5 Consumer Items That Have Thrived in Flexible Packaging

September 12, 2017 | By Ray Carroll

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Flexible packaging and film have been around for a long time.

I started up a flexible packaging line for coffee over 30 years ago and raised my kids on juice drinks in flexible pouches. We have grown accustomed to seeing many food, beverage and other consumer products offered in flexible packaging because of its many advantages to the manufacturer, distributor, retailer and consumer, such as reduced package size, and lower costs in material handling and transportation.

There are however, some products I never expected to see in this format, and they have been quite successful.

1. Soup has thrived in flexible packaging.

Campbell’s. That is a name synonymous with soups in America. I spent half of my career working at Campbell’s. I helped develop soup in pouches in Europe and Asia, but the technology never seemed to catch on in the U.S. The can remained the container of choice, with plastic bowls and cups eventually gaining acceptance. Despite its rich history, the image of the company’s flagship product began to suffer. It was perceived as hopelessly outdated, especially by millennials (i.e., consumers born between 1982 and 2002). This is an important demographic group, because they represent about 25 percent of the entire U.S. population, and they have $200 billion in annual buying power. Additionally, one in four millennials are parents, which means they are looking for convenience. So Campbell’s began to complement the company’s cans with other containers, and are now emphasizing pouches. This move appealed to millennial consumers, combining their interest in good nutrition with the easy-to-use nature of that package. It paid off, as Campbell’s saw their soup sales rise as a direct result.

2. Soap has grown beyond bottles and bars.

Consumers today readily use liquid soap. They use it to clean their hands, as a body wash, and it’s in all types of household cleaners. We see aisles of these products in plastic bottles in department stores, drug stores and supermarkets. Recently these products are showing up in flexible pouches. We usually see it as refills for decorative dispensers but also as point-of-use containers. All of the economic and ecological advantages of flexible pouches are now paired with the possibility of easy dispensing with a variety of fitments available.

3. Condiments and sauces have embraced the pouch.

Small sachets of mustard and ketchup have been a staple at sporting events, hot dog stands and other concessions. Now these two favorites, as well as mayonnaise, come in family size pouches. Ready-to-serve pasta sauces, skillet cooking sauces and salad dressing have joined the trend as well. Would you believe olives and pickles too? Flexible packaging is well-suited to the flavorful additions for our foods. Such condiments can be more easily dispensed in a malleable and manageable container than from an unbending, hard-to-handle one. Smaller packets can also help portion control, and they can be opened more easily than cans.

4. Wine and spirits are moving into flexible.

Today, liquid food or beverage producers can fill flexible, preformed barrel pouches with a wide range of products, such as creamers and milks, protein-fortified nutritionals, fruit and vegetable juices, even liquid eggs. But perhaps the most surprising liquid to go into flexible packages is wine. After all, it was thought that wine went into corked bottles as naturally as a hand into a glove. But barrel pouches fit just as easily with today’s active lifestyle, such as camping, sporting events, or in casual locations, like in parks or on beaches.

Wherever people are on the go, barrel pouches can be right with them because they are so easy to carry. Convenience wins out over snob appeal.

5. Motor oil has been changed forever.

I don’t know why this one surprised me. Just like liquid foods and beverages, motor oil started out in rigid steel cans and eventually moved to plastic bottles. Why shouldn’t that product also follow the same path to flexible pouches? Changing motor oil is considered an environmentally threatening task to begin with, considering the potential damage that spilling the used oil can cause. That perception is softened by the adoption of pouches to contain fresh oil. Juxtaposed with regular hard plastic jugs, pouches are perceived to be quicker, simpler and cleaner. Producers and retailers get in on the benefits, too, as pouches give them a unique opportunity to offer customers a sustainable package, and the billboard effect on the store shelf is a great marketing tool.

A Growing Demand for Flexible Packaging

Packaging World magazine recently reported that the global market demand for flexible packages is projected to rise 6.2% annually to $37.3 billion in 2018. Their sustainability, efficiency, and comparatively smaller footprints (both physical and carbon) in flexible packaging address a variety of needs of a new generation. The small victories listed above help explain the rising, and probably unstoppable, success of these innovations.

If you’re interested in learning more about flexible packaging, then consider registering for our free webinar on November 15, 2017. We’ll be covering the specifics of the transition away from rigid, as well as some considerations you’ll need to know before making the switch.

Ray Carroll is a seasoned food and beverage executive with more than 35 years of experience in research & development, food process engineering, and quality. His numerous accomplishments, both domestically and globally, have included the development and implementation of new processing technologies, the creation and launch of new, unique products, management of pilot plant operations, and food safety.

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