Technological Advancements in Pouches

By Sean Riley, Senior Director, Media and Industry Communications, PMMI

Innovation in flexible packaging in 2020 includes the use of customized, eye-catching pouch shapes or specialty closures to attract consumers or make dispensing neat and easier to use, according to the Flexible Packaging Assessment Report from PMMI, The Association for Packaging and Processing Technologies.

Pouches are not only the most common flexible packaging type, but the format projected to have the most substantial growth due to its broad end-use within the global food industry. Changing lifestyles has created a need for convenient packaging solutions. The plastic pouch segment projects growth of 20 percent by 2022, with stand-up and aluminum pouches accounting for 19 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Pillow pouch demand is rising due to its versatility as a package for liquids, solids and powders, while the demand for stand-up pouches increases via accelerated use in the food, beverage and healthcare industries. Pouches are popular among the more sustainable brand owners for their flexibility, relatively lightweight and ease of transport.

With sustainable packaging continuing to play a headlining role in the industry, consumers are more knowledgeable when it comes to poorly produced or over-packaged goods. PMMI’s report indicates long-term success for pouches as the industry anticipates sustainability measures shifting from the traditional emphasis on the type of material used (recycled, alternative fibers, etc.) to slimmed-down packaging (less material, better material choices). An effort to reduce the carbon footprint of packaged goods throughout the supply chain could extend or grow the use of flexible packaging even further. Pouches offer a number of sustainable benefits throughout the life cycle of the package, including material/resource efficiency and a high product-to-package ratio.

Eat it up

Long considered one of the earliest market segments to recognize the benefits of flexible packaging, pouches for the food industry continue to experience strong growth due to the extended rise in convenience packaging for ready-to-eat foods, snacks, frozen meals and cake mixes.

In particular, baby food and processed fruit and vegetables are expected to exceed average industry growth rates due to convenience factors such as innovative closures and retort packaging. Baby food is moving from rigid containers as pouch makers continue to embrace the adoption of resealable packaging trends, such as slider closures and fitments. Parents and caregivers want the ability to take some contents of the package out and have integrity left in the flexible packaging to use it again.

While closures are important to the growth of processed fruits and vegetables in pouches, the more significant driver is the convenience offered by retort packaging. As a result, the innovative closures flexible packaging offers allow for products to have an extended shelf life. Flexible packaging for both baby food and processed produce also creates efficiency because it requires less material and is much lighter than traditional packaging.

In the latter parts of the last decade, consumers indicated a preference for pouches that did more than just hold the product. Manufacturers, in turn, placed a greater focus on making sure dispensing and pouring is neater and more controlled. This is particularly true with the individual, single-serve items (e.g., condiments like sauces or ketchup) where consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) aimed to make use less messy.

Manufacturers also see more press-to-close zippers and innovative reclosability with snap-to-seal tops and fitments. These types of closures allow products to stay fresh longer and let consumers open and close them for reuse. Several respondents in the Flexible Packaging Assessment Report pointed to the example of how larger sized dairy products such as sour cream and yogurt moved into pouches with snap close fitments and realized longer shelf lives and less product separation as a result. Manufacturers claim that specialty closures enhance the quality of premium flexible packaging and improve the overall user experience.

Consumers are also looking at technological developments such as fitments, one-way dispensers and pop-up straws. Manufacturers are continuing to find ways to incorporate these types of closures for products that use flexible packaging. Brand owners are adapting to a much wider range of opening treatments, fitments and closures that are available today, including linear tear characteristics, recloseable zippers that don’t require any tearing of the pouch header to open and screw-on spouts for liquid pouches.

Advances in pouch characteristics (e.g., convenience features such as resealable closures, spouts and tear notches) and pouch manufacturing technology (e.g., machinery with increased line speeds) will continue to lower production costs, thereby making pouches more competitive with other forms of packaging, like cartons and cans.

About the Author

Sean Riley is currently PMMI’s senior director, media and industry communications. He was editor-in-chief of PMMI’s Packaging Machinery Technology Magazine for nearly a decade and has over 20 years of experience working with and as a member of the packaging and processing media.

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