After reviewing and analyzing 73 samples of some of the best examples of flexible packaging on the market in 2019, a panel of judges has chosen 48 packages for recognition in the Flexible Packaging Association’s (FPA) 64th Annual Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards competition.

The FPA announced the winners at the 2020 FPA annual meeting held March 4-6 at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point Resort and Spa in Bonita Springs, FL. This year, 73 packages were submitted in the competition, for a total of 206 entries. Some packages were entered into multiple categories.  

The judges for this year’s competition included Min Degruson, assistant professor of packaging, University of Wisconsin — Stout; Matt Reynolds, editor, Packaging World; and Mike Richmond, principal, PTIS, LLC.

The FPA awarded 19 Gold Awards and 29 Silver awards to 30 packages. The judges explained that Gold Awards build on an infrastructure of multiple elements such as being technically novel, enhanced sustainability and outstanding graphics, while the Silver Awards recognize specific achievements. 

AeroFlexx Wins Highest Award

At the awards ceremony, the AeroFlexx package developed by Procter & Gamble was awarded the Highest Achievement Award. 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. In addition, the Aeroflexx package received five individual Gold Awards.

“P&G brings everything together,” says Richmond. “They seem to get that it’s the product and package together. They use the packaging components as equity enhancements. There are sustainability pieces, as well as the service parts solving notorious problems in e-commerce shipping. They look at all these different components. When you add them all up, that becomes difficult to copy.”  

Richmond, who has served seven times as a judge for the FPA awards, says sustainability continues to be a focus, with several entries using bio-based and compostable materials. Richmond notes, “I’m excited about how the industry has really stepped up to the sustainability and circular economy challenges with enhanced barriers and recyclability, increasing the post-recycled content, and reusability.”

Flexible packaging and plastics in general are all under fire, Richmond says, but companies are listening and trying to do what they need to do because flexibles are single-use. “We are all responsible for trying to eliminate packaging as waste. There isn’t a magic bullet, but there are a lot of silver BBs out there that are coming into play.”

Advances Seen In Printing

A number of the awards recognize high-quality printing on the flexible packaging. While technology advances in film barrier properties have been transformational, Richmond says, printing advances are more evolutionary. “It used to be that everything was measured against rotogravure printing as the highest quality. Now, however, you can’t even tell the difference between flexo and roto. Meanwhile, digital also continues to get better.”

The use of digital printing is more pronounced, with mass customization and personalization. The judges also are seeing nice graphic enhancements, such as soft-touch films with haptics that build touch equity. 

An increasing trend seen for this year’s competition is the number of entries that contain both matte and spot gloss aspects. “One thing that I’ve seen with more frequency, and now more than ever, is the matte background with a spot gloss to make something pop out whether it’s a message or branding that’s highlighted against a delicate background,” says Reynolds.

The transition of products previously packaged in rigid containers to flexible packaging was also seen as a growing trend. Another developing trend is the hybridization of packaging, introducing elements of flexible and rigid packaging working together as a system.

Packaging Combines Formats

According to Degruson, “Several of the entries looked like rigid, traditional looking packages, but they were made of flexible packaging. That’s something that stands out to me because companies are addressing that consumers want to see the traditional rigid packaging or glass jar, but the packaging is made as a flexible packaging to reduce the material usage.”

Richmond pointed to Glenroy’s premade STANDCAP inverted pouches, which have a non-flexible cap, as part of a packaging system. “If you didn’t combine the flexible and the rigid, you wouldn’t have a system,” he adds. “We tried to look at the submissions as systems. We’ve been smarter about the role, importance and value that packaging as a whole plays. The judges took into account anything that can enhance flexible packaging.” 

Several of the entries also addressed consumer convenience, making it easier for the consumers to shop, transport, dispense from, and use flexible packaging.

It seems to get better every year, says Richmond. “Each year the playing field gets tougher and tougher, yet the suppliers, converters and the brand owners all work together to step it up.” 

