Flexible packaging opportunities are in the bag
Larry Lanham, president and chief executive officer, Polymer Packaging
Q: What innovations in bag/pouches do you feel have had the most significant impact on today's bags or pouches and why?
A: Evolving from a recloseable pouch that presents the product offering in a much more dynamic means with its high intensity graphics, this revolutionary bag-in-box replacement continues to gain consumer acceptance and preference. Innovations such as self-venting technologies for microwave steam cooking that afford quick preparation for meals and side dishes from freezer to table will continue to gain market share. Pouches/bags with self-venting mechanisms that allow consumers to simply microwave, serve and cut down on clean-up will continue to be met with increased consumer acceptance and demand.
Inno-lok pre-applied zipper continues to be a strong area of growth as it allows food processors to obtain recloseable packages without added investment to their filling operation. It has also allowed for the food processor and consumer brands to gain market share with a recloseable value-added package and launch the new and improved offering in as little as six weeks.
Q: What emerging trends or opportunities do you feel will have the greatest impact on tomorrow's bags/pouches and why?
A: Advancements in the style of closures will help lead the way. Pour N Lok, a new technology that is applied as an Inno-lok pre-applied zipper is an example. Pour N Lok pre-applied zippers allow a product to be poured from the side of the package and will feature greater ease of use for consumers. This unique application also runs on standard VFFS machines with a simple side gusset modification, allowing existing products to rapidly move into the new package design, which typically equates to increased sales.
Advancements in the design of stand-up pouches through shaped pouches, spouted pouches and various closures will work to improve sustainability and packaging costs. Stand-up pouches will continue to be an excellent cost reduction tool by providing packaging material savings and improved logistics compared to rigid containers. The package differentiation on the retail shelf has increased profitability through the sale of value-added product introductions and new product line extensions.
Q: What challenges do you see facing bags/pouches and how do you anticipate flexible packaging converters will address these hurdles?
A: Certainly capital equipment investment and convincing processors, whether it is food, pet food, etc. to invest in new equipment to accommodate stand-up pouching. Companies have to be willing to make the investment by outweighing the initial cost against the increased market share that typically follows. In an era of trying to do more with less, achieving desired growth through investment may inhibit the speed and amount at which these capital expenditures are approved and implemented. One short term solution may be increased outsourcing alignments through independent contract packaging companies that have already made or are willing to make these increased capital expenditures in order to accommodate new package launches. As the success of any particular SKU gains long term market acceptance, it may then be vertically integrated back to in-house packaging production.