Ditching Rigid: Seven Reasons to Switch to Flexible Beverage Packaging

February 13, 2019 | By Brian Butler

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If you’re a producer looking for flexible beverage packaging, be strategic before making the switch.

Here is a list of seven considerations to make before ditching rigid packaging. As discussed in most packaging publications and in another Fres-co blog, high-barrier flexible packaging is on the rise for the food service industry, growing at an estimated annual rate of more than 5 percent between 2016 and 2021, according to a study released by ReportsnReports.com in May 2016.

Flexible Beverage Packaging Content Requirements

Is your product shelf stable, refrigerated or frozen? Fortunately, any of these product types are served well by flexible beverage packaging because today’s high-barrier films are much more durable and reliable than they once were. For example, you can choose from a wide range of material structures that are suitable for commercial processing and filling processes, such as aseptic, retort, ESL and others. Films are also available that have the barrier properties necessary for long-term shelf-stable preservation of the product it will contain.

Consumer Preferences

Ask how your customers will use their packaging to see if flexible beverage packaging is right for you. Will your product be consumed “on the go?” If so, is it easy to open and dispose of? Here at Fres-co, we find that both younger and older consumers favor flexible packaging for different reasons. Because of juice pouches, younger consumers have literally grown up with the portability of flexible beverage packaging. On the other hand, older consumers—a growing demographic—want and need easier opening features, eliminating hard-to-open jars or the strong adhesives of old-style cartons (which often tear anyway) and more. Pouch features can be tailored to the end user you wish to serve.

Usability Features

Once the consumers’ preferences are defined, next is determining if and how the flexible beverage package will meet those needs. For example, does the package require a spout or fitment? Must it be easy to carry, and does it need a handle? Given that, will it need to be re-closable? Is the design user friendly? Is it easy to handle and easy to evacuate? Will it need to stand on a shelf? While additional features on a flexible beverage package usually equate to an associated cost to the final package, these features can also differentiate the package from the competition. The spouted flexible pouch for toddler purees and nutritional drinks is an example of an innovative packaging concept that created a whole new product category and disrupted an industry—all by simply adding a convenience feature to an existing package.

Advertising

Another reason to ditch rigid is the new opportunity to use graphics to tell your product’s story and stand out on the retail shelf. The more visually distinctive the package, the more likely it is to sell. Consider the package finishes that are available. Custom laminations and coatings can help draw extra attention to your package. For example, Fres-co’s Matte Finish Select® finishing option applies a matte lacquer over specific areas of the package surface. Modern consumers are looking for memorable and eye-catching product design.

Consumer Safety and Guidance

One notable advantage of flexible beverage packaging is its safety, as it eliminates the sharp edges of cans and other rigid containers, along with reducing the need for openers or other implements. Another less obvious benefit is the inclusion of detailed instructions right on the package. Examples: What nutritional information or other directions need to be on the package? Can the package be microwaved? Should they be refrigerated? While it is true that such information can be provided on other packaging media, the availability of high-quality graphics printing for flexible films allows for this information to be included directly the package.

Operational Productivity

The types of equipment your operations team requires must be considered. Will you fill and seal the product into a premade pouch? Or will you form, fill and seal from rollstock? Will you need to add a fitment or a tap for dispensing? Your machine options include vertical form fill seal (VFFS); horizontal fill seal; or multi-lane stick pack. A consulting team knowledgeable in system service can help determine the equipment you need.

Sustainability

There is a variety of sustainability advantages to flexible packages when compared to #10 cans. For example, greenhouse gasses can be reduced by as much as 92 percent. Additionally, packaging weight can be reduced up to 85 percent. Pouches also cube out better than rigid containers. Factors such as these combine, resulting in more product and less packaging on the pallet, in distribution, and in storage. Ultimately, the reduction in overall packaging bulk accounts for an 85% reduction in packaging waste. This equates to lower waste costs and fewer trips to the landfill.

A comprehensive survey of your stakeholders, including your customers, product experts, marketing and operations, will guide you in your transition from rigid to flexible beverage packaging.

Interested in learning more about flexible packaging?

Check out the recording of our free webinar, covering the ins and outs of transitioning from rigid to flexible beverage packaging.

Brian Butler

Brian L. Butler of Fres-co System USA, Inc. is a Business Development Manager in processed foods, with primary responsibilities in the retort and aseptic shelf stable markets. He holds a Master of Science degree in food science from Clemson University, as well as a Bachelor of Science from Michigan State University in packaging science. He also has several patents for a variety of storage media.

Brian is just one of Fres-co’s highly experienced packaging professionals who consult with our customers and helps provide “flexible thinking” to their unique packaging challenges. Contact us at contact@fresco.com or call at 215.721.4600 to learn more about Fres-co’s wide range of flexible packaging solutions for liquid food and beverages, as well as for coffee, agricultural and industrial products, and more.

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