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New Advances in Packaging
By Jennifer Magid

As we head towards 2006, expect to see new developments primarily in two areas of packaging: those that promote time saving techniques and those that promote environmental awareness or health. One can also look for advancements that promote corners of the market that have previously been untouched, such as unique, original designs. Tea & Coffee Trade Journal reports on some just-introduced standouts in the packaging arena.

Getting Healthy... Nobody wants bacteria in their coffee. Enter International Dispensing Corporation (IDC), which has commercialized the world’s only fresh flow valve this year.

With it, liquid product can be dispensed from a flexible bag or pouch without bacteria or oxygen tearing the package. Because contents are never exposed throughout the product’s entire use-life, the necessity for preservatives and refrigeration is reduced or eliminated. And due to its tamper-proof closer and airtight seal, product safety is significantly enhanced.

The concept is that beverages can now be packaged and safely dispensed from flexible packages without breaking sterility. The design is perfect for restaurants, foodservice institutions, cruise ships, hospitals and consumers who want peace of mind, knowing that no outside contaminants can enter the products. This also gives companies the option to offer healthier and more natural, non-preserved products.

The first commercial applications that the Fresh Flow Valve have been subject to are dairy products and ready-to-drink coffee and tea beverages. IDC is currently in discussion with a variety of other end users, such as juices, cocktail mixes, sauces, liquid eggs, nutraceuticals and saline and iodine solutions.

The Fresh Flow Valve is also the only valve to be certified aseptic by the National Food Labs and the Food and Drug Administration.

International Dispensing was founded in 1995 and is based in Hanover, Maryland. They are a research and development company that develops and manufactures packaging and aseptic dispensing solutions for the foodservice industry.

Starbucks is also thinking about health -- the health of the environment. In the same category of healthier packaging, Starbucks is newly introducing Recycled Cups.

In November, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) granted Starbucks’s supply chain member, Mississippi River Corporation, the first-ever approval to use recycled content in food packaging, specifically Starbucks hot beverage cups. Following successful testing, Starbucks expects to convert its hot beverage cups to 10 percent recycled material, an industry first.

“Beginning to use post-consumer recycled content hot beverage cups is an important milestone for Starbucks in addressing the environmental impact associated with our paper-buying practices,” said Jim Donald, Starbucks c.e.o. designate. “Starbucks’ goal is to convert hot cups in our U.S. company-operated retail stores by the end of calendar 2005. We will continue to explore ways to include recycled content in all Starbucks-branded paper goods in our stores.”

Starbucks worked for over two years with its suppliers Solo Cup Company, MeadWestvaco, and Mississippi River Corporation to get approval from the FDA for this historic innovation in food packaging. “We are tremendously excited to work with Starbucks, Solo Cup Company, and Mead-Westvaco, on the introduction of the first-ever recycled content hot beverage cup containing FDA approved recycled pulp manufactured by our company,” said Edward S. Logan III, Mississippi River Corporation president and c.e.o. “We, and our employees, are proud to partner with these fine companies and commend their environmental commitment.”

After testing in early 2005 to validate performance, quality, and safety issues, Starbucks expects to convert the recycled content cups into retail stores in the U.S. The hot beverage cups will look and perform the same, but the new cup is expected to lower the company’s dependence on tree fiber annually by more than five million pounds.

Starbucks Corporation has more than 8,700 retail locations in North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and the Pacific Rim.

Also speaking to consumer packaging desires is the new demand for cups and lids, according to a study by the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industrial research firm. Cups & Lids, a new study by the group, has found that the demand for cups and lids in the U.S. is projected to increase 4% annually to $5 billion in 2008. This growth will be driven by rising disposable personal income levels and favorable outlook for foodservice revenues, especially in high-volume cup and lid consuming segments like quick service restaurants and coffee and snack shops.

