be curious to understand more around the innovation, and we want to give them more reasons to believe in choosing Valvoline over other branded competitors. We are excited to offer consumers a quality package that meets the quality that’s inside the bottle, and the website is designed to reinforce this point.



A magic kingdom of packaging solutions: For packaging engineers, executives and designers—WestPack 2018 (Feb. 6-8; Anaheim, CA) delivers leading technologies, free educational presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exceptional networking opportunities and expert-led Innovation Tours. Register now!

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3 steps brands can take in the wake of the China recyclables ban

This is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize recycling in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.


When China announced in July that it would no longer be accepting PET, PE, PVC, PS* and “other” post-consumer recovered plastics, as well as mixed paper, many in the recycling industry predicted that the ban may have far-reaching effects on recycling in the United States.

China imports 53% of the world’s waste, much of which comes from the U.S., and has recently begun to crack down on smuggling and concerns about quality of waste imports with their Green Fence and National Sword initiatives. This new import ban, however, is driven more by a desire in China to improve environmental pollution and human health, as well as build domestic recycling capacity.

The ban will not take full effect until Dec. 31, 2017, so it remains to be seen exactly how much impact it will have on those recyclers who have relied on China as a viable end market for post-consumer recyclables. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries has already said that the ban will have a “devastating impact” on the global recycling sector, while other U.S. organizations, such as the Assn. of Plastic Recyclers (APR) and recycling and waste hauler Waste Management, express optimism that the ban may help improve the quality of recycling streams, and potentially incentivize the creation of greater domestic recycling capacity in the U.S.

In short, all anyone really knows is that this is a time of uncertainty for recycling in the U.S. But there are ways consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and brands can seize this opportunity to revitalize the recycling industry in the U.S. and make lemonade out of lemons.


1. Communicate recyclability to consumers

One of the primary reasons why China wants to ban imports of post-consumer recyclables is because of the high rates of contamination. While some of this contamination can be attributed to improper sorting in material recovery facilities (MRFs), it’s also key to remember that much of that contamination comes from consumers improperly recycling materials in the first place. And no wonder—recycling instructions on packages can be confusing and conflicting, if they exist at all, and every community varies on what they will and won’t accept. Many consumers are confused about what they can and can’t recycle, and how to recycle it. In the wake of the ban, it will be critical for both municipalities and brands to increase recycling education and stress the importance of reducing contamination.

The How2Recycle program helps brands do just that—it’s the only U.S.-based standardized on-package recycling labeling system that can be applied to any and all material types.

The How2Recycle label allows brands to communicate to consumers what can be recycled, and if there are any special actions that the consumer needs to take before recycling, such as rinsing a jar of peanut butter or removing a sprayer with a metal spring from a plastic bottle. The Store Drop-off label lets consumers know which polyethylene (PE) bags, wraps and films can be taken to collection points at local stores to be recycled, keeping them out of curbside bins where the films make their way to MRFs and get tangled in the equipment. These instructions help empower consumers to reduce contamination, as does the Not Yet Recycled label, which tells consumers exactly what they should not be putting in their curbside bin, therefore cutting down contamination.


2. Design packaging for recyclability

In addition to educating consumers, brands can reduce contamination by designing packages for optimum recyclability. If more materials, including lower-quality materials, are staying in the U.S. rather than being shipped abroad, the end markets for those materials may be able to demand higher quality.  

The Assn. of Plastic Recyclers (APR) provides guidance to its members to help them optimize the recyclability of their plastic packaging via the APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability, which details everything from preferred labels, closures, inks, additives and more. How2Recycle has worked with APR to synchronize its feedback on recyclability, and is launching a new online platform where members can not only request How2Recycle labels for their packages, but they can also track, measure and improve the recyclability of their packaging portfolio. 


