As a mirror of its times, the Global Pouch Forum continues to evolve. This 16th annual conference, to be held June 12 to 14, is already the largest event of its kind worldwide. It has regularly attracted more than 400 visitors to the sunny climes of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. 
A who’s who of many of the world’s top consumer packaged goods (CPG) producers, packaging converters and developers, key material and equipment suppliers, service companies, associations, consultants, and investment professions are in attendance at this event, a regular rite of early summer in packaging. 
The presentations themselves offer a mix of product launches in pouches, new technologies coming to the market, emerging consumer trends and applications, and baseline business and financial information necessary for a successful flexible packaging company. This conference’s exposition is among the industry’s largest focused on the standup pouch and ancillary products – it fills the hotel ballroom to capacity and usually expands into the hotel lobby.
This is especially noteworthy for an event that is more than a decade and a half old. Instead of offering any signs of creakiness or advanced age, it has gained some wind under its sails due to the sharp rise of the standup pouch and other new flexible formats on the retail level.

The Ubiquitous 

Standup Pouch

As written at length on the pages of Flexible Packaging magazine, the standup pouch is fairly ubiquitous in retail stores – extending not just in its core beverage categories but filtering into food, personal care, household goods, pet food and other aisles. Outside of the store, it is quickly gaining traction in the healthcare and pharmaceutical markets, rapidly growing in a variety of medical devices and for novel drug-delivery applications.
That is the bedding for the growth of this conference. Of major interest will be the keynote address delivered by Michael Okoroafor, vice president of global packaging and innovation at H.J. Heinz. As many of you have read, Heinz has been a leader in the development of new packaging for several years, and much of its innovation has come from a transitioning for select brands away from its traditional formats to the pouch.
Last year, the company commercialized a 10 ounce ketchup pouch with a spouted closure, a development that allowed the company to reach consumers wanting a lower price point – the pouch sells for about 99 cents – and in emerging and developing regions. It was a pioneering innovation and one well-suited for the pouch, which is inexpensive and highly portable.
But many might not be aware of what else is on the horizon at Heinz. The company recently introduced Heinz Baby, featuring baby food in a pouch in 13 varieties and with a resealable cap. The company’s foodservice operations are moving into flat pouches that replace larger cans. In 2011, Heinz made the first major change to the condiment pouch in more than 40 years, a project that won the 2011 DuPont Award for Packaging Innovation. And in England, Heinz is launching Pasta Pouches, easy-open prepared meals that are microwaveable and ready in less than two minutes. More is expected for this enterprising company.
Okoroafor will speak on the quest for innovation at Heinz and its journey with flexible packaging. He is a noted packaging leader known for implementing change across packaging units.

CPG Presentations

There is much more at this conference. On the CPG side, the Global Pouch Forum will feature a look at the Kraft's new YES Pack, one of the most significant new pouches in the food market. Two of the primary developers of the package will offer their insights into the pouch's development and both structure and machinery that led to its market execution. Mike Russell, president of Mike Russell Consulting, was one of the pouch's lead developers while at Kraft Foods, while Ken Wilkes, CEO of Smart Bottle Inc., was behind many of the equipment and technology developments that allowed this foodservice pouch to become reality in large volumes.
An entertaining and insightful talk is planned in this exclusive look at a major launch.
Another major brand owner, Snapsil, is not as recognizable to U.S. audiences but is a huge force in the future of pouches in its native Australia. The company has developed a revolutionary pouch format and closure that features a snap opening for convenience and has made major progress Down Under. Now, the company is bringing this technology to America and will use the GPF platform to exclusively launch this innovation to US audiences. Co-presenter Neil Kozarsky of T.H.E.M. has worked diligently with the company to provide the volumes needed for launch in food, beverages, personal care and other categories.
For medical-device applications, UFP Technologies will use the Forum stage to launch FlexShield, its new barrier pouch for medical instruments that offers more protection for devices and a possible paradigm shift for this portion of the industry.
Look for other announcements soon on brand owners at this event as the agenda firms up even more. 