The rising demand for convenient and portable single-serving packaging will stimulate strong opportunities for packaging cups, which will register rapid growth as applications expand. Growth in lid demand will also outpace cup demand, advancing 4.9% per year through 2008. Gains will be attributable to a rapidly expanding packaging cup market, an increasing percentage of cups using lids and growing demand for higher-value specialty lids such as those for upscale hot drinks.

The study also finds that trends toward healthier eating and increased targeting by product manufacturers of specific demographic groups, such as children, will also stimulate opportunities for packaging cups.

More information or a copy of the Cups & Lids study is available by emailing pr@freedoniagroup.com, or going to the company’s site: www.freedoniagroup.com.

Improved Technology
The world is getting more and more high tech, and equipment companies are going “tekkie” as well. As an example, Rovema has just released its latest generation of Continuous Motion Vertical Form, Fill and Seal machines. They are developed with modern servo linear motor technology, which Rovema claims is allowing them to enter a new era in bagging technology.

The linear motor drive technology works on the principle of the “Magnetic Train”. This eliminates all oil-filled gears in the motor, making the VPL-400 maintenance and wear and tear free. The up time of the machine increases to 99%.

The VPL is designed in Stainless Steel as standard; it is aimed at being an ideal solution for the frozen food industry. Due to the improved freely programmable sealing time, handling of thinner films with high speeds is possible. Additionally, sealing pressure of up to 8,000 N is continuously programmable versus at intervals as in previous machine versions. Furthermore, additional functions like cooling time are adjustable as well as individual sealing time and pressure, ensuring the highest seal qualities. The VPL can run in both intermittent and continuous motion mode. Size changeovers are quick, given that there are no mechanical changes necessary aside from changing the forming set. Given all the above, the operation of the machine is designed to be simple, without requiring extensive training for the operator.

Also integrated in the VPL is the patented jaw jam detection system, which prevents product remains to be trapped in the seals. Given the ability to adjust the bag length and the jaw opening during operation, the company aims for high outputs to be achieved with longer bag lengths. Heat Sealable as well as Constant Heat Poly and Impulse sealing jaws can be utilized.

The VPL-400 will be producing a pillow style bag and will be feeding the latest case packer from the Rovema family the VFS-643 Vertical Loading system.

Regarding time saving strategies, a new, technologically advanced, heat-sealable, co-extruded, metallized OPP film designed to replace the foil and sealant in traditional paper-polyethylene-foil-polyethylene (PPFP) structures is being introduced by Toray Plastics (America), Inc. The next generation Torayfan PCFS, made with a proprietary blend of polymers, saves converters time and money by eliminating the sealant extrusion coating step in the converting process. The new MOPP film has a low shear storage modulus (viscosity of the molten resin) that provides increased flow-ability and improved hermetic seals. PCFS also has exceptional moisture and oxygen barrier durability, as well as improved economics over traditional foil and sealant combinations. Torayfan PCFS is a packaging material designed for packet and stand-up pouch applications, including hot cocoa, coffee, tea, seasoning, soup, rice, croutons, stuffing, dried cheese, and powdered beverages and nutrition/energy drinks.

“Converters and food manufacturers depend on new packaging technology to keep them a step ahead of the competition,” says Chris Voght, product manager, Torayfan Division. “PCFS offers significant advantages by outperforming standard OPP and foil and delivering a heat-sealable, cost-effective, aesthetically appealing flexible package that has exceptional barrier durability.”

PCFS offers high barrier durability, whereas foil easily succumbs to pin holing. Pin holing is a greater risk today as converters try to save money by using even thinner foil. PCFS also exhibits excellent stiffness, puncture resistance, and improved dead-fold properties. These physical attributes ensure a value-added, eye-catching appearance by preventing the “shop worn” look that typically occurs when handling packages made with foil.

Toray Plastics (America), Inc. is a manufacturer of polyester and polypropylene films for flexible and rigid packaging, magnetic, industrial and capacitor applications. The company is a subsidiary of Toray Industries, Inc, maker of synthetic fibers and textiles, carbon fibers, plastics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and high performance films. Annual sales exceed $9 billion, USD.

