Medicine kit pack rides Coca-Cola crates to save lives in Zambia
Packaging innovation is honored every year by DuPont in its global packaging competition, but for this year’s silver anniversary edition, a “unique packaging and distribution program” captured the premier Diamond and the Special 25th Anniversary Food Security award.
Adding a distribution element is a differentiator for ColaLife, an independent nonprofit organization that leverages the Coca-Cola Co. (TCCC) distribution network to transport “AidPod” packages containing medicine and information to the needy in remote areas.
AidPod is the name of a registered distribution packaging system whose design inspiration was to utilize the space surrounding bottles in a crate of Coca-Cola during distribution. The first application of this technology is a one-year trial for the wedge-shaped anti-diarrhea Kit Yamoyo (“kit of life”) package that nests or “piggybacks” between bottlenecks within the crates to minimize transportation cube.
The ColaLife Operational Trial Zambia (COTZ) involves the AidPod anti-diarrhea kit. If the trial is successful, it could be used globally for other medical kits. ColaLife worked with pi global to create a robust container to carry simple medicines. It had to be small enough to only occupy the unused space between Coca-Cola bottles in crates, yet big enough to fit a large-enough dose of the essential medicines. They also had to ensure that they kept to strict medical guidelines set by the Pharmaceutical Regulatory Authority of Zambia.
According to pi global, “All branding and instructions are in a leaflet slotted into the kit package’s lid. This means that the plastic remains clear, thus rendering it potentially suitable for SODIS (solar water disinfection). The AidPod is also used as a measuring jug so that the Oral Rehydration Salts [contained in individually wrapped sachets within the pack] are mixed directly into it so the measurements are correct and most effective. It will be the first container in Zambia offering customers the ability to make up an individual required dose rather than a minimum of one liter of bulk fluid. The lid prevents contamination and allows the mixture to be fully dissolved via shaking while also used as a cup.”
Pi global, an independent global branding and design consultancy, reached out to its packaging supplier contacts to provide time, knowledge, and resources to the ColaLife project.
All kit packaging materials (container, inner tray, and sealing film) are manufactured in the U.K. However, when the trial goes national, the AidPod will be capable of localization due to its low-tech manufacture. The contents of the Kit Yamoyo are procured as locally as possible and are assembled and packed in Zambia by hand, using a PA215 semi-automatic heat sealer supplied by Packaging Automation Ltd.. The tabletop machine was appropriate to export to Zambia, easy to use, effective, accurate, and required no compressed air.
The package includes the following components:
• A rigid thermoformed container made of 90% rPET (recycled PET) by Charpak. The rPET is sandwiched between two thin layers of PET. The container measures 126 x 60 x 86 mm deep. Total thickness is 0.80mm. An inner tray is 112 x 53 x 15 mm deep.
• A film lidding from Amcor Flexibles that covers only the sealing flange area of the AidPod container to seal it closed. The film is a P-Plus® perforated 40-micron Mylar® OL2 material that ensures an integral seal with a smooth peel, and tiny perforations allow rapid changes in pressure caused by temperature and altitude to be dissipated, while maintaining pack integrity. There is no branding on the pack. Information is provided via a Kit Yamoyo packaging insert leaflet showing through the heat-sealed film lid.
Pack provides functionality
When asked how significant packaging is to making the project a success, ColaLife founder and CEO Simon Berry tells Packaging World, “The top criterion for the packaging was that it fit in Coca-Cola crates, so this meant we started with the packaging. Most health projects start with what needs to be delivered and then thinks what to deliver it in and the answer is usually a [paper]board box. Because we had such a sharp focus on the packaging and the needs of our end users, the packaging has ended up being much more than a container to hold the components of the kit. It’s also a measuring device for the water needed to mix the ORS; it’s a mixing and storage device, and a cup. This functionality, plus the fact that it is a shiny, clean-looking product with an unusual design, has made it very attractive to our target group—the rural poor. Good design is not only for the rich!”
Initially, the program is in a one-year trial period that concludes Sept. 30. “We have just completed the fieldwork for the midline survey which will provide initial evidence for the planning of a scale-up. In the first six months, retailers serving the remote communities we are targeting have purchased 20,500 kits,” adds Berry.
