Product packaging is a key driver of brand impression and trial, but its purpose and versatility extends far beyond just aesthetics. Packaging also plays an integral role in product protection, shipping, transportation, and overall supply chain management.
When the right packaging is used in transport, it can help protect products from damage, allow for efficient distribution, contribute to sustainability efforts, and ultimately improve your bottom line. While it is virtually impossible to eliminate shipping costs completely, flexible packaging solutions can help reduce it, while also providing a host of other added advantages.
To get a better understanding of how making the switch from rigid packaging to flexible can help reduce shipping costs and improve your company’s overall efficiency, check out the five key benefits below.
It’s not at all uncommon for parcels to become damaged during shipping. According to Packaging Digest, as much as 11% of unit loads arriving at a distribution center have some level of damage. This inevitably leads to the loss of whatever contents are inside and can even cause the carrier or distributor to abandon the freight entirely, even if just a few units are compromised.
Damaged packaging can be a costly challenge both financially and logistically—not only is there the price of the product and shipping material, but it often requires a quick turnaround time to coordinate and reship replacement product. Over time, even minor product losses can lead to a large amount of unnecessary expenses.
Unlike breakable glass or dent-prone cans, flexible packaging is non-breakable and designed to better absorb impact during transportation. This is especially critical for e-commerce operations—where goods sold online are handled at least three times more than items sold through traditional retail outlets. Flexible packaging is also customizable, enabling manufacturers to incorporate appropriate layers of protection depending on the product.
Preventing damage during transport isn’t the only way flexible packaging protects the integrity of products. North America is linked by long stretches of highways that are primarily accessed via trucks. Unless products specifically require refrigeration or freezing, they are carried in transit without any temperature control. This leaves products susceptible to environmental temperature and climate fluctuations, where they are increasingly prone to dehydration, moisture ingress, and oxidation—for hours, or even days—before they reach the retail market. Transportation overseas only furthers the risk of contamination or damage, especially for high-value but volatile ingredients.
Flexible packaging, like our powder bags, stand-up pouches, block bags, and more, provide an airtight seal that protects products from the elements including sunlight, temperature, and moisture. As a result, it has the ability to help increase the shelf life of perishable products. Flexible packaging can also be customized with innovations like our optional one-way degassing valve to further help aid preservation. This valve creates a one-way vented bag, which enables air or other gasses that are emitted from the product to flow out, but not back into the bag. This degassing valve is especially useful for retail transportation and e-commerce shipping where the product is exposed to fluctuations in altitude.
The high-barrier film and airtight seals of flexible packaging helps prevent product spoilage, which ultimately reduces the amount of costly claims and returns. In turn, this also helps minimize the volume of product being thrown away, which can support sustainability efforts as an added bonus.
While shipping costs are all a part of doing business, efficiency is key to keeping costs under control. Irregularly shaped products in rigid packaging can leave behind empty, unused space in trucks, shipping containers, and even warehouses and distribution centers, requiring more truckloads and additional real estate, and causing additional unwanted costs.
Airtight flexible packaging allows for compact, stable palletization which reduces the amount of empty space between and inside packages during transportation. With less empty shipping space, more products can be shipped within a single truckload. The following example says it all—it is estimated that one truck of Fres-co flexible bags can package the same amount of nylon 6 resin as 40 trucks of 30-gallon drums.
With fewer truckloads, transportation of the product uses less water, energy, and fuel, and produces less emissions, reducing the overall carbon footprint. Additionally, in instances where shipping rates are determined by dimensional weight, flexible packaging also comes out on top and can reduce freight charges.
In addition to reducing empty space in shipping containers, flexible packaging also has a high product-to-package ratio. A high ratio means that there is more product compared to the packaging material, which in turn, indicates less resource consumption and less total waste. According to the Flexible Packaging Association (FPA), a single-serve liquid pouch offers a 97:3 product-to-package ratio.
A high product-to-package ratio also has the benefit of being lighter in weight, which can help significantly reduce inbound freight costs. With flexible packaging, product can be stacked more compactly, use less empty space, contain more product, and weigh less, helping to optimize your inbound logistics and costs. Outbound freight costs will also be reduced, although to a lesser degree. Together, the overall reduction in shipping weight and greater space efficiency means more product can fit per truckload, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint.
Flexible packaging is an extremely efficient packaging solution when evaluated across its total lifecycle, making it a sustainable and environmentally-minded option. In fact, it is so efficient that even single-use flexibles have been shown to provide greater sustainable benefits compared to recyclable options.
In the shipping stage of the lifecycle alone, flexible packaging requires fewer trucks and pallets for transport, resulting in less transportation-related energy, fossil fuel consumption, and environmental pollution. All of these benefits are a result of its lighter weight, high product-to-package ratio, and improved palletization. As touched on earlier, flexible packaging also offers increased package durability and integrity, which helps prevent both product damage and product spoilage. Through this increased protection, less product is wasted and fewer resources are used.
Aside from shipping, multi-layer flexible packaging also uses fewer resources and generates less waste and emissions in production, making it a more environmentally-friendly option. For example, bag-in-box packaging and beverage pouches both use approximately 90% less energy to produce and emit about 90% less greenhouse gas than glass bottles, greatly reducing the product’s total carbon footprint. The #10 pouch, a flexible alternative to the #10 can, also offers a reduced carbon footprint and lower shipping and storage costs, especially when compared to the #10 can. When compared to rigid containers, the #10 pouch cuts landfill waste in half, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 62%, and reduces BTU consumption by 71%.
Flexible packaging offers tremendous cost-saving benefits and sustainability-focused advantages compared to traditional rigid packaging. If you’re considering making the switch or want to learn more about how flexible packaging can positively impact your business, connect with our team of flexible packaging experts for a one-on-one consultation.
As a flexible packaging innovator, we can help you overcome your packaging and shipping challenges. To learn more about how we help, contact us today.
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