Highlighting Flexible Packaging

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According to Euromonitor stand-up pouches are and will be up to 2017, one of the fastest growing packaging formats. In favour of the pouch is its lighter weight, compared with other packaging formats such as glass jars and food and beverage cans. This bodes well for the environment as it means less usage of packaging material and thus less waste. These claims can, however, be countered by the difficulties or impossibilities when it comes to recycling. Glass jars and metal food and beverage cans are much more widely recycled than pouches (If pouches are recycled, which is very doubtful.  Read this article).

I don’t think that in 1968 Louis Doyen, then CEO of the French packaging machinery manufacturer Thimonnier, after obtaining US Patent 3,380,646 for a stand-up pouch design, by far could imagine the impact of its invention on the packaging world. Although the basic pouch design is still in use today, it evolved over the years, as the original DoyPack had various shortcomings, which had to be solved to meet the explosion of innovations in materials, printing techniques and manufacturing of fitments.

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This evolvement answered the needs of a fast moving market in which even spirits are making waves in the industry by packaging its whiskey in a stand-up pouch. Flexible packaging in general and stand-up pouches in particular are more and more the popular choice of consumers as the pouch offers a unique way to consume snacks, food, beverages, and even non-food products, being an easy packaging to take on-the-go and to use at festivals, parks and outdoor barbecues.

But it isn’t only to the benefit of the consumer that supermarket shelves are transformed into a showcase of flexible packaging. Flexible packaging offers significant operational efficiency and productivity benefits to food and beverage processors compared to rigid alternatives. The reduced size and weight of flexible packaging makes it simpler and more economical to transport. For some products, this can mean the difference between feeding the filling plant with empty containers or with compact rollstock and/or in fitting an extra pallet onto a truck, lowering transportation and fuel costs rigid packages may incur.
That’s why we easily forget the sustainability standpoint. Although bags and pouches represent less waste entering the solid waste stream and take up less room in landfills, they still got dumped on landfills, as proper recycling or upcycling centres don’t exist or are very rare.

Whatever the case, we can’t deny that the (stand-up) pouch is a very interesting packaging format with a range of possibilities in printing technology, shaping as well as material composition.
Recently the Flexible Packaging Association presented its 58th Annual FPA Flexible Packaging Achievement Awards and Innovation Showcase. The awards feature flexible packages with innovative enhancements in packaging excellence, printing achievement, technical innovation, and sustainability and environmental achievement.

I made a selection of 7 Award Winners and 3 Non-Winners, which are in my opinion the best of the year. If you want to see the whole Award Winners List (with photos), download the FPA’s pdf here.

1.    Model Magic Clear Barrier Overwrap
This flexible packaging received the Highest Achievement Award with Gold for Packaging Excellence and Gold for Technical Innovation.

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Manufactured by Rollprint Packaging Products, Inc. for Crayola LLC, the well-known crayon manufacturer, the Model Magic Clear Barrier Overwrap is a breakthrough crystal-clear structure that provides the barrier of an aluminium foil composite.
The gravure-printed structure, consisting of ClearFoil Z/ink/Forté L (a proprietary metallocene blend), with a total thickness of approximately 0.003 in., allows the vibrant colours of Model Magic to visibly engage consumers while the packaged product is still on the shelf.

Crayola’s Model Magic is a lightweight modelling compound available in vibrant colours. As Model Magic is designed to air-dry to a resilient consistency in 24 to 36 hr at ambient conditions, the packaging has to ensure that Model Magic remains pliable until the time the packaging is opened by the consumer.

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Developed by Rollprint, ClearFoil Z has a barrier of 0.0008 g/100 in2/day, and provides the same outstanding moisture barrier as high barrier foil structures. The company claims that the unique proprietary manufacturing process provides barrier properties 100 times better than other non-foil structures and is the first transparent flexible barrier structure capable of outperforming structures made from standard gauge foils.

