Why Retail Beverage Companies Are Switching from Rigid to Flexible Packaging

June 15, 2021 | By The Fres-co Team

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In the highly competitive retail beverage market—with local, national, and global brands vying for shelf space and wallet share—packaging is an essential component of any company’s strategy. The right beverage packaging can capture consumers’ attention, encourage trial, help challenger brands stand out, and reduce the product’s total carbon footprint.

In response to shifts in consumer expectations and a sharp rise in demand for sustainability, many retail beverage companies are making the switch from rigid to flexible packaging. Here we look at the trends driving this shift and how to get started.

Consumers Are on the Go

Today’s consumers are willing to pay a premium for conveniences that suit their mobile, on-the-go lifestyles. Beverages in glass or plastic bottles or aluminum cans aren’t always easy to handle, carry, or transport, especially in multi-pack sizes. But flexible packaging ticks all those boxes, making them the increasingly preferred choice.

A lightweight beverage pouch with an easy-to-grab handle is portable and convenient to carry, pack in a cooler or insulated bag, or store in a refrigerator—key reasons that pouches accounted for about 12 percent of the total beverage container market in 2019. A bag-in box beverage container is easy to open, easy to dispense, and fridge-friendly, since it can stack or stand upright in a cooler or refrigerator.

Sustainability is a Selling Point

More and more consumers expect the companies they do business with to act as good environmental stewards. Sustainability is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a must-have for companies that expect to remain competitive.

When it comes to evaluating the sustainability of your retail beverage packaging, it’s important to consider the package’s entire lifecycle. And when you compare flexible packaging to rigid packaging across that lifecycle, there is a clear advantage: Multi-layer flexible packaging is more sustainable from a production standpoint because it uses fewer resources and generates less waste and emissions. For instance, bag-in-box packaging and beverage pouches both require about 90 percent less energy to produce and emit about 90 percent less greenhouse gas than glass bottles, greatly reducing the product’s total carbon footprint. And with a low product-to-package ratio, flexible beverage packaging often generates less total waste than bottles or cans.

e-Commerce and Delivery Are on the Rise

Online shopping was already in full swing long before COVID-19 hit, but the pandemic further fueled this trend. Consumers learned to shop online for products they might have only bought in a brick-and-mortar store traditionally, including beverages. Whether those products are shipped, picked up at the curbside, or delivered locally, the habit seems to have taken hold.

However, traditional beverage packaging isn’t ideal for shipping or delivery. Glass or plastic bottles can break in transit, cans may dent or burst under pressure, and all of those options are relatively heavy. Flexible beverage packaging is lightweight and virtually non-breakable, making it ideal for a world where we increasingly expect just about anything to be delivered to our homes.

Shelf Appeal Remains Key

With the number of retail beverage SKUs proliferating, it’s never been more critical to stand out on the shelf. The better you can differentiate your retail beverage product, the better your odds of disrupting the category. For a new entrant into a crowded market, or a challenger brand in an existing space, a unique package size or shape may be key to capturing market share from established or top sellers.

Using flexible packaging in a unique shape or size for your next beverage line extension can be an effective way to improve shelf appeal, differentiate your product, and gain new customers. Flexible packaging is printable on nearly 100% of the surface, creating an impactful brand billboard that is sure to get attention.

Reducing Costs and Space is Appealing

The total cost to produce, store, and ship a retail beverage product is a key consideration when choosing the best packaging. Heavy materials like glass and aluminum can increase your inbound freight costs and even outbound freight costs, to a lesser degree.  Both materials are highly susceptible to damage or breakage during shipping and handling, and both require significant space to store and ship, all potentially raising your total costs.

Flexible retail beverage packaging—like a pouch or bag-in-a-box—uses lighter-weight materials that can reduce freight costs, especially on the inbound side. And because they’re virtually unbreakable, flexible beverage packages can nearly eliminate damage in transit and the associated costs.

Getting Started

If you’re considering making the switch from rigid to flexible packaging for your retail beverages, a good first step is to test the waters with a single line extension. Organic drinks, cold brewed coffee, fruit and vegetable juices, dairy and dairy alternative drinks, and functional waters are especially good candidates for flexible packaging.

Beverage makers often enter the flexible packaging arena by working with a co-packer before investing in the necessary in-house equipment. It also helps to partner with a flexible packaging expert that can advise you on the many shapes, sizes, materials, fitments, and other options available to customize a flexible beverage package for your needs. Look for innovative features that help maintain your beverage product’s flavor profile and freshness, like pierce-at-first-use dispensing fitment technology that prevents oxygen ingress.

As a flexible packaging innovator, Fres-co can help you make the switch from rigid to flexible retail beverage packaging. We’re the full-service packaging partner for many retail beverage companies—with equipment, patented Pierce Tap® 1 and Pierce Tap® 2 pierce-at-first-use technology, fitments, and materials all made in the US under one roof, complemented by our in-house printing capabilities.

Find out how the Fres-co Barrel Pouch and Fres-Flow™ bag-in-box can help you make a successful switch from rigid to flexible retail beverage packaging.

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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