Pick Your Pouch: Premade or Form-Fill-Seal?
Whether you’re launching a new product or trying to invigorate an established product line, choosing stand-up pouches for your packaging can be a game changer. Some of the benefits drawing brands to pouches include:
• Pouches fit consumer lifestyle trends; on-the-go consumers find lightweight pouches easy to carry, reseal and store.
• Many pouches make it easier for consumers to dispense and use the product inside, and allow for complete evacuation of the product (as opposed to rigid packaging).
• Millennials are “flexible packaging natives” who grew up seeing juice in pouches, and they are more accepting of pouches than any preceding generation.
• Studies have shown that, compared to rigid packaging, pouches reduce fossil fuel usage, greenhouse gas emissions, and overall water usage. • Pouches provide ample billboard space for on-shelf brand-building.
• Flexibles offer a contemporary look and work well with design-forward graphic treatments.
• Many consumers perceive stand-up pouches as a signifier of a quality, premium product.
• New features and spouts provide opportunities for differentiation.
• The convenient benefits of stand-up pouches add value for consumers, ultimately driving sales of your products.
Premade vs. Rollstock
Once a brand is open to the possibilities of stand-up pouches, there are many decisions to be made, one of which is determining whether to choose premade pouches (also known as preformed pouches) or to explore form/fill/seal (f/f/s) pouches. In a nutshell, premade pouches are fully-formed and fillable pouches manufactured by flexible packaging converters, while f/f/s pouches involve purchasing flexible packaging in the form of rollstock and forming the rollstock into pouches on f/f/s pouching machinery.
Choosing premade pouches is a natural choice for many brands because typically, cost of entry is significantly lower, product scrap waste is lower, more pouch features are available, and you won’t be limited to only a handful of pouch shapes or sizes. Also, premade pouches are manufactured by experts in flexible packaging—many of whom are continually investing in new materials and pouching technology—and they can guide you through the process from concept to commercialization.
When choosing f/f/s stand-up pouches, volumes typically need to be very high in order to justify the cost of the machinery, and the time required to get a machine up and running (along with the inevitable learning curve of becoming your own in-house pouching operation) adds up quickly.
The quantity of premade pouches you need is one of the biggest factors that will determine which type of premade pouch supplier is ideal for you.
As a general rule of thumb, if you need fewer than 25,000 pouches, a “narrow web converter” or “narrow web printer” is a good place to start, because this converter’s equipment is well-equipped for these volumes. Not all narrow web printers work with flexible packaging (for instance, some specialize in labels), but these days, many narrow web converters have made the leap to flexible packaging.
Narrow web converters typically buy unprinted flexible packaging laminations from a third party, and then print on these materials using digital or flexographic printing. To form the printed lamination into premade pouches, a small number of narrow web flexible packaging converters have their own in-house pouching equipment, but the majority outsource this step.
If you need more than 25,000 premade pouches, a wide web converter is your best bet. Wide web converters will manufacture your flexible packaging materials using extrusion or adhesive lamination (or sometimes a combination of the two), and they are well-equipped to custom-engineer your flexible packaging laminations specifically for your product’s unique formulation and required barrier properties. Your flexible packaging laminations can also be customized to meet various requirements such as:
- Regulatory requirements
- Consumer needs
- Desired shelf life
- Filling machine and/or co-packer requirements
- Distribution methods
Addressing the global waste issue
Increasingly, the overall environmental impact of your product and packaging is becoming a factor in how your flexible packaging laminations are engineered. For example, Glenroy (a wide web converter that specializes in flexible packaging rollstock and premade pouches) was tasked with engineering a flexible packaging lamination for an ultrasound gel named EcoVue.
Introduced in 2018, EcoVue ultrasound gel (patents have been obtained for both the product and the packaging) is a superior product unlike anything else on the market. EcoVue gel is made from 99 percent naturally fermented ingredients, is biodegradable, free of paraben and propylene glycol that are used in many gels and compliant with California Prop 65 (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986).
The packaging had to be sustainable, easier to use and cost-effective while meeting stringent pharmaceutical and health care industry requirements. Glenroy’s packaging engineers considered all the requirements and developed a three-layered, adhesive laminated film structure that not only provides a strong moisture barrier (to protect the gel product inside), but also enables nearly 100 percent of the product to be used.
Unlike typical plastic bottles, which can waste about 14 percent of the gel left on the bottom, this flexible package design allows for up to 99.5 percent evacuation of the product, reducing the number of units consumed each year. As a result, 1.5 million fewer containers will end up in landfills, and 800,000 less pounds of gel will be landfilled. The total savings each year for the industry due to reduced waste is almost $1.9 million.
Converters often have a team of packaging and processing engineers onsite capable of providing a full range of services from pouch engineering, sizing, and prototyping to seal testing to drop testing, among others. It’s not uncommon for wide web converters to have some pouch converting equipment in-house, but many have to outsource this step of the premade pouch manufacturing process, especially if spouting is involved. FP EcoVue’s pouch allows for up to 99.5 percent evacuation of the product.