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Packaging of beverages in foil pouches

A . Tacchella



Flexible packaging is considered by some people to have been the Cinderella of the beverage packaging industry. It possesses many advantages. such a s coinpactness when empty (important when considering the costs of inventory storage and transportation) and disposability. If offers the consu~ner lightness and unbreakability, together with the potential for excellent graphic decoration. often built up on a metallized surface. And yet flexible packaging for liquid beverages has not become globally accepted to the same extent as drinks cartons or internationally specified beverage cans. I t seems to have remained a niche product because the a\xilable systems are patented and available only under licence. In the 1960s. ICI developed the Merolite pack-a sausage pillow-style sachet using flexible. lightweight materials and targeting single-serve carbonated beverages. A thin board sleeve (not unlike a toilet roll tube) surrounded the body of the sausage for the purposes of decoration. This also provided a strengthening feature to hold for opening, to niiniinise the risk of squeezing the product out after opening and release of carbonation gas. The pack was opened by means of a removable tape sealing ;I small hole through which the product could be dispensed. Howe\w-, it failed to become a market success. probably because of its lack of handleability at both the filling and retailing stages, as well as in the hands of the consumer. I t is interesting to note that, despite a marketing quest for product differentiation and brand stand-out. truly novel packs rarely develop into volume products. Existing packaging formats continue to be developed instead. extending the product line in shape or style and pushing further the boundaries of technology. Conwntional pillow pouches have been available for many years for still products. and they exist today in some markets for milk. To overcome the problems of handleability. the consumer has to use a specially moulded rigid plastic carrier with a handle. Provided that sufficient customers are prepared to use such a pack (as with milk), the system becomes acceptable, Another pouch system is the stand-up pouch or Doy pouch. This utilises ;I gusset in the base to provide a standing foot.



A laminated film pouch which has had some limited success is the Capri Sun fruit juice pack from Rudolph Wild in Germany. This is a licensed product. incorporating a pouch and a filling system. The pouch is a standup pouch, and a drinking straw is attached to the side of the pouch in a clear wrapper. Removed from the wrapper. the sharpened end of the drinking straw is used to pierce a specially prepared area on the pouch. Several other Doy-type pouches exist in some markets, such as Japan, but none of these can be described as a major new packaging format. However, a more widely available system is the CheerPack from Hosokawa Yoko in Japan, or their global licensee, Gualapack, in Italy. This system can be used for a broad range of non-carbonated beverages and even concentrates (it is also used for many non-beverage liquid applications, including toothpaste in South America and childrens toothpaste in the UK). As the CheerPack system is more widely available than most systems, the present chapter will focus on this as an example of flexible laminates in the beverage packaging sector. During the 1980s, Japan began to favour flexible packaging. due to the increase in solid packaging waste and the lack of individual living space. Taking advantage of this trend, the company Hosokawa Yoko developed a high quality package using fewer materials and thus reducing packaging waste. In 1984, Gualapack was created and, in 1987, an agreement was signed with Hosokawa Yoko to license and produce the CheerPack in Europe and the USA. Today, more than 60 companies worldwide use the CheerPack for a variety of marketing applications (Figure 9.1). One of the major applications is in the area of sports drinks. Its main advantages are that it is lightweight, practical and recloseable. In the area of childrens products, foil laminate packs-unlike glass containers or metal cans-reconcile two very important aspects, namely, safety (never breaks. cannot cut) and entertainment (thanks to the numerous possibilities of decoration). The CheerPack has even found favour in the adult drinks market: in the USA, an ice drink has been launched. which utilises a holographic film to enhance the ice image; and a 5.5% alcoholic drink has been launched, using the package format to portray a modern image. Feedback from the market suggests that flexible pouch markets, such as the CheerPack, are:

new, innovative and distinctive recloseable, light, easy to carry and suitable for sports training and outdoor consumption ideal packs for children, being safe, hygienic and easy to carry service packs. easy to squeeze and using fewer materials.