The Temperature of the Industry

But there is much more to this year’s forum than new product introductions. As always, the conference will include critical information on consumer trends, the business landscape, and major issues that could affect the pouch’s path to further market penetration. These are sessions not to be missed that could become a key ingredient in developing future strategies in this evolving market.
Among the speakers at the 2013 Global Pouch Forum is Tom Egan of the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI), who plans to talk about the hot growing category of pet food and how it is making a gradual shift from paper constructions to new, pouch-based packaging. Egan will share results of PMMI surveys of its members to offer forecasts for the future of this thriving category.
Also on the speaker docket is Rick Weil, managing director of Mesirow Financial, who will shed light on the continued acquisitions and consolidations that have helped reshape many flexible packaging companies and affected development work. He’ll be joined by Tom Blaige of Thomas Blaige & Associates, a major investment consultant in flexible packaging that has worked behind-the-scenes on many of the major industry deals. Blaige will moderate a session on Financial and Growth Strategies in the Pouch Market that will include major converters and  equity firms.
And as a return speaker, we’ll also feature Dennis Calamusa, president of AlliedFlex Technologies. Always a provocative and engaging speaker who typifies the excitement of this event, Calamusa promises to offer his break-out predictions for the pouch market and innovations that could drive the industry forward. 
And speaking of market and consumer trends, this year’s conference will also include Steve Callahan, a package design leader as president of Perimeter Brand Packaging, a leading plastics packaging developer that he founded. Callahan will give his take on how flexible packaging and the pouch are influenced by rigid structures and how the two areas of packaging need to be married in creative development. A polished conference speaker, Callahan’s presentation figures to inspire the audience to greater heights.
And look for a return engagement from Sal Pellingra of Ampac Flexibles, who is going to give us a stronger glimpse of polling techniques to understand the influence of sustainability on the pouch. Sal will be joined onstage by Diane K. Ray of the Natural Marketing Institute.
The presentation of issues and technologies are always other key components of this event. This year’s conference will also look at the idea of Extended Producer Responsibility, or EPR, and the need for brand owners and retailers to take back the waste they create through their packaging or contribute to municipal recycling/recovery programs. Betsy Dorn, senior consultant of Reclay StewardEdge, is a leading expert on EPR legislation and its potential in North America. She will not only fill us in on these initiatives, but also offer her appraisal of what it will mean to the future direction of flexible packaging and the pouch. 
On the technologies side, there are far too many sessions to name here but we’ll mention a few. Charles Murray, CEO of PPi Technologies, promises an in-depth session on the use of quick-response (QR) codes, RFID tags and offering a messaging center on the pouch. Innovia Films will discuss the use of sustainable materials in pouch constructions, and Frank Kelly of Zip-Pak will give an inside look at new development in the hybrid ZipBox and work being done with US Sugar.
There are sessions on pouch automation, printing, and quality control.
Finally, this conference is never complete without speakers from overseas, as the Forum receives a broad audience from outside North America. Hiro Kawamoto of Toppan Printing Co. America will be this year’s featured speaker on Japanese technology, and he will discuss a new high-barrier, clear film that is helping the pouch move into unique applications in the Japanese market. And Jorg Schoenwald, managing director of Schoenwald Consulting, will shed light on further pouch developments in Europe and how it is stacking up to PET bottles and liquid cartons.
This is a conference that promises a thorough review of pouches and flexible packaging formats that are making waves worldwide and will continue to compete strongly versus rigid alternatives. 
Make your reservation now to attend the 2013 Global Pouch Forum by going to and join us this year for this world-class event. 
About the Author
Joseph Pryweller is editor/conference director of Packaging Strategies. 
for the 2013 Global Pouch Forum, go to
Tentative Agenda...
To view the tentative agenda, click here.

Packaging Strategies
H.J. Heinz
Plum Organics
UFP Technologies
Mesirow Financial
AlliedFlex Technologies
Reclay StewardEdge
PPi Technologies
Toppan Printing Co.
Schoenwald Consulting
Blaige & Company