Event’s keynote address emphasizes need for constant innovation, while pouch formats demonstrated at the show answer the call.

At the 2010 Global Pouch Forum, held May 11-13 in Clearwater Beach, Fla., Ampac president and chief executive officer John Baumann emphasized a key point that is sometimes lost amid the daily battles in flexible packaging.

“Our skirmish isn’t with each other, with other competitors and converters,” Baumann told an audience of nearly 300 members from across the flexible packaging industry. “Our contest is to have the global pouch replace other formats.

“High waters raise all ships.”

Baumann, keynoting the 13th annual Global Pouch Forum, set the stage for presentations on several critical industry-specific topics, including a look at sustainability in pouches and the brewing debate whether recycling can-or should-be front and center.

Baumann’s presentation also featured a broader look at the larger packaging landscape-a global picture that is changing and enveloping emerging innovations. In many instances, the pouch is still attempting large penetration into key food and drink segments, work that Baumann insisted can only be accomplished with what he called “disruptive technologies and innovations,” or the type of game-changing advances that will surely attract brand owner and consumer attention.

“Our challenge is not cost and sustainability,” said Baumann, chairperson at the Flexible Packaging Association. “Our challenge is designing pouches with dynamic and emotive appeal to consumers.”

Yet, there are challenges reaching that point. In his remarks, Baumann highlighted a few of these, including higher-speed pouch forming equipment (with speeds of up to 100,000 pouches per hour) that can meet volume demands; the rise in private label and its affect on store shelves; and a fragmented flexible packaging industry where the top 10 companies control less than half of total North American sales.

The latter fact could be addressed by new rounds of acquisitions now breezing through the industry, including Alcan’s sales of packaging units to Bemis and Amcor and Berry Plastics’ purchase of Pliant.

“If we get stuck in the middle of things, we’re at risk,” said Baumann. “We don’t want to be stuck between consolidation and customization. The response is innovation.”

New pouch innovations for baby food (Plum Organics) and water packaging (Vapur) are emerging in North America.

Innovative concepts take form

Some innovations introduced or demonstrated at the conference, including a combination carton-zipper-film container, a new baby food pouch and a foldable water-bottle replacement, all gave substance to Baumann’s keynote presentation.

Neil Kozarsky, president and chief executive officer at T.H.E.M., said at the event that “for us as an industry to have obvious value to consumers or to [consumer packaged goods companies], we have to do more in mainstream society with rapid change.”

Kozarsky’s packaging innovations firm is doing that with ZipBox, a morphing of several formats to create a new package. At this year’s Global Pouch Forum, Kozarsky announced a partnership with Zip-Pak to support zipper and machinery systems for the novel container, with also includes partnerships with Bemis for film and cartoners Malnove and Yeaman.

The ZipBox concept is simple yet complex. A paperboard carton is married to a press-to-close zipper and incorporates film instead of an inner liner. The total systems approach marries the convenience of a zipper, the fill speeds and cube efficiency of a carton, and the protection of film. Existing equipment, while needing to be repurposed and modified, can be used instead of having to develop a new infrastructure for production, says Kozarsky.

Several new pouch innovations also were discussed at the event. Neil Grimmer, co-founder and chief innovation officer of San Francisco-based The Nest Collective, discussed the emergence of the pouch for baby and kids foods. The company has gained market traction with its Plum Organics and Revolution Foods pouches, both of which are selling well in the natural and organics retail space.

“This is a commoditized category with low margins and little differentiation, and user experience has been less than desirable,” Grimmer said at the conference. The advent of the spouted, gusseted pouch, using a Cheer Pack design, caught Grimmer’s attention when developing the new brand.

At the Global Pouch Forum, Grimmer unveiled the next stage of its Plum Organics baby food, a pouch with a plastic spoon screwed to the spouted cap. The new package drew applause from the crowd for its inventiveness.

A third innovation, a foldable, refillable, and washable pouched water container, was introduced by Jason Carignan, co-founder and managing director of Westlake Village, Calif.-based Vapur. In a panel discussion at the Forum, Carignan said the new concept offers a solution in the emerging area of refillable beverage containers and avoids issues with the landfilling of empty water bottles.

It has been 20 years since Hosokawa Yoko presented its Cheer Pack concept at the Interpack show in Germany and helped launched the advent of the spouted pouch worldwide.

But if a presentation at the Forum was any indication, the Japanese converter is not resting on its laurels. The conference featured a candid talk from Hosokowa Yoko managing director Toru Ichikawa and global manager Kenji Nagata on future innovations in the pouch.

The pair discussed several recent pouch innovations, a few of which are already beginning work on North American shores. Ichikawa mentioned the Corner Zip, a pouch with a side zipper that allows only a portion of the bag to be opened for ease of dispensing.

Another newer application is the Soft Bottle, a flexible replacement for a rigid container, with canister-shaped sides and a pump dispenser.

Several other Hosokawa Yoko developed are moving faster in the global sphere. Its Fancy Cut pouch uses a notch-free opening and a directional tear feature. The format is rolling out to North America. Bemis’ Curwood unit has a technology license with Hosokawa Yoko to commercialize the package.

The company’s Sleeve-In-Pouch (SIP) concept, a reclosable pouch that is stacked on store shelves like a carton, was first introduced in 2006. But the company now has agreements in place with Curwood and Printpack to market the package and a new in-line system to manufacture the SIP packages.

Joseph Pryweller is managing editor of Packaging Strategies, a sister publication of Flexible Packaging.