The need to battle disease in Africa
Eric Connolly, production director, pi global, provides important background information as a point of reference why the pack is so necessary. He says that today, diarrhea is the second-biggest killer of children under the age of five in Sub-Saharan Africa. “It kills more children than malaria, HIV/AIDS, and measles combined. Our ‘Human-Centered Design’ approach focuses on meeting the needs of poor caregivers/mothers in remote rural areas with a sick child: an all-in-one kit, meeting best medical recommendations (ORS plus zinc), with local access/ease of delivery; promoting awareness/understanding; affordable; attractive; and with functionality including hygiene and measuring for correct dosage.”
He says AidPods are designed to counter African public health problems (transport costs, stock-outs) by moving simple cures to the private sector. “ColaLife has learned a lot from studying Coca-Cola’s ‘value chain’ and how they operate: creating a desirable product and making it profitable for small retailers to carry it to their village. The Kit Yamoyo’s are ordered by independent Coca-Cola wholesalers in district towns (it could be any wholesaler, but the Coca-Cola wholesalers are generally of a high standard, well-known locally by everyone, and the project was introduced to them via SABMiller in Zambia. Travel on tarmac to the district towns is not difficult, so, during the current trial, the Kit Yamoyos do not go in crates on this leg. They are transported in boxes to the Coca-Cola wholesaler by Medical Stores Limited, but dropped at the Coca-Cola wholesaler.”
He explains that retailers come into the district town to buy and travel back “the last mile” on a bicycle, ox cart, or truck. “If they buy Coke as well as Kit Yamoyos, they have the option of putting the kits in the crate, thus saving on transport costs,” Connolly notes, saying this is not a requirement of the project—the AidPod shape just facilitates this.
“The pack provides a hygienic cup with a lid, valued for reuse in poor households where implements are few. It contains soap for handwashing and educational materials on diarrhea and hygiene. The AidPod protects the product in the harsh Zambian retail supply chain withstanding severe impacts, rapid changes in temperature and pressure, rough handling, light, water, dust, and insect exposure, and can be checked against counterfeiting.”
Chris Griffin, pi global’s chief operating officer, credits ColaLife CEO Simon Berry and business development director Jane Berry for providing “this amazing concept for getting medication to rural areas piggy-backing on what they call ‘the last mile’ of the Coca-Cola distribution system.” He adds, “Our role was to take this idea and make it real. It wasn’t about making a lovely-looking piece of packaging to attract consumers, but instead a functional and sturdy container to deliver this medication safely. The AidPod is the result, a simple, well-constructed rPET container that will help parents in developing countries protect their families from easily treated diseases. ColaLife has been a truly exciting project for us to work on, and we can’t wait to see the fantastic results it will deliver in the future.”
In addition to the DuPont awards, Kit Yamoyo also won Product Design of the Year 2013 from The Design Museum.
Jane Berry comments, “When we asked Coca-Cola how they reached rural areas, they said, ‘We don’t—it’s the pull of the brand.’ Besides harnessing the unused space in a crate, this is what we’ve tried to learn from. We aimed to make Kit Yamoyo attractive, affordable, and desirable so people want it. Pi global has helped us make it also useful, robust, and practical. We have some of the world’s biggest brands watching and learning: UNICEF and WHO, as well as Coca-Cola, SABMiller, and Johnson & Johnson. It’s going to be interesting!”
Does ColaLife envision making any changes in the packaging for future projects? Jane Berry says, “We will keep the packaging design under review with our partners pi global. Just because the current design has received so much attention and won awards doesn’t mean there is no scope for improvement. We will always be sensitive to our customers’ needs and they will dictate any future developments of the packaging.”
New salad bowls enhance environmental health
The Convenience Salad Bowl, touting improved sustainability features, is the recipient of a DuPont Gold Award for Coop Cooperative, Awtec Switzerland. While Coop’s original salad bowl packaging was very popular with consumers, it was relatively bulky, required a considerable amount of packaging, and resulted in excess packaging waste. The company decided to reassess and redesign its salad packaging to create a more consumer-convenient, cost-efficient, and environmentally friendly approach.
Working with packaging technologists and designers, Coop was able to reduce the amount of packaging material used in its salad bowls by 30%. This was achieved by switching from round to square containers and by using recyclable polyester (RPET). Recycled PET content in the new containers is 80%. Consumer-convenience enhancements include incorporation of a removable, multi-compartment tray that securely snaps onto the primary container and allows consumers to shake and mix the various salad components with the salad dressing.