Ten Ren Tea company, one of the largest tea producers in Taiwan, recently introduced resealable gusseted pouches featuring Zip-Pak zippers for its tea products. Designed to enhance consumer convenience, the new packaging meets requests for a more functional design.

Ten Ren, which is over 50-years-old, looked to its packaging provider, Thomson Printing & Packing Corp. (located in Taiwan) to help design packaging that could store larger amounts of tea leaves without increasing bag dimensions very much. The company felt that stand-up pouches, which are tapered towards the top, did not provide much storage. Their solution was to use a gusseted bag -- a pouch with “sides” -- but one with a resealable feature. Thomson sourced a Nishibe machine to manufacture the bag.

“A resealable feature meant that our customers could reuse original packaging, so we extended the value of our marketing graphics,” says Mr. Su, the plant manager for Ten Ren Tea.

Eye Catching Packaging
Society may be moving in the direction of high tech and healthy, but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little fun to your packaging. On the theme of new designs to catch the eye, US Can Co. is introducing a “Welcome Spring” tin, ideal for stores to feature during the Easter season. A blue sky, grass-filled field spotted with bright colored flowers and the ubiquitous Easter bunny make up this design by artist Michal Sparks. The oval-shaped tin features a matching pink and green gingham body design and measures 7 3/16” x 5 5/16” x 2 1/8”. If Easter packaging is not on your current plate, the company’s catalog features 35 different decorative tin designs as well as other product lines, including the Seamless, Hermetic, International and Ellisco lines.

Revolution Tea is also making a statement with their new T-Pot Revolution Tin. The design allows a host to brew an entire pot of premium full-leaf tea, so it is perfect for those with entertaining in mind. The re-sealable stay-fresh tin contains 15 bags, each of which brews an approximately 26-ounce pot of tea. Revolution is also offering new plastic bottles for its new line of white teas. The bottles feature photography of each of the fruits used in the tea blends on the packaging.

Peerless Coffee just recently launched their new retail packaging at the Fancy Food show. The new logo is by a noted Bay Area designer named Michael Vanderbyl. The packaging was redesigned to reflect a classic and contemporary look. Peerless is an 80-year-old third-generation family business. Says Sonja Vukasin, president of Peerless, “Our goal was to have a new logo and packaging that reflected our family craft, our long history here in the Bay Area, and to bring an elegance to our look that reflects our commitment to quality and artistry.”

All of the new 10oz. bags feature a one-way valve, allowing the naturally occurring carbon dioxide to escape but no oxygen to enter.

Lastly, though packaging that is nice to look at is well and good, convenience is what is a dominating trend among today’s consumers. Anything that is ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat is of important notice. Convenient and portable packaging is the answer for this niche of products, but one company has managed to combine great design with great functionality.

OnTech Delaware, Inc. has created a self-heating container that is a safe and easy-to-activate concept. It heats up the contents of its package to approximately 145 degrees Fahrenheit within minutes.

Among the first to adopt the new self-heating container is WP Beverage Partners LLC, which will introduce its new line of Wolfgang Puck gourmet coffee products in January 2005. Flavors include Rich Caramel Latte, Rich Espresso Latte, French Vanilla Latte, and Rich Mocha Latte. These will all be under the Wolfgang Puck label.

According to OnTech c.e.o. Jonathan Weisz, the packaging has been well received by major food companies and brands. “The response from branded food companies has been terrific,” he said. “We have invested significantly in carefully researching and testing the self-heating container, and are delighted to be able to bring the packaging to market - to the benefit of consumers, as well as food and beverage companies that are seeking solutions to current trends addressing convenience.”

For 2005, improvements in packaging are only getting better and better. Design is based on the needs of the consumer and the company, both of whom desire for the products they spend their time and money on to be quicker, healthier for the environment, updated to the latest technological standards and also, while they’re at it, nice to look at.

Tea & Coffee - July/August, 2005
Theta Ridge Coffee


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