Flexible packaging solutions have been available for a number of years, but innovation is allowing the industry to develop improved functional solutions. Today, the marketplace is seeing tremendous growth with film-faced pouches. These flexible packaging solutions are able to effectively communicate a brand message, address environmental concerns and increase the bottom line.
Packaging engineers are always looking for solutions that best fit their application, and when making their material choice they are guided by three elements:
Branding: Does it maintain or elevate the look, feel and image of a brand?
Containment: Does the packaging have the mechanical properties needed to hold the product? If needed, is it puncture-proof? Does it have enough of a water or oxygen barrier or chemical resistance to protect the merchandise?
Converting: How will the package print and how will it run for the co-packer?
All of these factors play into the structure of what a customer needs for a packaging solution. Gaining the right information paired with new advancements helps to deliver the best solution.
More brands are moving toward sustainable packaging so that they can meet consumer demand, stay ahead of regulations and be environmentally conscious, especially when it comes to single-use packaging.
Stand-up pouches are a fast-growing format within the flexible packaging arena. They aren’t just more convenient for consumers and create more billboard space for brands, they require less energy to manufacture and the carbon footprint is lower than that of a rigid container. For example, consider the number of rigid style containers that can be shipped compared to flexible pouches on a truck.
Converters can also see an environmental benefit. In addition to having polyester (PET) facestocks on labels, pouches allow for fewer packaging components than alternative methods, and they offer a bonus: less work to package a product. No inventory of plastic bottles, lids, seals, etc. With stand-up pouches, co-packers can position a roll of printed laminated structure on the packaging line and very quickly produce a finished product ready to go on the shelf, at a lower cost to market.
The containment topic begins with functionality. Can the package be formatted for different shapes; can you position a zipper on it? Is it puncture-proof? Creating structures that have simple tear-offs designed to open the container easier is a must. Consumers also want a resealable package that is easy to store, and retailers want better product awareness with 360 degrees of billboard space for branding. Combining that with wanting to preserve the product, the solution comes down to marrying the application and ingredients to the structure.
But the newest innovations for containment are on the inside. The full structure of flexible packaging consists of the following:
- The Outside, with graphics, from a matte to shiny metallic, for shelf appeal.
- The Barrier (or the functionality) to protect the contents from the inside out and the outside in. It can be a standalone component or, in simpler structures, it can be part of the sealant film, adhesive or extrusion layer. This all depends on how complex the structure is. In one example for snacks, nitrogen gas is used to flush out the oxygen and keep the product from going stale. These barriers are in the film used to make the structures. Other products requiring a high moisture barrier will likely have a layer specifically designed to protect from moisture intake or exhaling.
- The Sealant, which provides the bond strength for the package, can also provide barrier protection in its functionality.
Still, some laminations also deliver built-in chemical resistance. These varied packaging structures provide solutions for more challenging hard-to-hold contents faced by narrow web converters, such as industrial cleaning products, or health and beauty products like essential oils or pain relief creams. The need for higher barrier constructions and chemical resistance while supporting ease of process and lower total applied cost is just beginning. Enhanced high-barrier laminations allow for industrial, automotive and beauty care products to move into flexible packaging.
Adaptable to Digital Printing
Digital printing has grown in recent years, driven by industry demands for shorter runs, more customized packaging, greater sustainability and the need to help products stand out even more. Digital printing provides consumer goods companies the ability to implement high-impact graphics for maximum branding and shelf appeal. As consumers continue to look for better experiences, digital printing can help by offering customization on a large or small scale. The branding is consistent on each package, but each impression can be slightly different and unique, offering personalized packaging with names or other individual aspects. Avery Dennison provides a wide breadth of products to meet the digital needs including short run, varied applications and quick turnaround.
The technology cycle, the evolution of equipment and material science provide solutions to growth trends that ultimately satisfy the demands of the consumers. In terms of flexible packaging, it’s truly about functionality and working to offer the newest developments to customers.