The pouch market in packaging has been poised for a major breakthrough for much of this decade. Some would say that the market is still waiting.

But others would be accurate in pointing out that time has come today, with many leading pouch innovations starting to reach across the waters from Europe and Asia and make their way into new applications in the United States.

If nothing else, the 2011 Global Pouch Forum, the major industry event celebrating the rise of the pouch for more than a decade, has much to talk about this year. The event will be held June 7-9, 2011, at the Westin Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and will continue an unprecedented run of critical information about the pouch, the new technologies and the business trends that are comingling to bring more success within the market.

A Growing Event

The Forum’s recent popularity pays testimony to the growth in pouches in year, but continues to draw a large crowd. Last year, close to 300 attendees came to the Global Pouch Forum, one of the strongest attendance levels in the event’s history. With new applications for the pouch either now on the market or on the near-term horizon, this year’s event also is expected to draw a full house.

Ever since the dawn of time (also known as the advent of a universally accepted drink pouch, when Capri-Sun was launched in the back in the early days of the Clinton Administration), pouches have been considered ready for major market penetration. But some factors have delayed the pouch invasion in a major way.

Among those has been the fact that existing equipment could not easily handle high volumes and compete with the production of rigid bottles and cans on high-speed packaging filling lines and in-line systems. Plus, while pouches offer consumers some market advantages due to their light weight and portability, they also mean a major equipment changeover at large end-user companies that had invested heavily in rigid-packaging equipment.

But the pouch industry has not shown much quit over the years, and large market penetration now seems like an inevitable proposition in the short term. At the 2011 Global Pouch Forum, Dennis Calamusa, president of AlliedFlex Technologies in , will offer his thoughts on how equipment and automated processing have improved to the point where the pouch is a more viable competitor to the bottle and can.

Calamusa, a provocative speaker who is certain to challenge the audience at this event, will talk about how pouch packaging and machinery have been married to affect the future growth of this format and the bigger-picture emergence of flexible packaging as a substitute for rigid alternatives. As a keynote speaker, Calamusa plans to offer his thoughts on both the trends and technologies that are certain to drive the shift to the pouch.

There has been recent market movement toward the pouch that is spurring more development. Within the past year, Seventh Generation and Ecologic Brands have partnered on a new laundry detergent bottle that features a compostable outer shell made of recycled cardboard and a pouch inside. Unilever has added an EZ Zip closure to a multipack condiment pouch.

Branding the Product

The Forum plans to offer a brand owner panel involving companies that are moving to the pouch format. Another session will offer one of the most discussed new pouch launches on the market: Sunkist launched a one-gallon standup pouch last fall containing 48 liquid “shots” of nutritional protein, with large retail outlets targeted in 2011.

The large-format Sunkist pouches, produced on aseptic technology from Fres-Co Systems, also feature an innovative dispensing technology that keeps the contents safe even without refrigeration. The closure system, from International Dispensing Corp. (IDC), and the pouch itself will be discussed during a special session at the conference, featuring representations from BioBev (the Sunkist licensee), Fres-Co, and IDC.

The Forum will hone in on same of the key market and technology trends that should continue to help pouches gain notice on the retail shelves. Those include a special Market Landscape session featuring top packaging converters and consultants. That session will include Rollprint president Dhuanne Dodrill discussing the shift in healthcare/pharmaceutical applications to the pouch; David Staker, president/CEO of Plastic Packaging Technologies (PPT) on the pet food and pet treat market; Danny Beard, president of Packaging Specialists, talking about the recent emergence of pouches for liquid packaging; and Laurens Last, president of IPN Europe, discussing pouch growth in food and dispensing technologies.

Plus, this year’s Forum will feature a round-robin discussion offering unique perspectives on varying aspects of new pouch formats and launches. That session will feature consumer-product insights on pouch launches from Lynn Dornblaser, director of the custom solutions group for Mintel International and my thoughts fromPackaging Strategieson new technologies and market impact.

And in a special, first-time session at this year’s Forum, a group of distinguished global companies will gather on a panel to share technologies that are yet to make its way to , but are already hitting hard on overseas shores. The Global Pouch Technologies Panel Discussion is expected to include Steve Gosling, president of Cheer Pack North America and Joerg Schoenwald of ’s Schoenwald Consulting. Neil Kozarsky of T.H.E.M. will moderate the discussion and discuss growth of ZipBox, another new global concept.

In addition Sakaru Takahashi, president of Chokuko Plast Corp. will unveil another new technology, the Edge Stand skirted standup pouch, which offers new features to the old pouch format and allows it to stand up straighter on store shelves. That technology is expected to be introduced to North America soon.

Pouch Development Roots

Much of the pouch development of the past several decades has started in Europe and and includes the spouted pouch (sometimes in a Cheer Pack format) and micro-pouch technology. For the European front, frequent presenter Ampac will bring its general manager from , Joachim Antz, to partner with director of innovation Sal Pellingra in a discussion of global pouch trends from other regions. A look at some of the emerging trends in pouch development – shared soon after the interpack show in May in – will challenge the Global Pouch Forum audience.

As is custom with the Global Pouch Forum, new package introductions are par for the course. Those will include a new dual-chamber pouch design that involves both DuPont and design firm Kornick Lindsay. The exclusive presentation on the Genesis Duo-Pouch will shed light on the many issues with seal and standup failure and offer new advances in science and technology that can deliver a dual-chamber pouch for everything from functional food to pharma applications.

New innovations also include new pouch filling and sealing technology advancements that will jump start the migration from canning and glass packaging. In another exclusive presentation, Jeffrey Crangle of Packaging Technologies and Inspection (PTI) and partner Herman Waldner GbmH will share new technology in high-speed, premade pouch filling and sealing that can provide savings in material costs and transportation and could propel the pouch to new areas where high-volume production is required.

In two special sessions, the focus will be on new trends. Mark Lazar of WILD Flavors will introduce a development process for beverage pouches concerned with portability and light weighting. And Jeff Fielkow of Tetra Pak will discuss the use of carton and aseptic package recycling and how that movement is both growing and could affect pouch growth.

And, Jim Pease of Karlville Development Group will shed some light on alternative closure systems in flexible packaging. The company has worked with Velcro, the world leader in hook and loop fasteners, and has created new hook-to-hook closure systems for standup and three-side seal pouches. Pease will share how this exciting innovation, reflecting the dynamic nature of the pouch market, can be applied to premade pouch making machinery or to form-fill-seal equipment.

Progress in Processing

Processing also has become an important feature, one that could help pouches and other flexible packaging formats compete more effectively with rigid packaging in high-volume products. In a presentation on the benefits of retort packaging and how manufacturers are communicating the value of retort for pouches and other formats, Christopher Nunes, CEO of Cornerstone Strategic Branding, will share some of these insights from a top branding company. Nunes also plans to reveal the 10 best practices and principles for creating effective packaging communication for retort and how it is helping pouches compete effectively against cans and glass jars.

On the flip side of the coin, Terry Baker, vice president of sales and marketing with Fres-Co Systems, will discuss how aseptic processing for pouches and flexible packaging is rapidly becoming a key factor in high-volume applications and will be a major player in further market growth.

There are a host of both new market developments, new processing developments, and new opportunities for pouches in North America, many of them just beginning to make their way across America as part of the dawning of new flexible packaging. It is a new day for the pouch, as innovations and consumer recognition are leading brand owners to pursue the pouch as they also pursue profit growth for their brands.