Global Pouch Forum Highlights – Embracing Flexible Packaging

The 2017 Global Pouch Forum in Miami, FL packed in 13 unique educational sessions in just two days. Presentations were delivered by diverse supply chain stakeholders from films manufacturers to printers, co-packers, machinery providers, researchers, and brand owners.

Innovation

During the opening keynote, Brian Wagner, Director of AMERIPEN, sparked our brains with a discussion on the fourth dimension of packaging, which is shaped by the digital transformation. The Internet of Things is here and we as an industry need to be proactive in bringing packaging along with it.

Sal Pellingra of ProAmpac spoke about global innovations in stand-up pouches that are enabling lower production costs and increased supply chain efficiencies. Other countries, such as Japan, are wavelengths ahead of the U.S. when it comes to flexible packaging. Why? The U.S. has so much existing infrastructure for canning, bottling, and cartoning lines that are low-cost due to historical mass production.

In a later talk by Robert Knieper, Principal Packaging Engineer of ConAgra, we learned that the Hunt’s tomato paste product runs at 1000 cans/minute on legacy capital equipment that is already paid for, thus translating to a very low overhead cost per can. Any other type of packaging would require new capital and likely not run as fast. Where there’s a challenge, there’s an opportunity. Latching onto the insight that 64% of recipes require only 2 tablespoons of tomato paste (the traditional can delivered 6 oz., 4x more than needed), ConAgra developed a convenient pouch sachet whose convenience benefits outweighed the price per ounce premium.

In a panel on print innovation facilitated by Windell McGill of HP, we heard stories of how brands are taking advantage of the unique value that digital flexible packaging offers. Digital Print is growing at 11.2% in value and 15.4% in volume to 2022 (Smithers Pira). Opportunities lie in creating “local” products that connect the consumer with the farmer or personalize the package for the consumer via design or naming.

E-commerce

Matt Dingee of Onpoint 2020 and Brad Rager of Bemis laid out the ecommerce landscape in a discussion on how packaging needs to adapt for the online shopping norm. Secondary packaging is often used as a band-aid for the flaws of primary packaging because the same packaging that was developed for retail is being used in e-commerce. 41% of consumers have purchased groceries online and 21% have done so in the past 30 days. The adoption of e-grocery is here and brands need to adapt to the pick and ship model where diverse items are packed together with the potential to damage one another in the last mile to the consumer. For small startup brands who ship direct to the customer, huge savings can be realized by investing in the right package from the start. Check out this cost-saving example from Matt:

What the Research Tells Us

Flexible packaging uses less material, is more lightweight, and takes up less space than other traditional formats. When given the choice between the same product in different packaging, consumers prefer flexible packaging 71% of the time.

In addition to these benefits, we were presented with the evidence of an in-context retail study that made the case for flexible packaging.

When human behavior research firm, Package InSight, tested the Daisy Sour Cream Pouch vs. the Tub via eye-tracking technology, it was proven that consumers viewed the pouch 53% longer than the tub.

Sustainability

A panel discussion titled “Meeting the Challenge of Recycling Flexible Packaging” covered end-of-use management of flexible packaging with representatives from P&G, ConAgra, DOW and a non-governmental association driving “The New Plastics Economy.” The consumer perception of plastic is, as you may have guessed, not bursting with positive vibes. Although perception is not reality, it has the power to impact the real world. Just think of Katie Perry’s famous lyrics, “Do you ever feel like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind, wanting to start again?”

Stacy Fields of DOW walked us through the reality of the plastic packaging sustainability profile:

  • Reduces material use – 2 lbs. of plastic deliver the same amount of liquid as 3 lbs. of aluminum, 8 lbs. of steel, or 27 lbs. of glass.
  • Saves energy – One truck of empty flexible packaging replaces 25 trucks carrying cans for the same amount of food.
  • Reduces emissions – Organic waste in landfills emits methane: a GHG with 23 times more global warming potential than CO2 and plastic packaging helps keep food out of the landfill.
  • Saves resources – By preventing food from spoiling and protecting consumer goods from damage during distribution.
  • Reusable resource – Can be recycled to polymer or for energy at the end of its initial life.

