Finding Gold

Companies Innovate With Flexible Packaging

Finding Gold

Since its founding in 1953, the WD-40 Company has produced its iconic lubricant dispensed from a spray can. When company officials wanted to try a different delivery method using flexible packaging, they reached out to Brook + Whittle, a Connecticut-based packaging company.

“WD-40 approached us to work on flexible packaging pouches for their newest degreaser product EZ-Pods,” says Tim Morgan, business director of flexible packaging for Brook + Whittle, founded in 1995. “These pods have no harmful fumes, are nonabrasive and noncorrosive, and leave no residue.”

In addition, the pods do not require a warning associated with Proposition 65 (previously referred to as California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act), and they are compliant in all 50 states with volatile organic compound requirements.

“The pods can be used in home or work environments, including sensitive surfaces,” Morgan says. “Shipping concentrate—not premixed product—to customers vastly reduces logistical costs and allows the end customers to customize the strength of the degreaser by adding more pods as needed.”

Those and other efforts led the WD-40 Specialist® EZ-Pods Pouch Family to take the top prize in the 68th Annual Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards Competition for 2024 held by the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA). The awards were distributed during FPA’s Welcome & Achievement Awards Dinner held during the March 20–22 Annual Meeting in Tucson, Arizona.

“The Highest Achievement Award is evaluated by the judges as possessing overall packaging excellence, significant attributes in all award categories, and contributing most to the advancement of the industry,” according to FPA.

The package also won four gold awards: expanding the use of flexible packaging, packaging excellence, sustainability, and technical innovation.

Overall, 11 different packages from various companies won gold awards in the contest, which also recognizes silver award winners.

The awards competition also recognizes printing quality and shelf impact, with Emirates Printing Press, L.L.C. from Dubai taking four gold awards and four silver awards in those categories for its various packages. The company also won awards for technical innovation, sustainability, expanding the use of flexible packaging, and packaging excellence.

One of its packages won four golds—packaging excellence, printing, shelf impact, and technical innovation—for its Shehrazade Basmati Rice Blue Pouch, 5kg.

“This package shines on display with images and window metallized features,” the company says.

Award-Winning Attributes

During the judging process in late 2023, the three contest judges said they were particularly impressed with how the WD-40 EZ-Pods expanded the use of flexible packaging, creating a technical innovation with sustainability attributes. The pods replace cans, which have a higher carbon footprint, the judges pointed out. In addition, the new package did not sacrifice performance, while being recyclable through store drop-off services. The stand-up pouch has a child-resistant closure, as well.

Those attributes were developed through careful collaboration between WD-40 and Brook + Whittle, Morgan says.

“We spent significant time with the innovation and marketing teams at WD-40 to understand what was CTQ—critical to quality—and how the packaging needed to complement the product positioning in the marketplace,” Morgan says.

The discussions focused on the following:

Containment: “This is essential for effective transportation, storage, and final distribution to the end customer. Once we knew the weight/size/number of pods, we could design appropriately dimensioned pouches together with the right gauge of films,” Morgan says. “WD-40 had no experience in flexible packaging, so it relied upon our decades of experience in recommending available options for this application.”

Protection: The pouches are secondary packaging, and the primary packaging is the pod itself. “We had to make sure that if the pods ruptured during transportation, the pouches would contain the liquid,” he says. “Further, we used films with the required physical properties to perform well in this application.” WD-40 wanted child-resistant functionality built into the five-count and 20-count pouches, too.

Convenience: In addition to providing the required functionality, WD-40 wanted customers to access the pods easily. “As we discussed their needs, it became clear the flexible pouch provided superior performance when compared with other packaging options,” he says. The pouches are easy to open with a tear notch, and the zipper allows for the package to be resealed.

Communication: WD-40 wanted to make the best use of the available space on the pouches to communicate the brand’s messaging, user instructions, and caution information. “Working with their external design agency and marketing team, we provided the dimensions for images and type together with examples of other products produced, showing best practices for similar products and applications,” Morgan says.

Sustainability: WD-40 wanted to use flexible packaging materials positioned to complement the EZ-Pods brand. “We selected films and closures that are qualified for store drop-off under the How2Recycle® program,” he says.

As part of WD-40’s environmental, social, and governance plan, the company has been looking at packaging that is more sustainable and helps the company meet its carbon-neutral goals, says Paul Checklin, senior director of application engineering and technical sourcing at WD-40.

Looking for Excellence

And technical innovations were top of mind for the three judges. “We all had specifications that we were looking for as we went through,” says Chelsey Quick, vice president of client success at Industry Intelligence Inc., about the competition. “Just looking at the function and the technical innovation has been really interesting for us.”

The other judges were Danny Beard, a consultant who is principal at Packaging Specialists based in Georgetown, South Carolina; and Bruce Welt, Ph.D., a professor in the packaging engineering program at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida.

“What really sets flexible packaging apart from other types of packages is the functionality considerations,” Beard says about the overall contest. “You can make a flexible package function in a way that you can’t always make a rigid package function.”

Along those lines, a gold award in expanding the use of flexible packaging went to the RoadRescue® Asphalt Repair, 50 lbs., a package made by Polymerall Flexible Packaging at the Texas-based company’s plant in Mexico.

The judges were impressed with how the flexible pouch replaced large plastic buckets that traditionally hold asphalt mix.

“Designed to hold 50 pounds of asphalt mixture for pavement repair, it tackles the challenge of ultraviolet (UV) exposure with a UV-resistant substrate, preserving print vibrancy in sunlight,” according to the package’s entry form. “Moreover, the pouch incorporates gas exchange vents and facilitates secure palletization, making it a practical and visually appealing choice for packaging needs.”

One challenge addressed during development was the exposure to UV radiation, a common issue for packages placed outdoors, says Oscar Pérez Galicia, Polymerall CEO. To overcome that issue, Polymerall incorporated a UV-resistant substrate, preserving the print vibrancy of the 10-color design even in direct sunlight.

“Additionally, the team focused on the thermal challenges the pouch might face in parking lots and truck yards, where it is frequently exposed to heat,” he adds. “Custom lamination adhesives were developed to ensure the pouch remained securely bonded, preventing any separation or delamination.”

Pérez Galicia says the package involved a meticulous process to ensure high-quality standards.

“Polymerall initiated the manufacturing journey at its Excel Nobleza Gualapack facility in Puebla, Mexico, showcasing a commitment to quality production,” Pérez Galicia says. “The process began with in-house manufacturing of printing plates using an ESKO DTP setup, featuring McDermid HD flat top dot plates and specially developed inks and adhesives for exceptional print quality.”

The shift from rigid 50 lb. buckets into flexible packaging enhances portability, reduces waste, promotes sustainability, and provides customization opportunities for branding. And the pouches are user-friendly, with optional resealable closures, minimizing product waste and ensuring mixture freshness, he adds.

The asphalt mix is being sold at big-box retailers, and the marketing efforts include targeted campaigns through industry-specific channels, trade shows, online platforms, contractors, and construction companies.

“Importantly, the switch resulted in significant savings on packaging costs and transportation expenses, reducing the CO2 footprint,” Pérez Galicia adds. 

For More Information

To learn more about the 2024 winners of the FPA competition, click here.

Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE®