As packaging professionals, we at Fres-co understand that there are unique challenges behind packaging powders.
The first lies in a simple determination — whether or not the powder is free-flowing. A powder product is in fact free-flowing when its make-up is not cohesive, meaning it will not “clump” together. Some examples of valuable free-flowing goods are amino acids, premixed vitamins, or anti-caking agents (also known as chelating agents).
Conversely, a powder product is considered non-free-flowing when its constituent parts are not compressed while it’s being dispensed. Examples are brown sugar (because it’s moist with molasses) or flour. Distinguishing between free-flowing or non-free-flowing products is a first step in packaging, as it can determine the type of filler needed. (One type of filler will be needed to help move along cohesive products, while non-cohesive products can rely on the downward force of gravity alone.)
In addition to the machinery required, one must also consider the qualities that make one powder bag perform better than others. My colleague here at Fres-co, Packaging Engineer Sergio Muniz, listed these properties that constitute a superior powder bag, all of which have been built into Fres-co’s newest offering:
1. HERMETIC AND AIRTIGHT BARRIER PROPERTIES — “You want to eliminate the transfer of moisture and oxygen when packaging powders; at the least, you should minimize them,” says Sergio. “Many producers use porous materials, like paper or fiber drums, to contain their powders. Foils protect best.”
2. DEGASSING THROUGH VALVES AND SEALS — Sergio points to two Fres-co innovations here. “Fine powders, such as sugar or amino acids, can clog a degassing valve. When that happens, the package doesn’t palletize. Instead you get a ‘puffy bag’ that doesn’t stack well. Not only does Fres-co have the Hi Flow™ degassing valve that is the industry standard, but our patented seals direct fine powders away from that valve, optimizing its effectiveness.”
3. MARKETABILITY — Compared to traditional rigid containers, flexible powder bags can become virtual billboards for the products they contain. “We can print over an entire bag to grab the buyers’ attention. Not only can we reinforce the brand, but we can provide detailed instructions on how to use the product. Try that with a fiber drum!”
Lastly, superior powder bags realize one additional benefit that is separate from their physical properties, and that is their economy. Powder bags are simply a cheaper option than traditional rigid containers, with most savings are realized in transportation. Powder bags weigh less than rigid containers, and they fit on a truck more efficiently. You are shipping much less airy, empty space with bags than with drums. Think of shipping squares, not circles.
One particular customer of ours who learned this — and benefited from it — was Vanderbilt Minerals, LLC, an industrial minerals and chemicals company. One of Vanderbilt’s primary goals was to reduce related transportation costs. The company replaced the fiber drums for their Veegum® brand of products, which is a mineral used in a wide range of medical and cosmetic products. They found that packaging their powders in a 20 kg Termalock bag to be sturdy, easy to open and reclose, and it can be palletized efficiently, thanks to Fres-co’s Hi-Flo™ degassing valve. But most important, Fres-co helped the Vanderbilt team achieve a four-fold increase in packing speed while also reducing their related transportation costs.
As we have learned from our extensive research, packaging powders involves more than containment; otherwise, any material would suffice. Instead, the physical properties of the product, maintaining barrier protection, and maximizing the ease of transportation, while minimizing its cost, should all be deciding factors. When you consider all these factors, the options to package powder become much clearer — and much more narrow.
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