It is not often that a conference in its 15th year is on an upward cycle, instead of a downswing.

But Packaging Strategies’ Global Pouch Forum, partnered with Flexible Packaging magazine, has turned out to be the exception to that rule. Always a well-attended event going back to its first year in 1998 (under the name Stand-Up Pouches), this flexible packaging forerunner has encountered a rebirth of sorts as the largest – and one of the few – conferences in North America devoted to pouches and flexible plastic packaging for retail markets. Last year’s attendance of close to 400 people was among the highest in the event’s history.

This year’s conference, to be held June 11-13, 2012, at the Westin Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is poised to be the biggest event yet, with attendance already close to 30 percent above last year’s high-water mark.

The Rise of the Pouch

Certainly, that surfeit of industry professionals flocking to the Global Pouch Forum can be attributed to the rise in the pouch on retail shelves. After many years of forecasts and discussion, those predictions of pouches replacing rigid alternatives for consumer products have come true.

In this decade, we’ve witnessed many consumer brands either replacing or adding to its existing product lines with pouch alternatives, as they have come around to the light weight, convenience, portability and shelf appeal (and differentiation) that the pouch can add, versus some other packaging material.

The list of new pouches by major brands is long; just a few recent or expected arrivals include pouches from PepsiCo, H.J. Heinz, Unilever and Dial Corp. And even a larger deluge of pouches has come from startup and emerging companies elbowing their way into stores and making their larger, more-imposing brethren take notice. You name the category – baby food, caffeine sticks, beverages, cosmetics, ketchup, seafood, wine, soap, water and many more – and you will now find a pouch on your favorite grocer’s shelf.

Some estimates put annual pouch growth at close to double digits, far larger than in most every packaging format.

The Spirit of the Show

This year’s Global Pouch Forum will attempt to capture that zeitgeist by presenting many of these new and emerging pouches that have been segment leaders and among the most recognized of new pouches to launch commercially. The Forum’s two keynote speakers will exemplify many of the changes being brought by the pouch.

Jessica Rolph, founding partner and chief operating officer of Happy Baby, will open the conference with a prescient talk on pouches in the consumer marketplace and will size up the opportunities for pouch products at retail. Rolph’s company is one of the new movers and shakers in this area; Happy Family Brands and its line of baby/toddler products in spouted pouches has captured much recent attention and new sales. Rolph will not only talk about her company’s development but will offer her thoughts on recapping trends, market innovations and supply-chain issues.

Rolph will be followed by Dan Leonardi, president of Encaff Products. Leonardi will take the audience into another vast growth area for pouches: stick packs. Leonardi, a former executive with PepsiCo and Kellogg’s, is the architect of a line of direct-to-mouth, caffeine-based energy sticks that offers a significant step change in single-serve dosing and one of the more innovative pouches in the market. Leonardi – and contract packaging partner Neil Kozarsky of T.H.E.M. – will take the audience through a brief history of stick packs and its emergence in Japan, Europe and North America, all of which herald its further development.

The conference is full of other pouch innovations that are now catching the eye of consumers. A special panel discussion on Consumer Products and the Pouch will include several 2012 winners of the Flexible Packaging Association’s Achievement Awards and will offer thoughts from converts Berry Plastics, Flex-Pack and Plastic Packaging Technologies (PPT)

In addition, the panel will include Robert Whyte, president of Good Time Beverages – a top emerging company that is putting alcoholic beverages into a pouch substrate – and Ken Adams of Kao Brands, a large maker of household products.

In addition, a special presentation will include Jason Carignan, founder and chief design officer of Vapur, an “anti-bottle,” collapsible water pouch that offers great portability on hiking sprees and even urban adventures where an oblong water bottle is awkward and bulky to carry. Carignan will co-present with Sal Pellingra, director of innovation at Ampac, about driving innovation to create many of the new retail products that continue to line the aisles.

The Exhibition at GPF

But the conference has never been merely about new pouch packaging and retail launches. While that is a major theme of the 2012 event, many of the big-picture trends, technologies and issues facing pouch packaging are also on the agenda and certain to provide grist for further discussion at the Forum’s close-to-sold out Exhibition on the evening of June 12 and the many networking receptions and lunch that offer one-on-one face time for those attending the conference.

