Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Pre-Settled Containers

Shake before boxing
  (+13, -1)(+13, -1)
(+13, -1)
  [vote for,

I see a bunch of different "packaging" categories, and this appears to be the closest fit, even though this Idea is not especially about individual portions.

Most commonly for cereal, you may open a new box and see that the cereal does not fill the box. ON the box you may see somewhere in fine print, saying something like this: "This box has been filled as full as practical by automatic machinery. It is sold by weight, not by volume. Some settling of contents may have occurred during shipping."

Well, such a label may give the manufacturer a legal escape clause when someone wants to sue them for marketing a large box that isn't full. I submit that a better solution, in terms of both customer satisfaction and less packaging waste, would be to ensure the box IS full, even after shipping. Here's how:

Note that it is common for a box to contain an inner plastic bag, that actually holds the measured weight of whatever (not necessarily cereal). In manufacturing, the bag is created as a sort of tube. The bottom of the tube is sealed, the tube is partly filled, then above the "full" line the tube is sealed and snipped. Below the snip, the sealed stuff can now be boxed. Above the snip, the sealed tube is ready for the next filling.

I suggest we add a couple of details to the process. First, the tube needs to be surrounded by 4 rectangular walls. This ensures that the contents of the tube, after the second thing, can still fit into the box. No bottom wall is needed since the bottom is the sealed bottom of the surrounded bag. The bag is filled with the appropriate weight, and the second thing is to SHAKE those walls, tube and all together, for an appropriate period of time (will differ with content), before sealing the tube. Contents will settle HERE. We can now seal the bag and cut it free, which lets it "fall" out of the surrounding walls directly into the box. No further settling should happen during shipping.

As previously mentioned, the customers will be happy to see a full box, and since it is a smaller box than before, some packaging waste will be prevented (manufacturer gets the savings). Is the cost of time and energy to shake the bag worth that savings? To be determined!

Vernon, May 28 2008

Stout_20Cheerios [hippo, May 28 2008]

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       I can still remember eating cereal out of the little box it came in. You'd open the back along some perforations, punch through the bag inside and add milk. Now *that's* a halfbaked idea.
phoenix, May 28 2008

       Shaken...not stirred.   

       Customer satisfaction and sales are different things, though.
Maybe the smart few who hate waste will buy your smaller box. Meanwhile, the unthinking many who instinctively reach for the larger box leave for the competition. The realization that they've been cheated barely registers and is forgotten by the time they reach again for the big, colored box.
jutta, May 28 2008

       Why not just fill the box and have no plastic inner bit? To keep it fresh use tetra pack type boxes, which can now be recycled. + for your logic, but ultimately I don't think the big manufacturers care that much about anything except profit. The big box will always outsell the smaller one, even if it has less in it. See "American" cars for proof of this.
xenzag, May 28 2008

       I think vibrating would help settle the contents better than shaking.   

       [xenzag] less packaging equals more profit. The regular commercials could be replaced with commercials that expound the "more-in-less-space" concept such as the "circus clowns out of the trunk" gag, or maybe a spoof on Dr.Who's four demensional telephone booth (for soft cereals that don't require chewing).   

       *Endless flow of cereal pouring out of the cereal box.* People would buy the cereal on the novelty alone.   

       In a truly capitolist state you can sell anything with the right marketing ... and what has my chevy caprice to do with all this?
MikeD, May 28 2008

       These 'pre-settled' containers should come with a little fold-out bit of cardboard on top which, when unfolded, makes the box look bigger. This way, the manufacturer can save on shipping costs by shipping smaller containers but the boxes can be made to look bigger when stacked on the supermarket shelves.
hippo, May 28 2008

       ...or, you could not 'pre-settle' the cornflakes but rather just fill the space between them with something else - e.g. ground coffee. Then, when you get your big family-sized box of "Cornflakes and Ground Coffee" home, just separate out the cornflakes.
hippo, May 28 2008

       "Grind coffee and pour cornflakes on them."
xenzag, May 28 2008

       + yes.
xandram, May 28 2008

       Several stores locally sell cereal in (largish) plastic bags without surrounding boxes. These seem to be fairly well pre-shaken.
csea, May 28 2008

       Actually, you could sell super-large cornflakes - a bit like tortillas. These would stack much more efficiently and also allow for portion control - just put one or two in your bowl, smash into tiny pices with your spoon, and add milk.
hippo, May 28 2008

       [jutta] and [xenzag], there's nothing wrong with selling a bigger box that happens to be FULL. It will weigh more and cost more than the adjacent big box by some greedy misleading-marketing competitor, but the customer can probably notice the difference by holding one in each hand.   