The new RPET packaging is supplied by Taraplast AG. That firm thermoforms the container from three-layer coextrusion of virgin/regrind/virgin PET. The middle regrind layer includes 60% post-consumer material and 20% production regrind.
The new package was introduced in July 2012 for all Coop supermarkets and convenience shops. Coop markets eleven different salad varieties (some including meat, eggs, and/or cheese along with the fresh vegetables) in these types of containers. Both the 2-compartment and 4-compartment packaging styles utilize modified atmospheres to protect and enhance refrigerated shelf life for up to 6 days. The dressings, produced by Gautschi Sauce, are packaged in PET-based packets that are manually deposited into the salad bowls prior to sealing the tray lids. Foil -based tray lid materials are applied and sealed using Type QX1100 equipment from Ishida.
Depending on salad variety, retail prices of these products are in the $6 to $7 (USD) range. Coop Cooperative spokesperson Emma Arvidsson reports, “We did not conduct a market survey. However, since the launch of the redesigned packaging, sales of our convenience salad bowls have increased by roughly 30 percent.”
Recovering ink 0.4 g at a time for zero waste to landfill
A new closed-loop recovery system that mines ink from used ink-jet and toner cartridges 0.4 g at a time has earned BCM Inks USA, Inc. and its partner, Close the Loop Ltd., USA, a Gold award in the DuPont Awards for Packaging Innovation. In April 2012, Close the Loop, an Australian company with a Hebron, KY, branch that recovers and recycles imaging consumables, approached BCM about developing a product that could utilize the liquid ink left over from the nearly 30 million ink-jet and 10 million toner cartridges it collects each year.
“They had been holding onto the ink and were looking for someone who could take it off their hands,” explains Dr. Ted Vernardakis, research director at BCM. “In Australia, they were disposing of the ink in landfills.”
BCM, a company whose motto, “Where ‘Green’ is More Than a Color,” reflects its commitment to creating innovative and environmentally friendly direct-print products for the corrugated industry, took on the challenge and developed a new, black water-based flexo ink, PCR (Post-Consumer Recycled) Black, from the recovered ink. PCR Black is formulated for use on corrugated shipping containers and other corrugated packaging, and is said to offer the same quality as the standard black water-based flexo ink, GCMI 90. Confirms Dr. Vernardakis, “It performs the same or better because we have to make it to standards.” PCR Black, like BCM’s other ink products, do not contain any heavy metals, such as lead, mercury, cadmium, and hexavalent chromium.
To collect the used printing-ink cartridges, Close the Loop has set up a nationwide system where collection boxes are placed in businesses and other facilities with printing capabilities for cartridge disposal. When the boxes are full, they can be taken to any Staples store, to be sent to Close the Loop.
By Dr. Vernardakis’ best estimate, each recovered ink-jet or toner cartridge yields approximately 0.4 g of liquid ink. To produce one 450-lb drum of PCR Ink—of which approximately 40% is the recovered ink—it takes 200,000 cartridges. The cartridges themselves are recycled by Close the Loop and used to produce plastic lumber.
With both the cartridges and ink recovered and reused, Close the Loop has achieved zero waste to landfill at its Hebron facility. According to BCM, for every one ton of cartridges collected and recovered, more than 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide are eliminated that would otherwise have been released into the atmosphere.
Gillette delivers an easy-open blister pack
Bye-bye “wrap rage” and hello easy-open blister pack. That pretty much sums up what Procter & Gamble and Placon have accomplished in the design and manufacture of the package for Gillette Venus & Olay razors for women. No scissors are required and no fingers need be injured in the opening process. Just insert thumb or finger into a finger slot that protrudes from the back surface and lift. This simple motion makes it possible to open the top third of the blister pack much like one would open a flip-top cigarette pack. The consumer bends this top portion back 180 degrees and removes an inner thermoformed “caddy,” also supplied by Placon. The caddy holds both the razor handle as well as a razor cartridge housed in its own thermoformed polypropylene thermoform plus heat-sealed film lidding.
The package won Gold in the DuPont Awards. It consists of five pieces and holds a total of three product components: razor handle, suction-cup holder that holds the razor handle between uses, and razor cartridge. The cartridge is made in Poland, according to the paperboard insert that shows through the clear blister. Also in Poland, the razor cartridge is packaged in a polypropylene thermoform plus film lidding that’s heat sealed to its flange.
