Packaging openability

hand opening a jar

Understanding the needs and wants of a society in which a large proportion of the populace will be over 65, is a new issue for the World to face.  A child born today in the UK has a predicted average life expectancy of over 100. Currently 60% of women in the UK over the age of 75 live alone.

Ageing brings with it a host of issues some of which include reduced strength, dexterity and cognition. A society in which a significant proportion may struggle with everyday tasks, such as bathing, shopping, banking or even accessing food is becoming of increasing concern. The issue of packaging accessibility, particularly with regards to older people, is one of those specific areas and an issue that Dr’s Alaster Yoxall and Joseph Langley have been investigating for nearly 10 years.

Measuring opening strength by unscrewing a jar with a toruqe meter inside

The initial work in this field was to establish some measure of the loss of strength that comes with age. This followed on from work undertaken by the then Department of Trade and Industry which had used instrumented equipment to measure older people’s grip, pinch and twist strength. The novelty of our work was to develop an instrumented jar from real packaging materials that could be used in a normal way. Since the construction of this jar, over 3000 people have been surveyed and ‘measured’.

2 side by side images: photo of hand squeezing sauce bottle and schematic outline of the grip used in the photo

Over the time period, the work has swung in various directions with involvement from a number of different people. We have explored issues relating to Vacuum Lug Closures (VLC’s) typically found on jars, Roll-on-pilfer-proof (ROPP’s) closures such as those found on glass drinks bottles and optimal dimensions, skin friction and grip, food cans, flexible plastic bottles and ‘squeezability’, Child Resistant Closures (CRC’s) and easy access, films and peelability, specialist tools to aid packaging opening and more.

The issue of packaging openability has become so significant that efforts are under way to develop European and international standards in this area. Dr Alaster Yoxall has been recruited to the standards committees to provide technical expertise and advice to this process.

What will the future hold for food use and packaging? It is difficult to know. However, understanding and tackling these issues now will ensure that future elderly will be able to undertake an equal and active part in our World.

Project updates

Lab4Living, Sheffield Hallam University,
Furnival Building, 153 Arundel Street, Sheffield, S1 2NU
Phone 0114 225 6753 | Fax 0114 225 6931