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Filling, lidding and sleeving: Dairy pack experts tailor R&D to evolving consumer trends

#Filling, lidding and sleeving: Dairy pack experts tailor R&D to evolving consumer trends

01 Nov 2023 — Creating new packaging formats for dairy solutions remains vital for shifting market demands. We speak to SIG and ProAmpac about the latest trends for dairy packaging, led by environmentally conscious materials, on-the-go solutions and shelf life optimization. 

Innova Market Insights data suggests that desserts & ice cream launches are increasing globally, featuring a 2% average annual growth when comparing 2018 and 2022. In 2022, Tub (29%) was the leading packaging format among ice creams tracked, and Plastic (50%) was the leading packaging material.

Meanwhile, the market researcher finds the top sustainability-related claims among global desserts & ice cream product launches in 2022 were Recyclable (44%), Green Dot Certified (9%) and Responsible Source (4%).

“Packaging is crucial for any product, but more so for F&B, where it needs to be truly multifunctional. In the segments of dairy and plant-based beverages, demand for healthy products offered in sustainable packaging solutions is in high demand for on-the-go and at-home consumption,” Julia Trebels, senior category and consumer insights manager at SIG, tells Packaging Insights.

“Current trends in dairy packaging focus on transparency, environmental concerns and advanced packaging technologies. Sustainability is key, with a shift toward recyclable ready products, adding PCR content, in many cases using compostable solutions, and reducing packaging,” adds Charles Golub, F&B market manager at ProAmpac.

Filling and lidding
Golub explains that collaboration and innovation will drive the industry by integrating innovative packaging and bio-based materials.

SIG cartons for milk packaging.SIG highlights its ecological carton solutions for dairy packaging.“ProAmpac is actively developing solutions across the sustainability platform, customizing products for specific dairy applications and investing in research to stay ahead of industry trends.”

“Meeting [the dairy packaging industry’s] demands with flexible options helps manufacturers to retain and grow their market share. Whether it be downsizing to meet on-the-go consumption patterns and affordability or upsizing to fulfill the rise of in-home consumption, flexibility and agility become key in capturing and retaining consumer segments,” adds Trebels.

ProAmpac addresses the need for extended shelf life and prevention of spoilage and contamination for dairy product packaging.

ProAmpac names the ProActive Recyclable RP-1000 a significant project for dairy packaging. It is a fiber-based packaging alternative for overwrap and secondary packaging applications like string cheese that addresses the demand for recyclable materials, catering to environmentally conscious consumers.

“Our dairy packaging options, like the ProFlex, our lidding solutions, and ProActive Recyclable RP-1000, are specially designed to meet the unique requirements of dairy products,” explains Golub.

“These solutions offer very low seal temperatures to ensure the quality of the dairy product, exceptionally good flex fatigue to ensure there are no pinhole failures in the packaging and many other features unique to the high demands of the dairy markets.”

ProAmpac has moved several customers from foil-lidding structures to PET-based structures for die-cut lidding applications. This is a more ecological option and a potential price-effective solution due to foil reduction.

“In the US, we also work extensively with several customers on recycle-ready solutions. In Europe, lidding can be accepted for recycling streams, but in the US, it will largely be under the recycle-ready category,” says Golub.A kid pouring milk into a glass from a plastic bottle.Consumers demand environmentally sustainable solutions for dairy packaging.

Additionally, ProAmpac considers factors such as flex and abrasion tests, along with compatibility with filling lines, to tailor its packaging to specific dairy applications. Through ongoing research and collaboration, the company says it remains at the forefront of dairy packaging innovation, guaranteeing that its solutions preserve product freshness and align with evolving consumer demands and sustainability expectations.

Dairy carton sleeves
SIG produces billions of carton sleeves annually, filling at customer sites using the company’s aseptic filling technology. The carton sleeves are made of protective layers.

“SIG provides the market with a unique sleeve technology for aseptic carton packs. Unlike other systems in the market, SIG carton packs are delivered to F&B manufacturers as flat-packed sleeves with the long side already sealed,” says Trebels.

A standard aseptic carton pack comprises three core elements: Raw paperboard, PE and aluminum. In the production process of the carton packs, the paperboard is first coated with PE to keep it impermeable. Typically, a thin layer of aluminum is applied to protect against light, oxygen and external aromas and odors. Another layer of PE is placed over aluminum to bond it to the paperboard and prevent it from contacting the contents.

The coated and printed packaging material is cut to size for different formats. Each is creased and prepared for folding, and the longitudinal seam is sealed. This fold prevents any contact between the uncoated cutting edge and filled goods. The entire process is monitored throughout production to guarantee safety and hygiene.

“There are many benefits to this aseptic process. Consumers can be sure of a high-quality, tasty drink with all its natural nutrients, vitamins, flavors and colors retained. And, due to the carton packaging structures that block out light and air and the aseptic filling process, products can have a shelf life of up to 12 months without refrigeration or preservatives,” explains Trebels.

Julia Trebels, senior category and consumer insights manager at SIG.Julia Trebels, senior category and consumer insights manager at SIG.Reducing the environmental impact
SIG also expanded its portfolio with its recently launched SIG Vita. The family-size milk packaging promises convenience and on-shelf differentiation.

“Products need to fit effortlessly into everyday life and make it easier. And they need to stand out. SIG Vita delivers on these expectations by providing an easy and wide opening solution, a new packaging shape for better grip and pouring, and enabling clear differentiation on the shelf in the dairy and plant-based product world.”

SIG was “the first” to offer aseptic carton packs using aluminum foil certified to the Aluminium Stewardship Initiative Standards for the responsible production, sourcing and stewardship of aluminum.

“We were the first in the aseptic carton industry to eliminate the layer of aluminum foil without compromising on quality and food safety. All these solutions are scalable and designed to help customers gradually develop more streamlined processes and responsible products in their sustainability journey,” asserts Trebels.

“Customers can easily make a product more sustainable, for example, going from our standard carton packaging structure to SIG Terra Alu-free or another one from our SIG Terra packaging materials without changing their filling line.”

Balancing consumer demands
The Alu-free cartons are suitable for ultra-high-temperature white milk. Trebels says the white milk packaging category is increasingly driven by the need for comprehensive, environmentally sustainable concepts.

Additionally, the SIG Terra Alu-free + Full Barrier controls exposure to oxygen, light, water vapor and aroma, extending SIG’s lower-carbon alu-free packaging materials for use with oxygen-sensitive products such as flavored milk.

Golub asserts that designing packaging for dairy products presents the challenge of balancing the consumer demand for environmental sustainability, functionality and transparency.

“ProAmpac addresses these challenges by incorporating recycled materials, utilizing monomaterial solutions, and exploring other [environmentally] sustainable solutions. The key lies in optimizing designs for efficient material usage, ensuring compatibility with filling lines and enhancing product shelf life while reducing environmental impact. Striking the right balance between sustainability and functionality is essential in meeting the evolving demands of the dairy industry,” Golub concludes.

By Sabine Waldeck 

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