Two of the conference’s most popular repeat speakers will share their thoughts on pouches. Speaking of Ampac, president/CEO John Baumann promises to provide a provocative, interactive presentation on creativity in flexible packaging. Baumann’s presentation is expected to feature a few special guests to get the creative juices flowing and stir more category changes for the pouch, and Baumann also will discuss how consumer lifestyle changes are benefiting the growth of this packaging format.

In addition, Dennis Calamusa, president of AlliedFlex Technologies, will offer his vision of pouch trends and technologies. The Forum’s 2011 keynote speaker, Calamusa will look back at 2011 and also offer his forecasts on where the industry is headed this year.

Certain Considerations for Pouches

There is much more on this year’s agenda that will open up new perspectives to those in attendance. They include an industry overview of global consolidation in flexible packaging from Thomas Blaige, chairman/CEO of Blaige & Company. Flexible packaging specifically has been a segment that continues to be among the most dynamic in change, both in ownership and in consolidation. Blaige & Company has been involved in many of the recent spate of deals and will offer perspective on what global consolidation will mean to a fast-paced area of packaging.

Concern over materials and purchases is also on the minds of many attendees, and two sessions will address just that. Sam Beasley of Resin Technology, Inc., (RTI) will share the ramifications of the shifting market for plastic resin for pouches and flexible packaging and how many buyers are reacting to the market dynamics through new resin strategies. And Keefe Harrison of Resource Recycling Systems will address the issue of recycling and the pouch, offering an overview of the market issues and technologies available to recycle these packages and how they enter into future discussions of sustainability.

And speaking of sustainability, Charles Murray, CEO of PPi Technologies and another industry leader, will share the stage with Stephen Derby of Pack Flow Concepts to discuss the next generation of modified pouches that can be refilled and integrated into the design of a reusable container for dispensing beverages and dry products.

Networking and Discussions Galore

Two key panel discussions – both landmark discussions offered for the first time at this conference – will serve to accent many of the technologies and innovations emerging for the pouch. Several attendees at the 2011 Global Pouch Forum asked for more insight into the equipment side of pouch making, and the conference has responded with a Pouch Machinery panel focused on innovations, trends and technologies. The panel of distinguished industry professionals will offer insights into such areas as speed, automation and efficiency and its relation to market trends. The panel includes professionals with Thiele Technologies, Totani America, Cheer Pack, Mamata and Karlville Development.

Another panel will bring together some of the key contract packaging companies responsible for bringing new pouch products to market and playing a major role in innovation. Moderated by Danny Beard of Packaging Specialists, the panel includes professionals with Pouch Converting Technologies, Ryt-Way and T.H.E.M.

There is much more, including technology presentations from AptarGroup and Japanese pouch leader Asahi Kasei Chemical Co. and special presentations on the use of printing solutions, quick-response codes and biopolymers.

Don’t miss this landmark conference for pouch technologies and growth in North America.

Join us in celebrating a very happy 15th birthday party at the 2012 Global Pouch Forum.

Registration is EASY

TO REGISTER for the 2012 Global Pouch Forum, go to www.globalpouchforum.com.

Packaging Strategies; www.packstrat.com

Happy Baby; www.happybabyfood.com

Encaff Products; www.encaffenergy.com

T.H.E.M.; www.them.net/

Flexible Packaging Association (FPA); www.flexpack.org

Berry Plastics; www.berryplastics.com

Flex-Pack; www.flexpack.com/

Plastic Packaging Technologies (PPT); www.plaspack.com/

Good Time Beverages; www.goodtimebeverages.com/

Kao Brands; www.kaobrands.com/

Vapur; http://vapur.us/

www.ampaconline.com/

AlliedFlex Technologies; www.alliedflex.com/

Blaige & Company; www.blaige.com/

Resin Technology, Inc. (RTI); www.resinpros.com/

Resource Recycling Systems; www.recycle.com/

PPi Technologies; www.ppitechnologies.com/

Pack Flow Concepts; www.packflowconcepts.com/

Thiele Technologies; www.thieletech.com/

Totani America; www.totani.co.jp/en/

Cheer Pack; www.cheerpack.com/

Mamata USA; www.mamata.com/

Karlville Development; www.karlville.com/

Packaging Specialists; www.boxes1.com/

Pouch Converting Technologies; www.pouchconverting.com/

Ryt-Way; www.rytway.com/

AptarGroup; www.aptar.com

Asahi Kasei Chemical Co.; www.asahi-kasei.co.jp/chemicals/en/