3. Commit to using PCR

The most critical and impactful step companies can take in light of the China ban is to commit to using post-consumer resin (PCR) wherever possible. Using PCR stimulates demand for the materials that are impacted by the ban, creating vital end markets that make the domestic recycling stream viable. Without end markets for these materials, it won’t matter if the volume and quality of the collected materials increases because they won’t be effectively recovered. Stronger end markets will also allow the U.S. recycling industry to build capacity and recover more of the materials that would have previously been shipped to China.

There is already an initiative for companies that want to commit to increasing their use of PCR—APR announced its APR Recycling Demand Champion Campaign on Oct. 18, 2017, at its fall meeting in Pittsburg. The campaign asks companies to commit to increasing their use of PCR in “Work In Progress” items used in manufacturing such as crates, pallets, totes, drums and trash cans. So far, Berry Global, Campbell’s Soup, Coca-Cola North America, Envision Plastics, Keurig Green Mountain, KW Plastics, Merlin Plastics, Plastipak/Clean Tech, Procter & Gamble and Target have all joined the campaign, and APR anticipates that number will grow.

The Chinese import ban may pose some major challenges for the recycling sector globally, but it also gives brands and CPG companies an opportunity to take the lead on recycling. Effective communication to consumers will be crucial when it comes to mitigating the effects of the ban, not only to reduce contamination, but to impart the importance of choosing items and packages made from PCR to keep recycling viable. This will allow brands to build sustainability stories that help connect with consumers in a positive way and increase brand loyalty.


* PET = polyethylene terephthalate; PE = polyethylene; PVC = polyvinyl chloride; PS = polystyrene

Images above designed by Freepik: China map; Hand


Jessica Edington joined GreenBlue in May 2017 as a project associate for the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle program. Previously, she worked as a consultant for Green Strategies in Washington, DC, where she assisted corporate clients with developing strategies to engage consumers, business partners and other stakeholders in improving the environmental impact of their products and services. Edington also has experience in environmental education and sustainable agriculture, and worked on a residential solar campaign in the Hudson Valley. Her dual passions are writing and the environment, and she received her B.A. in English with a minor in Environmental Science and Policy from the College of William & Mary.



A magic kingdom of packaging solutions! For packaging engineers, executives and designers—WestPack 2018 (Feb. 6-8; Anaheim, CA) delivers leading technologies, free educational presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exceptional networking opportunities and expert-led Innovation Tours. Register now!


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A ‘green’ sweep in October

Sustainable packaging trends—along with a unique package for new Green Giant frozen veggies—scored high last month with our online global audience of packaging professionals. All of our top five articles in October 2017, based on page views at, share an element of green.

Working our way to #1, we start our list with…

#5. “Rethinking premium packaging from a recycling viewpoint

Premium products often use upscale, elaborate and excessive packaging that is often unrecyclable—creating a disturbing amount of waste. But sustainability leader Tom Szaky reminds us that packaging can—and should—say “special” in sustainable ways, too.

“Innovating out of the box with packaging that is both impressive and recyclable reduces waste and creates value by standing out from competitors,” he says. Just look at his examples of how Puma and Boxed Water differentiated their brands by designing sustainability in (click article link above).


NEXT: 7 ideas on how to succeed in the fourth industrial revolution

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Paper option increases food packaging sustainability

Skog for Food launched this fall in the U.S. combines FSC-certified paper with double-sided coating that provides barrier properties and permits production on f/f/s machines.


For Swedes, “skog” means wood. And for those in the United States as of fall 2017, Skog for Food represents a new paper-based food packaging option for brands that offers sustainable packaging benefits. According to Mondi Extrusion Coatings, Skog for Food saves up to 70% plastic while retaining all the required barrier properties.

Notabloy, the material is engineered to be run seamlessly on all horizontal and vertical form/fill/seal machines. Michael Strobl, managing director, Mondi Coating Zeltweg, tells Packaging Digest that “the only adjustment that may be needed would be require minor such as sealing temperature, but no investments are necessary to run paper instead of plastic.”

Presented for the first time in North America at Pack Expo in Las Vegas in September, Skog for Food combines FSC-certified paper with double-sided coating, giving the bag the required barriers and sealing properties needed for f/f/s machines.