In 1997, the 9th Dupont prize for innovation in the food industry was awarded to Isosport packed in the CheerPack. The Diamond Award



Figure 9.1 Today more than 60 companies worldwide use the CheerPack for a variety of marketing applications. The photograph shows a wide range of CheerPacks for beverages.

Winner' was selected by an international jury of professionals, highly representative of the packaging world. Among the criteria that set the CheerPack apart was: innovation; potential industrial and consumer impact; and reliability for immediate and long-term application. The potential for high quality print was also noted. Product formats can either be liquid or jelly-even toothpaste has been packed in Cheerpacks! For products that are stable at ambient temperatures, cold-filling can be used. If heat treatment is required, the CheerPack can be hot-filled (SYC) or even retorted, as in the case of milk-based drinks. It is, however, important to discuss product-processing requirements with the pouch supplier, to ensure a trouble-free entry for a new product launch. 9.2 Cheerpack-technical
specifications and construction

The CheerPack consists of a film laminate package, made up of four panels or sections-a front and back facing with two side gussets (Figure 9.2).



Figure 9.2 A 330 nil Cheerpack, showing the side gussets, which can be as highly decorated as the front and back panels of the film laminate package.

Subject to the particular application, the laminate (Figure 9.3) can include: polyethylene terephthalate (PET), aluminium (ALU)"PET'polyethylene (PE): or PET ethylene vinyl alcohol (EV0H):PE; or PET:ALU: polypropylene(PP) oriented polyamide (OPA). The Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) included later in this chapter refers to the PET ALU:PET,PE construction, as this is used most widely in the beverage markets. The nature of the construction allows for the pack to stand and for a high-density polyethylene (HDPE) neck and straw to be sealed into the top portion of the pouch (Figure 9.4). It is through this neck that the pouch is filled with the product and then sealed by a tamper evident closure that is supplied with the pouch. The CheerPack was the first recloseable, flexible container for beverages that incorporated a dual dispensing,'pouring feature. a tamper evident closure and high quality graphic presentation. It is also lightweight, safe and tear resistant. Gualapack employs the Rotocalco printing process, in which cylinders are engraved in bas relief and each cylinder corresponds to one colour.



Figure 9.3

Representation of the laminate construction of the CheerPack

This type of printing is suitable for medium to large run lengths. It is an internal printing process. in that it prints the inside of the polyester film. This gives the print design a very high quality, gloss image and the polyester protects the inks from scuffing. A maximum of eight colours is readily available and the process has a 200% 'hiding' or covering power. More than eight colours may be possible but great care must be taken on the selection of colours as quality could be affected. The design of the neck finish means that the empty pouches can be loaded into special 'rails' or magazines. which enable efficient packing for transit to the filler and easy loading into the filling machine. This allows one operator to keep several machines loaded with Cheerpacks. A further environmental benefit of this system is that the rails themselves are returnable and can be reloaded with CheerPacks many times over.
9.3 Filling of CheerPack pouches

Techpack. Gualapack's subsidiary, specialises in filling machine manufacture and has designed a highly flexible production machine with a



Figure 9.4 CheerPack container for an isotonic fruit juice. showing the neck and straw. with closure attached.

35-100 unit:min operating capacity, which can be used for cold- or hotfilling as well as for retortable products. Gualapacks technology allows 70-2,000 ml CheerPack production on the specialised filling equipment, and its fully-automated operation includes a case erector and a pick and place system. The filling process can be performed at room temperature as well as temperatures up to 95C. A special filling machine is required to fill CheerPacks (Figure 9.5). The model available (CHP 40) on the market can fill 70-1,000 ml pouches with liquid and paste products; the maximum filling speed is 150unitslmin





