21 July 2022

Brick-shaped, Brik® or Gable Top carton

Brick-shaped, Gable Top and Brik® packages: what are the differences? Let's try to bring some clarity.

For non-experts, the difference between paperboard food containers may not be so obvious. Let's take a closer look!

Brick container: this is the broad definition for multilayer cartons (made of several layers of laminated materials); when we use this term, we usually refer to rectangular, "flat-topped" cartons.

Gable Top container: with its iconic triangular top, this carton has always been associated with fresh milk!

Some cardboard packaging manufacturers have coined specific trademark names for the brick-shaped and Gable Top packages they produce. The most famous one is probably Tetra Pak's Brik carton, which has become a synonym for cardboard package.


A BIT OF HISTORY OF CARDBOARD CONTAINERS


The first patents for food paperboard containers date back to the beginning of the last century. They were created primarily to offer a cheaper, lighter, more practical alternative to glass for milk packaging.

In their over 100-year history, the shape of brick and Gable Top packs (conic, cylindrical and tetrahedral) has changed, as did the technologies (from waxed paperboard to multi-layer systems) used to protect products from external agents.

Specifically, the three key milestones in the industry's history were:

The creation of Gable Top cartons: patented in 1915, this type of container offered the advantage of the gable, which could be used as a pour spout. The packages were - and still are - delivered as flat blanks to be formed, filled and sealed by machines. This makes procurement more competitive compared to glass.

Multilayer system: the addition of a plastic film was the first step to make brick-shaped containers impermeable to liquids and heat-sealable. In the 1960s, an aluminum foil started to be added to ensure better protection and extend the shelf life of the packaged product.

Aseptic brick packaging: the introduction of the aseptic process - primarily by Tetra Pak® - greatly increased product shelf life, enabling many manufacturers to internationalize their operations.


DIFFERENT PROCESSES, DIFFERENT PRODUCTS


There are significant differences between aseptic brick and Gable Top packaging processes.

Aseptic brick packaging is used almost exclusively for UHT products, i.e. products with a very long shelf life and distributed at ambient temperature.

The process requires large plants and is designed for high production volumes.

On the other hand, Gable Top packaging is usually used for fresh and ESL products in the premium segment, for both cold chain and ambient distribution. Thanks to their specific features, Gable Top cartons have also been chosen as innovative packages for a wide range of other food products too, such as:

A medium capacity packaging machine (from 2 to 10 million packages/year) is used for the filling process. Since packages are made from pre-formed blanks, the same machine can handle different formats (250ml, 500ml, 1l; half-pint, pint and quart for the American market).

We hope this article has cleared up any doubts those of you new to brick and Gable Top packaging may have had!