American consumers will use nearly 33m more rigid plastic and flexible packages in 2017 than they did just five years before. Calls from shoppers and CPGs for increased convenience and cost efficiency are driving growth, along with increased use of unconventional packaging formats, closures and dispensing methods.
Flexible moving forward
Food firms are showing increased comfort with flexible formats. For example, condiment giant Heinz has poured its ketchup into flexible, spouted pouches.
Dominic Cakebread, director of packaging services for market intelligence outfit Canadean, told FoodProductionDaily.com that flexible packaging’s appealing factors include low weight, which helps conserve transportation expenses and overall cost in the supply chain.
“These incremental weight savings not only provide cost benefits, but also reduce transportation costs and overall breakages,” he said.
Lightweighting and bio-plastic developments
Food firms and packaging partners are seeing some pressure from various corners to reduce packaging weights and gauges. Even so, the lightened-up packs are expected to bear the same performance characteristics; this can create quite a challenge in production.
New material choices are emerging; companies like NatureWorks are offering an increasing array of resins made from agricultural byproducts and other natural sources. These options can help companies reduce carbon footprint and entice earth-minded consumers with on-pack messaging about the eco-friendly containers.
However, while use of bio materials in packaging can offer significant eco benefits (such as cutting fuel consumption by up to 70% per ton), the practice has its detractors. Critics claim the boom in demand for bio resins is taking agricultural resources away from growing food, which could lead to higher food prices down the road.
Manufacturers on board
The boom in demand for flexible packaging offers growth opportunities, along with challenges. Food companies and packaging operations can turn challenges into opportunities by acquiring versatile equipment that can maximize efficiency and minimize expenditures.
One example: Schneider Packaging has offered the Robox Vi/Spider machine, which can execute multiple functions (case packing, cartooning and picking among them). The machine is geared toward handling flexible packs and complex products, according to the manufacturer.