“The new liner complies perfectly with our sustainability strategy,” explains Jan-Willem Kleppers, managing director, Mondi Extrusion Coatings. “Skog is a natural product especially designed to fulfill ecological needs while protecting customers’ goods.”

For added sustainability, the bag can also be coated with Mondi’s biodegradable barrier Sustainex. The coating is derived from renewable sources and fully compliant with internationally accepted standards for biodegradability and compostability and fits into organic recovery, energy recovery and material recycling schemes.

Skog for Food is produced in a Mondi facility in Austria and printed and converted by a partner in Poland.


European import and targeted foods

The material has been in use in Europe since 2013, reports Strobl. “Since then, a number of European brand owners and supermarkets have changed part of their portfolio to our paper based packaging,” he tells Packaging Digest.

A windowed version is available from a European partner and has been tested for potatoes.

“We’ve packed up to 20 kg [44 lb] of animal feed pellets using Skog,” Strobl reports. “However, this construction does not have a window. With Skog for Food window packaging, 2 kg [4.4 lb] of potatoes has been tested successfully in windowed skog packaging.”

For conventional packaging, the window is a polymer film, while in the biomaterial version the window material is also biodegradable.

Strobl believes the material is especially suitable for fresh vegetables such as potatoes, onions and carrots.  “On the other hand, a Skog construction without a window and tailor-made barrier would also allow filling of dry and greasy food stuff,” he adds.

The material’s introduction stateside aligns neatly with increased brand interest in sustainable packaging, according to Strobl.

“Most brands in the U.S. have very clearly defined sustainability goals,” he explains. “The timing is great for packaging solutions that help brands achieve these goals while differentiating the consumer’s brand experience. Skog suits the growing niche for sustainable packaging and we’re excited by the initial market feedback.”

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How to expand recycling of PET thermoform packaging in Europe

What is the state of PET thermoform recycling in the EU and what can brand owners do to help advance it? Sustainability champion Chandler Slavin provides an update.


My most popular blog post “How clamshells became recyclable and recycled”  describes the journey of post-consumer PET thermoformed packaging in North America from landfilled in 2009, to collected for recycling in 2013, to recycled in 2015. Today, a handful of reclaimers reprocess post-consumer PET thermoforms into second- or third-generation material and products.

Several months ago, a friend asked me about the end-of-life management of post-consumer PET thermoforms in the European Union (EU). Recently hired by an international consumer packaged goods (CPG) company, he was now responsible for the sustainability of the packaging he put on store shelves around the world. Were PET thermoforms recycled in the EU, he wanted to know?

Petcore Europe is the EU’s NAPCOR. Both associations champion the sustainability of the PET industry and have working groups dedicated to PET thermoform recycling. In October 2017, Petcore Europe released “New Developments in the recycling of PET thermoforms in Europe,” which details the state of thermoform recycling abroad. These developments mimic those undertaken by NAPCOR and its industry partners, laying the foundation for the successful recycling of PET containers in the EU.


Supply/demand situation

In America, for a packaging material to be collected for recycling, there has to be “enough” generated in the waste stream to economically justify the collection and reprocessing costs associated thereto. And, there has to be a demand for the recyclate.

In the EU, there are a handful of deposit schemes—Germany, Switzerland, Denmark—and other programs that manage the collection of all plastic packaging via Green Dot fees and other financial contributions.  

According to Petcore Europe: “The market for PET thermoforms is growing as it continues to replace other materials. Currently, the total EU, Switzerland and Norway market for PET thermoforms is estimated to be 1 to 1.1 million tons of PET virgin and rPET, including imports.”

Considering demand, Petcore Europe reports that PET thermoforms is the No.1 end market for post-consumer recycled PET. This demand has reached higher numbers than the PET bottle to bottle and fibers end markets.

