Flexible Packaging Guide: FAQs For First Time Buyers

November 18, 2021 | By The Fres-co Team

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Flexible Packaging FAQs

If you’re among the many companies making the move from rigid to flexible packaging, it’s likely you have questions as you select the best packaging type and supplier. Based on Fres-co’s extensive experience with customers across the food, beverage, chemical, and agricultural chemical markets, we’ve developed this FAQ-based flexible packaging guide to help educate you as you make the switch.

What benefits does flexible packaging offer vs rigid alternatives?

One benefit of flexible packaging that has significant ripple effects is its lighter weight. A lighter package comes with lower transportation and storage costs (making it ideal for e-commerce) and reduces the total carbon footprint associated with your packaging, particularly compared to glass or plastic bottles, metal cans and rigid drums. Flexible packages also have a lower product-to-packaging ratio, which reduces waste and further improves sustainability.

When it comes to ensuring product quality and integrity, flexible packaging is a smart choice. For example, flexible industrial bags offer a far lower oxygen transmission rate (OTR) and lower moisture vapor transmission rate (MVTR) than rigid drums, providing greater product protection and extending shelf life. And since flexible packaging isn’t susceptible to breakage and damage like glass or metal, it further improves product protection while minimizing waste.

Safety is another factor where flexible packaging outshines rigid alternatives. Many companies find palletization is safer and more stable when they use flexible bags or pouches, while those in foodservice find it’s safer for employees to open and use a flexible pouch or bag-in-box vs metal cans.

And finally, flexible packaging can improve shelf appeal by enabling you to offer products in unique package shapes and sizes with highly impactful graphics on a larger brand billboard.

What should I consider when choosing a flexible packaging solution?

When providers like Fres-co consult with a company that is new to flexible packaging, we advise them that the following factors influence the optimal packaging choice:

    • The type of product
    • How the product is currently packaged
    • Your objectives in switching to flexible packaging
    • How the product will be transported or distributed through the supply chain (via domestic or international routes, by truck or container, over short or long distances)
    • Whether the product is highly sensitive to moisture or oxygen
    • The packaging types and sizes you’ll need for different environments and distribution channels (e.g., food and beverage companies might sell through retail stores, club/warehouse stores, and e-commerce)
    • The desired shelf life you want to maintain from end to end
    • Safety-related requirements and considerations (such as the risk of injury when lifting or palletizing packages, the presence of combustible dust, and the need to comply with Department of Transportation, United Nations, or other agency regulations)
    • Customer- or industry-specific requirements, including sustainability expectations
    • Whether you plan to fill your packaging in-house (which impacts the choice of packaging type and filling equipment) or you’ll use a co-packer or contract packager instead

What are the most common types of flexible packaging? 

There is a flexible packaging type for almost any application in the food, beverage, chemical, and agricultural chemical markets. Following are the most common flexible packaging options:

    • Stand-up pouch with a zipper or spout closure, which is ideal for beverages and dry foods  
    • Flat pouch (also called a pillow pouch), which is easy to palletize and appropriate for dry or liquid products, including some chemicals and agricultural chemicals
    • Corner seal pouch, which is often used in foodservice applications 
    • Gusseted bag, which is often used in retail applications, including whole and ground coffee beans
    • Block bottom bag or pouch, which combines a premium look with superior shelf stability and is ideal for products like coffee, nuts, other snack foods, and pet foods   
    • Rollstock that can be custom printed and used on automated equipment to form and fill packaging
    • Bag-in-box, which provides easy handling, shipping, and storage for shelf-stable or refrigerated liquid products 
    • Industrial bag, which protects chemicals, agricultural chemicals, resins, and food-and-feed ingredients against moisture, oxygen, and insects

How can flexible packaging support my sustainability mission? 

Flexible packaging is especially well-suited to supporting a company’s sustainability mission in several ways. With a lower product-to-package ratio than rigid options, flexible packaging reduces waste and equates to a lower carbon footprint, in part by reducing the greenhouse gas emissions generated during transportation. Some types of flexible packaging—including the bag-in-box and various types of pouches—consume fewer resources during production as compared to glass bottles, metal cans and plastic containers. Additionally, recycle-ready flexible packaging is available to further meet the goal of recyclability as a sustainable solution.  

If I move to flexible packaging, what printing options will I have?

Flexible packaging supports a variety of printing options, giving you the flexibility to choose the best method for your needs. 

Traditional methods like rotogravure or flexographic printing are ideal when you’re printing flexible packaging in large quantities, since they require setup fees for plates and cylinders, as well as minimum quantities. Digital printing is a better choice when you’re printing flexible packaging in smaller quantities and/or you need faster turnaround than is possible with traditional methods. Companies that produce their products in small batches, and those that offer seasonal, limited time, or exclusive products, find digital printing to be an attractive choice. 

What type of customization does flexible packaging support?

When you switch from rigid to flexible packaging, you’ll enjoy access to a wide range of customization features. Though they vary by specific packaging type, most flexible packaging options support customization of:

    • Size
    • Shape
    • Graphics and colors
    • Material (including recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable choices, as well as package transparency features)
    • Closure or seal (including zippers, spouts, and other reclosure features) 
    • Barrier (including the number and type of barrier layers)
    • Dispensing features (including fitments designed into the packaging material, as well as separate spouts and taps)

What should I look for in a flexible packaging provider?

When you transition from rigid to flexible packaging, you’ll want the support of an experienced partner capable of delivering a smooth experience from start to finish—as well as ongoing service that enables you to realize all the advantages that flexible packaging has to offer. When choosing a flexible packaging provider, be sure to look for:   

    • A history of industry-leading innovations (like Fres-co’s patented one-way degassing valve) that improve packaging performance
    • In-house R&D capabilities you can leverage to arrive at the best possible packaging solution for your needs
    • The ability to develop custom package designs and sizes, with custom samples provided upfront to ensure the optimal solution
    • Technical service, operational support, and spare parts provided domestically, for the best response times
    • Training for your logistics and operations staff, with support provided during your test runs right through to your first production run 
    • High-quality printing services provided in-house
    • Expert guidance on making the transition from rigid to flexible packaging as smooth, seamless, and successful as possible

If you’re ready to switch from rigid to flexible packaging, Fres-co is ready to help! Contact the flexible packaging experts at Fres-co at contact@fresco.com to learn how our wide range of options can help you achieve your packaging objectives.

For more than 40 years, Fres-co System USA, Inc. has manufactured high-performance flexible packaging systems and invented dozens of innovative breakthroughs including degassing valves, modified atmosphere technologies, and reclosure systems.

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