Despite these pros, recycling flexible plastics is challenging in many areas. Flexible packaging is developed using multiple plastics in very thin layers which makes it more difficult to recycle than most other types of packaging. The benefit of being lightweight is a double-edged sword for flexible packaging because it makes it less valuable to collect for recycling by MRFs (material recycling facilities) that use weight-based metrics. Finally, we cannot deny that consumers simply do not recycle as much plastic as they do paper or metal. Why? Consumers are confused by complex labeling and lack of communication.

New How2Recycle labels and grocery store drop-off programs are being implemented in the hopes of increasing recycling of approved flexible packaging. Visit http://www.how2recycle.info/ to learn more. Innovations in resin and film structure design from companies like DOW with their RecycleReady technology line and NOVA Chemicals with their fully recyclable all-polyethylene stand up pouch will drive the industry forward. All that is needed for further adoption is increased demand from global brands for suppliers to design for recycling and selective composting and co-packers to embrace these materials and processes.

I will admit that I was a Global Pouch Forum (GPF) newbie, anxious and excited upon arriving in Miami, yet skeptical of what more I could learn about flexible packaging. Boy, was I blown away! The informative and inspiring talks paired with the phenomenal connections made are irreplaceable and non-replicable at any other event. I met the pioneers of flexible packaging and learned from the innovators driving flexible packaging into the future. I also got to see the state-of-the-art technology in action.

Technology

GPF attendees were invited to tour the Karlville Miami Headquarters & Technology Center where the latest and greatest flexible packaging technology was showcased, including:

HP Indigo Pack Ready Laminator

History in the Making – We experienced the US launch of the HP Indigo Pack Ready Laminator following its debut at Interpack in Germany. Before the introduction of this technology, there was an inefficiency between printing and pouch making. Converters had to endure lengthy finishing processes to turn digital prints into packages. The Pack Ready Lamination Solution provides an adhesive-free, zero cure time lamination system that will accelerate the digital flexible packaging market.

Thermal Pouch Making

The Karlville short run multi-format pouch machine utilizes a single web path to stand up and side gusset pouches.

Pouch Spouting + Filling

Finding a flexible alternative to rigid containers for bulk products and heavier liquids used to be a challenge. The new PacXpert Packaging Technology by DOW enables the transition from larger traditional rigid containers to durable, light-weight, stand-up, and cost-effective flexible packaging options. Multiple structures were presented for different applications. We even got to see the PacXpert in action when adding condiments to our appetizers!

At Karlville, there was a thermal spout inserter with integrated filler to showcase the technology to brands and copackers.

Slitting & Flexpak Laser Score

FlexPak contract converts films for the southeast agricultural market. The LasX Laser machine is integrated to a Karlville – Webcontrol SLIT HS PRO Slitter and operated by Flexpak. Check out this example of a Peel & Reseal FlexPak package.

Ultrasonic Spout Inserting

An ultrasonic spouting solution for baby food products developed by Widmann & Hoffer showcased at Karlville.

Handle – Pouch Multipack

End of line solutions for pouch multipacks, developed by 3M Scotch and CEFMA in a collaboration between machine and tape know-how, were presented for brands and copackers. The Scotch Multipack Tape provides ease of use to the consumer when carrying larger flexible packages.

Green Plant HPP Operation

Hidden away in the Karlville contract packaging plant is Green Plant Miami. Here, we donned hair nets (you saw if you follow me on Snapchat, remind me to never shave my hair), then entered the chamber where state-of-the-art High Pressure Processing (HPP) equipment by Hiperbaric was hard at work processing food and beverages. The facility is certified USDA Organic and develops products using a cold pasteurization technique that subjects food, previously sealed in flexible packaging, to a high level of hydrostatic (water) pressure. Benefits of HPP include preservation of nutrients and flavor, elimination of pathogens, and extension of product shelf life without the need for chemical preservatives.

On top of the presentations and tour, both Wednesday and Thursday night at Global Pouch Forum culminated in a networking reception where relationships were cultivated that resulted in new business and lasting friendships. I highly encourage you to attend the next Global Pouch Forum, June 13-15, 2018!

A special thank you to Packaging Strategies for hosting this incredible event and to all Sponsors and Exhibitors for bringing flexible packaging to life in Miami.

Author: Sara Shumpert, FMCG Packaging Consultant

Original article source: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/global-pouch-forum-highlights-embracing-flexible-sara-shumpert  

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