As the judges finish assigning the last awards for the 67th Annual Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards competition, they immediately consider which of the 2023 contest’s 31 winning entries would receive the top honor—the Highest Achievement Award.
The judges agree that they would look at how many gold and silver awards they had bestowed on individual packages. Traditionally, the package with the most awards receives the top honor. They agree they will give additional weight to packages that show technical or marketing innovations, as well as improvements in sustainability. The visual awards—such as shelf impact and printing—are important, they say. But the packaging industry overall keeps pushing forward because of the innovations in packaging formats that companies develop.
In the end, the Highest Achievement Award goes to the RESCUE!® Outdoor Disposable Fly Trap package made by Glenroy, Inc. of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. The package is the only entry to have won three individual awards: gold awards in packaging excellence and technical innovation, and a silver award in expanding the use of flexible packaging. That hat trick alone put it at the top.
“There’s a lot of growth opportunity with this,” says Jeff Peterson, president of Peterson Media Group, one of the three judges who gathered at FPA headquarters in Maryland. “It is just an extremely innovative design. It’s a brand-new product that utilizes flexible packaging in its design.”
Charles Marshall, a judge who is a principal at Priority Metrics Group, notes that the trap is constructed in a way that protects consumers from direct contact with the chemicals used to attract flies and other pests. It also allows people to safely discard the trap when it is full.
The others agree, while noting that the trap’s downside is that consumers must cut the top of the package with scissors before hanging it on a limb or post. They suggest that the minor inconvenience might be redesigned in later generations of the trap.
“I would rate that the highest among everything,” says Gary Borges, a judge who is an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.
Like many of the entries, the Glenroy package is a collaboration. And this one started at the PACK EXPO International event, according to the company.
“The concept for this application was developed by our customer, Sterling International,” says Pa Ying Lee, senior account manager at Glenroy. “Through an introduction at PACK EXPO, Glenroy was asked to develop a pouch film construction that was both chemically compatible and component functional for Sterling to manufacture the trap here in the United States. We’re glad to be part of the RESCUE!”
This is the first time Glenroy has won the Highest Achievement Award, says Alison Keane, president and CEO of FPA. Keane does not cast a vote in the judging but attends the meetings over the two days in December to help guide Peterson, Marshall, and Borges when they have questions.
In all, 87 package entries were submitted for a total of 230 entries—some packages were entered into multiple categories. The awards were given out at a ceremony in March.
Gold Awards in Sustainability
The judges give each award winner close scrutiny but pay particular attention to advancements in sustainability. After the judging process is over, Borges notes that sustainability remains critical to how companies have been proceeding with their packaging. Efforts with post-consumer recycling, paper structures that can be recycled from home, and compostable materials continue to show promise, he says.
“Sustainability is the big driver in the industry,” Borges says. “We should reward people that are working in that market.”
Peterson adds that flexible packaging continues to offer lighter alternatives. One example involved a laundry-pod container that uses flexible packaging to replace a rigid container sold by Kirkland, Costco’s store brand. The judges note that the new package is recyclable, is lighter in weight, and uses less water during production than the rigid container it replaces.
After reviewing the descriptions and specifications companies submit with their entries, the judges award two golds for sustainability: the Kirkland Signature® Ultra Clean HE Laundry Detergent Pacs made by Accredo Packaging Inc. and Presto Products Company Fresh-Lock® Closure BU; and Entour™ Produce Package/Entour™ Bold and Shield Lamination made by Berry Global.
The Kirkland laundry package saves 1.2 million pounds of resin annually, according to the entry form submitted for the judging process. “The new poly-ethylene (PE) child-resistant track-and-slider system enables the pouch to qualify for store drop-off recycling programs, so consumers can feel good about helping the environment by eliminating waste and creating extended use,” the entry form says.
The Kirkland project was another example of companies working together to seek solutions.
“Collaborative relationships among suppliers are more important in today’s business environment than ever before,” says Todd Meussling, senior manager of market development for Fresh-Lock by Presto Products. “This project required us to overcome several significant challenges, many that we couldn’t have anticipated, under a tight timeline and during a global pandemic. I do not believe we would have been successful without trust and open dialogue among all parties.”
The Berry Global package gains notice from the judges because the package is a recyclable mono-material PE film designed for fresh-cut produce applications, which often require strong seals in a cold pack-aging environment and customized oxygen transmission rates. The film can be recycled at store drop-offs.
“Furthermore, every film in the Entour category has been carefully engineered to offer the best combination of performance and sustainability,” Berry Global says in its entry form. “This means brand owners and converters do not have to choose between performance, shelf life, and efficiency versus sustainability.”
Marshall points out that the packaging has numerous possibilities, especially if it can be used for fresh vegetables.
Three packages go on to win silver awards in sustainability: McDonald’s 2022 Pokémon Card Overwrap made by American Packaging Corporation, Purition Single-Serve Smoothie Meal Replacement Powder made by ProAmpac, and Walex Commando® Black Holding Tank Cleaner Store Drop-off Recyclable Pouch made by Glenroy.
Keane points out that advancements in mechanical and advanced recycling processes will further inspire packaging designs. Advanced recycling has evolved to where plastic packaging can be taken back to a substance like virgin resin.
The judges note that a lot will depend upon what consumers demand. “It is pretty impressive the amount of platform growth that we’re seeing taking place in the packaging on the topic of sustainability,” Borges says.
Thomas A. Barstow is senior editor of FlexPack VOICE®.