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Water bottler loses a panel, gains an edge

A new secondary packaging design that uses a three-sided tray for bottled-water multipacks provides cost and sustainability benefits for Premium Waters.

Pw 2597 0 5 Ltr 24 Pk Ltwt 3 Sided Tray 2
Premium Waters, Inc. of Minneapolis is one of the largest manufacturers of private-label bottled water, servicing retailers such as Walmart, Aldi, Hy-Vee, Menards, and Dollar General. For more than a century, the company’s mission to provide quality beverages at an affordable price has required a continual effort to keep material and energy waste at a minimum.

In 2008, the company engaged Georgia-Pacific’s Packaging Systems Optimization™ (PSO) program to evaluate its secondary packaging. Through the PSO program, Georgia-Pacific reviews a customer’s packaging supply chain to identify opportunities to reduce waste, enhance efficiency, and strengthen sustainability. The solution Georgia-Pacific found for Premium Waters was a new way of bundling bottled water that enhances sustainability and provides greater profitability.

Data-driven process for redesign
Established 130 years ago, Premium Waters today distributes a complete branded line of waters, as well as various private-label brands for retailers, grocers, and convenience stores.

Several years ago, Premium Waters enlisted Georgia-Pacific’s PSO team to evaluate its secondary packaging—corrugated trays holding 24-packs of 0.5-L bottles, wrapped in 2.5-mil low-density polyethylene shrink film—for sustainability opportunities. In the five-step PSO process, a team of packaging engineers analyzes a company’s entire packaging supply chain, focusing on areas such as package design, material optimization, shelf impact, alternative packaging, and SKU consolidation, as well as productivity improvements, warehousing, material handling, and transportation.

For the Premium Waters project, the PSO team worked closely with Premium Waters and its proprietary film supplier to redesign the original four-sided multipack tray into a three-sided package. Data was gathered on current cost versus proposed cost, including corrugated material, shrink film, glue consumption, and productivity impact. A Total Cost Analysis (TCA) was then generated to determine the estimated cost savings based on all the data points to determine both the financial and sustainability impact.

The team also researched the various types and proportions of corrugated material and plastic film that could be used to develop the new configuration. Several prototypes were designed and tested to ensure that the package remained fully supportive after the removal of the corrugated panel. It was essential that the new package match the strength of the original, making it easy for consumers to handle. It also needed to run efficiently on existing lines without affecting production speed.

“We’ve been working with the same representative from Georgia-Pacific for years; she brought in the PSO team and guided the project,” explains Linda Casteel, Premium Waters’ director of planning and procurement. “Because of her intimate knowledge of our customers and their needs, as well as our machinery and equipment capabilities, the redesign successfully reduced the amount of fiber, energy, and fuel in packaging our water.”

The final B-flute tray features three sidewalls that are each 2 in. tall—the same height as the original package. The tray also uses the same 2.5-mil LDPE shrink film as the original package. Because the redesign did not interrupt the flow of the trays through the production line, the project required minimal capital investment.

A seamless transition
Since the introduction of the redesigned tray at its Chippewa Falls, WI, facility, Premium Waters has achieved an annualized energy savings of 3,705 million BTUs and a 648,000-lb reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Due to the success of the package, the company has since standardized the three-sided tray for all of its 10-oz, 0.5-L, and 20-oz packages across its six facilities. Overall, total annualized energy savings from both production and transportation have amounted to 23,738 million BTUs, and the company has saved 7,605 gal of fuel, while reducing GHG emissions by 4.7 million lb.

In the months following the launch of the new three-sided multipack in March 2009, Casteel says the company received positive feedback from customers. “Our experience with Georgia-Pacific has been tremendously positive, and we’ve seen customers make a seamless transition to the new packaging format,” she reports.

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