Reclosable device designs respond to consumer and sustainability demands
Since the patenting of the first zipper storage bag in 1954, innovation in reclosable packaging design is still strong and driven by two influences: consumer friendliness and consumer feedback. Advancements such as color and sound to determine sealing, as well as polypropylene reusable containers, have met customer demands for both convenience in storage and quality in keeping food fresh.
“We’re getting a lot of feedback from customers who want to upgrade the packaging, and they want an improved feel or tactile feedback,” Presto Product’s Fresh-Lock® Zipper business unit manager Rick Custer says.
With a struggling economy and more people cooking at home than eating out, buying in bulk from grocery stores is becoming a stronger trend than it was before. However, along with bulk buying comes the nagging issue of bulk storing. Reclosable devices must be securer and stronger than ever.
Hefty’s Slide-Rite slider technology received a 73% approval rating by consumers who were asked which technology made respondents feel most secure that the bag was truly closed, making sliders seem like the better option to use for resealing.
However, press-to-close zippers are also being innovative. According to Zip-Pak marketing manager Elizabeth Sheaffer, Zip-Pak’s DoubleZip press-to-close, which features two ergonomically-designed interlocking profiles to guide fingers along a path, is designed to make consumers confident that the bag is completely closed after each use, and is twice as secure as a traditional package.
“Slider technology offers easy access to package contents for consumers and prolongs brand exposure by eliminating the need to transfer a product into another container,” she says. “Press-to-close technology, on the other hand, offers another way to bring convenience to the consumer.”
Custer believes that what sliders provide over press-to-close zippers is differentiation at a higher cost.
“There is more that goes into a slider, so it has the connotation of being more expensive,” he says. “Consumers believe it and see it. You then have a question of how you want to present the package. Can your packaging objectives be met using substantially less materials with a press-to-close?”
Presto has also expanded product offerings to meet customer’s evolving needs. Their Soft Seal line of zippers meets the challenges of new films, faster packaging lines and continuous quality improvement.
“Seal integrity and package leaks, even when using reduced gauge film structures, are both improved when the seal of the zipper is made easier,” Custer says.
Manufacturers on the moveAn example of a food manufacturer responding to consumer feedback is Kraft’s new Snack ’n Seal technology, used by several brands in its Nabisco line, including Oreo and several varieties of Chips Ahoy and Newtons cookies. Customers complained of cookies becoming stale quickly due to the previous packaging design, so an internal Kraft team worked with external parties, producing a new package sporting a horizontal flowrap with a re-close feature to the top panel and a precision top and bottom die-cut opening with a pressure-sensitive label built into the structure.
“This provides for more convenient use of our products, improves product freshness in our consumers’ pantries by providing significantly-improved resealability and helps eliminate the need for consumers to repack these products in resealable plastic containers or bags,” Kraft’s associate director of corporate and legal affairs Laurie Guzzinati says.
Just as well, Swedish brand Scan AB has released several unique products in easy-open reclosable packs. With its delicatessen meatballs package, consumers just push in a perforation on the topside and pop the pack open. They simply pull the label on the bottom to reclose the pack.
“Reclosability always scores extremely high with consumers when you ask them what they are looking for in a package,” says Custer. “It has moved from something special; in a lot of markets, many companies use it as a differentiator. There are segments of the market where it is clearly a must-have, such as with shredded cheese.”
Environmental responseWith recent consumer environmental concern, sustainability is also playing a major role in design. Enhanced sealant materials requiring less energy, biodegradable polymers and resins, and improved zipper seals designed for reduced-gauge film structures are some of the improvements being made to lower environmental impact and determine environmental footprint.
“Product-to-package ratio, a comparison of the weight of a package and the weight or quantity of a product being delivered, is an important factor in determining a package’s environmental footprint,” Sheaffer says. “In fact, it makes up 15% of the Wal-Mart packaging scorecard. Zip-Pak provides expertise and advice to ensure that packaging provides the least possible environmental impact.”
Zip-Pak is also dedicated to using thin, lightweight plastic films, which take up less incoming pallet space, making transportation more efficient.
According to Custer, Presto has designed zippers with enhanced sealant materials, requiring less energy to give the widest range of compatibility to films available. Fresh-Lock’s Soft Seal™ zippers are designed for the packager to reduce film structure for sustainability. Clearly, these companies are making an effort to keep the future in mind.
Secure sealingSo, what does the future hold? Consumer demands are constantly evolving and different companies may have to meet different demands, but many agree: Customers want security.
“Resealable closures that contain built-in security features, as well as advancements that can prolong and protect product freshness, could help meet the growing demand for safety, convenience and freshness,” Sheaffer says.
Custer agrees. “For example, reclosable zippers can be designed to provide visual, tactile and even audible feedback to the consumer during use, enhancing the overall experience from purchase to the final use,” he says.
And finally, like any good company, Kraft is keeping its eye out for ways to keep building upon and improving package design to increase consumer satisfaction and provide consumer benefits.“Building upon our work with Snack ’n Seal, we will continue to evaluate opportunities with other pack formats and features moving forward,” says Guzzinati. F&BP
The following companies helped with the research of this article: