“Flexible packaging. Wow! Who would ever have thought you would use that word when you talk about what packaging can do,” says FPA President Marla Donahue in speaking at FlexPackCon 2015. And, she continues, the Wow factor is a key reason why flexible packaging is growing and gives converters wider opportunities.

“The simplest way to say it is that flexible packaging makes life easier for the consumer,” Donahue continued. “It also grabs attention on the shelf to help the retailer, and it helps brand owners by making new products possible.”

The attractiveness of flexible packaging stems from how well it aligns with consumer, retailer and brand owner needs.

In looking at the consumer, Donahue cited recent research that FPA commissioned. In a Harris Poll, consumer rated these as their top five packaging characteristics.

  • Easy to store
  • Resealable
  • Easy to open
  • Extends product life
  • Easy to carry

That same Harris Poll also indicated that consumers would pay a premium for those characteristics. For example, the Harris survey reports that some consumers would be willing to pay, on average, as much as 14% more for a food package that was resealable.

Demographic Differences

Donahue noted that the willingness to pay more varies by demographic. People earning less than $50,000 per year were willing to pay significantly more for extended product life. Millennials are willing to pay more for packages with the ability to be recycled.

We’re seeing a shift in consumer sentiment on environmental issues, says Donahue. Consumers are developing a “better for the environment” perception in addition to thinking of recyclability. One example, examined in the Harris Poll, involves packaging for carryout rotisserie chicken. While a thermoformed tray and lid earns a higher rating for “recyclable,” a bag with a window earns a high rating as “better for the environment.” That conforms to emerging consumer thinking: More sophisticated consumers are able to assess several environmental factors rather than relying on “recyclable” only.

Feedback from the Harris Poll done for FPA shows how consumers perceive environmental issues. “Recyclable” is just one element that forms the perception.

Brand Owner View

Brand owners have their own list of packaging attributes they believe are important to consumers. Brand owners agree with consumers on resealabiliy, easy-to-open and extends-product-life attributes. However, they put “able to see product” and “attractive packaging” in the top-five list.

More than reflecting consumer concerns, those characteristics answer the brand owner’s needs as they look at the point of sale. Product visibility and shelf impact are two things that brand owners believe impact sales as the consumer makes the buying decision at the shelf. Brand owners also rank these factors highly: Cost savings, efficiency/productivity and material reduction.

Donahue cautions that any interpretation of broad survey data needs to consider specific packaging decision-making processes. “How packaging development uses the data depends on where in the world the decision is made and whether it is for a new or existing product,” she elaborated.

Delivering Plusses

Donahue stressed that advances in flexible packaging deliver the attributes that both consumers and brand owners want.

  • Downgauging addresses brand owner cost issues
  • New barrier materials improve product life needs of both consumers and brand owners
  • Easier opening and better closure methods address top consumer needs
  • New printing technologies deliver the brand image and shelf impact that brand owners want.

Donahue cited winners of the 2015 FPA Achievement awards and detailed how they supported consumer and brand owner needs.

The McCormick Skillet Sauce Mix Pourable Pouch gives consumers an easy-open feature with a spout that lets consumer direct and control dispensing. The stand-up format makes it easy to store. Shape and graphics give the brand owner shelf impact. From a marketing perspective, the pouch helps McCormick differentiate its entry into the liquid sauce category.

The Rust-Oleum SpraySmart Marking Paint Pouch answers environmental needs by replacing a rigid aerosol. Pouches evacuate more product, take up less space and do not require disposal as a hazardous waste.

“The Wow factor is a product of how well flexible packaging lines up with what consumers and brand owners want,” Donahue says. “You can look at all the ways it does that—product protection, easy use, storage, aesthetics, etc. Yet it comes down to one thing: Flexible packaging makes life easier.”


For more info

FPA members can get a copy of the presentation “The US Flexible Packaging Industry Innovating and Growing” by going to www.flexpack.org and logging into the “Members Only” section and clicking “Presentations.”