Since 1956, the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA) has conducted the annual Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Competition to showcase the industry’s innovation and the advances that have changed packaging. The competition is among the most respected in the industry thanks to the outstanding caliber of packaging entries, the objective and methodical judging process, and the extensive media coverage of the competition winners. Its focus on innovative technologies, processes, printing techniques, and the sustainability of flexible packaging places the achievement awards program in a class by itself.
For the competition, package entries can be entered into six categories:
- Expanding the use of flexible packaging
- Technical innovation
- Shelf impact
- Packaging excellence
These attributes are what differentiate flexible packaging from other packaging formats to provide extraordinary packaging solutions.
An independent panel of experts judges all entries. Gold and silver awards are given in each competition category, and the Highest Achievement Award is given to the gold award winner ranked by the judges as having contributed the most to the advancement of the industry. The judges for this year’s competition were Gary Borges, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout; Charles Marshall, principal of the Priority Metrics Group; and Jeff Peterson, president of the Peterson Media Group.
Technical innovation and sustainability continue to be the focus of the competition.
“Sustainability is growing tremendously, extremely fast. In-store recycling is growing as well as adding post-consumer recycled content to packaging, which is a trend that we saw with the competition entries,” Borges notes. “And we’re seeing an increase in paper structures that are either compostable paper or paper structures that we can send to our paper waste streams at home. So, we’re seeing all these innovations taking place. It is impressive.”
Peterson adds, “Flexible packaging is looked at to create packaging that utilizes less materials for many applications. We saw a lot of that during the judging process. All kinds of innovative packages were sent in for the competition this year. Sustainability, of course, is a big issue right now, and it was great to see some of the technical innovations with the different films that are now being used.”
Marshall notes that the achievements with the packages represent a lot of effort from the technical side.
“Being a marketer, I saw and began to appreciate how much time and energy are spent on package development, and the knowledge the technology groups have—and what they achieved in accomplishing sustainability goals—was amazing,” Marshall says.
“One of the things that struck me was the fact that there are so many hands in the process. You must really understand your customers’ goals to accomplish them. You need to meet the desired goals of the customer in terms of what they want to accomplish for the brand. You also want the consumer to like the package and see the sustainability piece. So, there’s a lot of juggling that goes into pleasing every group to make the best package for everyone. It’s a tough task, and I think it came through loud and clear how well these companies are looking at everyone and trying their best,” he adds.
Borges says he was impressed by the amount of platform growth when it comes to sustainability.
“What do we do? What is it going to look like five or 10 years from now?” Borges says. “We are getting a good picture seeing some of these new structures on what it’s starting to look like. And it is fun here, being at this stage, watching it.”
Peterson adds, “One of the interesting categories is the extended use of flexible packaging because you really can see what people are doing that’s brand new that really hasn’t been done in the marketplace using flexible packaging versus paper cartons or rigid plastics.”
According to Marshall, “Looking at packaging through the years, it has come a long way. The future is bright in the continued changes and modifications that are necessary to make flexible packaging continue to grow.”
For this year’s competition, 87 packages were submitted for the competition, with a total of 230 entries (some packages were entered into multiple categories). Thirty-one packages were honored with 39 achievement awards. The winners of the 2023 competition were announced at the FPA Annual Meeting on March 29, 2023, at the Ritz-Carlton in Amelia Island, Florida. All of the gold winners are highlighted in this edition of FlexPack VOICE®, as well as the silver award winners in sustainability.