2.    Bonfire Wines Stand-Up Pouch
The stand-up pouch of Bonfire Wines took home a Gold Award for Packaging Excellence and Silver for Sustainability and Environmental Achievement.

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Manufactured by Curwood, Inc., the pouch has die-cut handles for easy handling. The 1.5 litre pouch combines sleek lines, fashion-driven graphics, a sharable size, easy portability, is also easy to open and features one-touch dispensing via a built-in tap. According to Curwood, this is the first “barrel-style” tap pouch with a tapered shape. In addition to appealing to Millennials, the key target demographic, the tapered shape adds stiffness to the packaging to ensure absorption and prevent sagging both during retail and in the consumer’s home while the pouch is in use.

The pouch features an OPET outer layer, metallized-polyester core layer and Curwood Inc.’s Liquiflex Advance film as the product-contact layer with its excellent organoleptic properties to prevent flavour scalping and imparting of unwanted flavours into the wine. The film structure provides the required strength and stiffness as well as the barrier and provides an excellent surface for printing.

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Curwood laminates and prints the rollstock film, which Pouch Converting Technologies Inc. converts into pouches. Pouch Converting Technologies uses this three-layer lamination as the only web to make the pouch, which results in three fewer seams than would normally be found on stand-up pouches made from more than one web.

Featuring an 80% smaller carbon footprint than bottles, calculated over the life cycle of the package, the sustainable pouch keeps wine fresh up to 4 weeks after opening.

3.    FlowPack
With its FlowPack Refill packaging, designed by Yasuharu Takada for Procter & Gamble, Japanese packaging manufacturer Fujimori Kogyo Co., Ltd., walked away with Gold for Packaging Excellence.

In the USA and Europe the refill packaging format might not be very popular, in a country like Japan that lacks natural resources (oil, iron-ore etc) it’s no wonder that the refill format is widely used. Stand-up pouches are widely recognized as a packaging format that is environmentally friendly in terms of resources. Consequently they are becoming very popular for refilling products in the toiletries market, such as shampoos, conditioners, and detergents.

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However, there have been demands from consumers to improve the opening and refilling procedure. Because stand-up pouches have a structure that includes a welded seal at the top, to form a spout the consumer needs a scissor to cut a part of one of the corners of the top before he can start pouring the content. This isn’t the ideal way to pour into a bottle. So that in order to solve this problem, manufacturers tried to improve the pouring experience by embossing texture onto the spout section film or using plastic parts such as fitments or pouring spouts.

In 2012, the Sosogi Jozu, which means “easy pour”, created by Toppan Printing Co., Ltd., showed a pouring opening created by folding back the top section of the pouch instead of sealing it. By adjusting the shape of the so-formed spout, it also was possible to improve the ease of opening.

And now we see the Laundry Liquid Refill Pouch for P&G supplied by Fujimori Kogyo Co., Ltd. The Flowpack refill pouch for Herbal Essences products combines consumer convenience with environmental friendliness. The colourful stand-up pouch, which is distributed throughout Japan, holds 340g of conditioner.

Titanium oxide was incorporated in between the PE layers to enhance strength of the thin refill pouch as well as whiten the PE layers. Taking advantage of this property, Fujimori reduced the number of printing colours and organic solvent at the same time retaining the high degree of whiteness.

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Designed as a single-use refill pack, the Flowpack pouch includes easy-open/pour features. It is easy to open with about 35% of tensile strength needed to open a conventional stand-up pouch. At the upper left corner of the pouch is a laser-scored tab that the consumer tears off to access a pouring spout.

The spout is integrated into the pouch and ensures accurate product flow. It is fused to the inside so it will not fall out. Above the spout is the laser-scored tear line, and above that is an area of film with a texturized gripping surface. The laser score allows the consumer to simply tear off the film above the spout by hand for a clean, no-mess opening experience.

From a sustainability perspective, the pouch is 75% lighter, produces about one-sixth the carbon dioxide emissions and, when empty, takes up significantly less space than a rigid container of the same volume.

to be continued

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