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Vol. XXVI, 3rd Quarter
July –September 2008

Unwrapping DOST-ITDI’s Packaging Research & Development Center

Packaging often defines the market performance of a product, especially in innovation driven globalizing market.  Intense competition offers a swarm of choices in quality, price, and function, among others.

In earlier times, goods were packaged in natural materials--wicker baskets for fruits, wineskins or Bota bags for wine, wooden boxes or barrels, and pottery vases. In the 19th century, cans were made from iron and tin plated steel. Paperboard cartons and corrugated fiberboard boxes were introduced later.

A century later, bottles, transparent cellophane over-wraps, and panels on cartons enhanced product efficiency and food safety. Aluminum and several plastic types were developed and integrated into packages to improve performance and functionality.

On top of the qualities built on previous advances, packaging and labeling are now knitted to product survival and brand recognition. These had evolved into a marketing tool.

These realities weren’t lost to the science community. The Packaging Research and Development Center of the Industrial Technology Development Institute, an agency of the Department of Science and Technology was established in September 24, 1999 in response to industry’s clamor for the improvement of local product packaging systems.

PRDC is the only entity in the Philippines that can provide comprehensive assistance on packaging technology to SMEs, its chief, Daisy Tañafranca said.  “Beyond offering basic packaging services, the PRDC provides total packaging solutions through its one-stop packaging service from package conceptualization and design to material and equipment sourcing, and market positioning.”

It also provides technical consultancies and trainings on packaging technology, which include Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), and Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).

HACCP is a preventive approach to food safety and pharmaceutical safety that addresses physical, chemical, and biological hazards as prevention method rather than finished product inspection.

It is used in the food industry to identify potential food safety hazards, so that key actions known as Critical Control       Points (CCP’s) can be taken to    reduce or eliminate the risk of the hazards being realized.
Meanwhile, cGMP is a minimum standard that ensures a product meets the requirements of safety and has the identity strength, quality, and purity characteristics it is represented to possess.

PRDC also performs physical, chemical, and other specialized tests to evaluate packaging protection and compatibility to products. It offers shelf life testing and packaging testing methods and standards development, and label and structural design services.

Tañafranca disclosed that from 2000-2007, “the PRDC has provided direct packaging interventions to 1,322 clients covering 1,658 products, 75% expanded their market either penetrating the export market or widening their distribution in the domestic market.”

The country’s ethnic food segment has also expanded its market reach with the help of PRDC, which pushes for the use of low-cost generic packaging materials for farm-to-market goods.

In 2003, PRDC introduced the gift box package for traditional cloth to Basilan’s Yakan tribe. It captured the intricate and complex Yakan weaving system and resulted to 300-fold increase in sales.

The design in turn won for PRDC the “Outstanding Packaging Design Award for Yakan Cloth Gift Box” from the Packaging Institute of the Philippines. It also received the Gregorio Y. Zara Medal for Outstanding Technology Commercialization during the 2008 National Science and Technology Week.

Tañafranca’s group earlier gained recognition for its successful commercialization locally of the Retort Pouch Technology, which developed shelf stable rice meals, meat and traditional snack foods.

Retort is a process that uses heat and pressure to cook food in a strong, sealed package. Because the packaging is less bulky and cheaper than traditional cans and jars, foods get cooked faster at lesser cost.
This technology was first developed in the US military and used on its space program in the 1970s.

“Adapting the retort pouch technology such as those from Japan and US to local products involved research and innovation.  Depending on product type, researches were done to include material construction, format and properties, seal width, headspace requirement, and performance of retort foods against environmental hazards,” Tañafranca revealed.

“Since a large part of technology development or adoption was conducted at plant site, innovations were integrated in the study in terms of application of packaging techniques,” she added.

Some of PRDC developed retort food products currently in the market are Mega Sardines, Goldilocks Pinoy Deli, Man Yann products, MoonDish ginataang mais and halu-halo, and Mura Sarap bagoong. 

PRDC is now on its third of a four-year partnership with Japan International Cooperation Agency for technology transfer on new and appropriate packaging technology.