Are your packaging specifications suitable?
By Lynneric Potter - 16 October 2014
A packaging specification should accompany any type of packaging material received by your packaging supplier and is a means of communicating information critical to people involved in purchasing, production and distribution. The packaging specification will cover a range of materials from the primary packaging through to secondary and tertiary packaging. Some specifications can be full of helpful information; others can be very vague; sometimes they are non existent.
Ideally a packaging specification will have concise, detailed information about the packaging material you are buying. This may include legal aspects such as migration testing results and food contact approval. Technical information may include the material identification, dimensions, results of any barrier testing such as oxygen and water vapour transmission rates, and sealing temperature. Results from mechanical tests, for example tensile strength and stacking configuration, may also be included. The specification should also provide details of the test standard, any testing that was carried out and the parameters used, to allow for comparison and repeatability.
Without the information supplied on the specification, it would not be known if the material is suitable for food contact, what temperature it should be sealed at and whether it is suitable for the application.
As a buyer of packaging you do not have to rely just on the information given by the packaging supplier. A packaging specification template can be designed and distributed to the supplier to include all the information that you require about the packaging materials. The packaging supplier can then complete with all the necessary information. Of course, packaging manufacturers and suppliers cannot test packaging materials for all type of packaging applications and eventualities.
The packaging specification can be used to monitor packaging being received and help to manage any issues and disputes that may arise. It is also important to update the packaging specification with any changes to the packaging material. Good communication between the packaging buyer and seller will help with the transfer of this information.
Some companies will routinely carry out independent testing of their packaging materials, to ensure that the material meets the requirements of the specification. However, it should be noted that the properties of a packaging material may change once it has gone through a thermal process or been thermoformed, so the results of any testing carried out may differ slightly to that of unprocessed material. The packaging specification can also be used to check the parameters of the packaging if there are any issues in production or during storage.
We can carry out independent testing on a range of different packaging material to ensure that they meet the requirements of the specification. This includes:
- Migration testing
- Barrier properties
- Material identification
- Mechanical testing
Assistance can also be provided to develop a detailed packaging specification for different packaging materials. If you would like to know more, please give me a call.
Lynneric Potter is a food packaging specialist within the Department of Food Manufacturing Technologies at Campden BRI where she has worked since 1999. Lynneric’s main activities involve consultancy and testing of packaging materials to ensure they are fit for purpose.