Fres-co Pierce Tap®: The Little Device That Makes a Big Impact on Retail Beverage Shelf Life

September 21, 2021 | By The Fres-co Team

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When you’re evaluating options for your retail beverage packaging, different functions in your organization will inevitably have different questions and requirements. The technical team will need to know that the package delivers a good flow rate. The brand team will look for packaging that’s easy to use and attractive. The operations team will need assurance that the packaging can be formed and filled reliably and efficiently.

But one thing everyone can agree on is the need for packaging that extends the product’s shelf life and ensures that the freshest possible product reaches the consumer.

For beverage companies that use flexible packaging, like a bag-in-box or pouch, the Fres-co Pierce Tap® has proven the best way to achieve that goal. This patented technology was born out of a need to better protect retail beverages stored in flexible packaging from the risks of oxygen ingress, keeping them fresher longer.

Measuring less than two inches in width and height on average, how does this little device make such a big impact?

Making A Good Idea Better

The Pierce Tap had its beginnings in 2015, when Fres-co leveraged a flexible packaging format that was working well in the foodservice market and adapted it for the retail beverage market.

At that time, the bag-in-box concept was already a mainstay in places like convenience stores, which use it for coffee creamer dispensing, and in counter-service restaurants, where it’s used for self-serve soft drink dispensing. But the earliest bag-in-box dispensing taps didn’t provide adequate protection against product contamination—a major disadvantage for any beverage product, and especially aseptically processed beverages.

Fres-co saw an opportunity to enhance the bag-in-box concept by developing an improved fitment to reduce contamination risk, minimize oxygen ingress, maximize barrier protection, and optimize shelf life. Thus, we embarked on a plan to adapt and enhance the pierce-at-first-use dispensing model and roll it out to the retail beverage market—the beginnings of our patented Pierce Tap® 1.

The first iteration of Pierce Tap 1 was designed as an add-on to the outside layer of bag-in-box packages created on our vertical form, fill, and seal (VFFS) machines, eliminating the need for a separate gland. When the consumer presses the bulb portion of the tap, it pierces the inner film for the first time.

Over a two-year period, Fres-co engineering and product teams designed and developed Pierce Tap 1 prototypes and tested them in panel studies to gauge consumer reaction. The feedback we received guided a redesign that improved the piercing ease of use and product flow rate for Pierce Tap 1.

While our engineers continually improved Pierce Tap 1 as a simple drop-in solution for bag-in-box applications, another opportunity for pierce-at-first use technology emerged. By 2019 the flexible beverage pouch segment had begun to boom, leading Fres-co to develop our own free-standing Barrel Pouch for ready-to-drink beverages. This led our engineering team to design Pierce Tap® 2—a second version of the pierce-at-first-use tap that could snap into the flange of pre-made beverage pouches.

The patented Pierce Tap 2 has a cylindrical base and a sealed barrier film that enables insertion of the fitment to pre-made flexible pouches and bags with glands that are filled on bag-in-box filling equipment—easily accommodating existing pouch designs and existing filling machines. It’s an ideal way to improve barrier protection and shelf life for shelf-stable beverages packaged in flexible pouches.

Why Pierce-at-First-Use Matters

For beverages that are highly sensitive to oxygen, like wine or cold-brewed coffee, minimizing oxygen ingress is a must for maintaining freshness, preserving taste, and extending shelf life. And since oxygen ingress for bag-in-box beverage products primarily happens through the fitment, the addition of a pierce-at-first-use tap enables beverage producers to package their products in a bag-in-box with the assurance it will stay fresh on the shelf for long periods. For example, the Fres-co Pierce Tap 1 used on our Bag-in-Box packages has an extremely low oxygen transmission rate (OTR) of less than 0.01 cc/package/day. Pierce Tap 2, used on our Barrel Pouch, has an OTR of 0.025 cc/package/day.

Pierce-at-first-use technology is especially critical for aseptic production—a process that requires a sterilized product to be filled into a sterilized package in a sterilized environment. Fres-co sterilizes the packaging film directly on our VFFS, eliminating the separate step and cost of irradiating the dispensing tap, while keeping the product sterile until the consumer opens it.

While optimizing barrier protection and shelf life are among the most critical benefits of our Pierce Tap 1 & 2, this technology proves its worth in other important ways. Improved shelf life translates to less product and package waste since fewer packages will be pulled from the shelf because they’ve passed their expiration dates. By reducing dripping and leaking, Pierce Tap 1 & 2 minimize product waste and costly damage claims.  And by providing a consistently excellent flow rate of 1.2 ounces/second, Fres-co’s patented pierce-at-first-use technology ensures high marks for customer satisfaction. Pierce Tap 1 & 2 maximize barrier protection, eliminate leaking & dripping, and maintain consistent product delivery, making them the ideal option for eCommerce.

As a leader in flexible packaging for the beverage industry, Fres-co continually develops innovative packaging options designed to enhance product freshness, optimize product shelf life, and ensure product integrity throughout the supply chain. Thanks to the innovative technology behind Pierce Tap 1 and Pierce Tap 2, the Fres-co Bag-in-Box and Barrel Pouch provide the makers of shelf-stable beverages with a robust, yet simple drop-in solution for achieving those critical goals.

Find out how our unique dispensing taps and fitments like Pierce Tap 1 and Pierce Tap 2 can help you deliver the quality, convenience, and product safety your beverage customers expect! Contact Fres-co today to learn more.

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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