ACADEMICS: 2018 Cal Poly Packaging Symposium - Part One

March 1, 2018

Quick Take

I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 Packaging Symposium at California Polytechnic State University San Luis Obispo. Cal Poly was most recently listed as the #1 ranked packaging program in the nation through the enthusiastic efforts of both its faculty and students . The program's student-run, on-campus packaging club "Poly Pack" hosted an event tailored for an audience interested in the development of the packaging field by featuring speakers with extensive experiences and offering unique perspectives through insightful packaging topics.


Source: Poly Pack


The Cal Poly Packaging Symposium is a day-long event that hosts a unique collection of like-minded industry professionals and provides a platform to discuss topics faced at the forefront of the packaging world. Each year the presentations revolve around a theme. This year's theme was "Visualize: Packaging and Beyond". Speakers were tasked with providing insight from branding, materials, and environmental perspectives on the packaging value-chain and how they are addressed.


When it comes to flexible packaging, value can be summarized as the ability to lower raw material utilization resulting in less material going through the supply chain while still providing products with the protection and extended shelf life that they require. However, there is an intersection of value and sustainability that is represented by both material and manufacturing standpoints. Jill Martin, a fellow in the Packaging and Specialty Plastics business of The Dow Chemical Company, talked about what is important when discussing sustainability in the context of what is being done when these two concepts meet to address concerns along the value-chain. From the perspective of a raw materials supplier, the responsible strategy should be ultimately to not only think about which materials provide the maximum value for use, but what are the right materials and solutions in order to make sure that the positive perception of packaging is what people think about when they wake up.



There exists a shared responsibility to minimize emissions, fossil fuels, transport, and all other energy exertions during manufacturing. However, there is also a responsibility to choose the appropriate materials that have a direct impact on manufacturing and distribution processes as well as an effect on consumer experience. This proves to be one of the most difficult concepts faced by suppliers today. Sometimes choosing alternative materials that can be better for the environment from one perspective can result in inefficiencies during manufacturing and distribution like poor machining and mechanical properties, damage incurred during transport, lower shelf life, and overall lack of shelf appeal. We must be careful so that what originally starts out as a good faith attempt towards sustainable practices doesn't result in counterproductive outputs.

"What are the right materials and solutions in order to make sure that the positive perception of packaging is what people think about when they wake up?" - Jill Martin, Dow 


Jennifer Benolken, a Certified Packaging Professional (CPP) from DuPont's Medical and Pharmaceutical packaging area, shifted the audience's perspective on the value of packaging by connecting the historical advancement of the medical industry with the parallel need and growth of medical packaging. Only until relatively recently have we been able to understand the role and impact of medical device packaging on our ability to provide levels of healthcare that were otherwise unimaginable. Medical packaging really exists because of the fact that bacteria and microorganisms are of huge concern in healthcare. Now with a trend towards new and innovative "homecare" medical products, the role of medical packaging will be instrumental in our ability to provide safe, intuitive, accessible solutions.



Scott Mitchell, the Market Development Manager for Stand Up Pouches and Bags from Printpack, presented on the boost that digital printing technologies have given to companies who face challenges when trying to figure out how to provide more value to consumers. Successful examples of the effect digital printing technologies can have on a product can be seen with the popular One Chip Challenge and Mystery Oreo Flavor marketing campaigns. The advent of digital printing has enabled companies to connect with consumers like never before. This holds true for larger and small companies alike. Quick turnarounds and reduction in both time to market and obsolete inventory has even provided smaller, high-growth brands the ability to leverage brands/products on a larger scale.


  • How have new product and process offerings impacted a company's ability to address some of these issues?

  • What are some other challenges packaging related industries face when considering the impact of a product's package on the value-chain?

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