       It has occurred to me that a variation of the Idea is to use the box as the 4 surrounding walls. The only difficulty would be that the bag has to be filled above the top of the box, and will shaking it be certain to get the excess to settle sufficiently, if walls aren't surrounding that part of the bag? I suppose it depends on how much settling can be expected. Perhaps the "flaps" at the top of the box, which will be folded over to seal the box, can work as extensions of the 4 walls of the box, during shaking. Perhaps some additional walls, above the box, will still be necessary.   

       [MikeD], shaking and vibrating are basically the same thing. Or at least all vibrating counts as shaking, even if not all shaking counts as vibrating. Your point is certainly reasonable, though.
Vernon, May 28 2008

       Yeah, [Vernon] I was thinking that while I anno'ed.   

       I was remembering a video I saw in a school film where they had an aquarium full of sand with a few metal balls on top and a few ping pong balls on the bottom. They put a rapidly vibrating mechinism (as preffered to calling it a vibrator) in contac with the aquarium and the metal balls sank and the ping-pong balls floated to the surface as if in a viscous fluid.
MikeD, May 28 2008

       [MikeD] In the aggregates world, that's known as the "Brazil Nut Effect" (see link from "Stout Cheerios" (linked)) - it's name comes from the tendency for large particles (such as Brazil Nuts in muesli) to work their way to the top of the aggregate.
hippo, May 28 2008

       It's a semi-scam; once inside the box, the foodstuffs are already as packed as they're going to be, but...   

       Foodstuffs placed in a non-rigid insert bag can only be filled up a certain amount to ensure that the product doesn't bulge out the bag making it impossible to insert into the cardboard box. Quick solution to that would be to have a square cross-section(width,depth) box, but that would make it difficult for people to hold one-handed.. the scam part is pretending that another process couldn't be developed that would work... right off the top of my head, inserting the bag into a metal form the same width and depth as the box but a smaller height, filling and sealing the bag there then dropping it into a box.
FlyingToaster, May 28 2008

       //you could sell super-large cornflakes...mash into tiny pices with your spoon, and add milk.//(sic) and they could have pictures of folk you don't like embossed on them, and be called scornflakes.
xenzag, May 28 2008

       [+] for a really good practical idea which saves on all fronts.   

       The last few annotators are going the way I was thinking with this. High density cereal. A matchbox-full of sufficiently high-density cereal could feed you breakfast for a week! Surplus steel presses could be employed to aid manufacture... and then presettling of contents would no longer be required.
vincevincevince, May 29 2008

       *Edited to amend atrocious spelling*   

       [Hippo] No, I don't think the Brazil nut effect was a phenomenon of concern, back when I was going to school. The video I'm referencing was to illustrate density/buoyancy.   

       According to my calculations if you could compress the cereal to the density of lead, you could expect about 573 kcals per matchbox sized portion.   

       {wonders why I spend my free time calculating caloric potential of highly compressed cereals}
MikeD, May 29 2008

       //if you could compress the cereal to the density of lead// [marked for tagline].
4whom, May 29 2008

       Puffed, or otherwise, expanded cereals have a tendancy to reduce in volume over time in transit. This tendancy is directly proportional to the amount of collisions between the "particles".   

       Manufacturers spend a lot of money and time introducing volume (air) into their cereals. Introducing any collisions that are not part of distribution would insane from all sides of the marketing chain. Bags are actually sealed with a positive pressure (and usually an inert gas), not to make them look larger (although it is a nice side effect), but to sheild them from transportation damage and spoilage. It is not hugely effective, in the damage arena, but it does shave of a few percent.   

       I fear that any more shaking in the manufacturing /distribution cycle would reduce your cereal to a bag of dust. Perhaps useful when trying to remove a box of "Indiana Jones Breakfast Cereal" from its pedastal (aisle 4).
4whom, May 29 2008


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