for the 70ml pouches. Figure 9.5 shows the filling machine, with the pouch infeed rail on the left feeding pouches into the filling head (centre) and the cap infeed on the right. Pouches are pre-orientated in racks by the pouch manufacturer. allowing for easy, low-cost handling. These racks are used to load pouches into the filling machine. The machine is able to manage each pouch, individually, in the following phases:
1) loading onto the rotary table 2) printing of the production data and or the expiry date 3) applying a vacuum to the pouch 4) filling the pouch with the product 5 ) blowing inert gas (if necessary) into the headspace of the pouch 6) cleaning the straw with steam 7) positioning of the cap on the neck of the straw 8) cap prescrewing 9) cap screwing and cap control 10) pouch ejection. with eventual pouch rejection in the case of incorrect application of the cap

The product is processed by standard flash pasteurisation processors, if necessary, and presented to the filler tank. It is kept at the required temperature until it reaches the volumetric pump, which is placed immediately before the filling valve. The machine automatically manages feeding of the product by means of specific level probes and sensors, which configure the changes in relation to the preparation of the product and its condition when coming out of the flash pasteuriser (if required). The machine has a preprogrammed logic controller (PLC), which controls all the functions and allows the operator to change certain parameters linked only to the characteristics of the product, including volume regulation during filling. Tolerance in the variation of filled product weight from one pouch to another is controlled to be within European standards. Instructions regarding the operation and usage of the filler, its maintenance schedules, as me11 as some suggestions on how to optimise the machine settings, are included in the handbook supplied with each machine. As with every special filling machine. it is better that the operators learn the correct procedures on how to use the filler and that their experience is built-up by regular operation of the machine; in this way. filler efficiencies of 85-87% can be achieved. Each filling operation can be scaled to a size to suit the throughput required and to a technology level to meet the customers requirements. Figure 9.6A presents a schematic layout of a filler feeding filled pouches into a pasteuriser. where the pouches are heated to the required temperature and held for a set time. From the pasteuriser, the pouches





are then carried into a cooling unit to bring the temperature down to a level where the product will not cook and develop off flavours. Once cooled, the pouches enter a dryer because it is important that they should be free of moisture before being packed into their cases. Once dried, they are carried onto the automatic case-packer and then onto a palletiser. Figure 9.6B shows another line layout, which is still automatic and yet of a more simple design than that described above. The machine is hotfilling a juice type product, which is held for a fixed period of time to allow for pasteurisation, after which the pouches are carried into a treatment tunnel of cooling water. Once cool, the pouches are removed and dried by the low heat maintained in the pouches, before being automatically packed into suitable cases. Figure 9.6C shows another type of line layout where pouches are coldfilled and then heated through a tunnel pasteuriser, after which they are cooled, dried and manually packed into cases. This type of line layout is suitable for use with one filler.

9.4 Packing of CheerPack pouches

On leaving the filler (cold-fill) or pouch-cooling unit (hot-fill). CheerPack pouches can be packed directly into display cases or shippers, either manually or automatically. It is imperative that the pouches are dry and free from condensation when packed. For manual packing, transport and buffer conveyors are normally used for the operators to collect and arrange pouches and then place them into the required cases. Filled cases are then placed, manually, onto pallets. For automatic packing, pouches are placed on special trays and are positioned under an automatic robot arm (pick and place), which collects and places them into the required case. For efficient, automatic operation of the case packer, the cases themselves must be carefully deaigned, with the dimensions selected to allom for easy loading of the pouches as well as protection of the pouches once loaded onto pallets and during transit through the supply chain. It is recommended that the case suppliers are involved in this design and specification process, to ensure that they understand any issues relating to dimensional tolerances, etc. The pick and place device guarantees the number of rows and layers of pouches per case, as well as controlling how many pouches are required in each row. Pouches are picked up by suitable suckers and handled independently, either from the exit of the filling machine (in the case of cold-filled pouches) or from the pouch-cooling unit (in the case of hotfilled pouches). They are then placed, with precision, in the starting position for case packing.