Packaged cartridges are sent to a plant in North America, where all three product components are manually loaded into the inner PET caddy thermoformed by Placon out of a 25-mil EcoStar PC50 extruded sheet. Ecostar is made by Placon from up to 100% post-consumer recycled content.
The inner caddy proceeds down a conveyor belt to a SencorpWhite system that takes care of most of the remaining packaging on an automated basis. First it denests the outer blister, which is thermoformed to a depth of 21/8 inches by Placon from a 20-mil sheet of PETG. Next the paperboard insert is placed in the blister, followed by the inner caddy that holds the three product components. Finally, pre-cut lidding material is picked and placed on the flange of the thermoformed blister and heat sealed in place.
The PETG lidding material is printed flexo in 12 colors by Control Group. It features cast and cure technology, a decorative coating process that integrates casting and curing techniques to form a consistent high-quality surface with distinctive holographic effects. Luxurious, iridescent, golden, and glittery, the lid produces a high-end premium feel.
As the package design was finalized, testing of materials and printed films began in order to find a suitable combination of materials, printing techniques, and sealing parameters that could meet the full art run-off bleed that gives the package its impressive shelf impact. The heat-seal design required a lidding material and ink chemistry, developed by Control Group, that could withstand direct heat without degradation of the graphics. Optimized heat cycle time prevents ink splitting or cracking.
Worth noting on the package manufacturing side is the ingenuity that Placon shows in a second operation right after the outer blister is thermoformed. Using custom punch-and-die tooling, Placon cuts the following: a peg hole, a sidewall slit on both left and right sidewalls that lets the consumer flip open the top, the finger slot, and a series of microperforations to the left and right of the finger slot. These perforations are especially important. They’re made in a way that ensures 1) the package stays reliably closed throughout distribution and 2) the consumer can easily break the perforations to flip the top of the package open.
Here’s how Placon describes how difficult it was to produce this package: “A number of unique challenges faced Placon, including a new cavity shape that required a thermoformed insert with trim features never seen before. The most complex tooling design Placon has ever built emerged from the project, tooling that would be difficult to replicate by others—especially on a large, consistent, and repeatable scale. Placon worked closely with Gillette throughout the project from initial concept, pilot tool design, and proof of principle to final production tooling.”
The package also supports Gillette’s ongoing environmental commitment. In addition to the inner caddy being made of EcoStar, both the caddy and the outer blister carry the #1 PETE resin code, which means they can enter the recycle stream in regions where the local infrastructure permits it. When comparing the current Venus product line packaging—an injection-molded HDPE inner caddy and a thermoformed PVC outer blister—the amount of plastic content needed for the new Venus & Olay line has been reduced by nearly 30%. Finally, Placon estimates that 1 million lb of work in process PVC scrap has been removed from the manufacturing waste stream.
Available nationwide for just over a year now, the Venus & Olay razor was priced at $13.00 in a Chicago Walgreens store.
Good to the last drop
The Clorox Company, Pleasanton, CA, is the recipient of a Du Pont Packaging Gold Award for development of SMART TUBE® spray dispenser packaging that allows consumers to dispense every last drop of product from the bottle. The redesigned packaging features a durable, easier-to-control, bayonet-style trigger, and a dip tube blown into the front of the bottle that reaches all the way to the bottom of the bottle and enables complete dispensing of product without having to tilt or tip the container. Clorox estimates that this packaging can reduce product waste by approximately 81,000 gallons annually.
The packaging systems supplier team involved in producing the SMART TUBE spray bottles include HDPE bottle suppliers ALPLA, Inc. and Graham Packaging, filling equipment supplier Ronchi Packaging Machinery, sleeve labeling system supplier Fuji American Seal, and spray dispenser specialist Guala Dispensing.
Sarah Knox, senior associate manager for consumer and shopper promotions at The Clorox Company, reports that the Guala trigger dispenser consists of 11 injection-molded plastic parts—nozzle, chassis, upper valve, lower valve, shroud, trigger lever, spring, piston, connector, stopper, and foam insert.
Rollout of the new SMART TUBE packaging into retail stores began in late 2012. Several Clorox products in three sizes (17-, 24-, and 32-fl-oz) incorporate the new dispenser style. Renu Mevasse, marketing manager for Clorox Home Care, says, “We hope SMART TUBE technology lets consumers achieve better cleaning surface coverage and say goodbye to frustrating work-arounds, and that they are getting to that last drop in every Clorox cleaning product bottle.”