Here is a list and descriptions of the Gold Award winners:

AeroFlexx — Highest Achievement Award

Gold Awards:

  • Expanding the Use of Flexible Packaging
  • Packaging Excellence
  • Shelf Impact
  • Sustainability
  • Technical Innovation

Manufacturer: AeroFlexx, 

Description: AeroFlexx is a ‘new to the world’ package format that is revolutionizing the liquid packaging industry as the only flexible package providing features and benefits that are superior to that of a conventional bottle. It uses an air frame to integrate tailored rigidity into a flexible film, creating a package with no discreet closure; clean and controlled one handed dispensing functionality; a 360 degree palette for branding; a structure that is e-commerce compliant without additional protection, all with at least 50 percent less plastic than a bottle. The package is consumer preferred, customer centric, more sustainable, and cost competitive with bottles and designed to disrupt the entire liquids packaging value chain.

4D Bags with Handle 

Gold Award: Shelf Impact

Manufacturer: Uflex Limited, 

Description: Uflex developed a brick shaped, all panel registered bag/pouch with a handle and reclosable option that can either stand-up or lie down. It is similar to flexi-cartons and is an excellent rigid carton replacement product. The standability and shelf prominence of rigid packaging is now combined with the functionality of flexible packaging in this new ‘4D Pack.’ All six panels of the bag are printed and can be made of different substrates. The look of the bag creates excellent shelf appeal, helping it catch the immediate attention of the end user. For convenience, the bag can be carried from a top handle while its reclosable option allows product dispensing through the zipper. The bag adds a fourth dimension to the product making it a unique four-sided flat flexible bag that offers the luster and barrier properties of the film and prominent carton-like display.

FlexiTube for Bio Creative Labs — USA 

Gold Awards: 

  • Expanding the Use of Flexible Packaging
  • Packaging Excellence

Silver Award: Technical Innovation

Manufacturer: Uflex Limited, 

Description: Uflex developed three variants of the Super Foods Natural Hair Care FlexiTubes for Bio Creative Labs — USA. The FlexiTubes provide 360 degree printing with a soft matte finish and an excellent reproduction of graphics. The gold metallic lines were provided with a holographic layer that eliminates the use of a foil stamping process.

Hill’s All PE “Recyclable” Pet Treat Bags

Gold Award: Packaging Excellence

Silver Awards: 

  • Sustainability
  • Technical Innovation

Manufacturer: Plastic Packaging Technologies, LLC, 

Description: Overcoming all conventional limitations known from using only polyethylene (PE) films for highly engineered packages, these all PE laminated bags allowed the international brand-owner to launch into fully “recyclable” flexible packaging formats without any compromises in appearance or performance. Combined innovation in new materials, equipment, and processing methods features results with equal clarity, graphics, aesthetics, rigidity, puncture-resistance, machineability, barrier properties, grease-resistance, varied closure options, and easy-opening with laser-scoring with no package appearance or performance compromises. In fully recognizing the current uncertainties of requirements around the recycled PE material for end-markets, the EVOH barrier film also incorporates the compatibilizing additive to neutralize any potential negatives to the recycling stream.

Insura Seal Verification 

Gold Award: Technical Innovation

Manufacturer: Amcor Healthcare Packaging, 

Description: According to the FDA Center for Devices and Radiological Health, suspected problems with a package’s seal accounted for approximately two-thirds of all 2017 packaging-related recalls. Suspected seal failures are managed cautiously since true failures almost always result in compromised product sterility. While package fabrication issues lead to some failures, inaccurate device placement and equipment wear can also cause failure. Currently, it is difficult to assess seal integrity once the packaged is filled and the final seal is made. Although destructive tests lead to statistical confidence in the integrity of the product, they are wasteful. To overcome these deficiencies, a package closure indicator that functions with conventional packaging materials and equipment at typical filling speeds was developed that generates a color change when critical seal parameters, namely temperature, pressure (intimacy of contact), and time, are achieved. Color continuity indicates a lack of defects while color intensity correlates well with seal strength.

Paqui Tortilla Chips Pillow Pouch 

Gold Award: Shelf Impact

Manufacturer: Printpack, 

Description: Amplify Snack Brands redesigned their Paqui tortilla chip packaging to create a striking brand block on the shelf. They chose a design with a large logo, a strong focal point, and simple food photography to create a memorable package that would make it easy for consumers to find and remember their brand. The enhanced graphic appearance of the packaging uses vibrant contrasting colors and interesting visual effects created through the printing process.