B 1






Figure 9.6 B: Automatic hot-filling line. C: Semi-automatic cold-filling line with pasteurisation. See text for further details.

The case erector unit handles the cardboard blanks directly from the delivery pallet and erects the case by first opening the blank, forming and closing the base. The erected cases are then conveyed, with a space between each one, to the pick and place section. Once the cases are filled with the pouches, they are immediately, automatically conveyed to the section where the cases are sealed with an adhesive tape or with hot-melt adhesive. From this section, the filled cases can be sent directly to a



palletiser to be stretch-wrapped ready for dispatch. The packaging technologist has a wide range of display shippers available both to convey and promote the CheerPack. Figures 9.7 and 9.8 show display shippers with tops that convert into header cards to promote the packaged product.

Figure 9.7 Display shipper nith top that converts into a header card to promote the CheerPack packaged product.

Multipacks can also be developed, where the packs are small (90 g), or where a promotion is required (Figure 9.9). Small (60g) packs can also be packed into closed cartons made of carton board or E flute cases (Figure 9.10). Another format, which is very useful for promoting and branding, is to use a dispensing case (Figure 9.11). Special cut-outs at the bottom of the case allow individual pouches to be removed and are suitable for impulse purchase outlets. The profile of the cut-out permits the retailer to check



Figure 9.8 Displaq shipper with header card

Figure 9.9

Multipacks for small CheerPack pouches or promotional use.



Figure 9.10

Small (60g) CheerPack pouches packed in closed cartons.

that another pouch remains on top, ready for the next sale. or whether the case is nearly empty.

9.5 Promotional potential

CheerPacks present wonderful opportunities for promotional activities. The unique neck finish means that they can be held in special racking (similar to the racks or rails that the empty CheerPacks are held in when delivered to the filling site). Alternatively, they can be held by the neck in a special holder on the waistband of a sports person whilst exercising or on a frame in a car for drinking when convenient. The laminate in the pouch-making machine can be reversed, so that it produces upside down pouches. These can then be used in vending machines that normally hold confectionery products in special clips. allowing a solid product vending machine to deliver a drink product as well. I n Japan. there are several CheerPack markets that use plastic, hinged boxes to hold and support the CheerPack during use. This can be in a 1



Figure 9.11 Dispensing case. The cut-out at the bottom allows individual pouches to be removed. The profile of the cut-out permits the retailer to check that another pouch remains.

litre size for a concentrate, where the product can be dispensed by means of a pump valve. For single-serve sizes of ready to drink products, a smaller plastic box can be used for the young drinker, who may otherwise tend to squeeze the pouch. Another useful marketing device is to fit a promotional overcap to the CheerPack, which can be used by the consumer when the pouch is empty. for example, the Mr. Men toothpaste product sold in the UK, presented in Figure 9.12. Because of the excellent laminating properties of the material used for CheerPacks and the printing methods available, high impact graphics can be developed to promote the branded product.



Figure 9.12 Toothpaste packages with overcaps used for promotional purposes

9.6 Environmental aspects All living organisms produce waste but the waste produced by some is used as nutriment by others. In nature, the principle of who pollutes must pay has never been necessary, as there has been a perfect equilibrium but this no longer seems to exist. According to a study by the Millennium Institute of Arlington (Virginia, USA), our planet is fast running out of resources. Lester Brown, President of the World Watch Institute of Washington, the American environmental guru, claims to have the recipe to heal the world, including: demographic reduction and new technologies to generate resources and to control the side-effects of human output. Western governments have delivered a strong message concerning waste management; a number of laws and systems of waste recovery have already been established, including DSD in Germany, Eco Emballage in France, Conai in Italy and Valpack in the U K . These must all comply with the European Union Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste,



