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Rounding out paperboard packages to set them apart

When product/packaging development teams turn to the subject of paperboard carton structures, the discussion is generally pretty "boxy." How long, wide and deep must the carton be to hold the product?

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What are the length, width and depth limitations of the cartoning lines on which the product and package will be brought together? Can the carton depth be made shallower to create a bigger billboard facing? But there's another segment of the paperboard packaging world that bears investigation-non-cubic paperboard packages. Cylindrical paperboard containers, from basic, all-fiber oatmeal canisters to composite cans, are well-established packaging options showing promise for an increasing number of products. At least three suppliers now offer composite container structures sealed with membranes that incorporate gas-venting valves. These constructions are aimed at the ground coffee market. In the U.S., Latin America, Asia and Europe, category leader Sonoco Products Co. (Hartsville, SC) is marketing composite cans with walls made of product-tailored windings of paper, plastic and foil for moisture and oxygen-sensitive products that previously had to be packed in metal. Fitted with valved membranes, some of Sonoco's canisters are now being used in the U.S. for regional ground coffee brands. Sonoco is also quietly working on longer shelf-life composite cans for ground coffee. The company isn't saying much about this development yet, except that "it's being evaluated by major companies." The technology is believed to incorporate interior vacuum-holding plies to give roasters a packaging option other than steel cans and vacuum pouches. In the Pacific Northwest, Roman Meal Co. (Tacoma, WA) has been marketing a line of breakfast granolas in oval paperboard canisters incorporating ring-pull paperboard lids, paperboard bottoms and composite overcaps. The canisters (shown above) are among a growing number of proprietary shaped paperboard packages marketers are choosing for products such as flour, cookie mixes and upscale snacks. The canisters are produced on Vektor® form/fill/seal machinery from Huhtamaki Co., Inc. (DeSoto, KS). In Italy, Luigi Goglio SpA (Milan, Italy), whose Fres-Co System USA, Inc. (Telford, PA) is a leading supplier of vacuum coffee pouching systems, debuted its "Conor Flexible Can" at Ipack-Ima earlier this spring. The paper/film composite container incorporates a peelable valved membrane seal and hinged lid overcap. Elsewhere in Europe, Can Packaging SA (Habsheim, France) is marketing a line of shaped paperboard canisters under the name "Ecocan." Capable of being sealed with valved membranes, Ecocan sidewall architectures consist of coated paperboard substrates on which various barrier layers, including coextrusions of polyester, silicon oxide (SiOx) and polyethylene, can be adhered. Because the resulting containers are more than 95% paperboard, under German law they are considered monolayer containers. Thus they qualify to pay lower "Green Dot" collection/recycling fees than containers whose predominant material is less than 95% of the package structure. Paperboard packaging developers are also offering an array of paperboard packages whose footprints set them apart from their angular cousins. Again, three examples are: * Paper Machinery Corp. (Milwaukee, WI): PMC is now moving into the commercial food test market phase for a line of deep-dish footed paperboard casserole dishes. Dishes feature tapered sidewalls and rounded flanged lips for handling ease. PMC's equipment has almost single handedly been responsible for the "racetrack oval" paperboard cartons now so popular among premium ice cream producers. PMC machines also produced the racetrack oval cartons M&M/Mars, Inc., Hackettsown, NJ, uses for holiday sales of M&M candies as baking ingredients. * Sonoco Products (Hartsville, SC): Lipton's decision last year to get its iced tea mixes "out of round" is what prompted Sonoco to accelerate the development of its linear composite canisters (see Packaging World, May, '96, p. 30). Now, looking beyond its rounded rectangular Lipton canisters, Sonoco is working on other footprints: ovals, hexagons, octagons, even stars. * Imperial Bondware Corp. (Montvale, NJ): Others are putting up dog treats in everything from screw-closured PET containers to stand-up pouches to conventional paperboard cartons. But Purebred Pet Products, Inc., the Treat Division of Sunshine Mills, Inc., Red Bay, AL, is using movie-theater-style paper popcorn cups to lend retail shelf distinction to its Pup Corn® dog snacks and flavored cornmeal-based snacks extruded in the shape of dogs. The out-of-the-theater context of the cups-along with Purebred's light-hearted play-on-words brand name-gives the cup an "Aha!" effect unmatched by other packages in the sector. It stands 8" tall and is 5.25" in diameter at the mouth. Produced by Imperial Bondware, the Pup Corn cups hold 3 oz of product, are sealed with clear film membrane windows and fitted with low-density polyethylene reseal overcaps. The rising interest in home meal replacements (HMR) may signal a resurgence of interest in refrigerator-to-oven paperboard trays. With some analysts already estimating the U.S. HMR market at upwards of $100 billion/year, there would appear to be plenty of opportunities for paperboard tray converters. Suppliers such as Westvaco (New York, NY) are already supplying Ukrop's Super Markets, Inc., Richmond, VA, and others with scored and folded carton/trays for lines of frozen and minimally processed refrigerated meals. Other paper tray, bowl, cup, and canister suppliers are working with the 100 or so HMR organizations already cooking up convenience packaged meals for supermarkets. Among the ovenable paperboard packaging leaders hungrily eyeing this market: The Chinet Co. (Waterville, ME) which offers a broad range of single- and multiple-cavity molded fiber trays; Pactiv Inc. (Evanston, IL), whose Specialty Packaging operations offer HMR packagers paper, plastic and aluminum foil trays to choose from; and International Paper Co. (Memphis, TN) which is introducing a line of dual-ovenable release (DOR) paperboards for foodservice and perishable bakery products under the Everest® brand. All of which suggests that when your product/package development team next gets together to discuss paperboard packaging, you'd better be prepared to think out of the box.

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