Predilecta Sacciali Jar Shaped Pouch 

Gold Award: Shelf Impact

Silver Awards: Expanding the Use of Flexible Packaging, Packaging Excellence

Manufacturer: Amcor Flexibles Brazil, 

Description: The Sacciali brand jar shaped pouch combines the best of flexible packaging technology for lightweight and long shelf life with increased shelf impact using graphic design and a shape factor to enhance consumer interest at the point of sale. The “mason jar” shape nods to the traditional glass packaging common in the sauce category. However, flexible packaging offers the significant benefits of a 97 percent weight reduction over glass, leading to a wide range of sustainable benefits.

Premade STANDCAP Inverted Pouches 

Gold Awards:

  • Expanding the Use of Flexible Packaging
  • Packaging Excellence
  • Silver Award: Sustainability

Manufacturer: Glenroy, Inc., 

Description: Premade STANDCAP inverted pouches extend product freshness, stand out on the shelf, provide time-saving and utensil-free convenience for users, and make an eco-friendly impact by reducing fossil fuel usage, water usage, and greenhouse gas emissions when compared to alternative package formats.

Skratch Labs Limited Edition EF Pro Cycling HP Mosaic Packaging 

Gold Awards:

  • Printing
  • Shelf Impact

Manufacturer: ePac — Flexible Packaging 

Description: Skratch Labs developed a limited-edition package for their sports hydration drink mix to celebrate EF Education First Pro Cycling’s participation in the Tour de France. Inspired by the striking metallic pink and blue color-shifting design of the team’s jerseys, ePac and Skratch were able to create a truly unique stand-up pouch using ePac’s all digital printing platform and HP’s Mosaic variable print enhancement technology. Each pouch in the entire 10,000 unit print run is unique and features an exclusive color-shifting design.

Stacy’s Women’s History Month Packaging 

Gold Award: Printing

Manufacturer: Printpack, 

Description: This collection of limited edition packages tells the story of a female entrepreneur’s journey to success and is designed to inspire and support female entrepreneurs. The packaging’s purpose is to connect and align the brand, female entrepreneurs, and supporters of female-founded businesses. These were sold online through the United Way to help fund new and emerging businesses to celebrate Women’s History Month and as part of the Stacy’s Rise Project.

StreamOne R Retortable Recycle-Ready Polyester 

Gold Awards:

  • Sustainability
  • Technical Innovation

Silver Award: Packaging Excellence

Manufacturer: PAXXUS, Inc., www.paxxus.

Description: StreamOne R, high-performance, all-polyester packaging solution designed for the #1 polyester recycle stream. It has been engineered specifically for applications requiring retort or autoclave sterilization. StreamOne R maintains its ultra-high barrier and reliable hermetic seals even after processing at high temperatures, ensuring that product quality and shelf life are not compromised. The consistent high barrier that StreamOne R provides allows products that previously required an aluminum foil barrier to move to an environmentally friendly package, supporting brand owners’ sustainability initiatives.

Silver Winners

Silver Award winners also include: 

  • Amcor SmartTack Resealable Label with Premium Tamper Evidence — technical innovation
  • Bear Naked Granola’s Entour Shield+ Front of Store Recycle Ready Package — sustainability
  • Bear Naked Premium Granola — printing
  • C-4 Extreme Explosive Pre Workout — printing
  • Cargill Grab N’ Go Deli Meat Package — packaging excellence and technical innovation
  • Cracker Barrel Black Ribbon Natural Cheese Slices — packaaging excellence and technical innovation
  • Decowraps — sustainability
  • EcoVue FlexPac — packaging excellence
  • Flex Asclepius PCR Based BOPET Films — sustainability
  • FLEXPET F-STF Ultra Soft Super Durable BOPET Film — shelf impact
  • Full Moon Natural Pet Treat Pouch — technical innovation
  • Hershey’s Stand-up Pouches — printing
  • JUSTIN’S Nut Butter Covered Nuts — sustainability
  • Liqui-Box Waterspout — expanding use of flexible packaging
  • Little Baker Coconut Dates — shelf impact
  • Mt. Olive Munchies Resealable Pouch — expanding use of flexible packaging
  • Nestlé Toll House Artisan Collection Premium Baking Chip — printing
  • Pride Lands Premium Bloom Soil — shelf impact
  • The Ultimate Fish Stick — printing.