which requires each EU member state to recover 50-65% of all their waste by the year 2001. A minimum of 15% of this (per material type) must be recycled. Producers, retailers and distributors are preparing to reach these targets but there is still a lot of confusion about the best solutions. The debate now concerns the desirability of recycling used materials, without consideration or understanding of the environmental and economic costs of doing so. There are various waste disposal techniques: recycling, composting, incineration (with heat recovery) and landfill. Each method presents advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, employing all of these techniques together produces the most effective economic and environmentally sensitive solution to the specific need of an industrial community. This is the basis of an integrated waste strategy. One of the most advanced approaches is the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment), which takes into account a variety of factors concerning the impact of packaging on the environment, making an inventory of input and output, and therefore considering packaging from cradle to grave. The following is a brief summary of an LCA study of CheerPack containers by Marcello Pieroni of the Italian Institute of Packaging. Summary A LCA was carried out to evaluate the environmental impact of some CheerPack containers, compared to primary disposable glass, PET, aluminium containers and drinks cartons for food products. A comparison was carried out between containers of the same capacity, assuming the exclusive use of virgin materials, apart from glass, since these materials are for food application, and assuming that all the above-mentioned containers are collected and recycled after use. The CheerPacks examined were made of PET/ALU/PET/PE. Under the conditions examined, the overall environmental impact of the CheerPacks was always on average lower than that of the reference packages. Instrument of the analysis The LCA is an instrument that develops a quantitative picture of the environmental impact of a product and, in particular, of energy consumption, waste production and air and water pollution, relative to the whole life cycle of the package from production of the raw material to output of the final product and to its disposal or recycling. Objectives of the analjssis The objectives of the analysis consisted of comparing the environmental impact of some primary CheerPack packages produced by Gualapack to other packages present on the market, made of different materials, having the same capacity and used in the same sector. The analysis was carried



out using GreenPack software. devised by the Istituto Italiano di Iinballaggio and devoted to the specific packaging sector. The packages analysed are described in Table 9.1.
Table 9.1 Packages anal)sed in a Life Clcle Anallsis to evaluate the environmental impact of ChecrPack cotit;iiticr~
Chcet P x k


Volume ml 330 500 500 1000

Utilisation Sector Food Food Food Food

I 2





A L L cnn PET bottle Gl'iss bottle Diinks i u t o i i

C'otnpart\on t \ x $ tiiadc betwccn containers of the wine capncit). assuming the exclusive use of iirgin materials. a p a r t f r o m glass and steel. and suppobing that all the containers are collected and rcc>clcd after ~ihc. AbbrcL iations: PET. polyethylene terephthalate: ALU. aluminium: PE. polqcth>Icnc.

Criteriu usid to c~rlcultrfe 1iniit.T urid croi!fine.r The data bank used by the GreenPack software is that published in 'Oekobilanz von Packstoffen Stand 1990' edited by K . Habersatter, Eidgenoessische Technische Hochschule (ETH) from Zurich and published as Report No. 132 by BUWAL (Bundesamt fuer Umwelt. Wald iind Landschaft from Bern in Switzerland). This analysis and the above-mentioned sur\-ey have the same limits. Every package was evaluated according to the following five environmen t a 1 indices:

I . Material consumption. expressed by the weight in grams of the M hole package and of each material it is made from. 2. Total energy consumption. expressed in megajoules. 3. Total air pollution index. expressed in thousands cubic meters of air (VCR). 4. Total water pollution index. expressed in litres of water (VCR). 5 . Volume of w'astes disposed. expressed in cubic centimetres.
VCR is the air or water volume necessary to contain pollutants within the maximum concentration limits defined by the air and water quality standards. according to the above-mentioned BUWAL survey. In order to recover energy. a 70% yield was calculated. The starting materials were exclusively virgin. apart from glass which has 56.6% recycled content.
Prc~.sci 11 t (I t io I I (? f t 11iJ W,Y 111t .Y o ti t N inr d Table 9.2 was processed by the GreenPack software with the percentage comparison between the reference packages for every environmental index. making the index of the highest package equal to 100.