Value-added packaging formats like retail-ready or shelf-ready packaging make it easy for retailers to quickly shelve products. It also builds an additional layer of branding to help snack producers and bakery companies deliver a strong message to shoppers.

In its various new formats, value-added secondary packaging builds value into the product from both the retailer’s and producer’s perspective. From the retailer’s perspective, there is less handling in the store, which simplifies stocking and replenishment. From the producer’s perspective, colorful printing supports brand identity, better on-shelf access to the product, less damage and fewer out-of-stock situations.

Jorge Izquierdo, vice president, market development, PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies, Reston, VA, sees three drivers in the area of value-added packaging: health and wellness, convenience and the miniaturization of products, which fuels impulse buying for consumers who are looking for healthy, on-the-go snacks. “At retail, you often have these displays at the checkout stand,” he says. “Manufacturers can sell smaller quantities at higher sales margins.”

Izquierdo says two types of retail-ready packaging are prevalent in snack and bakery today: folding cartons with windows and flexible packaging with windows. Both are suited to merchandising products with healthy ingredients since the window in the box reinforces a message of transparency: The product is fresh and the consumer can see it.

Key trends in retail-ready packaging include easy-to-open displays that don’t require tools, wide-open displays on the front side, stacking noses for use in dispensers, and edges protected by fold-over design to avoid injuries, according to Bernhard Vaihinger, product manager, Bosch Packaging Technology Inc., New Richmond, WI.

“Better-looking displays, no product damage, perfectly shaped primary packs without scratches, solid edges (versus cracked edges due to perforations or cuts by knives) all provide a premium appearance and high-quality image,” Vaihinger says.

Grocery retailers are committed to these approaches to branded secondary packaging, and some have firm timelines in place for the shelf resets, according to Rick Gessler, vice president of engineering, Delkor Systems Inc., St. Paul, MN. “With regard to packaging trends, there is a lot of focus on the size of the value-added packaging solution. Trays should be designed to fit on the shelf two-trays deep. This allows for simple restocking, without the need to bring partial trays or cases back to the stockroom.

“There also is a lot of focus on the printed information on each case,” continues Gessler. “Having specific printing on display trays detailing flavors or product varieties is becoming common, in addition to simple opening instructions printed on the case. The opening instructions are typically shown in a numbered diagram on the top.”


Equipment innovations

Bosch offers a full range of case packers—from wrap-around to side-load, as well as top-load case-packing systems—that are used to create value-added packaging. The machines can produce different pack styles on the same unit with short changeover time and vertical startup after change. Full-wraparound, tray and hood, ledge trays, and special features such as angled presentations can be created as well, according to Vaihinger.

Delkor offers a packaging line that produces the Cabrio Case, a tray-hood package created from a single piece of corrugated board. More efficient than two-piece designs, it is easily produced alongside traditional cases on Delkor’s Trayfecta line of case formers. Cabrio Case displays can be found in many bakery and snack food aisles, as well as in the refrigerated and frozen food sections of grocery stores.

Each Delkor packaging system is designed to change over in less than 10 minutes to standard packaging formats like brown-box shippers. Change parts and hard tooling has been minimized, and robotic technology provides flexibility and accepts products fed to the machine in a variety of orientations and speeds, according to Gessler.

Douglas Machine Inc., Alexandria, MN, offers machines that produce paperboard sleeves/cartons, corrugated tray and case designs, and shrink wrap for film. “The TriVex SL and SLi meet the demands of the growing value-added packaging market for bags and pouches,” says Jon Hoyme, regional sales manager. “The top loader meets market needs for lines requiring products to be packed vertically in the case and lines requiring both vertical and flat-pack product orientations.

“Vertical pack configurations produce retail-ready display cases with one or two product facings,” continues Hoyme. “With a quick conversion, the machines pack pouches laying flat in the case with two or three products per layer. The TriVex SL and SLi use a dual Scara robotic solution that combines the functionality of a product infeed, pack pattern collation and case-loading functions.”

BluePrint Automation, South Chesterfield, VA, has designed two retail-ready cases and one case closer for producers who want to add value to packaging. Its RSD retail-ready case is designed to erect, pack and close like a standard RSC case, eliminating the need for dedicated packaging equipment. Designed with the retailer in mind, each case easily opens from the back, providing a clean, finished, machine-cut front display, according to Robbie Quinlin, marketing manager.

BluePrint Automation’s EasyD is a wrap-around (case-style) version of the RSD. It also erects, packs and closes like a traditional case using a wrap-around, multi-axis combo solution. The EasyD features a back wall for additional support, which offers product protection during transport. The company also offers the RSD-CC, a case closer with hot-melt sealing.


Printing displays

The creative use of folding cartons is one way that snack producers and bakeries can differentiate their products on store shelves. To that end, improved printing technologies and material options are available to help improve shelf presence, according to Brandon Clairmont, senior vice president, packaging sales and marketing, PaperWorks Industries, Philadelphia.

For example, PaperWorks Industries has developed a lithographic press that provides value-added enhancements in a single pass instead of the traditionally required two or three passes. These enhancements include matte and metallic inks, specialty coatings and pigments—plus seven-color printing of displays.

The press can produce high-definition images using a 400-plus-line screen, compared to a traditional lithographic press, which uses a 150-line screen. Higher definition produces vibrant, eye-catching colors. Following printing and die-cutting, the carton board flows through gluers that feature an inline quality detection system.

PaperWorks Industries’ folding cartons can display a variety of product types, including cookies, crackers, chips, candy, nuts, popcorn and bars. Producers have the option of choosing from coated recycled board or virgin options.

Sutherland Packaging, Andover, NJ, offers high-impact, direct color printing for single-piece corrugated point-of-purchase (POP) displays. Its direct printing technique eliminates the need for a lithographic label to be applied over corrugated substrates. “Ideal for the retail consumer market and club store displays, this high-impact, full-color technology allows producers to save on material costs and shipping times,” says Manny De Barros, sales manager.

“The industry has realized major savings in the cost of their POP displays through this type of direct-to-corrugated printing technology,” adds De Barros. “This is because the direct-to-corrugated process requires less work, less machinery and fewer materials. Another savings-related trend is the push to make POPs into one-piece stands (as opposed to multiple pieces). This makes production cheaper and assembly less complicated.”

Looking ahead, De Barros sees more companies producing generic cases that can stock multiple different products instead of creating a variety of promotional displays. This will allow them to print a larger run of displays that can be “built out” for various promotional purposes.