Pouches get popular (April 18, 2010)
It might seem strange, but these are golden days for plastics packagers. Strange because, despite bag bans...
It might seem strange, but these are golden days for plastics packagers. Strange because, despite bag bans and heated attacks from environmental groups, plastics have become the materials of choice for food and beverage packagers looking to satisfy cost and efficiency concerns while also wooing splintering consumer groups.
Topping the list of popular options are pouches, which are expected to show the greatest percentage of growth in North America between 2010 and 2020, according to a recent study by the Packaging Machinery Manufacturers Institute (PMMI) trade association.
GETTING A GOOD ENVIRONMENTAL GRADE
Probably the biggest driver behind this rise is environmental friendliness. Retailers who are nervous about offending consumers’ ever-increasing “green” sensibilities–all of them, in other words–like pouches because they require much less landfill space than plastic bottles, and because some pouches are completely biodegradable. “In addition, when compared to bottles, pouches require a fraction of the shipping infrastructure, which saves on fuel,” the PMMI report said. “The beverage volume transported in a truckload of quart-sized pouches would require nine trucks of glass or plastic bottles.”
Powering this trend even further, retail giant Walmart Canada introduced its so-called Sustainability Scorecard in July 2009, designed to rate a prospective supplier according to the lightness of their environmental footprint. “Walmart wants manufacturers to enable them to have the lowest carbon imprint on their shelf, and products given a high score for reducing environmental impact are the ones Walmart buys,” said Mark Lichtblau, corporate vice president with mono-and multi-layer film supplier Haremar Plastic Manufacturing. “A big part of getting a good score comes from having the least amount of true packaging for the product, a criteria that favours pouches.” With other retailers following suit with scorecards of their own, Lichtblau continued, the idea is a windfall for pouch makers, and makes it more likely that new packaging entrants will invest in pouches instead of bottles or boxes.
CONVENIENCE IS KING
Another big driver is convenience. “Consumers want longer shelf life and better barrier properties for their products, especially in the cases of frozen and processed food products,” said Sanjay Amin, manager of exports with packaging equipment supplier Mamata Machinery. “The use of unsupported co-extruded films with either PA or EVOH as middle layer or outer layers for barrier properties in pouches has increased to facilitate this.”
One recent convenience-adding feature is aimed squarely at the refill market. “Consumers can purchase a product such as Windex or a liquid soap in a plastic bottle, use up the contents, and then buy a refill in a plastic pouch for use in the original bottle,” said Mark Lichtblau. “By reducing the amount of plastic going to landfill, it allows consumers to feel good about the purchase. It makes sense in every respect.”
MACHINERY STEPS UP
New processing and packaging equipment has made pouches cost-effective for high volume operations, allowing them to run faster than other packaging formats–and the developments keep coming.
“Processors are getting more and more into replacing rigid packaging with value-added pouch applications like resealable zippers and side or bottom gussets, developments which give them value for money in terms of converting,” said Sanjay Amin.
To address the packaging needs of resealable side-gusseted pouches from laminated films for packaging of PET food, Amin continued, Mamata recently introduced a side-gusseted resealable zipper pouch feature on its 32-inch wide Vega pouch-making machines. “The units can also make conventional three-side seal pouches, zipper pouches and slider zipper applications, stand-up pouches from single web and insert bottom gussets, as well as side-gusseted pouches from a single web or three webs,” he said.