According to Paolo Glerean, co-lead of Petcore Europe’s Thermoform working group, the reasons for this are twofold: (1) PET bottle-to-bottle usually requires an additional reprocessing step and, at the price virgin PET reached, the cost of food-grade rPET is more expensive than virgin; and (2) quality hot washed flake is good in the EU and can be used to produce sheets for thermoforming. Consequently, it’s easier and more economical to recycle rPET into thermoforms than bottles.

In 2016, a total of 490 kiloton of rPET was recycled into new thermoforms, which means an average recycle content in PET thermoforms of more than 45%. The report concludes, “The most obvious market for rPET coming from thermoforms is to use them for the manufacture of new thermoforms.”


PET reprocessing

When I began PET thermoform recycling research, the intrinsic viscosity (IV) of the material was a concern to some people; that is, it’s “give” or ability to withstand force without cracking. The business-as-usual case was every time the material was recycled and the intrinsic viscosity (IV) was sheared off, thus resulting in a more brittle, lower quality, material.

This concern has since been resolved with the advent of reprocessing advancements. Petcore Europe echoes overcoming this reprocessing barrier: “PET is a type of plastic which can be ‘renewed,’ the loss of mechanical properties caused by processing can be repaired by a recycling process with a poly-condensation step. This step also takes care of the removal of any volatile contaminants in the polymer and makes it suitable for new food contact packaging.”

Thus, technology exists to reprocess post-consumer PET thermoforms into high-quality second- and third-generation lifecycles.


Design for recycling

Stateside, the Assn. of Plastics Recyclers (APR) and others developed design-for-recyclability guidelines for PET thermoforms. These look to remove the obstacles to PET thermoform recycling via design considerations, like replacing aggressive label adhesives that compromise the plastic flake cleaning process with approved, for-recycling labels.

The Petcore Europe thermoform working group is doing the same thing. The report isolates the glues used on thermoform labels and soaker pads as two areas for design improvement. In both cases, the glues are not suitable for easy removal at recycling plants.

Thus, potential improvement in recyclability of thermoforms is offered by new combinations of glue/labels on PET trays and redesigned soaker pads. Collaboration is encouraged between packaging designers and recyclers via design for recycling guidelines to produce PET thermoform containers that would not compromise the existing PET recycling processes.


Collection, sorting, recycling

Stateside, industry advocated for the inclusion of PET containers in the municipal recycling infrastructure. It had to be demonstrated that PET containers would not compromise the integrity of the PET bottle flake if recycled together, and that thermoform containers could be easily separated from other look-alike thermoforms, like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) clamshells.

In the EU, as recycling targets go up, so does collection. Petcore Europe reports, “even in countries where today PET thermoforms are not yet collected, this will happen in the future.”

A large test in France showed that recycling PET trays with bottles can work under certain conditions, though issues with yield were reported. Another approach is to sort all PET trays from bottles, then sort monolayer from multilayer, and develop outlets for the sorted fractions. Dedicated recycling lines for PET thermoforms are under development in Belgium and look to be online in 2018. The Netherlands is collecting and sorting PET trays, but at the moment, there is no buyer for these materials.

In summary, EU developments in PET thermoform recycling echo those executed stateside. From leveraging reprocessing technologies capable of converting post-consumer PET to quality regrind and developing design for recyclability guidelines, Petcore Europe is laying the foundation for PET thermoform recycling. Because several reclaimers now reprocess thermoform/bottle bales in North America, we can hope that Petcore Europe isn’t far from achieving its goal of PET thermoform recycling in the EU.

For international brand owners wanting to aid Petcore Europe’s efforts:

• Encourage post-consumer content in new thermoform packaging. Providing the demand for the recyclate will provoke the supply.

• Work to design thermoform packaging for recycling that doesn’t hinder the existing reprocessing methods used.

These efforts will position PET thermoformed containers for recyclability, allowing for a more circular PET economy.


Chandler Slavin is the sustainability coordinator and marketing manager at custom thermoforming company Dordan Manufacturing. Privately held and family owned and operated since 1962, Dordan is an engineering-based designer and manufacturer of plastic clamshells, blisters, trays and thermoformed components. Follow Slavin on Twitter @DordanMfg.


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